As the winter holiday season grows closer, many people are making plans to travel to see family and/or friends. Traveling can be stressful this time of year as more and more people are on the roads or traveling via planes or trains. But traveling can also be a whole lot of fun, especially if you take your pets with you! With the right planning and preparation, vacations with pets can be a great way to relax and have fun, new adventures. Here are some tips for having a great trip with your pets.

Know what your pet can and likes to do

Some pets get really stressed out by long car rides while others might relish in the idea of traveling with you. Taking shorter trips to see how your pets fare before going on a long trip is always a great way to see what works for you and your pets. If, for example, your pet only gets in the car to go to the vet or to grooming and they don’t like either of those places, it makes sense that they might not like the car! Try going on short car rides that involve going to a park or pet store (somewhere fun!).

At the same time, it’ll be important to know what your pet is capable of doing. If you’re thinking of hiking up a mountain but your dog is a large senior dog, you might want to rethink taking them along! And if you’re thinking about going to a bunch of crowded, busy places but your pet gets overwhelmed by crowds, it might be better to leave your pet at home.

Plan for everything

Okay, so it might be impossible to plan for literally everything but taking the time to thoroughly plan can help limit the number of unexpected surprises you might face on your trip. Some supplies to have on hand while you travel:

  • Poop bags
  • Peed pads, trash bags, and paper towels (in case you need to clean something up!)
  • Water bottles and a container
  • Medication
  • Food/treats
  • Leash, collar, and up to date identification tags with a phone number you have on the trip
  • Bed or blanket
  • Medical records and a health certificate

If your pet does get anxious while traveling, it might be a good idea to talk to your vet about anxiety medication to help with this if you need to go a long distance with your pet. This might be a great idea if you have to take your pets on an airplane with you, as airplanes can bring a whole lot of stress! But make sure to only give medication after talking with your vet to make sure that other issues won’t arise.

Planning ahead also involves knowing good places to stop for a bathroom/water/walk break on long road trips, as your pets will have to stretch their legs and relieve themselves every few hours! For long trips, you’ll have to add some time to the trip’s length to account for these breaks. Jean Hofve, DVM wrote about traveling with cats over at Little Big Cat a few years ago and shared that if you’ll be on the road for more than 12-15 hours, it’ll be good to make a stopover at a motel. And when you do get to a hotel/motel, only let your cat out in the bathroom with the door closed so they can’t hide underneath something.

Also knowing where different veterinary hospitals are while you’re traveling will be important in the off chance that something happens on the trip.

If you’re planning a long camping trip in a remote area, it might be handy to have a pet first aid kit and to take some pet first aid classes! Having the skills to deal with problems if they do arise can make a huge difference. There are a few different options for pet first aid classes around the Pacific Northwest! Walks N’ Wags Pet First Aid, for example, is based in British Columbia but offers two different first aid classes around Washington and British Columbia. Their Off The Grid classes are great for people who might not have consistent access to immediate vet care (like outdoor enthusiasts, campers, hikers, farmers, etc).

Know the policies before you go!

If you’re doing a road trip and planning to camp in different places or stay at different hotels or AirBnBs, it’ll be essential to know the pet policies before you go. Some hotels and AirBnBs don’t allow pets while others do and have a pet deposit. Sites like BringFido and GoPetFriendly have a list of some pet-friendly hotels (Trips With Pets even has a list of pet policies!) but it’s always good to directly check with the hotel beforehand!

If you’re planning to camp and hike during the summer months, it’ll also be important to know where your pet can go! Some parks and campsites aren’t pet-friendly and don’t allow dogs, in part to protect local wildlife. There are a few really great national parks that do welcome dogs but it’s always good to know before you go!

Other forms of transportation also have pet policies that will be important to know before you head out with your pet. Simply looking up different pet policies and knowing them before you make your plans will be essential for planning your trip! Different companies will have different pet policies so while it might be seemingly redundant, it’ll still be important to know what a specific company’s pet policies are before you make your reservations. Here are some places to start:

International Travel

If you are planning to travel internationally with your pets, knowing what you need to do and have to cross an international border with your pet will be important to know before you go. Different countries will have different specifications and requirements for bringing a pet into their country. If you’re traveling to Canada, there are a few additional documents to have on hand if your pet is coming with you:

  • Proof of rabies vaccination
  • Health certificate (not needed if your dog is healthy but can be good to have!)

You’ll also need these documents to cross into the United States and can get both from your veterinarian. There are other policies for crossing different borders so what works for the US/Canada border aren’t universal tips!

Plan some downtime

Sometimes, traveling can be really overwhelming for pets and taking some time away from constant stimuli can help them relax. Airports, for example, are starting to put in pet relief stations to help your pets relax during your layovers. Keep an eye on your pets and their body language while you travel to make sure that they’re not getting too overwhelmed.

Resources

One wonderful thing about the internet is all the resources about traveling with pets! Here are some great resources:

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