Pet Travel: On the Go with Your Furry Friend

Preparation is key when traveling with your furry companions.

When Becka Byrd, my 16-year-old Chihuahua’s veterinarian, dropped the bomb that my beloved Sasha had congestive heart failure and a collapsed trachea, I vowed to limit my travels to mostly domestic destinations and take her with me in the time she had left.

Sasha was on borrowed time, and in one special year together, we traveled to nearly 25 cities across America—from Amarillo, Texas, to Albuquerque; Branson, Mo., to Beverly Hills, Calif.; Fairbanks, Alaska, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and finally from Shreveport, La., to Solvang, Calif.

Sasha was a terrific travel companion. Flight attendants commented that she behaved better than most two-legged passengers. She earned her wings on flights and was a model hotel guest.

When planning a summer vacation, you’d never think of leaving a family member at home. If you consider your pets part of the family, take them along for the ride. Pet travel is becoming easier and more accepted than ever.

Pampered pooches

Our furry babies aren’t limited to traveling by car or airplane. Some pets are welcome on Amtrak and cruise ships. Fifi and Fido will sail in style aboard the Queen Mary 2. Kennel fees on the trans-Atlantic crossing range from $800 to $1,000.

Headed to Walt Disney World? Treat your pet to a posh vacation at Best Friends Pet Resort located on the Disney property. While primates and venomous snakes are not permitted, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds and gerbils, in addition to dogs and cats, are welcome. Between puppy pedicures, tummy rubs, nightly storytime and frozen doggie yogurt treats, Sasha was a pampered princess. She loved frolicking with her new friends in the canine waterpark and watching 101 Dalmatians on the big screen TV in her suite.

Sasha and I once flew to Toronto for Woofstock, North America’s largest doggie love-in. Travel to Canada turned out to be a breeze. All I needed was a copy of Sasha’s vaccination record and her health certificate for Canadian customs. No quarantine was required.

Tips for safe travel

Pet travel is very doable with planning and research. And it’s a cinch if you follow these tips for your pet’s safety and comfort.

Before embarking on an extended auto trip, try a test drive. Next, take your four-legged friends for a long drive or a weekend getaway to see how they do. If your pet gets car sick, it’s better to find out before starting that cross-country adventure.

“Unless they’re used to being in a car starting as a puppy, they usually don’t travel well,” said Greg Petersen, a Fort Worth, Texas, dog trainer.

According to Byrd, the first thing is to determine whether your pet is travel-ready, potty-trained and has the “manners” to travel.

“Leave a barker at home; they need to be able to control themselves,” she said. She also cautioned that some dogs don’t do well when left alone in an unfamiliar hotel room. They can cause havoc, be destructive and disturb other guests.

When flying, she recommends keeping your pet in the cabin with you at all times and checked in cargo only as a last resort, but never sedated.

Bring along Fido’s favorite blankets, toys, food and treats to make him or her feel more comfortable and secure. Another thing to remember is to keep him or her well hydrated. On flights and long layovers, bring along pet pads and paper towels. Most importantly, make sure your pet wears a collar with your current contact information on the tags. A microchip is even better.

Safety first

Once you hit the road, take precautions to keep Fido and yourself safe. Some states have laws requiring animals to be restrained in cars, and it is illegal for them to sit on the driver’s lap. Your unrestrained pet can turn into a hurling missile in the event of an accident.

Many major hotel chains and bed-and-breakfasts are pet-friendly—including all Drury Inns and Suites, Loews Hotels & Resorts and most La Quinta Hotels. Check the AAA PetBook for a more complete listing.

Finally, be prepared for an unexpected pet travel emergency. Check with the American Animal Hospital Association at aaha.org for the name and number of a local veterinarian and animal hospital.

Taking Sasha with me on my travels was worth even more than the extra time and planning it took. We shared experiences and memories I will always cherish.

For more advice on pet travel or to book your next trip, visit AAA.com.

Michelle Newman is a freelance writer and designer from San Antonio, Texas.


Pet travel tips

International pet travel usually requires special documentation for entry, and each country is different. Some may require quarantine. For air travel, all U.S. airlines require a domestic health certificate. Always check with your airline to determine its health documentation requirements.
There is usually a limited number of pets allowed in the cabin per flight. Whenever possible, book a nonstop flight. Rules, prices and policies can sometimes vary from airline to airline.
Take a test drive with your pet before heading out on a long car trip. Make frequent exercise and relief stops.
Remember, it’s illegal for them to sit in the driver’s lap.
…plus a few days’ extra. If anxiety or motion sickness are issues, discuss medications with your veterinarian prior to departure.
If you do need to leave the hotel room, place the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.
Be sure to stick to your pet’s familiar diet; this isn’t the time to try something new or exotic.
Consider a microchip. Keep your dog leashed at all times when you are out together, and lastly, carry a list of emergency contact numbers and a photo of your pet.

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