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Tips for Traveling Over the Holidays with Pets

dog and cat in Santa hat and shoes

How To Travel with Your Pet Over the Holidays

Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa and other holidays are here and you are making plans to see family and celebrate with loved ones; but what do you do about your beloved pets? As a pet owner, you probably feel guilty at the thought of spending the holidays without your best friend. 

Numerous pet owners put off their travel plans because they can't bear the thought of their favorite fur baby being left behind; leaving them at a kennel, cat hotel or even with a caring friend. You may have fun visiting relatives and celebrating the season, but you'll also be missing your pets terribly if you leave them alone at home. 

But, what if you could take them with you and travel with your pet? 

You have probably seen all those videos of pet owners taking their animals along on the most fun adventures. That can be you and your pet too! 

However, it is important to do some due diligence and go over all the pet travel essentials before you decide to take your animal companion along on your next trip. Today, we'll cover everything you should know about traveling with a pet and offer you some tried-and-tested tips to make this a wonderful experience!

Traveling With a Pet - Everything You Want to Know Before You Go

Before we dive into all the great tips for making traveling with your pet over the holidays easier, it's important to first determine if this is even the best thing for your pet. 

Whether you travel with your pet by car, train or plane, there will be more people travelling and also lots of noise and activities when you get to your destination, so if your pet is older, gets anxious easily, or is more sensitive to noise then no matter how much you want to spend the holidays with your pup or kitty, the best choice may actually be to leave them at home with someone you trust. 

Only you can make that decision for your pet.

So read through the following tips to help you better understand what is involved and then you can make the right choice for you and your pet. 

Okay, assuming you are ready to take your pet with you on your trip, here are the things you'll need:

1. Would Your Pet Want to Go? 

The first thing you want to do when traveling with a pet is to ensure that they're up for the trip. 

As a pet owner, you know your pet better than anybody else. So, you can best answer the question of whether your dog or cat would enjoy the trip, or be miserable during it.

If you have a fun-loving, inquisitive cat, or a well-socialized dog, then go for it and take them along on that trip. However, pets that aren't too fond of straying out of their territory, or get easily stressed in strange places surrounded by people they don't know shouldn't be forced on such adventures. It would be best to leave them at animal boarding or with a family member who can care for them well.

A cat in a man

2. Get Health Clearance From the Vet

Another factor to consider is your pet's health. Along with making sure they’re up for the trip, you should check if they can handle the stress and long hours in the car or plane that come with traveling.

Before planning out a trip with your pet, you should make an appointment with your vet and request they conduct all the necessary tests. Only once your vet has given your pet proper health clearance should you start to plan the trip. Ask your vet about a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection which will be your proof that your pet is healthy to travel and does not show any signs of disease that could infect other animals or people. 

3. Get the Necessary Documentation

Regardless of whether you plan to travel across states or international borders, you will need some form of documentation to ensure smooth traveling with a pet. 

For starters, carry proof of rabies vaccination everywhere you go. Some states require an up-to-date Certificate of Veterinary Inspection when traveling; which you can get from your vet. You should also have health certificates, pet passports, and different forms of identification with you. 

If you are flying internationally, check with the country you are traveling to for any requirements they may have for pets coming into the country.

Keeping Your Pets Safe When Traveling

As much as we don't want to think of anything happening to our beloved pets, it is better to always be prepared before hand - just in case. 

It is important to keep in mind that pets can get easily spooked in new, unfamiliar areas. This makes them more likely to hide or run away in hopes of finding their home. While the chances of pets coming back on their own are high in your hometown, the opposite is true when you're traveling to a new location. Your pet wouldn't be able to recognize the scents and sights, so they won't be able to sniff their way back to you.

To reduce the risk of losing your pet while traveling, it is best to ensure that they can be properly identified. In case they do make a run for it. The following forms of identification can increase the chances of finding your pet in a foreign city:

4. Get a collar with Identification cards

Firstly, you want to make sure your dog has a super sturdy leash and collar. If you plan to travel with your cat, you should invest some time in leash training them as well. It'll make the whole trip easier for you and a lot more fun for your feline friend.

Check that your pet's collar has identification tags with its name on them. The tags should also include your full name, home phone number, and contact number to reach you at the travel destination. For extra measure, you can also include proof of rabies shot on your dog's collar to increase the chances of people rescuing and returning them to you.

three dogs with collars

5. Microchip your Pets

While identification tags do work well, an even better way of identifying your pet is to microchip them. Microchipping not only helps in identifying your cat or dog, but it also lets you track their exact location so you can be reunited with them in no time. 

A study by the American Veterinary Medical Association showed that microchipped dogs are twice as likely to be reunited with their owners as non-microchipped ones. 

For cats, the chances of a reunion are 20 times higher!

6. Carry a Recent Picture of Your Pet

I am sure you have lots of photos of your fur baby on your phone, but it is also important to have a photo with you in it. 

If the locals do end up rescuing your pet, they will want proof of ownership before handing it back to you. The same applies to any shelters or rescue homes that may take in a lost pet.

Woman taking photo of cat

Traveling Internationally with Your Pet

Regardless of whether you are crossing the land border on your vacation, or flying across to the other side of the world there are certain requirements you need to be aware of. 

If you are flying, check with the airline to make sure that your cat or dog can travel in the airplane cabin with you, or they will need to be placed in a special area on the plane. Some airlines can even restrict how many pets may travel in the cabin or on a particular flight, and they may have certain flights on which no pets can fly in the cabin. Book your travel early to ensure a spot for your cat or dog. 

When choosing your plane seat, be aware that you will not be able to sit in an exit row nor against a bulkhead (there must be a seat in front of you for the carrier). Try to travel non-stop if possible as layovers and transfers only add to what will be a long day for both you and your pet. 

Requirements for animals leaving the U.S.

While the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) doesn't have any particular requirements for pets leaving the country, most countries around the world do have their own rules and regulations about animals entering. 

If you are flying, different airlines may also have different regulations for letting a dog or cat onboard a plane. Don't be caught off guard, do your research before hand to ensure all the requirements are met for your cats, dogs, or other pets.

Requirements for animals arriving to the U.S.

Whether you're returning to the U.S. from a vacation with your pet or you'll be arriving in the country for the first time, there are some requirements to take into consideration .

For starters, all dogs and cats arriving in the U.S. must have a clean bill of health. They must look physically healthy and have the required documents from the vet to prove this. Moreover, different states across the U.S. require different vaccinations and health certificates, which you can learn about on the US Department of Agriculture website here.

Plus if your dog is a working breed, you should look up any additional restrictions found on the US Department of Agriculture site above before planning your travels. You'll want to make sure your pet would be welcomed in the before you plan to travel. 

P.S. The U.S. has recently put up a temporary suspension for pets arriving from countries that are labeled as high risk for rabies by the CDC. Make sure the country you're traveling from doesn't fall on this list beforehand.

Funny Dog with shades

Packing for The Trip

Now that you have checked all the travel regulations and insured that your pet is healthy and ready to travel, the only thing left is to make sure they are comfortable during the trip.

This includes getting the right travel carrier, blanket, food, and other supplies to make sure your pet is safe and happy during the trip.

7. Get Your Fur Baby Acclimated to the Carrier

First, if you are flying, check with your airline the precise weight requirements and dimensions for pet carriers as that will dictate the size of your transport carrier. 

As soon as you get your travel-approved pet carrier, start working on acclimating your pet to it. Remember, it can take a few days or even a week for your pet to get comfortable in the carrier. So, be sure to plan accordingly and make your purchase beforehand. 

You can start by enticing your pet to use the carrier with treats and lots of positive reinforcement. Since most travel carriers come in two pieces, try to get them comfortable in the bottom piece first. You can place this on your pet's bedding, so they start to feel comfortable in it. Then, slowly introduce the top piece of the carrier.

To help ease the transition process, you can try calming them down by placing familiar objects such as a beloved pet blanket or toy inside the carrier. There are also natural calming sprays and other remedies that you can use to ease your pet's anxiety while traveling.  Talk to your vet about the best options for your pet.

Cat in travel carrier

Another tip is to practice getting your pet to go into and out of the travel carrier.  Make this as routine a process as possible as this could be important during security screening.

Once your pet is fully comfortable in the carrier, you can practice taking them outdoors in it. This will teach them to feel safe in their carrier in different environments.

8. Pack A Pet Travel Kit

Just like you pack your own travel kit with toiletries and other important stuff, you will also need to pack a bag with some pet travel essentials. These include collapsible water bowls, some dry food, a safety harness and leash, waste bags, and anything else your pet uses on a daily basis. 

Don’t forget to take all their medications, homeopathic remedies and supplements. You won't be always be able to get a refill while you are gone so make sure that you have enough on hand before you go to last the whole time you’ll be away.

You should also throw in some comfort items like your pet's favorite toy to help soothe their nervousness during the journey as well as when you get to your ultimate destination.

Animal behavior experts recommend traveling with your pet's bedding placed in the carrier to calm them down and help them relax. Basically, you should do everything you can to help your pet feel like they're in a familiar space.

When Traveling with a Pet, Get Ready Well Ahead

Regardless of how you travel, make sure to schedule extra time for both the expected pee breaks as well as the unexpected. If you are traveling with a dog, they will need regular breaks to relieve themselves and stretch their legs. Cats may not need to stop for a pee the same ways as dogs, but you will still need to bring along a litter box for the car or give them some place to relieve themselves so that they don't get constipated.

This is a bit easier if you are travelling in your own car, but even then you'll want to do your best to make sure your pet doesn't make a mess. 

Prepare for the unexpected

To minimize cleanup in case of accidents, line the carrier with an absorbent “puppy potty pad” in case your dog or cat needs to urinate or defecate during travel. Carry extra pads as well as a couple of zip-lock bags, some paper towels, and a few pairs of latex gloves for any necessary cleanup and containment of a mess.  

To make the trip more pleasant and minimize the chance of accidents, reduce the amount of food your pet eats before the trip. Traveling on an empty stomach minimizes the risk of nausea and vomiting.

While traveling with a pet, you must keep in mind that all flights, hotels, and properties don't always welcome animals with open arms. Therefore, it is best to book everything beforehand and call to confirm their policies regarding pets. 

Unless you are driving in your own car, you should keep in mind that most modes of transportation like planes and trains only accommodate a certain number of animals at one time. So, pre-booking is key to ensuring your pet isn't left behind at the last minute. 

Dog with suitcase on the road

Lastly, make sure that all the spots on your itinerary are pet-friendly and that the location you're traveling to has a reputation for being kind and compassionate to animals. It is the best way to ensure that you and your pet have a blast together as you travel to new destinations and explore the world!

As long as you confirm that your pet will be happy and welcome wherever you go on your trip, there’s nothing stopping you from bringing them along. Stay safe together and enjoy the ride. 

We wish you happy and safe travels with your best bud! 

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