If you travel a lot but don’t like leaving your pooch behind, you may not realize it may be possibleto bring them along. There are certain challenges though that need to be addressed to make the trip possible. Flying with dogs can be particularly tricky, so we’ve laid out a guideline for what you need to know about taking trips with your pet.
Should You Travel With Your Pup?
Whether or not you decide to bring your dog on your holiday travels is really just a judgment call. Every situation is different; there are pros and cons to both leaving your pup behind and taking them with you.
No matter how chill your dog is, there’s always some level of stress involved in traveling with them — for you both. On the other hand, leaving your dog behind can also be stressful for the two of you, as you’ll likely worry about whether your dog is doing okay without you, and your dog will be wondering where you are. Separation anxiety can be very difficult for dogs and their humans alike.
What it usually comes down to is if it’s worth it to put your pup through the potential stress of travel. If your travel time is long but the trip itself is short, it’s probably best to leave your pooch behind with a friend, house sitter or doggy daycare. If you’ll be gone for a more significant amount of time, say more than a week, it’s probably fine to bring them with, especially if the overall travel time is shorter.
Traveling With Your Dog by Plane
Some airlines have strict policies when it comes to pets, which can make traveling with your pup harder. Some airlines require health certificates and vaccine records in order to fly with your pet. They also have different requirements for what type of pet and how many they will accept. If you definitely plan on flying with your pooch, research different airlines to find out which ones’ pet policies will help make your plans go as smoothly as possible.
For some dogs, traveling by plane will be harder than traveling by car no matter what. If you have a small dog that you can keep with you at all times, it can make things easier on you both because you’ll always know where they are and your pup will feel more at ease being near you.
When you’ve chosen an airline, ask them about their crate and carrier regulations, as they likely have very specific guidelines. Most pet carriers are required to be under the seat at all times and the pets are not allowed out of the carrier. Pets who cannot fit under the seat are likely required to fly in the cargo hold and this can present another host of problems mainly related to temperatures. The cargo hold of a plan is not generally temperature controlled so it can get very hot or very cold depending on the time of year, travel destination and time in the cargo hold. You must be very careful in selecting the appropriate time to fly, destination and travel time if you decide to fly with a pet in cargo.
Here’s some info about major US airlines’ pet policy:
Whether or not you can bring your dog on an AA flight depends largely on their breed and size. There are a number of breeds American doesn’t allow to be checked, including Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Chow Chows.
Fees to travel with pets range from $125-$200, with the exception of service animals, which travel for free. Click here for American Airlines’ full pet policy, including the full list of breeds that can’t checked.
Delta allows passengers to bring small dogs as carry-on items, just keep in mind that the carrier will count as your personal item.
Fees to travel with pets range from $75-$200. Click here for Delta’s full pet policy.
Puppies younger than four months can’t fly on United, and pets can’t travel with unaccompanied minors.
Fees to travel with pets start at $125. Click here for United’s full pet policy.
The earlier you can book the better, as JetBlue only allows a certain amount pets on a single flight. You can also bring one pet with you per flight.
Fees to travel with pets start at $125. Click here for JetBlue’s full pet policy.
Alaska has certain breed restrictions. Brachycephalic or "short-nosed" dogs cannot travel in cargo areas of planes because they often have difficulty breathing. To travel in the cabin, pets must fit in carriers that will under the seat.
Fees to travel with pets start at $100. Click here for Alaska’s full pet policy.
Southwest has a cap on the number of pets it allows onto a single flight, so book as early as you can. Pet fare at Southwest is also refundable.
Fees to travel with pets start at $95. Click here for Southwest’s full pet policy.
Again, before booking your flight, make sure you contact the airline you plan to use. Their pet policies can be a bit confusing, so it’s best to talk to a representative so you can tell them exactly what kind of dog you have and be certain there are no complications when you get to the airport. Additionally, nearly all airlines require advance booking for pets.
Other things your pup may need before flying:
- Vaccination documentation
- Health certificate from a certified veterinarian
- ID tags
- Pet license
- Approved pet carrier (check the airline’s website for exact measurements)
Traveling With Your Dog by Train
Similarly to airlines, pet policies vary among train operators. Some might have a strict no-pet policy, while others simply require your dog be kept on a leash or in a crate while onboard. Call the company you plan on traveling with to find out if you’re able to bring your dog on board, and ask about the exact requirements for travel.
If your journey will include any stops, it’s also a good idea to find out if you’ll have time to briefly step outside with your dog to let them go to the bathroom.
Traveling With Your Dog by Car
Generally, traveling by car is much easier for dogs, as you’re not at the mercy of airline or train company policies. Your dog can just curl up in the backseat and take a nap or gaze out the window. While many dogs love riding in cars — picture all the pups you’ve seen with their heads out the window, enjoying the wind in their tongues — being in an enclosed space or environment they’re not used to can make others feel anxious. It can even trigger motion sickness. Additionally, although dogs love having their head out the window, this can actually cause injury if debris bouncing off the road or falling off another vehicle were to hit your pooch in the eye. It is recommended to not allow your pup to have it’s head out the windows if traveling on busy roads or at normal to fast speeds or at all! Only crack the windows unless your pup will wear doogles.
If you’re planning a long drive but are unsure how your dog will react to being in the car, take them for a shorter ride — maybe a few times around the neighborhood so you can stick close to home — to gauge their reaction.
It’s also a good idea to have your dog exercise ahead of a long car ride. It’ll help tire them out and make them less likely to be restless and anxious. Having one of their favorite toys handy can also keep them busy and make them feel more comfortable.
Where You’re Staying
Before you make your final decision about whether to bring your pup along on your holiday travel, make absolutely certain wherever you’ll be staying is dog-friendly. Imagine after all that time and effort to bring your pooch along, not being able to check into a hotel because it turns out they have a no-pet policy? Or that they don’t allow dogs over a certain size? If you are staying at a hotel, it’s best to give them a call ahead of time to find out exactly where they stand on pets. Certain cities also have breed bans in place and it is illegal to have certain breeds of dogs within city limits. Make sure to do you research beforehand.
If you plan on staying with family or friends, confirm that they’re okay with hosting not just you, but your pup as well. If they give you the go-ahead, ask if it’s all right for your dog to sleep in the bed you’re staying on. If not, bring a bed for your pooch.
No matter where you’re staying, it’s important to bring a selection of your pup’s favorite toys, as well as their food and water bowls, and their normal food.
General Travel Tips
If you do decide to travel with your dog, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Taking your pup for a walk and some playtime before your trip is a great way to get them to relax while traveling. If you tucker them out enough, they might even sleep through the trip.
Many humans who have issues with flying will often take a mild sedative to help calm their nerves. As long as it’s approved by your veterinarian and the correct dosage is given, there’s no harm in giving your dog one to help them relax on a plane or in a car.
Make sure they have all the right ID tags, even if they’re microchipped and registered (which they definitely should be). That way, if they get away, whoever finds them will be able to see right away who they need to call and won’t have to wait until they can get them to a vet or an animal shelter. This will not only save you worry, it could save you money. If your pup isn’t returned to you before you leave, you’ll almost definitely have to extend your trip.
Food and Water
Anything could happen when you’re traveling — your flight could be delayed, your car could break down. If your travel time unexpectedly increases, your pup is going to get hungry and thirsty, so make sure you have extra food and water for them.
Make at least a few stops during long car rides so your pup can get out, stretch its legs, and go to the bathroom. Make sure to keep them on a leash during the rest stops.
Just like you should always bring a First Aid kit for yourself when you travel, you should bring one for your dog if you take them on a trip. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but should include gauze, bandages, and hydrogen peroxide, which can be used not just for cleaning wounds but inducing vomiting in case your pup eats something toxic. You should also have a copy of your pooch’s up-to-date medical records.
One Last Thing…
Now for the moment of truth — do you feel comfortable with the idea of traveling with your pet? It’s not for everybody, and it’s not for every pet. The best way to know is to try it out, but take small steps. Before you take your pup on a cross-country flight, try taking them on a short flight of an hour or two. Same goes for a trip on the train or by car. It’s better to get an idea of how your pooch will react on a plane, train, or automobile with a short trip before you and your pooch find yourselves being miserable on a long trip.. As much as you want to be with your pet and your pet wants to be with you, you’re both better off spending a few days apart than going through a super stressful travel regime.