Traveling with Pets by Car, Plane, Train or Ship

Time spent apart can be hard on both the pet and the pet owner. You may have considered taking your pet along on your next trip, only to be overwhelmed by the logistics of it all. The bottom line is if you travel together, you want your pet feeling safe, comfortable, happy and able to spend quality time with you.

Related: Senior Discounts for Travel

At the same time, you don’t want your trip needlessly complicated. Knowing what to expect (depending on the form of travel you take and where you’ll be staying) should help you decide if this is a viable idea or if you should explore other options. Let’s look at a few different kinds of vacations and what each would require in the way of preparation.

Road Trip! Taking Pets on the Road

Traveling with pets can be done with a little planning.
Traveling with pets can be very rewarding.

The following is a list of 12 items and issues you need to have in mind before taking your pet on a lengthy car or RV trip:

  1. Ask your vet for any travel advice regarding your own pet specifically and traveling with pets in general.
  2. Have a collar and name tag for Mittens or Spot displaying your contact information. Is your pet already microchipped? If not, it's not expensive and a major advantage if they lose that collar.
  3. Vaccinations must be up to date. You will likely be asked for proof if you are traveling to another country, so include a copy of such records. Also include their microchip number, the name of their everyday veterinarian and a list of any specific health issues or medications. Be sure to have a clear picture or two of your furry companion on your phone or digital camera, just in case.
  4. If this is a service animal, be prepared with written proof.
  5. Pack up the familiar, everyday things your pet uses at home – litter box, litter, food, food and water bowls, leash or harness and favorite toys.
  6. A first-aid kit for pets. This, of course, is useful whether on the road or in the home. The humanesociety website has a full list of what such a kit should include.
  7. Consider pet travel insurance. For example, PetPlan dot com not only provides insurance coverage, both for when your pet is at home or traveling, but also offers pet care tips, including advice on how to make traveling with your pet safer and easier.
  8. Pre-trip, take your pet on several short trips to see how they respond. Be sure someone, other than the driver, is there to observe the animal’s reactions. One trip may be enough to nix the whole joint-travel idea. If you think a sedative might help, confer with your vet first; not all animals can handle such medication, even if it’s termed “natural”.
  9. Map out your travel route as to rest stops, RV parks, campgrounds, or the hotels/motels where you plan to stay. Having a list of veterinarians and/or animal hospitals scattered along the route might make this seem more doable.
  10. Research the rules, regulation and requirements for each of the destinations and stops on your trip. Know, among other things, what number and types of pets are allowed, where they may be let out, and what is expected of you as a pet owner.
  11. Don’t normally use a leash? Do get one. (it will likely be required at rest stops, parks, etc…) Possibly a better choice would be a harness, since it’s harder to slip out of, even for a cat. Give your pet the opportunity to get used to the leash or harness before you hit the road.
  12. For both traveling and sleeping, be sure your critter has a comfortably sized traveling case with sufficient padding and ventilation. Remember that though some animals are at ease in a moving vehicle, in the event of a sudden stop, e.g., it will be safer for your pet to be in a case or carrier that is secured. This may not be practical for larger dogs, so be guided by your experience or by advice from those whom you trust. It is best, though, not to let your dog stick his head outside the window: if nothing else, the wind can irritate his eyes.

Take to the Skies! Flying with your Pet

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What if you’d rather fly? This could make things simpler, but you will still need the file with medical and vaccination records and photos, favorite toys, and, for good measure, that leash or harness. In short, anything that can’t be supplied at your destination. Before booking your flight, research the airline thoroughly for its policies concerning and success rate regarding their animal passengers. Visit their website, look for customer reviews and ask people you know and trust. It is a simple fact that some airlines rate much higher than others.

During your research, here are just five of the questions you’ll want answers to before buying those tickets:

  1. What does your vet think of the idea? Not only is it a question of the animal’s health and temperament, but snub-nosed breeds (among them, Persian cats, as well as Pugs and Mastiffs) may experience breathing issues as well as heat stroke at high elevations and when under stress.
  2. What are the airline’s protocols regarding pets? Keep in mind that failing to follow their rules could keep you and your little travel companion grounded.
  3. Can you keep your pet with you or will s/he will be placed in a separate compartment? What conditions will s/he be exposed to? What protective measures will the airline employ?
  4. There are several airline-approved carrier cases. Which of them does your particular airline accept?

Bon Voyage! Cruising with your Pet

Service animals, as distinguished from pets, and accompanied by authenticating paperwork, are almost always welcome, though there are a handful of cruise lines that refuse animals altogether. As of this writing, only Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 allows up to a dozen cats and dogs per voyage. These critters will be confined to a kennel where staff will care for them, providing for all their needs and human companions are allowed to visit at certain times of the day. To take advantage of this, be sure to book anywhere from 12 to 18 months in advance, and be prepared to pay nearly as much for their passage as for yours.

All Aboard! Amtrack with your Pet

Related: Amtrack Senior Discounts

Train travel can be both economical and soothing, allowing you to see the countryside like no other mode of transportation. Amtrak, which has long permitted service animals, announced in early 2016 that pets (as in cats and dogs) will be allowed on many of their routes. “Pet service”, though, is subject to requirements and limitations, a full list of which you can find at the Amtrak website.  Several will look familiar from the lists above, while others are specific to Amtrak. Let’s look at a few of them:

  • Pet service is available on most, but not all, routes.
  • The animal can weigh no more than 20 pounds.
  • There is a fee of $25 for each leg of the route.
  • Only five pets are allowed per train, first come, first served.
  • The carrier case must be approved by Amtrak staff.
  • Have proof of your pet’s vaccinations.
  • Some trains have a kennel section; others allow you to have your pet, in its carrier, with you.

No matter how you decide to travel with your pet, with some careful planning and thoughtful preparation, you can minimize the stress for you both!

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