No matter how excited you may be for a vacation, having to say goodbye to your pet is always the hardest part. But what if you don’t have to? If they don’t mind the trip, pets can provide lots of added fun and happiness to your adventure.
If you are hesitant to travel with your pet because you are concerned about finding accommodations, there’s no need to worry. There are thousands of places that welcome four-legged companions. AAA makes it easy to search for pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, attractions and campgrounds across the country, along with travel tips and other resources.
Here’s a list of important things to consider if you plan on traveling with pets.
- Should your pet travel? Consider your pet’s age, wellness and temperament before hitting the road with them in tow. Traveling with a pet that is very young, very old, sick or pregnant is not advised. Dogs prone to biting, excessive barking or that have failed obedience school, also should not travel.
- Is the trip suitable for pets? Don’t bring your pet if you are just going to end up leaving them in the hotel room or locked in a kennel for the day. The family dog will likely enjoy a hiking and camping trip much more than a theme park vacation. The family cat, however, may love Space Mountain. (Just kidding – non-service animals aren’t allowed in Disney theme parks, but they do have their own resort.)
Do Your Research
- Where to stay and eat? Find out in advance which hotels, restaurants and campgrounds accommodate pets. Also check to see if the parks and beaches you will be visiting permit pets.
- Pet policies. Before making any reservations, inquire about pet policies at the hotel and be prepared to pay an additional charge. Are there rooms designated for those traveling with pets? Are there breed or size-specific restrictions? Certain states also have pet policies, such as Hawaii, which imposes a 120-day quarantine for all visiting carnivores to prevent the importation of rabies.
- Be specific. When booking your trip, you must specify the kind of animal you are bringing. Just because the hotel listing says “pets accepted,” does not mean they accept all pets. If the hotel staff is expecting a little dog, you do not want to surprise them with a Great Dane.
Getting Your Pets Ready and Packing Tips
- Go to the vet. Make sure your pet has a clean bill of health before traveling. You will also need to update all vaccinations and obtain a certificate showing proof of up-to-date immunizations, especially rabies. Documentation is necessary when crossing country and state lines. Ask the vet if there are any safety or health risks where you are going.
- Get your pet used to travel. Do a few test runs in the car before you set out on a long trip, even if you are flying to your destination. Although some pets love the car, others get anxious or bored. Begin by allowing your pet to explore the car/carrier without going anywhere, and then take a ride to somewhere fun like the park to help them see that driving and travel are not so scary. Make sure they are safely restrained in the car and bring plenty of treats for good behavior. A trip to the dog park may also help your dog get adjusted to being around other dogs and people.
- Pack as carefully for your pet as you do for yourself. Make sure your pup or kitty has a collar outfitted with all of the necessary identification, such as license and ID tags with contact information. Other important items to pack include a leash, plenty of food, food and water dishes, treats, blankets and bedding, favorite toys, grooming supplies and first aid.
- Prepping the carrier/crate. An excellent (and airline-approved, when flying) carrier is essential, not only for keeping your pet safe and contained during transit, but to provide a familiar place to stay when confinement is necessary at your destination. Get your pet used to the carrier the same way as the car, leaving it open with a familiar object inside to show that it’s a safe, cozy space. When flying, the crate must be labeled “Live Animals.” It should also have your name, address and phone number clearly printed on it.
Traveling With Pets by Car
- Keep pets in the backseat. Restraining your pet in the backseat is suggested to prevent distractions and to keep everyone safe in the event of a collision. A front airbag can be deadly to a pet, even when restrained.
- Prevent car sickness. Feed your pet a light meal four to six hours before departing.
- Take breaks. AAA recommends that drivers stop every two hours to take a break during a long trip, and your pet will appreciate it too. Make sure they are leashed before opening the door, especially if they are not used to traveling as they may become disoriented and want to dart.
- Never leave a pet in a parked car, even with the windows open.
Traveling With Pets by Air (and Traveling Abroad)
- Find out if your pet is fit to fly. Cats and certain breeds of dogs including snub-nosed dogs such as pugs are prone to severe respiratory difficulties in an airplanes cargo hold and should only travel in the passenger cabin with their owner. Check with the airline to see what is recommended and/or allowed.
- Research and reserve. Compare the animal-welfare guidelines of several airlines beforehand to see which is best for you and reserve your pet’s spot on the plane well in advance.
- Where will your pet fly? Most animals fly in the cargo hold as checked baggage and are considered as such by the airline. Ask that your pet be hand-carried on and off the plane. Small, well-behaved pets may be taken into the passenger cabin with you as carry-on luggage on most airlines.
- Prepare for the flight. Do not feed your pet less than four hours before departure but provide water until boarding. Exercise your pet before the flight and have them “take care of business” before you enter the terminal. Attach food and water bowls to the carrier along with enough sustenance for the flight. Attach a feeding schedule and instructions, if desired.
- If your pet is in the cargo hold, alert the flight crew and captain; the pilot must activate the heater. Include an ice pack wrapped in a towel for extra comfort on a hot day, and a hot water bottle on a cold day. If there are layovers or delays, ask if you may check your pet in person.
- International travel. Prepare for a long flight and at least a short quarantine period. Contact the embassy or consulate at your destination for information about documentation, quarantine requirements and animal welfare regulations.
Car and air are generally the only ways to travel with animals. Amtrak and major bus lines such as Greyhound do not accept pets.
- In case of emergency, familiarize yourself with the nearest animal hospital at your destination. Also consider getting pet insurance. If something happens on the road requiring immediate care, you will be relieved to have it.
Practice Proper “Petiquette”
- Always keep your pets clean and under control as a courtesy to other travelers.
- At hotels, keep your pet leashed and only in designated areas. Leave no trace of your pet in the room before checking out.
- If you are visiting relatives, be sure that your pet will be a welcomed guest.
- For health reasons, pets are not allowed inside of dining establishments, but many restaurants will allow dogs to sit quietly with their owners at outdoor tables.
Instead of waving goodbye to Sparky and his sad puppy eyes at the door, bring him along for the trip and have him take his rightful place in your vacation memories smiling beside you in the family photos.