Our big list of tips for traveling with your pet

Traveling with your pet: what you need to know, the dos and do nots…

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Romping through the fields in Nashville, making friends with a mule in Canada, filming a Shiseido commercial in Nevada.  I have so many memories on the road with Maggie.  Traveling with your pet is more possible than you know — and it can be stress free and fun.

I welcome any opportunity to enjoy a getaway with Maggie and I love sharing stories, photos and videos of our adventures.  Because of this, we’re often asked ‘How easy is it to travel with your pet?’  After all, it’s your vacation and it’s supposed to be stress-free, but how do you keep it that way when you’ve got a dog in your suitcase?  These are questions we’ve answered before, for Travel + Leisure, for Yahoo, for Mashable and other media outlets (you can see these on our media page) so I’ve decided to pull all the info together here to share my top tips for easy travel with your pet.

  • Plan ahead

That is our #1, indispensable tip.  Planning ahead means you’ve done your research, you know your options and you’ve set yourself up for having the best possible time out of town with your pet.  I love planning, but if you don’t, maybe this post will get you thinking about it as the fun first step of travel.

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Before you start on your to-do list make sure you ask yourself if traveling is something your pet will enjoy. If your dog isn’t a fan of new places and new adventures, he may prefer to stay home with someone to love him in the comfort of his home.  We want this to be fun for both of you, and if your pet isn’t happy on your trip, neither of you will be happy.

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My bags are packed and I’m ready to go….

You’re hitting the road with Fido — what do you bring? Here is my go-to list (yes, I actually have a list, although it might more accurately be called a to-go list).  I’d like to state clearly that these products are not our sponsors, we are just fans of them.

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  • Food: Plan ahead!    Changing your dog’s food on the road could lead to a very upset digestive tract and your plans for the day could be ruined.  I usually pack Maggie’s regular food with me.  I also pack Stewarts freeze-dried patties on every trip because they are lightweight, easy to pack, and I know Maggie loves them. If you can’t fit your pet’s food in your limited luggage space, call a few pet shops in your destination city to ensure they have it in stock.  Even in the big national chains, it’s amazing how dog food brands can vary in the different locations.
  • Treats – Because he’s a good boy.  Why else?
  • Collapsible bowls – I bring at least two, one for water and food. These are great to keep in a bag/purse while sightseeing too.   If your pet becomes thirsty or the weather gets warm, you’re prepared.  I’m currently using some that our insurance company sent us, but I’m also a fan of the bowls that Kurgo sells.
  • Poop bags – Because do you really want to be late to your hike or sightseeing because you need to run to the pet store to pick up more? So easy to pack, just throw a few rolls in your backpack, purse, suitcase anywhere. If you’re doing a road trip, I recommend having a separate roll to keep in the car.
  • An extra leash – This may sound odd at first, but I have an extra leash in every suitcase or vehicle.  This could come in handy many times over.  In the car, when you need to quickly grab a leash for a potty break, or after hiking together and your leash gets wet, or in case one leash gets accidently packed or left behind in a hotel room. Who hasn’t left something in a hotel room?
  • List of vaccinations and microchip info. Print out a hard copy or two, also take a photo and keep it on your phone. You might need this for a hotel or dog daycare or emergency vet visit (let’s hope it’s not the latter).
  • Microchip your pet! If your pet isn’t microchipped, before venturing away their safe surroundings of home, make sure your microchip record is up to date.

Now if Maggie packed her own bag it would go slightly differently.

Hotels:

More and more hotels have gone pet friendly.  You’ll find anything from boutique hotels to chain motels that accept dogs, but some have size limit requirements or pet fees so always check with your hotel first. Some hotels even have a doggie room-service menu.  Some hotels have rules against leaving a pet unattended in your room — if you plan to do this, please check the policy first.

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When looking for a hotel, HotWire.com has a filter that allows you search for pet-friendly hotels which will save you a lot of time, especially if you’re booking at the last minute.

Some national chains are known to be pet-friendly, accepting more than just dogs —  so you can also bring your cats, guinea pigs, goldfish, etc on your adventures.  (But always, you can’t go wrong calling ahead to ask a hotel about their pet policy and/or their floor plans, in case your pet has special needs.)

–       Kimpton Hotels — pets are free no matter their size, age, weight

–       Motel6 — no pet restrictions, no fees

–       Best Western — with few exceptions, Best Westerns are pet-friendly so call ahead to confirm

–       Comfort Inn

–       Quality Inn

–       Holiday Inn

–       Econo Inn

–       Residence Inn

–       Mariott

–       Red Roof Inn — one dog or one cat per room for free

–       La Quinta  — almost all are free for pets

–       Novotel

–       Candlewood suites — dog and cat friendly

 

My Top Hotel Tips for Travel

  • Leave the TV on to give your pup some comforting background noise if you’re away from the room — this can also drown out stress-inducing city or neighboring-room noise they may not be used to.
  • Always keep the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door so that housekeeping doesn’t scare your critter or allow your pet to bolt while you are out.
  • When I make my reservation, I ask for a room away from the elevator.  This means there will be less foot traffic outside the door that might cause my dog to bark or whine. We don’t always get the room we request, but it doesn’t hurt to ask politely.
  • Set up a “safe space” in the room, with blankets and a water bowl, and spend a little time getting your pup acclimated to the new space before your first pet-free foray into the city.
  • Learn early what pet-friendly really means for your hotel.  In some hotels, it means you can leave your pet alone while other hotels require you to be in the room if your pet is there. This is not something you want to learn when you arrive.

 

Air Travel:

Every airline is different.  The rules are constantly changing.  The fees vary wildly.  But still, it’s not too hard to fly with your dog.

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Some things to note:

  • Plan early! Call ahead and book your pet on your flight as early as possible.  Each airline has a maximum number of pets they will allow on board or in the cargo hold – and the number  isn’t very high usually between 3 and 5 dogs per flight. You don’t want to show up at the airport and not be allowed to fly.
  • Check your carrier dimensions on the airline’s website. Dimensions and regulations vary from airline to airline, don’t show up with the wrong size to be turned away at the airport.
  • Avoid giving your dog calming medication unless prescribed by your veterinarian, especially if they’re flying in cargo.  These drugs can interfere with your pup’s critical ability to regulate their body temperature.
  • Practice having your dog go in and out of the crate to get comfortable. See our crate post here.
  • Make sure your crate has your contact information, both your home and your destination. Plan for the worst-case situation — you can never have too much information attached to the crate.
  • Before you leave for the airport, take a nice long walk together. It will help calm your dog and relax you as well.

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We put together a list of the the main airlines pet pages below for easy reference on making sure you meet all their guidelines and pet policies.

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Trains:

The Pets on Trains Act provides for pet travel in crates on passenger trains.  This is similar to an airline policy — small dogs that can fit on carriers can now travel on Amtrek. Hopefully, larger dogs will be allowed if this newish program goes well.

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Cars:

  • Take frequent breaks, every 3-4 hours is ideal.  Let everyone to stretch their legs, take a potty break, have some water, and also get out some energy. If your pitstop allows, this is a great time to run and play – then they’ll be more inclined to sleep in the car.
  • Remember your water bowl and poop bags for those stops.
  • Before you set off on your car ride start off with a long walk.  It’s good for your pup before sitting still for hours, and can be helpful for your mind and body as well.
  • Buckle up! We protect ourselves, so protect your pup, too. I personally use the car seat seat covers from Kurgo. For buckles check out SleepyPod and Kurgo.
  • For car trips, it’s a great idea to keep an extra towel handy, in case of spills, muddy paws, sandy fur, etc.   The possibilities are endless when on a road trip together.

Sightseeing, weather, and other tips:

–       You’re somewhere new and you’re excited to get there and see the sights. Take into consideration whether your pet will enjoy those activities and if pets are allowed at the places you’re planning to visit.  Activities as whale-watching and museums may not be as fun to a dog as joining you on a hike when you return.  But there are options for pet care on the road.  Look into dog daycare for your pup in your destination city.  There are local daycares, franchise daycares, and even daycare service at some of the big national chain stores.

There’s also DogVacay.com, where your pet can stay with a real family in a home for day care, just for the hours you’re busy and not overnight.  DogVacay has hosts across the United States and Canada, and the DogVacay mobile apps allows you to find a host for your dog quickly.   While you’re watching whales, your pup can be playing fetch and making new friends.

You may also be able to find someone on sites such as care.com and dogvacay.com to spend quality time with your pup in your hotel room, so you don’t need to transport your dog anywhere if this option would be best for you.

–    Check the weather where you’re traveling. I live in sunny Los Angeles but just a few hours away the temperature can drastically drop in the deserts. Smaller dogs may get cold so packing a jacket or blanket is always a great idea if this is a possibility.

– To find pet friendly activities near your destination, we love bringfido.com, which lists pet-friendly attractions across the US.

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Go grab a leash, and we’ll see you out there…

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