The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With Pets (Part 1 out of 5: Prepare & Research )

When you’re planning a trip, you have dozens of details to worry about. If you add a pet to the mix, those details may begin to feel overwhelming. Whether you’re traveling for pleasure or moving to a new place, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your dog, cat, or small animal behind.

Here are some tips to show you how to keep yourself and your pet calm and comfortable, no matter what distance or mode you travel. This information will help you and your pet navigate every phase of the journey, from planning and packing to boarding and feeding.

Prepare for Your Journey

Pre-travel preparation is one of the most important parts of successfully traveling with or without a pet. By making the right plans, you can save yourself and your pet much discomfort or even trouble. Here are some key things you should do before you set out:

  • Rehearse With Your Pet: If your pet has never been on a long journey before, get them ready by taking them on short drives and then increase the time gradually. Be sure to put them in their crate every time, so they get used to it faster. Take a walk around the airline terminal or station to get them familiar with the smells and sounds. Reward your pet for good behavior and talk reassuringly to them.
  • Take a Relaxing Walk Before Boarding: It helps to let your pet walk or run around before boarding the plane, bus, boat, or train. See if there are any areas outside of the airport or station for a quick round of exercise. This will help both you and your pet expend excess energy and be more tired during the flight, which will make for a peaceful journey.
  • Buy the Right Crate or Carrier: If you’re buying a shipping crate for your pet, be sure it is IATA approved. Any crate or carrier should be large enough for your pet to sit, stand, and turn around in with ease. It should be secure enough not to slip around when the vehicle or plane moves or stops.
  • Prepare the Crate for Comfort: Line it with absorbent bedding, like shredded bits of paper or cloth. Before you leave, freeze a small bowl of water, which will melt when your pet gets thirsty and won’t spill during loading time. Close the crate securely but never lock it, so it can be opened for feeding or emergencies. Attach a bag of dry food or seed to the outside of the carrier or crate, so your pet can be fed during a long trip or layover. Last but not least, be sure to attach your pet’s identification to the crate to avoid misplacing them.
  • No Crate, No Problem: If you don’t plan to use a crate in the car, be sure your pet rides safely with its head inside the window at all times. Keep pets in the back seat in a harness you can attach directly to the seat belt buckle.

HOT TIP: Don’t forget to check out our study on the Top 10 Most Pet-Friendly Airports in the U.S.!

Research the Pet Rules of Your Destination

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If you are traveling internationally or even between states, check the requirements of your destination country, city, town, or state. The rules and laws may be different from your state or country of origin. Many countries and states have specific health, vaccination, and quarantine regulations. You can verify these rules by visiting the official embassy website of the country.

More countries are starting to require pets to have a microchip implant, which is an effective way to find your pet if it gets lost or runs away. Ask your pet care specialist about getting one for your dog or cat – they are inexpensive and could save you a lot of heartaches!

Never leave your pet alone inside a vehicle to avoid dangers like theft, heatstroke, and freezing. As a responsible pet owner, you need to gauge the mode of travel depending on your pet’s temperament. You want to protect your pet, but you also want to protect others from scratches, bites, messes, and undue noise.

Schedule a Pre-Trip Checkup With Your Veterinarian

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Pet owners should let their vets know as soon as travel becomes a possibility. It may take several appointments before all the paperwork and vaccinations are complete, so plan your vet visits well in advance of your trip.

  • Immunizations, Certificates, and Tests: Certain countries may require blood tests, rabies certificates, and specific vaccines as much as 6 months in advance of travel. Failure to abide by these rules could lead to separation from your pet in your destination country, because officials may need to quarantine your pet upon arrival.
  • Medications and Flea Prevention: If your pet is on any medications, special food, or requires flea and tick prevention, make sure to get a sufficient supply from your vet to last through the trip and a few weeks beyond.
  • Stress Reduction for You Both: In addition to any essential blood tests, vaccinations, medication, and paperwork, your vet can also inform you about treatments that could make the journey with your pet less stressful. For example, getting a microchip implant for your pet could calm concerns about losing your pet while away from home. Also, asking your vet about sedation options for the trip could be a good idea if your pet is susceptible to anxiety.

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