If you’re a dog-lover, chances are you’ll want to travel with your dog at some point. Dogs are great travel companions, but it can be difficult to accommodate your pet’s potty and play needs while on the road or in the sky. The challenge doesn’t end when you finally arrive at your destination; hotels, restaurants, and recreation areas often don’t allow dogs. We put together this short primer to help you navigate travel with a dog so you and your four-legged friend can see the world together.
Plane Travel with your Dog
Flying with your dog can be stressful and exhausting, but proper preparation can help make your trip more safe, comfortable, and enjoyable for both of you.
Find out the Requirements
The first thing you’ll want to find out is what your airline’s pet policy is. When making your reservation, you’ll probably decide on your flight based on their pet policy—so it’s important to get a good idea what type of accommodations, price, and weight limit your airline has for your dog. Each airline has a unique pet policy. BringFido is a great resource for planning your trip and double-checking what your airline’s pet policy is. Triple-check you and your pet fit the requirements and you have all necessary documents.
Plan your Trip Ahead
Whichever airline you use, you’ll want to bring a copy of your dog’s up-to-date vaccination records as well as an airport certificate issued by your vet. Some airlines don’t require vaccination records, but it’s a good idea to check all the boxes so you don’t end up stranded due to some clerical error or sudden policy change.
Some airlines, like American Airlines, only allow a certain number of pets on each flight, so it may be prudent to purchase your ticket earlier than you otherwise would have if you were traveling alone. In the same vein, it’s usually a good idea to show up earlier than you otherwise would have if you were alone—many airlines require travelers with pets to check in at the desk, in-person, rather than online or through an automated kiosk.
Potty Tips for Plane Travel
You want your pet to be as comfortable as possible during your trip to reduce the chance of accidents or poor behavior. If your dog is required to be in a carrier for the duration of the flight, it’s a good idea to get them accustomed to time in the carrier at least a week or two in advance. The more time they spend in their carrier the more comfortable they will be during the trip and the less hassle you’ll go through.
You should aim to feed your dog several hours before the plane departs so they have enough time to digest, and then you can take them out to potty before beginning your trip. When it comes to water, the dry air on an airplane can make your pup thirsty. While it may be tempting to reduce their water intake for the flight, we recommend giving your pups plenty of water during the trip so they can be safe and comfortable
Car Trips with your Dog
If you’re taking a trip by car, there’s a lot less regulation and enforced rules involved, but that means the responsibility to keep your pet safe and comfortable on your trip is largely on you.
Plan Potty Breaks
Like with air travel, you’ll want to be more intentional with planning your trip ahead. You can make sure your pup gets their potty time by charting out available interstate rest stops that you can visit along the way. This site provides a handy map of the United States with state rest areas marked along with helpful info like whether the facility is accessible via both sides of the highway. These rest areas usually have some form of green space available that your dogs can use as a bathroom. Be sure to follow any marked instructions or restrictions as some rest areas are more understanding of pet needs than others.
If you’re stuck without a nearby rest area and you need to find a potty place quickly, some truck stops offer dog parks! Love’s truck stops have begun to install dog parks on many of their sites. In any case, the last thing you want to do is pull over on the side of the highway to let your dog do their business. Make sure you find a safe area for your dog to relieve themselves. Oftentimes, looking up the closest parks can help you find a potty spot in a pinch.
When you travel with a dog, try to see things from their point of view. Even if you don’t think your dog has to relieve themselves, it’s a good idea to take the time to get out and let them play or run around. Just like us, dogs get restless and need to stretch their legs after a few hours (or in some cases, minutes!) in the car.
Keep Your Dog Occupied
The logistics behind your trip is one thing—behavior is another. Because dogs often aren’t accustomed to long car trips, you might find it difficult to calm your dog in the car. Some dogs breathe loudly to indicate panic, some don’t stand still, and some work out their feelings in more unsavory or disruptive ways. A good way to prevent this behavior is to give your dog some form of self-stimulation. Raw hide chews, bones, or other chewing treats are good ways to keep your dog occupied and well-behaved. It’s the closest thing to giving your dog an iPad. With any luck, your pup will be so distracted they won’t even know they’ve been on a long car trip!
Keep Your Dog Safe!
When you travel with your dog, the most important facet of a trip of any kind is safety. The best option to keep your dog safe during a car trip is to use a crash-tested and properly secured crate. This is important because you don’t want your dog to be loose in the event of a crash in the same way that you wouldn’t want to be without your seat belt in the event of a serious crash.
Some dogs can’t handle being crated during the entirety of a trip. While we really recommend that you follow the advice of using a car-ready crate, there are other products that can help keep your dog safe. There are dog seat belts made of elastic materials that attach to your pup’s harness (you would not want to use these seat belts attached to collars as that can pose a strangulation or neck injury hazard.) These devices can prevent your dog from flying from the car in the event of a crash but, again, we really recommend you take your pet’s safety seriously and invest in the best car safety equipment you can. You’ll thank yourself for it in the long run.
Overnight Accommodation with Pets
Whether you arrive by plane, train, or automobile, chances are you and your pup will need to find a place to stay for the evening. In the past, it’s been difficult to find hotels that accept pets—but the world is becoming more pet- and pet parent-friendly every day. Again, BringFido is a good resource to find pet-friendly hotels wherever your destination is. With their handy search tool, you can find a pet-friendly hotel in your price range and with your desired amenities.
While booking your hotel, take a look at the location on an online map to determine if there are any parks, trails, paths, or green spaces where you can take your dog. Staying at a hotel can be exciting and isolating to a dog and the last thing you want is your dog to find their own entertainment in the hotel room. Just like the plane or car ride, it’s helpful to get your dog some exercise before going to bed for the evening so they sleep long and soundly.
With these tips, you’re ready for travel with your dog. In general, the name of the game is empathy. If there’s anything about travel you’re uncomfortable with, it’s doubly uncomfortable for our furry friends. It’s always a good idea to take a free moment to open your pet’s carrier to check on them, offer some water, and give them much needed ear scratches. Happy travels!
Check out our blog for more pet tips.