Picture your perfect pet-friendly travel scenario: Maybe you’re barefoot on the beach, tossing a stick to your canine best friend, who couldn’t be happier as she chases it up and down, making paw prints in the gently lapping surf. Sounds pretty idyllic, right?
Before you set off on your dream journey, though, the 12 items below are crucial to think about prior to taking a trip with your pet. First things first: Nobody knows her like you do. If you think she’ll enjoy the open road or friendly skies, she’ll likely be a great travel companion, especially if “you’re an adventure traveler and have a dog who is high energy and loves to run around,” says KC Theisen, director of pet-care issues for the Humane Society of the United States. “But if your dog is getting older or is anxious, he might be happier lounging on the couch at home or taking a weekend at the doggy spa. And it’s unlikely your cat is going to enjoy a vacation.” (Don’t worry; we have tips for kitty travel too if your cat is a jet-setter.)
While you’re still in the planning stages, call your hotel, airline, rental-car company, and any local establishments that you’re hoping will allow your pooch to join you. “‘Dog friendly’ has so many meanings today, from ‘tolerated’ to ‘welcome with treats or toys or facilities specific to dogs,’” says Melissa Halliburton, founder and CEO of BringFido.com. Personally, we’re hoping for doggy yoga (a.k.a. “doga”) at the next hotel we stay at! Yep, it’s a thing.
1. Tote along the right supplies.
Here’s a basic pet packing list: a leash and harness, bed, crate, shot records, litter box, familiar toys, food and water bowls, bottled water, food, treats, any prescriptions, and poop bags. “Water is something you can’t have too much of,” Theisen says. “Often nervous pets will spill their water or decide not to drink all day, and then they need a gallon when they get to the hotel. Also, write your cellphone number on your pet’s collar in big numbers.” If your pet likes to snuggle with you at night, Halliburton suggests bringing a towel or bedsheet to protect hotel linens. And comfort from home goes a long way. “If they have a sleeping bed or blanket, definitely bring it,” Halliburton says. “Any reminders from home will lower their stress level.”
2. Don’t forget the paperwork.
Before you hit the road, make sure all of your pet’s tags, including his identification and rabies, are up to date. Be prepared for emergencies by bringing copies of medical records and vaccinations. Air travel requires a health certificate and possibly other documents depending on the airline and destination; if you’re traveling internationally, check with that country for requirements specific to their region. (That’s critical. None of us wants to face the legal predicament Johnny Depp’s wife Amber Heard is in after she flew her Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, to Australia without going through customs or heeding the country’s quarantine rules.) It’s also a good idea to have your pet microchipped—and make sure the record is current—in case you get separated.
3. Stock a first aid kit.
Whether your and your pet are going hiking or just driving to visit grandma, it’s important to have a first aid kit on hand. “Buy a pre-packaged kit with essentials such as gauze, gloves, medical tape, bandages, cleaning wipes, and disinfectant,” Halliburton says. “I suggest also bringing Benadryl for possible allergic reactions, hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in the event that your pet has gotten ahold of something he shouldn’t have, and in case your pet has damaged a nail, cornstarch will stop the bleeding.” Download the Pet First Aid app from the Red Cross for tips on how to handle various injuries (free, redcross.org).
4. Print out a picture.
Practically every pet owner’s phone is filled with pictures of their furball—and that can come in handy. “But you can’t print that out and give it to someone,” Theisen says. “You can’t make a poster or flier when you’re in a panic and on the road. Carrying a printed photo is an additional level of security.” It’s also helpful when you’re trying to find your pet at the airport at cargo pickup.
5. Book the right hotel.
Not only should you make sure that your lodging is pet-friendly, but you should ask a few key questions too. “Check if there is a weight requirement; many pet-friendly hotels have a weight restriction,” advises Eric Halliday, general manager of the Lodge at Tiburon in Tiburon, California (from $179 per night, lodgeattiburon.com). “Communicate with the hotel about when you would like your room cleaned. We advise the guest at check-in that we will only clean the room if the pet is with the guest or in his cage.”