Traveling With Pets? What to Remember Before You Leave

Dog in Crate in Car
When traveling by car, pets should either sit in a crate or wear a safety harness attached to the seatbelt.

Getting ready to book your next family vacation? Why not bring your dog or cat along? You’ll need some extra preparation to accommodate your pet’s needs, but introducing your pet to new experiences can be rewarding for both of you.

Pet-Friendly Places

Vacation spots across the United States and around the world are increasingly accommodating pets, but traveling with your four-legged friend requires advanced planning to help ensure that all aspects of your trip are pet friendly. When making all plans, including transportation, ask whether your cat or dog will be welcome.

Think about which destinations match your pet's personality — smaller cities or rural areas that include dog parks, outdoor cafes, campgrounds, pet-welcoming beaches or hiking trails are often better choices than are bustling, noisy cities.

European and other international destinations often welcome pets, but international travel requires additional preparation. You will need to contact your destination’s consulate or embassy to learn that country’s requirements, such as possible quarantines, for pets. Something to note: Hawaii also has a quarantine period.

Work with your travel agent or search the Internet to find pet-friendly lodging. If you need to leave your pet alone in a hotel room, place the "do not disturb" sign on the door and confine him to his carrier. This will help prevent undesirable interaction between your pet and hotel staff.

The home of a family member or friend may seem more accepting of your pet than a hotel or bed-and-breakfast. But before you take this route: Make sure that the homeowners truly want your pet there, that your pet gets along with any resident pets (or other household members, like children) and that the house is pet proofed.

The Pre-Trip Veterinary Visit

At your pre-trip vet visit, let your veterinarian know where you are headed. Your veterinarian will make sure your pet is current on all necessary vaccinations and is given appropriate medication to protect him against threats that are native to your destination. Also remember to refill and pack your pet’s regular prescriptions before leaving for vacation.

If your pet has motion sickness or becomes stressed when traveling, your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help combat these concerns. However, if your pet needs to be heavily medicated, he may not be suited for travel.

For both cats and dogs, proof of rabies vaccination must be shown when traveling to another country and is sometimes required when flying to another state. In addition, you may be required to obtain a health certificate for your pet. These documents can be obtained from your veterinarian. Check with your airline and destination for specific requirements.

Got ID?

If you and your pet become separated, you want to have the best chance of being reunited. Many veterinarians recommend microchipping pets in addition to having them wear collars and ID tags. Should your pet go missing, a scanner can be run over his neck to detect the microchip and trace it back to you, increasing the likelihood of a happy reunion. For entry into some countries, pets are required to be microchipped.

Getting Carrier-ed Away

Take extra care in preparing your pet’s carrier, which is needed for pets not using a harness in a car and is required for travel by plane. Ask your airline for its specific guidelines, but in general, a carrier should:

  • Include a label with your name, your pet’s name, your home and destination contact information, your cell phone number, and your veterinarian’s contact information.
  • Be marked with large lettering stating "live animal" and "this side up" with arrows indicating the top.
  • Have a lining. 
  • Contain a litterbox (for cats). 
  • Include feeding instructions.
  • Be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in.
  • Be waterproof and sturdy.
  • Have handles.
  • Not be locked, so your pet can be reached in an emergency.

Before your trip, leave the carrier open in a place where your pet spends a lot of time. Place treats inside on occasion, so he gets used to going into it and is less likely to be afraid.

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