There’s a lot to consider when traveling including finding the best rates on flights and hotels, what to pack, and what tours or activities to book.
For people with pets, there are even more issues to think about such as whether you’ll be taking your dog or cat to a kennel/cattery or will they tag along with you during your travels.
Traveling with your pet can be a great experience albeit sometimes a bit of a challenge. If you’re considering taking your beloved dog or cat with you on your next holiday or are looking for tips to make traveling with your pet an easier and more pleasant experience, here are some important things to consider.
Read on for information on the differences between an ESA and a regular pet, advice on taking your pet on road trips, flying with your pet, booking pet-friendly accommodation, and what to pack for them.
Pet-Friendly Travel: What to Consider Before Traveling with Your Dog or Cat
ESA vs. Regular Pet
While many of us may simply wish to travel with our pet because we don’t want to leave them behind, some travelers actually need the companionship of their pet to be able to function during their travels.
People suffering from various physical or mental illnesses often look to getting an ESA or emotional support animal to help them manage their stress, anxiety, or disability.
There are also then of course service animals which differ a bit from an ESA in that they are trained for a specific job such as offering mobility assistance, helping the vision-impaired get around, or being able to detect serious human health issues.
There are often many more options and benefits when traveling with a pet with ESA status, as regulations often make it compulsory for airlines and hotels to allow qualifying emotional support animals on board inside the cabin and inside your room.
Sadly, if your pet is not a certified ESA pet, you may have to work a bit harder in terms of researching to find pet-friendly accommodation and airlines. Most traditional pets will be held in a special pressurized, climate-controlled space under the main cabin instead of inside the cabin with you.
Check with Your Vet Before Traveling
There are many reasons to check-in with your vet before traveling with your dog or cat, including making sure your pet is fit to travel and ensuring they stay healthy throughout the journey.
The first thing to consider is getting your pet fitted with permanent microchip electronic identification and possibly a GPS tracker for their collar if they are prone to roam.
You may also be required to carry with you your pet’s Rabies Vaccination Certificate and will want to be up-to-date on all their recommended vaccinations and de-worming treatments.
While there may be special cases where your vet will prescribe sedatives for your pet to manage their anxiety while traveling, this is generally not advised. You should refrain from traveling with an elderly pet, pregnant pet, or one that is recovering from a recent illness.
Some breeds of dogs actually struggle with flying such as pugs for example. Breeds such as these may be prohibited from flying by some airlines as they are susceptible to things like heat stroke and oxygen deprivation.
When it comes to cats, keep in mind that they generally have a less enjoyable time traveling than dogs do. Being much more territorial than dogs, cats tend to be more relaxed in their normal setting and have more ritualistic behaviors that when disturbed can cause a great deal of stress.
Selecting a Proper Pet Carrier
Both dogs and cats often require a pet carrier for travel, especially when flying. Your pet carrier will need to be International Air Transportation Association (IATA) approved, or you can inquire as to whether your chosen airline offers IATA approved carrier rentals to be assured you have the right one.
You and your pet do benefit from purchasing your own carrier, as it gives them the chance to get familiar with their carrier well before their trip.
You can make your pet feel even more comfortable by placing familiar items such as a favorite toy or blanket in the carrier.
Be sure to avoid placing anything in their carrier that they can choke on or get injured by, keeping in mind you won’t be able to check on them when they are in the airplane pet hold during the flight.
Choose Airlines Wisely
When it comes to flying with pets, especially with ESAs, not all airlines are equal.
A recent change to the Air Carrier Access Act allows US airlines to recognize certain emotional support animals as normal pets instead of as service animals. That means that ESAs are less protected by law when it comes to air travel than they once were in the US.
Certain international airlines, such as China Airlines, Virgin Australia, and Norweigan Air still say they will allow ESAs on their flights. But double-check with the airline before booking and have your ESA letter handy well before your flight to ensure there are no hiccups on the day of travel.
Airlines still have the right to deny an ESA pet that is too large or heavy to fit comfortably in the main cabin or one that may pose a threat to the health or safety of other passengers and crew.
Not all countries permit ESA and service animals from other foreign countries, so you may also run into problems with certain airlines accepting such pets.
Also, it never hurts to read reviews from other people who have traveled by plane with their pets to get a feel for how various airlines generally stack up when it comes to caring for animals.
Traveling by Plane with Your Pet
Traveling by plane with a pet means having to possibly show up a little earlier to the airport than you may normally, with the recommended time being at least 90-120 minutes before your scheduled departure.
While each airline may have different pet guidelines and restrictions, most if not all have staff that are trained to deal with pet travel and can ensure your pet is well looked after. Your pet will likely be just as comfortable on the plane as you are, being held in a pressurized, climate controlled space.
Be sure to place an ID tag on your pet’s carrier much like you would a luggage tag. This should contain your dog’s name and personal details, your contact details, and your final destination.
Booking connecting flights, especially with multiple airlines, is best avoided to reduce the chances of your pet not getting placed on the same flight you’re on.
Unless you have a long-haul flight, you shouldn’t need to feed your pet while flying, but you should provide them with plenty of water. When traveling internationally, keep in mind your pet may have to undergo a mandatory quarantine period.
Also keep in mind that various countries may also have rules and restrictions when it comes to pets such as dogs being excluded from certain parks or beaches.
There may also be unique rules expats may need to be aware of such as Germany’s proposed new law that would legally require dog owners to take their dogs on walks at least twice a day for the dog’s health.
Pets and Road Trips
Taking a domestic road trip with your pet requires less preparation and involves far fewer regulations, but there are still things to be aware of.
First of all, your pet should be placed in a carrier or harness attached to a seat belt in the backseat whenever possible. Avoid putting your pet in the front passenger seat, as airbags can cause injury to your pet as well, especially if not placed in a carrier.
Allowing your dog to move freely about the car can cause distractions to the driver and could result in serious injury to your pet in an accident if they are not restrained properly.
Not all pets are great at car trips, and if you have never taken your pet for longer road trips you should definitely let them warm up to the idea with shorter trips around town before taking them on a full-on road trip.
It‘s safe to fast your pet by not feeding them in the morning if you are worried that they may become anxious and cause an accident in your vehicle. Plan rest stops to allow your dog the chance to go to the bathroom, much like you would for yourself and others in the car.
You should also never leave your pet in the car unattended for many of the same reasons that you would never leave a child in a vehicle unattended. Vehicles can get dangerously hot even outside of summer season.
Booking Pet-Friendly Accommodation
Now, on to finding pet-friendly accommodation. You should be able to find a number of accommodation options whether they be hotels or Airbnbs that allow cats and dogs.
Just be sure to read the fine print, because “pet-friendly” doesn’t always mean pets are allowed inside the booked room/property and may be required to be kept outside.
Service animals are generally allowed into most hotels and other accommodation but business are not always required to permit ESA pets. Despite this, many hotels do often still allow certified ESA dogs and cats into certain rooms of their properties.
Never attempt to sneak in a pet to a property that strictly prohibits them. Doing so may result in being kicked out and fined. It could also put other guests at risk who may have allergies or fears of dogs/cats.
Choosing to camp with your pet is generally easier, but keep in mind that many campgrounds located in national parks or reserves may prohibit dogs and cats due to the threat they may pose to local wildlife and the environment.
If pets are allowed, be sure to keep them on a lead so they do not bother other campers and always clean up after your pet.
Packing Pet Supplies
Your pet quite obviously can’t pack what it needs, so it’s your responsibility to ensure they have everything they require to remain content and healthy while traveling.
Starting with pet food, you should try to pack your pet’s normal food, especially if you are unsure if it will be available at your travel destination. Traveling pets are already often a bit stressed and anxious, so introducing your pet to a new diet while traveling can often upset their stomach even further.
Keep in mind that when traveling internationally, you may not be allowed to take certain pet food items through customs.
Other handy items to pack include collapsible water and food bowls, a leash and maybe a spare as well as a spare collar, and a few of their favorite toys to calm them. A pet first-aid kit is also a wise idea.
Packing familiar items in your pet’s carrier both for air and car travel is great for keeping your pet feel comfortable and less stressed as well, especially in regards to cats. This means placing a blanket/pillow your pet normally sleeps on as well as an item of clothing you’ve worn that has your scent on it.
Avoid going out and buying a bunch of new pet toys and comfort items specifically for traveling, as old used familiar items are much better for making your pet feel at ease.
Following these pet travel tips will go a long way to making the travel experience be happier and healthier for both you and your pet.
If this will be your first time traveling with your pet, see how they go and determine if they make a good traveling companion or if they would be better suited to remaining back home.
Always put your pet’s welfare above your desire to have them by your side.