Ask the Experts: What Are Your Top Tips for Traveling with Dogs?
Editor's note: This post originally ran on FlipKey, but we're sharing it here (with Claire's permission) because there's some really useful advice here. (Well, it quotes a bunch of our contributors, so it ought to!)
Pets are an important part of our family and when it comes time to travel, it’s hard to imagine leaving home without them. As much joy as bringing along your four-legged friends can be, it can be daunting once you factor in transportation, activities, where to stay, and your pet’s health and safety. We’ve consulted with some of the most seasoned pet travel experts to get the scoop on how to make sure traveling with your pet goes as smooth as possible.
When traveling with your pet, what is the one thing you won’t leave home without?
Carol Bryant, Fidose of Reality and Dogster: My dog’s “travel bag.” In it, I always have access to the “must haves” for any type of traveling with my pooch. Pack a WT-WTCH (What’s The Worst That Could Happen) bag, including a first aid kit, water bottle and bowl, vaccination records, current photo, flotation device (for water travelers), clean up bags, wet wipes and paper towels. Toss in an extra collar and leash in the event either is misplaced. Has Fido been in a similar climate to that of your destination? Prevent problems with allergy medication(s), a doggie sweater, tweezers for tick removal and a flashlight for nighttime walks.
Paris Permenter, DogTipper: We always carry extra identification for our dogs on every trip. They each wear a traditional dog tag at home but, for trips, we add a special dog tag with our cell phone numbers and they wear a special Tagg GPS unit on their collars so we can use our smartphones to locate them should they get away from us. We also carry their microchip numbers with us, just in case. We also carry travel-sized cleaning supplies, just in case of any doggie accidents in the hotel room. Pet deposits at hotels can be hefty so we carry both spot and urine removers from Rug Doctor in our travel bag. And we carry our dogs’ food to avoid any tummy upsets on the road.
What tips do you have for preventing pet anxiety/stress when traveling, particularly when flying somewhere?
One trick that I recommend is putting an unwashed t-shirt in the crate. Your pet will be comforted by your scent when you are not there. You can consider an all-natural calmer, but we do not recommend a tranquilizer because it can affect a pet’s breathing. -- Susan Smith, PetTravel.com
Simulate the flight by a long car ride in the carrier a few times. Make sure the carrier you have chosen is big enough and well ventilated. Make sure your pet has some fun, but not exhausting, exercise the day before and the morning of the flight. Do not give food within five hours of flight and water within one hour of his pre-flight walk. Add a toy to his carrier and slip a reassuring hand in during flight when you can. Avoid giving your pet tranquilizers of any kind. A pet who is prepped for travel uses a flight to catch up on a nap. -- Helen Fazio, Travel Dog Books and Dogster.com
When traveling by car, make frequent stops for potty & water breaks. It’s also important to let your pet stretch their legs and sniff around. If flying, consider booking a non-peak flight, which typically means less passengers and more cabin room. This will help ease potential stress for your pet. -- Kim Salerno, Trips With Pets
Tell us about a particularly stressful experience you’ve had when traveling with your pet and how you were able to handle the situation?
The most stressful situation when you’re traveling with your pet is when they get sick or injured away from home. There have been several occasions when we’ve needed to find a veterinarian for one of the dogs, and reaching out on social media has allowed us to get good recommendations from the locals. Also, having all of the dogs’ medical records with us has been really helpful. It’s tough to remember even simple things, like when your pet received their vaccinations, when you’re in the midst of an emergency. We’ve scanned all of Ty and Buster’s medical records to a USB drive -- it’s easy to pack and we can give it to the receptionist when we arrive so the doctor has access everything she needs to know about the boys’ medical history. -- Amy Burkert, GoPetFriendly.com
We love to find pet-friendly restaurants, which actually means restaurants with bars, cafes or patios that allow pets to sit with you outside. When we find one after a long day of traveling with our dog, it’s as though we’ve found Nirvana and, therefore, we inevitably encounter a lot of other pet owners who feel the same way. One time, our dog, sitting comfortably under our table was threatened by another dog passing by, and they both went after each other almost tipping the table and knocking over a waiter who was carrying a tray full of plates and glasses. Luckily, we had our dog on a very tight leash attached to the leg of my seat (critical!) and quickly calmed them both down with promises of our half-eaten hamburger sliders and encouraging pats on the back. Since these situations usually occur in very close quarters, you need to keep an eye out for other pets so that surprise and fear do not enter into the equation. In such cases, a relaxed but alert vigilance is the best policy. -- Cindy Dahlen, Petswelcome
Where, in your experience, has been a particularly pet-friendly place to visit and why?
Maine is one of the most pet friendly states we’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Cape Elizabeth is a quiet town in Cumberland County and home to some gorgeous lighthouses. -- Carol Bryant, Fidose of Reality
The Outer Banks in North Carolina, gorgeous pet-friendly beaches and a multitude of amazing pet friendly vacation rentals. When staying at a vacation rental as opposed to a hotel, the tendency is to spend more time in your home away from home. Dogs tend to be happier and more comfortable with this type of vacation experience. -- Kim Salerno, Trips With Pets
Internationally, you make more friends in Peru, Morocco, France, and Italy when you have a pet with you. In Peru, it seems everybody has a dog and a cat and vets are common. In Morocco, a pet becomes the bridge to make friends. In France, the somewhat aloof French melt when they see a furry face. And in Italy, like France, your well-behaved pet can dine in most restaurants. -- Helen Fazio, Travel Dog Books and Dogster.com
San Francisco, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), San Diego, and Napa are very dog-friendly, with nice-off leash parks and other amenities like patio dining, many shops welcome well-behaved dogs as well. -- Claudia Kawczynska, TheBark.com
We’ve found New York City to be extremely pet-friendly. A surprising number of its 1,700 parks not only allow pets but have off-leash areas and runs, such as the Chelsea Waterside Park Dog Run, the Madison Square Dog Park Run and Randalls Island Park Off-leash Area. Central Park alone has 23 dog-friendly areas scattered throughout its 800+ acres. -- Cindy Dahlen, Petswelcome
What airline, if any, in your experience has been the best for air travel for your pet and why?
What I would say is that you need to find an airline that best serves your route and can get your pet from point A to point B as directly as possible with short layovers (if there are any) and ask them about their pet program. Be proactive as a pet traveler. Demand confirmation that your pet has boarded the plane and tell the captain and the crew that there is precious cargo in the hold and you expect them to monitor the pressure and temperature regularly. Do some internet research for other pet traveler reviews for that airline. If you are not comfortable, then find another airline. -- Susan Smith, PetTravel.com
Because our dogs are large, we never fly with the dogs. We don’t recommend flying any dogs over about 20 pounds that are too large to be accepted in the cabin unless it’s absolutely necessary, such as in an overseas relocation. -- Paris Permenter, DogTipper
I have only ever flown once with dogs, and I used Delta Airlines, flying with two young dogs who I adopted from a shelter in Kentucky. I live in California and had to go east to pick them up. I chose Delta because they were one of the few airlines that provided nonstop flights, an important consideration when flying across the country. I was very pleased with the service the pups and I were given. -- Claudia Kawczynska, TheBark.com
What is your best piece of advice for people traveling with their pets?
Familiarize yourself with entry requirements because many countries require tests that must be done in advance of travel. (Hawaii is an example of this.) Consult your veterinarian to make sure your pet is healthy enough to stand the stress of travel. Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are current and will not expire on your trip. Additionally, make sure your pet is free of any fleas, ticks or parasites that could cause contagious diseases. -- Susan Smith, PetTravel.com
Figuring out in advance if there are dog-friendly wineries, dog parks, or beaches where you can play with your pet is a good thing -- but packing the itinerary like it’s your job can take all the fun out of the trip. What happens when you’re running late for the scenic boat tour and your pup really wants to make one more pass around the park? You get stressed out! And that upsets your pet, which makes him more likely to misbehave. -- Amy Burkert, GoPetFriendly.com
Ask about pet policies and weight limits prior to booking a hotel room. Just because a travel book or website says it is so does not make it so; pet policies frequently change. Additionally, ask about pet fees and access to greenery for Fido’s taking care of business. -- Carol Bryant, Fidose of Reality
When packing for your pet, include an ample supply of your pet’s food. Don’t rely on stopping along the way to pick up their food or picking it up at your final destination. Their particular brand of food may not be readily available and it is not advisable to introduce your pet to a new brand of food while traveling. -- Kim Salerno, Trips With Pets
Do not expect your pet to do anything extraordinary on the road that he can’t do at home. For example: If your pet has to fly in a carrier, use the carrier for trips to the park, a friend’s house and even a few hours drive in the car. If our pet is going to be expected to sit with you in a cafe, then find a pet-friendly cafe locally or simulate the experience in the park so he will know how to behave. And if your pet does not like to be left alone, do not leave him alone in a hotel room for the first time. -- Helen Fazio, Travel Dog Books and Dogster.com
Traveling with a dog is much like traveling with a small child so adjust your schedule accordingly. Your travel will be a little slower as you need to make more frequent potty stops for your pup. I think the most successful trips are ones that combine your interests with those of your dog. Plan some fun activities especially for your dog like a visit to a dog park or a swim at the beach. -- Paris Permenter, DogTipper
Do you have any helpful advice that you would like to share? Comment below to help other travelers who might be making their first trip with their pet soon. Happy travels!
About the author: Claire is one of the travel gurus at FlipKey.com, a company that is dedicated to making travel easy, safe, and fun even with your four-legged friends. She has three miniature wirehaired Dachshunds who run the show and would love to make traveling with pets easier for everyone.