Safety Tips for Traveling with Pets

| CJ Silvasi

It doesn't matter how far you're going, traveling with pets is a mixed bags. Get safety tips and tricks for hitting the road with your cats and dogs.

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A few years ago, my husband was accepted into a specialty school, so we packed up our furry little family and moved from Virginia to Colorado. Then, when he graduated, we did it again in reverse. I learned a lot about traveling with pets during these two long hauls, and wish I had taken some time to research the best ways to travel with pets before I left, but I chose to learn the hard way. Don’t be like me. Plan ahead so you and your pets can be safer and more comfortable when traveling.

Know How Your Pet Feels About Traveling Before You Take a Long Trip

It doesn’t matter if you’re going to the vet around the corner or moving across the United States, traveling with your pets is a mixed bag. My oldest dog, Miloche, is great in the car. He enjoys looking out windows and napping and gently lets us know when it’s time for him to take a potty break. His son, Baby Pierre, however, is terrible at traveling. The poor thing gets motion sick and has been known to have accidents in the back seat, so he needs special accommodations before hitting the road. Now that we know he has trouble, we’ve taken some measures to keep him comfortable and protect our car just in case. 

What to Do Before You Leave

Don’t just grab your pet and get on the road. There are some considerations you’ll want to make before you leave. Use this article as checklist of “best practices” for how to travel with your pet safely.

✓ Talk to Your Vet

If your pet is on medication, contact your vet to ensure you have enough to last a few extra days beyond your trip. That way, if something happens, you don’t have to go to the emergency vet while you’re away for refills. 

It is also helpful to talk to your vet about any travel difficulties your pet has. They may suggest ways to help reduce the stress and discomfort your pet faces while on the road. This was a huge help for Pierre’s travel troubles. Depending on the mode of travel you take, your vet may recommend a tranquilizer to help keep them calm.

You’ll also want to ask your vet for your pet’s medical records, so you have a printed copy on hand while you’re traveling. Not only will some international travel locations require proof of vaccination before releasing your pet from quarantine, but having their medical records available will make treatment easier and safer if you need to take them to an emergency vet.

✓ Gather the Necessities

Just like packing your own overnight bag, your pet will have their own “luggage.” Pack their pills, enough food for your trip + a few extra days, and their food and water bowls. Don’t forget to bring your own bottled water for your pets to avoid the potential gastrointestinal distress caused by water from a new location. 

Do this before your departure date to make sure you don’t forget anything. Keep everything together with your pet’s leashes so it’s easy to grab and go on your way out the door.

✓ Pack “Non-Essentials”

If your pet is easily stressed, bring their bed or favorite toy so they have something that smells like home when they travel. We always have treats and chews to prevent boredom. An activity to keep them occupied helps them behave the whole time you’re on the road.

✓ Check Your Contact Information

Whether your pet is microchipped or just has a tag on their collar, make sure your contact information is up to date. Additionally, bring an updated photo of your pet, or keep one on your phone. This is especially important if your dog has been groomed recently. These measures are essential for getting your dog back quickly should you get separated for any reason while traveling.

Hitting the Road with Your Pets

There are so many ways to travel with your pets, and they each have subtle nuances that make them unique. Here is a quick pros and cons list of the different ways to travel with your pets.

Traveling with Pets in the Car

Pros:

  • You’re in control of pit stops and potty breaks.

  • Your pets are always under your direct supervision.

  • Your pets are in a space they’re comfortable with or have been in before.

Cons:

Traveling with Pets in an RV

Pros:

  • Enough space for pets to be safe in their crates or kennels.

  • Pets are in a comfortable place.

  • The family can monitor the pets while on the road.

Cons:

  • Not always easy to park for breaks.

  • Your pets may be separated from you depending on RV type.

Traveling with Pets by Air

Pros:

  • Fast travel method.

  • You don’t have to drive, so you are more rested.

Cons:

  • Can be stressful for pets.

  • Each airline has unique rules for traveling with animals.

  • Air travel is expensive.

  • You will likely need to purchase an airline-approved pet crate.

Traveling with Pets on a Train or Bus

Pros:

  • Your pets can usually stay with you.

  • You don’t have to drive, so you are more rested.

  • Some trains have private cabins.

Cons:

  • Public transportation may stress out your pet, or your pet may cause other travelers to complain.

  • Your pet must remain crated on most public transport.

  • You can’t stop if your pet needs a break.

Products to Make Traveling with Pets Easier

These products were designed to help you take your pets around town or across the U.S. safely. Pick them up a few weeks before you leave on your trip so you and your pet can practice using them and get comfortable. That way, you know how they work, and your pet is accustomed to traveling with them before you hit the road.

✓ Pet Carriers

A must-have when traveling with pets is a sturdy pet carrier or pet crate (the American Kennel Club recommends that pets always travel in crates). Whether you’re in the car, on a plane, or riding public transportation, keeping your pet safe in a carrier that is easy for you to handle is essential. Many public transportation options require carriers, so investing in one your pet is comfortable with will give you a lot of value in the long run.

Pet Carrier with Expandable Sides

Pet Carrier with Wheels

✓ Pet Seat Belts

If you’re in a car, a seatbelt is as essential for your furry friends as it is for your human family. They are designed to keep them safe in the event of an accident and will keep your pets from roaming in the car while you’re trying to drive.

Pet Seatbelt for Two

Bungee Pet Seatbelt

Over-the-Seat Pet Seatbelt

✓ Booster Seats for Pets

If you don’t want to crate your pet, but also don’t want to let them wander while traveling, consider a booster seat to keep them in place. You can put their favorite blanket and toys in with them and let them cuddle up into an adorable little nest.

Pet Booster Seat for Large Pets

Pet Booster Seat for Medium Pets

Pet Booster Seat for Small Pets

✓ Collapsible Pet Bowls

Your pet will need to eat while you’re traveling, and these collapsible bowls are perfect to keep in your glove box or suitcase so they’re always ready to go when you and your furry friend are.

Fashionable Fabric Pet Travel Bowls

Pet Travel Bowls with Lids

Roll-up Pet Travel Mat with Bowls

What to Do as Soon as You Arrive at Your Destination with Your Pet

Now that you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll want to take a few measures to make sure the rest of your trip goes just as smoothly. First, give your pet a potty break as soon as possible. Like you, they’ve been stuck in a small space for a long time, so take a moment for them to stretch their legs, get some exercise, and relieve their bladders. Ideally, you will keep your pets to their normal schedule as much as possible, so if you’ve arrived at their normal dinner time, feed them before you settle in.

Now that you know exactly where you’re staying, take an inventory of what you have. Did you forget something in the chaos of packing? If so, now’s the time to pick up a new one. 

While you’re getting your bearings, look up local 24/7 or emergency vets and the local poison control center and save their phone numbers. If something happens to your pet in the middle of the night, it’s good to have easy access to this information. Write those addresses and phone numbers down on the paperwork you brought with your pet so everything you need in case of an emergency is in one easy-to-access place.

Tips for Bringing Your Pets to a Hotel

If your pet has never been in a hotel before, the experience may stress them out and cause behavior issues, so setting up a comfortable, safe space for them is a great way to help keep them calm. Set up their crate or bed from home with their favorite toy for them to snuggle up with. An interactive toy or chew will help distract them from the changes around them until they are more comfortable. If possible, don’t leave them alone, especially at first. If you’re with them, they are more likely to adjust to the strange space with less stress.

When NOT to Travel with Pets

Ultimately, we want to bring our pets with us everywhere we go, but that’s not always possible. So, if you’re traveling and know you won’t be available to care for your pet as you usually would, don’t take them. Leave them at doggy day care or with a trusted family member or friend. Alternatively, there are several pet sitting services that will come to your house to care for your pets while you are away. 

Alternatives to Traveling with Pets

Is your pet a bad flier? Or do you not have the option of bringing them in the vehicle with you due to space, but they need to travel with you? You can utilize pet-travel services like pet taxis or pet shuttles. These are manned by professional animal transporters and will get your pet to their destination on your schedule. While not the most budget-friendly option, this solution is an easy way to get your pets from point A to point B with minimal stress for you.

No matter how you get there, having your pets with you while traveling makes your journey even better. Make sure you pack everything they need before you leave and that you take precautions to keep your furry family as safe as you keep your human family. Bon voyage!


Take some of the stress out of traveling with pets with Accident & Illness Coverage through AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company). Our pet insurance plans are designed to provide assistance to pets throughout U.S. and Canada, allowing you to focus more on the health of your pet and less on costly veterinary bills. Click here for a quote today!

CJ Silvasi

CJ has always wanted to be a writer. She even threatened to drop out after her first day of kindergarten when they weren’t immediately going to teach her to read and write. Fortunately, she stayed in school, earned her degree in Creative Writing from Christopher Newport University, and now gets to live her best life with her husband, 3 Japanese Chins, and cat writing for AKC Pet Insurance.

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