How to Travel with Pets: The Complete Guide
About 76 million dogs and cats travel with their owners each year
Can’t bear to leave Rex or Mittens at home while you’re off on a vacation? You’re far from alone.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, 30 million Americans travel with pets every year. That’s about one in every eight adult Americans. And that number’s on the rise.
The U.S. Travel Association also reports approximately 20% of travelers take their pets with them on trips. That equals about 76 million cats and dogs voyaging with their owners each year, reports the American Animal Hospital Association.
Travel with Pets: The Numbers
- Dogs are the most common type of pet to take along, at 78 percent of traveling animals
- Cats are 15 percent of pet travelers
- Birds account for 3 percent of traveling pets
- Other animals, including ferrets, fish and rabbits, make up 2 percent of pets on the go
Travel by car is by far the most common, but the U.S. Travel Association says 6% travel by airline. Most U.S. airlines now accept in-cabin pets when traveling domestically.
About one-third of traveling pets stay with friends or family, 29 percent stay in a hotel, 16 percent stay in a recreation vehicle or tent and 10 percent stay in a vacation home.
Pets are creatures of habit. Travel disrupts their routines. Because of that, take these extensive tips for travel with pets to heart. You’ll reduce their anxiety, keep them safe and minimize complications.
It’s critical to take your pet to the vet for a checkup before your trip
Travel with Pets: Before the Trip
- Plan your trip with a travel advisor. Vacationing with pets can be complicated. An expert Virtuoso advisor will be able to simplify the process and take care of details, including those with hotels and airlines.
- Take your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup. While there, get:
- Confirmation that your pet can handle the trip – and any activities you have planned during it such as hiking
- Your pet micro-chipped so they’ll be easier to find if you become separated from them
- Any immunizations your pet needs
- A health certificate dated within 10 days of your first travel, as most airlines require this
- Your pet’s medication records. Information about your pet’s health will be invaluable to local veterinarians should your pet become ill on vacation.
- Information on health dangers in your destination, and repellents for any tick, heartworm or flea infestations
- Advice on how to handle motion sickness or travel anxiety. A vet can prescribe medications for both.
- Contact information for a vet in the area where you’re traveling
- Give your pet a good cleaning. Include a thorough flea and tick bath along with preventative flea and tick control.
- Get a clear photo of your pet and you together. You can attach it to their crate and carry with you as well. If your pet gets lost, it will help you prove ownership.
- For travel to another state, bring your pet’s health certificate and valid registration tags. Some states require certain pets to have an entry permit from their regulatory agency, so ensure you have one if need be.
- For international travel, be aware of the following – your advisor will help guide you through the process:
- Dogs, cats and ferrets need a passport to enter the European Union. Other animals are covered by laws in each individual country. Once your animal has a rabies vaccination and a microchip or identifying tattoo, your vet can provide the passport. Some European countries have additional requirements, including a months-long waiting period.
- Most destinations will require an International Certificate of Pet Health or CFIA health certificate. Some will also require that your pet’s documentation be translated into the language of the country you’re visiting.
- Make sure your destination will not require your pet to be quarantined, as some places require this automatically when an animal arrives.
- Spend several weeks before your vacation getting your pet used to the carrier or crate. Have your pet eat and sleep in it.
Travel with Pets: Before You Leave Home
- Before you leave for the airport, exercise your pet. That way your pet will be more likely to fall asleep in flight.
- The night before you leave, freeze a dish of water for your pet. The frozen water won’t spill during loading, and will melt by the time your pet wants a drink.
Travel with Pets: Air Travel
- Your travel advisor will let the airline know about your pet as soon as the flight is booked. Airlines limit the number of pets that can be on board at once, so this is important.
- Your advisor will also find out about regulations for bringing an animal on board. While each airline varies in its rules, consider the following:
- Most carriers allow smaller pets to fly in an approved carrier in the cabin. Each passenger is generally allowed one pet that must stay in a carrier under the seat in front of them. Have your advisor check if your pet meets the weight restriction for your specific airline.
- On international flights, larger animals can travel in forward cargo bins, which are climate-controlled.
- Airline requirements for carrier types and dimensions may vary.
- Dogs and cats must be at least eight weeks old and weaned. Other animals that should not travel by air: sick pets, pets in heat, frail pets, pregnant animals, and snub-nosed breeds such as bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats. Those breeds have trouble breathing because of their short noses, particularly at high altitudes in cargo holds with varying temperatures.
- Larger pets must be transported in a crate if traveling by airplane:
- Buy a USDA-approved one in which your pet can lie down, stand up, sit, and circle around.
- Avoid crates that are too large, as your pet could get hurt if it’s able to move around a lot.
- Remove leashes and never muzzle your pet in the crate. Don’t store the leash inside the crate or attach it to the outside.
- Make sure the crate is in good shape and that all fasteners and latches close properly.
- To prepare the crate for flying:
- Write the words “Live Animal” in letters at least one inch tall on each side of the crate. Use arrows to show the crate’s upright position.
- On top of the crate, write your pet’s name, your name and the address and phone number of your pet’s home and destination. Attach the photo of your pet for identification purposes.
- Close the crate door but don’t lock it, so airline staff can open it if there’s an emergency.
- Put shredded paper or towels on the crate’s floor to soak up accidents.
- Write out and attach instructions for your pet’s food and water.
- Place your pet’s usual dishes, one for its usual food and one for water, in the crate. Using familiar items may make your pet more at ease.
- Attach a small bag of dried food outside the crate, so airline staff can feed your pet on longer flights or layovers.
- Include a favorite toy with your scent in the carrier to comfort your pet.
- Make sure your pet is wearing ID tags, including a rabies tag and your contact information, at all times.
- Make sure your pet is used to its crate before you travel
- Travel on the same flight as your pet. Ask the airline if you can watch your pet being loaded and unloaded.
- Book direct (or better, non-stop) flights if possible. This will decrease the chance of your pet exposed on the tarmac in extreme weather.
- When you board, notify a flight attendant that your pet is flying with you.
- Carry a leash so you can walk your pet before checking in and upon arrival.
- Research pet-friendly facilities at the airports you’ll travel through. Some offer parks or animal bathrooms for pets.
Travel with Pets: Hotel Stays
- Have your travel advisor confirm that pets are welcome at hotels you book, and find out any documentation or equipment they will need.
- Request a room on the ground floor if possible at the end of the hall by an exit. This will make it easier to take your pet out for bathroom breaks, and minimize noise for other guests.
- When checking in, ask where the designated dog potty area is, then use it during your stay.
- Ask the hotel where the best nearby place is to exercise your pet. Exercise helps relieves anxiety, and travel disrupts pets’ routines.
- Find out the hotel’s rules about pets on furniture in rooms and public areas. Cover furniture and beds that your pet is allowed on.
- Keep your pet on a leash and avoid dining areas or other restricted locations.
- Place cat litter boxes in the bathroom for easier clean-up.
- Although some hotels will allow you to leave your pet alone in your room, proceed with caution. Even the best pets can act up in unfamiliar surroundings. If you have to leave your pet alone:
- Make it as short a time as possible
- Place your pet in their crate
- Alert the front desk that your pet is alone
- Put on the TV or radio to help your pet feel more comfortable
- Put a note on the door stating that your pet is in the room
Travel with Pets: What to Pack
- Your pet’s medical documents and certificates
- Your pet’s medication to last a day or two more than the length of the trip
- Two leashes and an extra collar
- Sheets to cover furniture and/or the bed
- A blanket or cushion from your pet’s bedding
- A container of food – more if you don’t know you can buy your pet’s particular brand at your destination. If needed, bring a can opener and spoon.
- Portable food and water dish
- Water bottle with pet top
- Backpack for your dog for hiking or walking
- Booties for your dog for walks on uneven or hilly terrain
- Harness and seat belt clip for any car travel
- Their favorite toys
- Grooming supplies
- Lint remover
- Trash and waste removal bags
- Disinfectant, carpet cleaner and cleaning rags
- Portable cat litter tray and scoop and bags
- Flashlight (for after-dark excursions)
- First aid kit for humans and pets
Travel with Pets: More Resources
What are your favorite tips for travel with pets?