5 Tips For Traveling With Pets

puppy in back pocket
Beverly, Flickr

For those of us who consider pets members of the family, leaving them behind when we travel often isn’t an option, especially if they’re a certified companion or therapy animal. Sometimes, however, we just want to bring our furry friends along. Fortunately, the travel industry has cottoned on to this fact (we hate to give Paris Hilton credit for anything, but she probably did help to facilitate this one), and an increasing number of hotels, airlines, bars, and even restaurants are cool with guests bringing along an animal.

If you’re thinking of hitting the road (or skies) with your dog, cat, or even rabbit (don’t laugh; the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel has a lot of guests from Asia who travel with their bunny buddies), here’s some tips on making the journey easier for everyone involved:

Do your research
Don’t waste your precious holiday time trying to find a hotel last-minute that accepts pets. Book rooms beforehand, and be sure to ask about pet deposits. CNN posted an article today on the 12 of the world’s dog-friendliest hotels. Many properties go to great lengths to ensure your loved one (no, we’re not talking about your spouse or partner) is comfortable, well-fed, and walked regularly, even if you’re busy enjoying other activities. The same book-ahead/ask questions before, not after, approach should apply with regard to airlines and other forms of public transportation.

cat looking out porthole
Eugenio, Flickr

Assess your pet’s attitude
The cardinal sin of traveling with a pet is toting along an animal with behavioral issues. This is especially true if you’re flying or taking another form of public transit. No one is going to sympathize with you if your cat is yowling or your dog isn’t housebroken. Hotels also don’t appreciate pet damage. We get it, it’s your baby. But be honest with yourself (better yet, ask someone unbiased, like your vet) about your pet’s behavior, and whether or not they’ll make a good travel companion.

Get to the vet
You should always take your pet to the vet for a physical before a big trip, or if you know they’re an anxious traveler. Sedatives can reduce their stress, (and in the process, that of seatmates and guests in neighboring rooms), and you also want to rule out any health issues. Try to avoid traveling with baby animals, especially those that haven’t had all of their immunizations.

If you’re traveling overseas or even out-of-state, certain documents such as rabies certificates will likely be required. A pet passport will also be required for certain countries, and will make traveling with your animal easier. Quarantine is also required for certain species traveling to and from specific destinations, including Hawaii (which doesn’t have rabies, and they’d like to keep it that way, thanks). A clean bill of health from your veterinarian is also commonly required.

hiking with dog
Laurel Miller, Gadling

Flying the furry skies
Airline policies vary, so be prepared to make a lot of calls. Pet Airlines is a handy aggregate site that directs you to the pet policies of various airlines and hotels. If at all possible, have your pet travel with you in coach. Airline travel is stressful for pets regardless, but in cargo, the temperature can reach dangerous levels (be it heat or cold), and once in a blue moon, mistakes do occur with regard to transfers or baggage handling. It’s worth the extra dollars to keep an eye on your pet; you may also want to consider pet insurance.

Try to stick to a schedule
As previously mentioned, travel can be stressful for pets. It’s important that you stick to regular feeding times (if there’s a major time change, you’ll have to slowly adjust it) and your usual pet food; changing an animal’s diet suddenly can result in gastrointestinal upsets. Exercise and playtime are also critical. While you’re at it, suss out the nearest 24-hour emergency vet clinic.