Taking your dog or cat along with you on a trip can be a lot like traveling with a small child: you have to anticipate their needs, pack the right supplies, and plan to be extra flexible with your itinerary. But traveling with your dog or cat can also make the trip more memorable and fun! Learn how to prepare so you and your pet can both enjoy traveling together.
You know your pet the best, so be sure to keep their behavior and needs in mind when deciding on whether or not you want to bring them along for your holiday travels or weekend getaway. If your pet gets overly stressed when traveling, or your schedule is jam packed with activities that your pet can’t tag along for, then think about housing them with a trusted pet sitter while you’re away. But if your pet enjoys traveling as much as you do, make sure that wherever you’re going knows you’re bringing your buddy. Lots of hotels allow pets, so make sure to choose pet-friendly lodging and read through the pet policy so you know what to expect. There may be a pet fee, or weight and breed restrictions. Some hotels also offer amenities like dog beds and bowls. If you want to take your dog camping with you, be sure to pick a dog-friendly campsite (not all of them are), and do your homework so you know which areas may be off-limits to pets.
Is Your Pet Fit for Travel?
It’s a good idea to get the all-clear from your veterinarian before taking your dog or cat on a trip, especially if it’s been a while since their last wellness check. If you’re going to be traveling internationally you’ll need a health certificate and other documentation. If you’ll be crossing state lines with your dog or cat, you may also need a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) and vaccine documentation – you can find animal health requirements here.
Identification & Emergency Care
Take these steps before you travel—just in case:
- Make sure your dog or cat’s ID tag is up to date and includes your phone number.
- Find a 24-hour emergency veterinary service at your destination and save the information in your phone.
- Save your regular veterinarian’s contact info in your phone.
- Bring some recent photos of your dog or cat.
As a loving pet parent, you probably have hundreds of recent pet photos in your phone—just make sure a few of them show your pet’s current relative size and main features.
Flying with a Dog or Cat
If you plan on taking your dog or cat along when flying, you’ll need to research the policy and restrictions for the airline you’re using. In general, only small animals can ride in the cabin, while larger pets must travel as cargo—which can be very uncomfortable for your dog. In fact, the ASPCA and the Humane Society both recommend against flying your dog as cargo.
Some airlines won’t allow pet travel if there are extreme temperatures along the route, and most airlines require an animal health certificate issued within 10 days of your flight. There may also be breed restrictions, and some airlines limit how many pets can fly at one time.Flying can be stressful for your pet, and add extra complications and costs to your trip. If you have a senior dog or cat, or a pet with health issues, it may be better for them in the long run if you leave them with a trusted pet sitter. For a detailed list of what to expect and how to prepare, see the American Veterinarian Medical Association resource for traveling by plane.
Flying With an Emotional Support Animal
Airlines are required by law to allow trained service dogs on flights, but not emotional support animals (ESAs). You can bring a small emotional support dog or cat on a flight, but they’ll be subject to the same regulations and restrictions as any other animal.
Tips for Traveling with Pets in a Car
The best part about taking your dog or cat along on a road trip is you won’t have to research any specific requirements—you’re probably already familiar with how well your pet does in cars. The main things to plan for are keeping your pet safe during the journey, and leaving enough room in your schedule for walks, playtime, and downtime.
Keeping Your Pet Safe on a Road Trip
The first rule of road safety is keeping your dog or cat secure while you’re driving. Ideally, your pet stays in a crash-tested, size-appropriate crate while the vehicle is moving. If that’s not possible, look into a safety harness that clips into the seat belt buckle. If your pet can’t handle any type of restraint while in a car, you can use a back seat barrier to keep your dog or cat away from the driver.
Remove your dog’s leash once they’re in the car so they don’t get tangled up or get it caught on something. Always put your dog’s leash back on before you open the door—they can easily be startled by an unexpected sight or sound and take off.
Many pets experience car sickness, especially puppies (who often grow out of it). If your dog or cat regularly gets carsick, talk to your vet about options for helping them feel more comfortable.
This last safety tip goes without saying, but is always worth repeating: never leave your dog or cat alone in the car, especially in warm weather.
Packing for Your Pet
In addition to your pet’s ID and veterinary info, pack any medicine or supplements prescribed for your dog or cat. You should also bring a supply of their regular food and treats—now is not the time to introduce new foods! To be on the safe side, pack an extra week’s worth of food and meds in case you run into travel delays.
Use this checklist to make sure your dog or cat’s needs are covered on the road:
- Pet first aid kit
- Food & water dishes
- Bottled water
- Travel crate or car safety harness
- Leash & collar (plus an extra of each)
- Poop bags for the pups
- Pee pads to line the crate or carrier
- Portable (or disposable) litter box for the kitties
- Pet bed and/or blankets
- Coat & booties if your destination climate calls for it
- Treats, toys, catnip & scratching post
- Towels & rags for cleaning up
If you have a cat or a small dog, you may want to consider a backpack carrier. If your pet is comfortable in one, you’ll have more hands free for luggage, a travel mug and whatever else you’re carrying.
Be Considerate of Others
Despite there being many pet parents and pet lovers around the world, there are also a lot of people who don’t feel comfortable being near pets. Taking this into consideration, remember to be respectful to those around you and your pet by restraining your pet when necessary, rewarding your pet’s good behavior, and asking before assuming. And always pick up after your dog when walking them around your family’s neighborhood, at a rest area, or near your hotel.
Keep Stress Levels Low and Spirits High
Just like people, pets also experience a heightened level of stress when they’re away from their routine, meeting new people, and staying in a different place. With that being said, pay close attention to them while traveling and cater to their needs when possible. If your dog or cat gets nervous, talk to your vet about safe options for helping them relax. Some ideas for comforting your pet include: putting on their anxiety vest, wrapping them in a blanket to snuggle, playing extra rounds of fetch outside, taking them for nice, long walks, or giving them a few more treats than normal. Being mindful of your pet’s stress level will make traveling easier for you and it might also help others that will be around your pet. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of dog anxiety, and ways to help.
Safe Travels From Stella & Chewy’s
Traveling with your pet, and in general, can be stressful. Give your pet plenty of attention and affection, and keep their routine as consistent as you can while traveling. Having their usual, day-to-day activities in place will keep those tails wagging. Before you travel, use positive reinforcement to teach safe car behavior and make your pet’s carrier a happy, comfortable place. Our freeze-dried raw treats and foods are ideal for traveling because they’re lightweight, shelf-stable, and 100% natural with complete and balanced nutrition. Explore freeze-dried raw dog foods and freeze-dried raw cat foods from Stella and Chewy’s, and start planning your next getaway!