With the holiday season just around the corner, pet parents all across the country are making plans to travel with their pets. Although holiday trips with pets sometimes end up as stressful events for everyone concerned, they don't have to be.
Read this guide to holiday travel with pets to make the most informed decisions this upcoming holiday season.
Car Travel Tips
The first rule of safety when it comes to traveling by car with a pet is that the animal should never be allowed to freely roam inside the vehicle. It’s recommended that cats and dogs under 15 pounds be secured in a carrier when the vehicle is in motion as well as when it's parked for brief stops. Seat belt harnesses are available for medium and larger sized dogs.
Pet parents should make sure pets are secured before opening the car door — it only takes a moment for a pet to slip away, and panicked and frightened pets quickly become lost in unfamiliar environments. It's also recommended that a pet's ID tags and microchips are up-to-date.
Other tips for holiday car travel with pets include the following:
- Leave plenty of time in the schedule for unexpected situations
- Keep a copy of the pet's veterinary records on hand
- Never leave the pet alone in the car
- Make sure that the pet is acclimated to car travel by going on short trips within the community
- Feed the pet a light meal three hours before the trip is scheduled to begin
- Avoid feeding the animal when the vehicle is in motion — always stop in an appropriate location
- Consider using a calming supplement prior to hitting the road if traveling with an anxious pet
Pet parents should consult with a veterinary professional prior to giving calming supplements, even those that are available over-the-counter.
Airline Travel Tips
Airline travel is an attractive option for pet parents but it’s not without certain risks. When possible, take short, direct flights. Pets that are not able to fit in a carry on typically travel in the cargo hold, which may cause anxiety. There is also the possibility of mishandling by airline staff, malfunctioning temperature control, poor ventilation, and inclement weather conditions prior to takeoff and after landing. In worst-case scenarios, pets may become lost.
Some airlines ban snub-nosed dogs outright from riding in the cargo hold because their shortened bronchial tubes make them more vulnerable to respiratory distress under non-pressurized conditions.
Many airlines allow pets under a certain weight to ride in carriers under the pet parent's seat. Pet parents will not be allowed to remove the animal from the carrier or hold the carrier in their lap. Some destinations require proof of vaccinations prior to being allowed to board the plane with a pet.
Other strategies for minimizing issues with airline travel include avoiding traveling during peak times, such as the weeks before or after major holidays or during extreme weather conditions.
Some pet-friendly hotels and vacation rental units have rules against leaving pets unattended — it won't be like home where the pet can be left alone while the family can go on outings. There are some locations that allow pets to be left in the room provided they remain quiet.
Good accommodation options for vacationing with pets include accommodations with ample space in the room and outdoor areas designed for pets to relieve themselves. Some may even offer on-site pet daycare and sitting services for when pet parents and their families want to enjoy human-only activities, such as dining in local restaurants, shopping, and attending music or theater performances.
When to Consider Boarding the Pet
Boarding is a viable option for some pet parents, but some animals may experience distress in these situations. Pet parents should visit boarding facilities prior to making a commitment. It also helps to do several short trial runs prior to leaving the animal there for any length of time to make sure it’s a good fit.
A veterinarian can provide information and recommendations for local pet boarding services. Hiring an in-home pet sitter is also an option.
For those who prefer to hire a private pet sitter rather than use a commercial boarding service, it's essential to choose someone reliable and trustworthy. Most pets do better with someone who stays in the home in the absence of pet parents, but an older cat may be fine with someone visiting a few times per day. Be sure to check local references thoroughly when vetting private pet sitters.
More Advice from the Experts
Pet parents with questions about holiday travel and other pet care issues can reach out to the Fuzzy Veterinarian Team 24 hours per day each day of the week.