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How to Travel with Pets Over the Holidays

How to Travel with Pets Over the Holidays

For most people, the holiday season means lots of travel. In November and December, many of us will board planes, trains, and automobiles to travel near and far to spend the season with family and friends. It’s only natural to want our beloved pets to join us in these adventures, but there is a lot to know about how to travel with pets safely this winter. Here are our tips to ensure your winter adventures are enjoyed by all, including your pets.

What You Need to Know About Traveling with Dogs

It’s commonly accepted that dogs are great travelers and love to go on adventures, but there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to holiday travel with pets:


  • Your dog might not like traveling
  • It’s important to plan road trip stops for your pet
  • Be sure your dog is crate-comfortable before using one
  • Do your research about air travel with dogs


Don’t Assume Your Dog Is a Great Traveler

While we think of dogs as laid-back animals that are excited to go on an adventure, all dogs are different. Some dogs will much prefer to stay at home and take it easy. Don’t assume just because your dog is content driving to the dog park that they will be happy on a long car or plane ride. Different dogs will respond differently to travel, so do your research before planning a trip with your pet.

Plan Stops When Traveling Long Distance with Dogs in the Car

Your dog will need to get out to use the bathroom every few hours while traveling by car. It’s fine to let your dog use the potty whenever you stop for gas or to use the bathroom, but you should also monitor your pet for signs that they need to go (such as whining or pacing). 

Your trip might go more smoothly if you plan out exactly where you’ll stop along the way for Fido to do his business. Bathroom breaks should also be an opportunity for your dog to walk around, sniff a little, and stretch their legs. If you can find a dog park on your route and allow them to really get some running and exercise done, they might be more relaxed for the remainder of the drive. 


A dog in a crate peaking it's head out and a dog laying on a pillow next to the crate


To Crate or Not to Crate While Traveling with Dogs?

Choosing whether or not to crate your dog for a road trip will be mostly up to you. Some dogs will be more comfortable riding in the backseat without a crate, while others will feel more secure if they are kept in a crate. Most airlines are going to require your dog to be in a crate or carrier while flying, so be sure to prepare your pet accordingly if you plan to fly with them. 

If you choose to crate your dog for the trip and they aren’t familiar with being in a crate, you’ll need to do some careful and detailed crate training before your departure. Choosing a properly sized and shaped crate for your pet is also an important part of making sure they’re comfortable during travel. 

What to Know About Air Travel with Dogs

Bringing your dog on a flight is a much more involved process than bringing your dog with you on a long road trip. Your dog will require a flight reservation, and the rules and requirements for pet travel vary among airline providers. Almost all animal welfare organizations advise against traveling with pets as cargo on a plane, so you should only consider airline travel if your dog is small enough to fit into a carrier at your feet on the plane. You’ll also need a certificate of health from your veterinarian that confirms that your dog has received all of their vaccines.  

What You Need to Know About Traveling with Cats

Traveling with cats can be a greater challenge than traveling with dogs, but it’s certainly possible. Here’s what you need to know:


  • Practice and preparation are key for a successful trip
  • Ensure your cat is comfortable in a carrier
  • Skip breakfast on travel days
  • Give your cat a place to use the bathroom in the carrier
  • Support your cat with wellness resources if they’re nervous


Traveling with Cats Takes Practice

If the only time your cat has ever been on a trip was to visit the veterinarian, then the process of getting your cat ready for long-distance holiday travel on a plane or in a car will be involved. You can’t just put your cat in the carrier and expect them to be comfortable and ready. They need to get used to spending time in a carrier. Your cat is going to need some training and time to get used to the experience of travel, and your first trip with them might not go smoothly the whole time. Be prepared to invest some energy in travel training and be patient. 

Your Cat Needs to Be Comfortable in a Carrier

Whether you’re traveling with cats on a plane or in a car, the carrier is likely the place where they will be spending the most time. Road trips allow you some flexibility – a well-behaved cat can roam the car rather than staying in the carrier – but your cat will be required to stay in the carrier for an extended period of time if you take them on a plane. 


A cat coming out of a crate next to a suitcase


One of the most important strategies for traveling with cats is creating positive associations with their travel carrier long before your departure date. Bring the carrier out and fill it with toys and comfort items. Place treats in the carrier to entice your cat to enter at first, then reward your cat with treats when they enter the carrier on their own. Give your cat lots of praise and pets when they are in and around the carrier so they associate it with good experiences. Once your cat seems comfortable in the carrier, close it up and walk around the house or the block with them inside of it. They need to be comfortable not only sitting still inside the carrier but also being carried around in it. 

Consider Skipping Breakfast on Travel Days

One quick way to disrupt your travel with cats is with a vomiting accident. Cleaning up cat puke isn’t something anyone wants to do on vacation, and it’s certainly not pleasant for your feline, either. 

Many veterinarians recommend withholding food the morning of a travel day to prevent your cat from experiencing an upset stomach. Always offer plenty of water throughout your travel, whether you’re on a plane or in a car. Skipping one meal won’t hurt your cat – just don’t forget to give them dinner once you arrive at your destination. 

Provide a Potty Place Within the Carrier

For cats, it’s best to line their carrier with a pee pad for them to use rather than removing them for a leash walk at rest stops. If you have space for it in the carrier and aren’t worried about it getting tossed around, you can also put a small litter pan in the carrier with your cat during travel. If your cat isn’t used to using the bathroom outside, they won’t start doing so when you go on a road trip. They’ll need to have access to a litter box.

Give Your Cat Support If They Are Nervous

There are many resources available that can help you soothe your cat if they’re feeling nervous. Your veterinarian might be able to prescribe a sedative to calm your kitty before the big journey. Some owners also use pheromone wipes, spray, or collars to help keep their cat calm during a trip. A thundershirt or weighted sweater can also help some cats keep calm – but be sure to keep a close eye on their temperature and make sure they don’t overheat. Maintaining your cat’s calming CBD routine will also be an important part of preparing them for holiday travel. 

Other Tips for Successful Travel With Pets

While travel with dogs is different from travel with cats, there are a few tips that apply regardless of your animal’s species. Whenever you’re planning a travel with pets, remember to:


  • Consult your veterinarian about travel plans
  • Keep identification on your animal at all times
  • Confirm pet-friendly accommodations before arrival
  • Don’t forget papers and pet personal items


Consult Your Veterinarian About Travel Plans

Your veterinarian can give your pet the health check-ups they need before air travel and they can also help you prepare for any type of trip you want to take with your dog or cat. They might be able to provide sedatives or other medications that will help your pet cope with the stress of travel, or even sleep through it. Most of all, your veterinarian can tell you honestly if they think traveling with your pet is a good idea or a bad one. 

Your Traveling Pet Needs Clear Identification

One of the most important things to remember when traveling with pets is that your cat or dog should always have proper identification on their body. Even if your pet is microchipped, a proper, well-fitted collar with updated contact information for you should also be around their neck at all times. Your pet getting lost or running away while they are traveling to an unfamiliar place is not only more likely, but it’s also more risky because they might not be able to get back home safely. The environment is unfamiliar to them, so the best way to protect them from getting lost is with identification. Collars can fall off or be removed, but any stray animal that is picked up will be scanned for a microchip, making it the best way to keep your pet properly identified and safe. Just be sure the chip is properly registered and your contact information is current.

Confirm That Your Pet Is Welcome at Your Destination

Always confirm with your final destination that your pet is welcome. Many hotels, AirBnBs, vacation rentals, and even your family’s homes might not be open to having a cat or dog as a guest. Still, other accommodations will require a deposit or forewarning, or specific paperwork if you are arriving with an animal. Be prepared and confirm that your dog or cat will be able to join you at the place you plan to stay. 

Pack Your Pet’s Papers and Personal Items

Don’t forget to bring along your pet’s immunization records just in case. While it’s unlikely you’ll have to show them to anyone on a road trip, they might be required for plane travel. Some hotels will also ask for proof of your pet’s shots. You should also keep your veterinarian’s name, address, and phone number on hand in case there is an emergency and they need to be contacted.

Also, don’t try to save space by buying pet items such as blankets, toys, food, and treats when you arrive at your destination. Instead, pack all of your pet’s familiar items so you don’t risk having to change their diet or routine when you get to your destination. Having to eat a new food or being separated from their favorite toy might ruin your pet’s travel experience and also make it harder for you because they are unsettled.

Traveling with Your Pets Won’t Always Be Possible

While it’s a bummer to leave your pet behind, travel with pets will not always be the best choice. Your animal loves being with you, but if traveling by car or plane stresses them out, you’re better off finding a great pet sitter or boarding house where you can leave them during your holiday travel plans. If you see your pet getting nervous about travel, don’t hesitate to consider another option.


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