How to: Travel with Pets – the Ultimate Guide

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 6:34pm by admin

These days, pets are often given the same privileges as their human owners when it comes to grooming, play dates, pet spa treatments, gourmet meals and exercise routines. Since pets are usually considered a part of the family, why should things be different when you take the whole crew on a vacation? Unfortunately, traveling with a pet can be a bigger hassle than your typical trip to the groomer’s, but we’ve compiled this ultimate guide for a pet-friendly vacation to make sure everyone has a good time.

Traveling by Air

Air travel is often the most convenient way to get to your destination, but if you plan to take Fluffy on board, you need to be aware of the extra procedures and dangers headed your way.

  1. Tips for Safe Pet Air Travel: Visit the Human Society’s website for tips on keeping your pet comfortable and safe during a planet trip.
  2. Stow your pet under the seat in front of you: If your dog or cat is small enough to comfortably fit in a carrier the size of most carry-on items, you may be able to keep your pet under the seat in front of you for the entire plane trip. That way, your furry friend won’t be subjected to riding alone in the back with everyone’s heavy suitcases.
  3. Put identification information everywhere: First, make sure your pet’s ID tags are securely attached to his or her collar. Go ahead and clip another ID tag or luggage tag onto the carrier door, and consider writing your contact information directly on the animal’s carrier to avoid mistakes and theft.
  4. Research companies that specialize in transporting pets: Companies like Pet Air specialize in transporting pets, taking care of everything from booking flights to selling kennels and carriers.
  5. Travel Tips: This guide from suggests trimming your animal’s nails to minimize the injury it can cause to itself, you and other animals or people.
  6. Pack a toy or favorite comfort item in your pet’s carrier: To make the trip more comfortable for your pet, pack a familiar toy or blanket inside your pet’s carrier to ease their anxiety. Rawhides aren’t always a good idea, though, as they can cause upset stomachs.
  7. Bring a photo of your pet: In case you have trouble finding your pet after landing, have a recent photo ready to show airport security and baggage claim attendants to prove you’re the owner and help locate your pet.
  8. Pack pet meds in accordance with TSA carry-on regulations: Make sure you pack your pet’s medications in a TSA-approved system, which requires that liquids and gels 3 oz. or less be packed in a quart-sized plastic zip-top bag. If you have to dump out your pet’s medicine or take a later flight to have time to stick it in your check bags, you could be in for a disaster.
  9. Pack a small bowl for water: Dogs and cats can get dehydrated easily, so bring a small bowl or collapsible container so that your pet has water as soon as you land or retrieve it from the baggage claim.
  10. Be familiar with airline travel restrictions and guidelines: Before booking a flight for your pet, make sure you are prepared to deal with all travel restrictions set forth by the airline. Many airlines like Delta require pets to be at least 8 weeks old, restrict the destinations where pets can fly to, and charge a fee for in-cabin carriers.
  11. Pet Air Travel: publishes this guide to taking pets on an airplane, including a list of pet regulations for several major airlines.

Traveling by Car

Traveling by car can be easier on your pet than booking a flight, but check out this list to make sure you’re well-prepared for the trip.

  1. ASPCA Car Travel Tips: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) posts this list of car travel tips to make sure your pet travels safely and comfortably.
  2. Bring a water dish and a bottle of water: Just in case the rest stop where you plan to take a break doesn’t have fresh water or a dish to put it in, pack a bowl and a water bottle to rehydrate your pet during the trip.
  3. Try not to leave your pet alone in the car: If you’re traveling by yourself, this tip may be hard to abide by, but limiting your rest time to bathroom and stretch breaks is safest for your pet. If you can, park your car near the window of the place where you stop so that you can keep an eye on your pet. Always roll down the windows a bit to keep fresh air going in and out of your vehicle.
  4. Don’t give a big meal before the trip: Stick to your pet’s regular feeding schedule as much as possible, but decrease meal portions before you get in the car; otherwise, you may have a big mess to clean up in the backseat.
  5. Travel By Car: The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends not letting your animals ride with their heads out the window, no matter how much fun it seems. Besides risking injury, animals can also get bugs, dirt, and other irritants in their eyes, ears or noses.
  6. Keep your pet comfortably secure: Keeping your pet in a carrier is the best and safest way to travel in a car. Your pet will be less likely to be injured if you have to slam on the breaks or get into a fender bender, and you won’t have to worry about your pet jumping into your lap while you barrel down the highway.
  7. How to Choose the Best Travel Pet Carrier for Your Pet: Whether you have a large dog or a small kitty cat, make sure you know how to select the most appropriate carrier for your pet. This guide will help you out.
  8. Pack a clean-up kit: Just in case your pet gets car sick, go ahead and pack up a simple clean-up kit with a pet cleaner suitable for fabric, carpet or leather. Also bring along paper towels and a small garbage bag.
  9. Plan stops ahead of time: Even if you’re familiar with the route you plan to take, plan out your breaks ahead of time. You’ll feel more comfortable stopping at places you know are well-lit, have plenty of grass for your pet’s bathroom breaks and are far enough from the highway for a quick run.

International Travel

For international moves and extended vacations, pet owners need to be prepared for customs regulations, vaccination reports and other complicated procedures. Use this list to make sense of it all.

  1. Pet Passport, Immigration and Quarantine Info.: publishes links and resources for international pet travel. Find immigration rules and regulations for over 100 countries, including Argentina, South Africa, the Bahamas and France.
  2. Official USDA Certification: reports that "all EU Countries as well as many other countries now require that a veterinarian certificate issued in the United States have an official USDA Certification stamp." Follow this link to find out more information about how you can secure one for your pet.
  3. International Animal Export Regulations: The USDA page for exporting animals and animal products from the United States is full of helpful information.
  4. Globetrotting Pets: The website for the book Globetrotting Pets: An International Travel Guide has sample information and tips for traveling to different countries with your pets, from tourism contact information to a helpful travel check-list for your pet.
  5. Pets on the Go! International Resources: This website has import/export information for the U.S., Hawaii, Guam, Great Britain and Mexico, as well as an international pet-friendly hotel search, air travel tips and more.
  6. Pet Relocation — Tips for International Pet Moving: This post serves as an excellent guide and check-list for moving a pet abroad. You’ll find information about finding and packing a suitable crate, things to remember on the day of your trip, and plenty of other questions you should be prepared to ask airlines, customs and other offices.

Staying in a Hotel


  1. Keep a list of pet-friendly hotels with you: Before your trip, make sure you have a list of pet-friendly hotels in the area you plan on traveling through. Even if you have a reservation, it’s best to have one or two alternative options just in case you have a layover, car trouble or other problems before you get to your final destination.
  2. Pet-friendly Hotels and Motels: Use this guide to see whether or not hotels are dog- and cat-friendly. The site also also has tips for bringing along your pets to a hotel.
  3. Stay in a ground-floor room: MSNBC recommends staying in a ground-floor room, "preferably one that opens to the outside. That way you can take your pet in and out without going through a lobby and you will disturb as few people as possible."
  4. Put up the "Do Not Disturb" sign: When you leave your pet in your room by itself, put up the "Do Not Disturb" sign so that the cleaning staff won’t get surprised by your pets…or vice versa. You’ll save yourself from complaints, extra messes and even worse, potential lawsuits if your pet frightens or injures a member of the hotel staff.
  5. Pet-Friendly Hotels: Forbes reviews posh pet-friendly hotels around the U.S. in this article.

Advice from the Pros

The Dog Whisperer and other professional animal handlers have loads of tips and advice for pet owners just itching to take their pets on vacation.

  1. Cesar’s Travel Tips: The Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan dedicates this web page to giving pet owners travel tips like "bring your dog’s blankie," "use a soothing scent," and "claim your new space."
  2. Traveling With Your Pet: The AVMA has lots of travel safety tips for pets, including those needed for camping trips and vacations that require bus and train travel.
  3. Ten Most Common Poisonous Plants: If you’re taking your pet into unfamiliar territory, print out the Animal Poison Control Center’s list of the ten most common poisonous plants to avoid disaster.
  4. Pet Moving Tips: The online Residency Guide offers lots of relocation tips for when you have to move with a pet. Find tips for dogs, cats, fish, birds and other pets.
  5. Traveling With Your Furry Friends: "America’s Most Trusted Pet Expert" Warren Eckstein has lots of pet travel tips that include people preparation, pet preparation, and a checklist of items to pack for your pet.
  6. If Your Dog Has Ticks: Trips to the beach, the mountains, or even to certain locations increases your dog’s chances of getting ticks. If you spot one of these nasty parasites, check out this guide for information on what to do.
  7. How to Travel with a Dog: Check out Expert Village for a series of videos that teach dog owners the dos and don’ts of traveling with their pet. You will get to know more about dog costume and dog t-shirt here.
  8. Cesar’s Beach Tips: If you can’t wait to take your pooch to the beach, read Cesar Millan’s tips on planning a safe, rational, pet-friendly beach vacation.
  9. Protect Your Pet: Summer Safety Tips: MSNBC interviews pet expert Andrea Arden for tips on taking care of your pets during the summer months and in warm-weather climates. Read about sun protection, keeping your pets safe around water and avoiding parasites.
  10. Travelers Digest: Information for People Traveling With Pets: These travel pros have put together a long list of resources for pet owners planning a vacation.

Health Concerns

Make sure your pet has as much fun as you do on vacation by putting its health and well-being first.

  1. Get a pre-vacation check-up: If you’re going away for a long trip, or if your pet is chronically ill, take it to the vet for a pre-vacation check-up. Your vet will tell you if it’s safe to take along the pet and can give you some pointers for caring for your animal during the trip.
  2. Make a file for all your pet’s health records: Keep a file with all of your pet’s medical records handy in the car, in your carry-on bag and everywhere else you plan on taking your pet during the vacation. You never know when local authorities might demand to see up-to-date rabies vaccinations, and most of the time, dog tags won’t cut it.
  3. Bring a list of emergency phone numbers: In case your pet needs immediate medical attention when you’re away from home, research the area you’ll be staying in to find contact information and hours of operation for local vets.
  4. CDC Importation of Pets, Other Animals, and Animal Products into the United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires certain health information from pets returning from trips abroad. Use this list of resources as a check-list before you even leave the U.S.
  5. Animal Diseases: The USDA Animal and Health Inspection Service website gives descriptions of many different animal diseases that could affect your pet on vacation.

Traveling with Exotic Pets

Dogs and cats aren’t the only ones who get to travel nowadays. Read below for tips on bringing along your more exotic animals.

  1. Travel with Exotic Pets: publishes information for exotic pet owners who need official paperwork allowing them to travel abroad.
  2. Can a Rabbit Tolerate a Long Drive in the Car?: Read’s in-depth analysis of taking a pet rabbit on a long car trip.
  3. Pet Bird Travel Tips: The Bird Channel website has several great tips for traveling safely with your pet bird, including choosing the right carrier, how to set up a "home away from home" and more.
  4. Travel with Horses: The website lists horse-friendly vacations and lodging options in the U.S. and abroad.
  5. Double check exotic animal regulations: recommends checking the customs and animal policies of your vacation destination to make sure your exotic pet is allowed inside the borders. If it’s not, you’ll have to leave your pet at home or cancel the vacation.

General Tips and Precautions

Check out this list for more tips and resources that will make traveling with your pet more enjoyable.

  1. Get your pet used to traveling: If you plan to take your pet for a long ride in the car, get him accustomed to the trip by bringing him on short errands around town first. If your pet will be sitting in a carrier during a flight, have him or her sit in the crate for a similar amount of time at various intervals before your vacation.
  2. Make a new ID tag with travel contact information: If someone finds your lost pet while you’re in vacation in Florida, calling your home phone number in Wisconsin isn’t going to do any good. Make a new ID tag at your vet or animal supplies store that has your cell phone number or hotel contact information.
  3. How to Pack a Puppy Travel Bag: Watch this video from Expert Village to make sure you’re prepared to look after your puppy on a trip.
  4. How to Travel Train Your Cat: This simple guide contains good tips for getting your cat used to travel, including putting it on a cat leash and taking practice car trips in a carrier.
  5. Most Effective Ways to Calm Anxious Cats: Veterinarians and pet experts Foster and Smith review anti-anxiety products for cats on this site.
  6. Top 10 Dog-Friendly Cities to Visit in North America: From Chicago to Vancouver to Salt Lake City, find out which North American cities are the most welcoming to visiting dogs.
  7. Traveling With Your Toy Dog Breed: Planning a Pet-Friendly Vacation: Traveling with a pint-sized pup might seem super easy. You can take them everywhere, they make small messes and are generally easy to groom. This guide, however, has tips for dealing with some of the unique travel dangers and annoyances that toy dog breeds face.
  8. Car Sickness and Fear of Riding in Cars: If your cat is scared of riding in a car but you need to take it on a car trip, try these tips to gently walk your pet through the process.
  9. U.S. State and Territory Animal Import Regulations: Check out this list if you’re going to be traveling from state to state. You’ll want to be prepared if you’re required to have current rabies vaccination records or other pet-related paperwork.

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  1. SnugglePuppies and SnuggleKitties make excellent travel companions!

    Comment by Julee — February 14, 2008 @ 9:42 pm

  2. Wow, lots of good stuff! I’m going to have to revisit your page later. We are going to be traveling to Germany with two pets. I’ve already investigated one of those pet companies, but at well over $6,000…it just wasn’t viable for us.

    So, we are going to drive as close as we can get and take a direct flight. Both pets are already used to crates, as the dog was crate trained and the cat goes in his crate to the vet.

    I do have a silly question…what do cats do when they can’t find the litter box for 8-10 hours, which is how long we’ll be underway?

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