If your pet has become your constant travel companion, you and your furry (or non-furry friend) are not alone.
According to the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, pet travel is on the up. Today about 68% of U.S. households own a pet and of those, 37% of households regularly travel with their pet every year. Ten years ago the number of pets that travelled annually was at about 19% of all pets owned, so the number has virtually doubled.
As more and more pet owners are choosing to take their four-legged furry family along with them, the need for specific pet travel services has grown. Today pet-friendly travel and accommodation options are far more easily available than they were a few years back. So with some pre-planning, you can take your pet almost anywhere.
Nationwide, pets are taking to the skies, hopping on trains, hitting the road and even taking to the water every day to join their owners on holiday or business trips. Pet travel is becoming a new norm, and many pet owners are willing to carry the cost rather than leave their pet behind.
Whatever method of transport you are going to use, remember that you must comply with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations and guidelines applying to pet travel. Also, if you are crossing stateliness, rules of entry and exit are defined at state level and vary from one state to another. Pets travelling internationally are under the control of the country of exit as well as the country of entry, and laws and regulations differ substantially worldwide. And then, apart from the USDA, state and international regulations, each carrier can set their own terms and conditions for taking a pet onboard. It is vital that you research and plan for your furry’s trip well in advance to prevent any unexpected costs or unpleasant surprises.
So let’s look more closely at what you can expect from different types of pet travel:
As more people want their pets to fly with them to their destinations, some airlines have reviewed their restrictions for in-cabin and cargo-hold pet travel. But remember, not all airlines are pet friendly, so make sure that you find those that are, and then compare their services and prices.
So what can you expect?
All airlines have strict regulations when it comes to the size of the pet carrier, and all pet carriers must be United States Transport Security Administration approved. The Transport Security Administration state that all luggage must be accessible for inspection, whether the passenger is present or not. So approved luggage (including pet carriers) must be fitted with locks that can be opened by officials if they require access, and then relocked to secure the passengers contents after inspection.
The size of a pet carrier is very important. Airlines are very strict on pet carrier size and type, particularly if you are looking to fly your pet in-cabin with you. It is not really a problem with cats, but with dogs you could find that your pooch is too big to be accepted for in-cabin flight. Although standards differ, the average mandated pet carrier size for in-cabin flight is between 16 to 19 inches in length and a maximum of 10 inches in height.
Many pet owners don’t want their pet travelling in the cargo hold because they have no control over their pet that way. Also, many pets suffer from separation anxiety which makes the trip very stressful for everyone. Having your pet in the cabin with you is much easier, but if your dog weighs more than about 15 pounds it’s unlikely it will be able to fly in-cabin.
To be accepted in-cabin, a pet carrier must be able to fit comfortably underneath the seat in front of you in the pet carrier size mandated by the airline. Some airlines also specify that your pet must be well trained and quiet during the flight. Although you can’t provide proof that your pet is trained, it is not worth taking an anxious pet with you on a flight. If your pet does become difficult to manage on the flight there could be consequences from the airline. But more importantly, do you really want to stress your beloved furry out for hours on end?
Here are some tips to flying with your furry in-cabin with you:
- Book well in advance: There are only a small number of in-cabin pets allocated to each flight, so it’s vital that you book well ahead of time to make sure that you can secure an in-cabin space. And don’t forget to book your return flight too; you don’t want to have to leave your pet behind or unnecessarily extend your travel plans.
- Budget: Expect to pay a premium price. Brining your furry along in-cabin does not come cheap. Expect to pay between $100 and $150 one way for your furry’s spot.
- Make sure that you have your pet passport with you: if you don’t have your pet passport and any other required certificates with you when you arrive at the airport, your pet will not be allowed to board. You must prove that your furry has had all the required vaccinations and has been issued with a health certificate by a vet. This is vital because you pet is not only travelling with you, but with other passengers and their pets as well.
- Check the boarding instructions: many airlines board passengers with pets first and guide them to the middle seats where there is more room. You don’t want to arrive late and find all the suitable seating is gone.
- Choose the right pet carrier: Your furry must be able to fit comfortably into the mandated size of the pet carrier. If your pet does not fit comfortably, opt for cargo. It is cruel to squeeze your cat or dog into a pet carrier that is too small.
- Line the pet carrier with and absorbent pad: no matter how observant you are, your furry could wee wee or more in the pet carrier. Anxiety could add to the likelihood. Although you can clean up, you won’t be able to do a good job of it in the cabin. Making sure that there is an absorbent liner in the pet carrier will keep pet dry and comfortable.
- The pet carrier is carry–on: in-cabin pet carriers are considered carry-on luggage. That means that what you bring along with you will be restricted. Choose a pet carrier that has side pockets so that you have space for your other necessities.
Flying with their pet kept in the cargo-hold can be pretty stressful for owners and their furries alike, but often there is no other choice. If your pet is too big to travel in-cabin, you have to put it (and your faith) in the cargo-hold.
But consider this:
Annually millions of animals are shipped safely in cargo-holds. Yes, there are incidents where animals are injured, traumatized and very seldom and animal does die. But then the same happens every day to animals that have not left home; animals are injured, traumatized and sometimes die right on their owners premises. Reality is that we only hear of the bad outcomes because the good outcomes are just not newsworthy.
Every day livestock, horses, wild animals, zoo animals, rabbits, birds, fish, reptiles, snakes and cats and dogs are loaded into cargo-holds and delivered safely to their destination sometime later. Also, handlers tasked with loading animals and caring for them in the cargo hold are specifically trained to do that job. Airlines know that animal transport is a growing trend, and they don’t want anything untoward happening to the animals on their flights because it will attract bad publicity (and they mostly do really care as well).
But it’s not only up to the airlines to keep your pet safe during the flight; it’s up to you as well. Make sure that you follow the airlines regulations carefully, and also use common sense when choosing a flight, preparing your pet’s crate, preparing pet necessities for the flight and preparing your pet for the flight. Also make sure that your name and contact details are clearly visible wherever your pet goes, and that your pet has been microchipped.
All regulations for animals transport are set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). One point to note upfront is that IATA regulations state that two animals can share the same pet crate on condition that the animals weigh under 30lbs. and they are of the same species. They must also be compatible. Airlines also have a say, but many will accept two pets in the same pet crate. If you have two small pets, travelling together in the same pet crate can make the journey less stressful. It is important however to test them beforehand to see how they react it kept together in a confined space for a long time.
As with anything that is a bit scary, myths and bad stories about pets flying in cargo-holds abound. So let’s quickly debunk a few myths:
The pet cargo-hold on an airliner can get either very hot or very cold.
Most airlines that carry animals in the cargo-hold ensure that the temperature is regulated by climate-control air-conditioning just as it is in the passenger cabin.
Airline weather embargos are because of the temperature in the cargo-hold.
Some airlines refuse to fly animals in cargo-holds between mid-May and mid-September for the safety of the animals while they are outside of the cargo-hold. It has to do with outside temperatures while the animal is waiting to be loaded, the aircraft is waiting on the tarmac, taxiing and at off-loading. It has nothing to do with the temperature in the cargo-hold while in flight.
The pet cargo-hold is not pressurized.
Most airlines that carry animals in the cargo-hold only select aircraft that are pressurized equally throughout for animal transportation.
Road transport is safer for animals than air transport.
Long distance road travel can be far more stressful for animals. It is also far more complex and dangerous because of the length of time it takes to reach the destination.
It’s best to tranquilize your pet if it’s flying in the cargo-hold.
Tranquilizers impact and animal’s respiratory system, heartrate and muscles. Changes in altitude can also affect the impact tranquiller can have on an animal. Instead of a more relaxed animal, you could end up with a panicked and confused animal. The effects of tranquilizers can be the total opposite of what the owner wanted to achieve.
Thorough research and planning is vital to making sure that you choose the best airline to transport your furry safely. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about temperature and pressurization and anything else that bothers you when making enquiries. Also confirm the information that you were given by checking the airliners website. You have every right to want to feel safe and secure before you have your beloved furry over to be placed in the cargo-hold.
So with the common myths done and dusted here are some tips to flying with your furry in the cargo-hold:
- Book well in advance: All pet travel space on airlines is subject to availability, so you must book well ahead of time if you want to ensure that your furry can come along. Make sure you book the return flight as well to avoid disappointment and delays.
- Budget: Expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $1,000. The cost is calculated on the weight of your pet as well as the weight of the pet crate. Some airlines factor the pet crate dimensions into the cost as well.
- Plan your flight route: If possible select and airline that offers a non-stop route to your destination. Being transferred form one aircraft to another will be stressful for your furry.
- Avoid peak flying times: If you can, spare your furry travelling over holiday and high air traffic periods. Avoid the crowds, noise and stress by flying outside of holiday times and choose a midweek flight when airline handlers are less busy.
- Ask if you can watch your pet being loaded and unloaded: This is vital for your pet’s safety and your peace of mind. If an airline declines, you can ask that you be advised by airline staff when you pet has been loaded or unloaded. You have a right to know so don’t feel that you can’t ask.
- Switching airlines: If your flight plans include transferring to other airlines along the way you will have to pick up your pet ad then check it in again with the new airline. This can work if you intend and extended stop over because you are able to spend time with your pet. If you want to keep on the move it can be very stressful particularly timewise as the checking out and checking in again can take a long time.
- International flight transfers: If you are transferring to different airlines on an international flight, the same applies; your furry has to be checked out and then checked in again. You also have to clear through customs, and that means that your pet must meet the requirements and have the documentation required by the lay-over country even if you are only spending a few hours on their soil.
- Understand the airline’s policy: Don’t wing it when you precious furry is flying with you. Ensure that you get all the information you need in writing in advance. Print a copy of the pet transport terms that you were given and have it with you when you check in incase there are any problems at the check-in o in the cargo area.
- Make sure that you have your pet passport with you: if you don’t have your pet passport and any other required certificates with you when you arrive at the airport, your pet will not be allowed to board.
- Choose the right pet crate: IATA regulations require a solid sturdy pet crate with adequate ventilation, a solid leak proof and waterproof floor, spring locked door, disabled wheels and handles or spacebars on each side.
- IATA pet crate requirements: Pet crates cannot be collapsible, and must be made of fiberglass, rigid plastic, welded metal mesh or solid wood. It is important to note that many airlines will not accept wooden pet crates.
- The pet crate door: The door of the pet crate must not be on top and must be nose and paw proof to prevent injury.
- The pet crate roof: The roof of the pet crate must be fixed and solid with vent holes that do not compromise the strength of the roof.
- Ventilation: The pet crate must be well ventilated. IATA regulations require two sides of the pet crate be ventilated for domestic flights and four sides for international flights. The vent holes must be a minimum of 1 inch x 1 inch, and a total 16% of the pet crate must be allowed for ventilation. Vent holes must not be covered, blocked or taped over in any way.
- Wheels: The pet crate cannot have any wheels so that it does not roll around in the cargo-hold. If the pet crate has a set of wheels they must be removed and well secured to the outside of the pet crate so that you can refit them after the flight.
- Large pets: Pet crates for large breed dogs that weigh of 132 lbs. like St. Bernard’s, Greta Danes and Newfoundland’s, must have forklift spacers.
- Your pet must be able to fit comfortably: Your pet must be able to standup fully in the pet crate and be able to turn abound completely. Don’t skimp on size; allow for stretch room as well. Your furry probably won’t enjoy the trip very much as it is, so make sure that the pet crate is as comfortable as possible.
- Metal Hardware: Although it is not an IATA requirement, most airlines mandate metal fasteners to secure both halves of the pet crate, and won’t accept plastic fasteners. It is best to use metal rather than plastic, whether the airline mandates it or not; it’s just much safer.
- Add in some cable ties: Use additional cable ties to secure the doors and the corners of the pet crate. It brings an extra level of security and protection. Although it’s unlikely that the pat crate will open up without cable ties, but better be safe than sorry.
- Brachycephalic breeds: Flat faced or brachycephalic cats and dogs require a larger sized crate because of their tendency to breathing difficulties. Check crating requirements with the airline is you have a brachycephalic furry.
Brachycephalic cats include:
Brachycephalic dogs include:
- Shih Tzu
- Chow Chow
- Lhasa Apso
- Shar Pei
- Bull Mastiffs
- Food and water bowls: Food and water bowls must be attached to the inside of the door of the pet crate with cable ties. Both bowls must be refillable from the outside without having to open the door. A non-spill water bowl with a funnel to the outside of the door is best. Secure pet enough food for the flight in a sealable waterproof bag or container to the top of the pet crate. Make it as easy and practical as possible for airport handles to give your furry food and water.
- Leash and collar: Secure a leash and collar to the outside of the pet crate. It is best to first put them in a bag and then secure them.
- Line the pet crate with and absorbent pad: Apart from the normal calls of nature, anxiety could add to the likelihood of your furry weeing in the pet crate during the flight. Making sure that there is an absorbent liner in the pet crate will keep the environment comfortable and dry. Some airlines accept shredded newspaper, but would you like your furry to sit on damp newspaper?
- Live Animal stickers: The pet crate must have ‘Live Animal’ stickers on the top and both sides in lettering that is no less than one inch in text size. There must also be at least two directional (‘this side up’) stickers on the pet crate. In addition, the Shipper’s Declaration stating when last your pet was fed and watered must be adhered to the top of the pet crate. Make sure that nor of these stickers cover any vent holes.
- Your and your pet’s name: Your name, address and contact details as well as your pet’s must be taped on the outside of the pet crate, somewhere where it will be easily found.
- International flights: If your pet will be entering another country you must seal and tape all the required certifications and documents to the outside of the pet crate. Make sure they are well sealed and placed in a waterproof envelope marked “Do Not Remove! Original Documents.”
- Don’t feed before the fight: It’s best to not give your pet any food for at least four hours before the flight, and no water for two hours before. Your pet can take in food and water during the flight when it is more settled. As long as your pet is healthy, there should be no negative effects.
Travel by Rail
Although some small tourist related trains have allowed pets onboard for some time, it is only recently that America’s largest railroad transporter, Amtrak, has started allowing pets onboard some of its trains. This is excellent news for pet lovers, and it is expected that as the pilot program has proved to be a success, more rail routes will be opened to pet travel.
Before you rush off to your nearest railroad station with your beloved furry under your arm, contact Amtrak or any other rail service you’re thinking of using. Not all trains and lines are approved for pet travel.
USDA and state regulations and guidelines applying to pet travel by rail as it does to all types of pet travel. Taking your pet on a railroad journey is not very complicated and the regulations set out by Amtrak are quite straight forward.
- Only one pet per passenger
- Only five pets can travel in a single coach simultaneously
- The pet must be kept in a pet carrier
- The pet carrier must be leak proof and waterproof with adequate ventilation
- The dimensions of the pet carrier must not exceed 19 inches in length, 14 inches in width and 10.5 inches in height
- The combined weight of your pet in the pet carrier must not exceed 20lbs.
- Your pet, in its pet carrier must be placed and kept under your seat
- Your pet must be eight weeks or older
- The rail trip must be seven hours or less
- You must have your pet’s passport and medical certificates on you when you travel
- It currently costs $25 to transport your pet
- You are fully responsible for your pet’s welfare
There are other pet friendly trains in the USA, and all specify that pets must be kept in a pet carrier. Look for pet friendly trains in Boston, New Jersey, New York and Washington DC. Some rail service providers welcome larger dogs as well on condition they are kept on a tight leash and remain on the floor.
Travel by Road
Road is most probably the most common form of pet travel, and thousands of pets take to the road with their owners every day. Many pets don’t just go on holiday or business trips by road; they go shopping, go out into the country and even go to work with their owners.
It’s not unreasonable to assume that owners who regularly take their pets on the road have got the hang of it and know what to do, but apparently that’s not the case. According to the American Automobile Association, over 30,000 road accidents annually can be directly line to an unrestrained pet. Pets that are allowed to freely wander around inside a vehicle are a major distraction for drivers. It only takes a second of lost concentration for a driver to cause a road accident, and the consequences can be horrendous. Unrestrained pets are also likely to get seriously injured in accidents like this.
The American Automobile Association also remind drivers that unrestrained pets become a projectile in an accident. The rule of bodies in motion staying in motion applies to pets as well. Calculate it: if on impact you are travelling at 30 miles per hour with a 10lbs. unrestrained furry companion, your pet will exert about 300lbs. of pressure in the accident. Imagine the injuries to your furry or to anyone else in the vehicle. That kind of pressure can also result in your pet flying through the windshield. It’s just bad news all the way!
Many people think that when they are taking their pet on a short trip it doesn’t really matter. But allowing your pet to wander around while you are behind the wheel at any time is not only a big no-no, but it is also irresponsible driving. You can ensure your and your pet’s safety, as well as the safety of other road users by investing in a pet carrier, pet car seat or pet seatbelt.
Unrestrained pets also pose a danger to first responders. Think about it. If you have an accident, everyone in the vehicle, including your pet is shocked and traumatized. Now some stranger leans into the vehicle trying to help, and what does your furry do? Barks, hisses, bites, scratches. Also, the likelihood of your frightened pet bolting as soon as it sees a gap is very good, and the consequences could be disastrous.
But your dog loves riding along with its head out of the window, and you think it looks so cute? Stop allowing it and keep your dog restrained while you are driving. Did you know that allowing your dog to do that is to expose it to potential lung and eye infections? Just think of all the pollution in the air while you are driving; motor fumes, rubber, smoke, dust particles. There are many other ways that your dog can feel a (healthy) breeze in its face. Take it for a jog or let it run in a park; that is much better for both of you.
But what if your pet is not a frequent road user, and you want it to go on a road trip with you? Here are some tips to travelling with your furry in your vehicle:
- Buy a secure pet carrier: Make sure the pet carrier is solid, secure and well ventilated. There are different types that you can choose from, including wire mesh, hard plastic and soft sided. Choose a pet carrier that will fit comfortably into your vehicle, and be easily secured.
- Choose the right size pet carrier: Your pet must fit comfortable into the pet carrier and it must be able to stand up straight and turn abound when the pet carrier is closed.
- Make a few trial runs: Take a few short trips beforehand to see how your pet reacts and to get it used to travelling in its pet carrier. This will allow you to see if your pet becomes very anxious or is inclined to car sickness.
- Take your pet’s passport with you: When you leave, make sure that you have your pat’s passport and any other certificates and documents you might need with you. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises spoiling your trip.
- Pack a travelling kit: Pack a travelling kit for your furry that you can keep easily at hand in the vehicle. Include food, a bowl, a poop-scoop, disposable bags, paper towel and some first aid items just in case.
- Identification: Secure your name, address and contact number as well as your pet’s name somewhere clearly visible on the pet carrier. Also include these details on a collar around your pet’s neck. You intend to keep your pet with you throughout the trip, but you never know what can happen. Rather be safe than sorry.
- Don’t feed just before you leave: It’s best to not give your pet any food for at least four hours before the leave, and no water for two hours before. Your pet can become anxious and unsettled at the beginning of the trip, and a heavy stomach and full bladder could add to its woes (and yours).
- Plan pit-stops and a feeding schedule: When you are planning your trip work in regular pit-stops about three hours apart where you will be able to take your furry out of the vehicle to stretch its legs and do toilet things. Feed it small amounts of food on these pit-stops and make sure it drinks water as well. Don’t feed your furry in a moving vehicle; it is an invitation to unnecessary nausea and vomiting.
- Keep water in the vehicle: Although you should be able to get water when you stop, you never know what can happen along the way. Keeping at least a gallon of fresh water in the vehicle will ensure that your furry keeps hydrated if you are caught up in traffic jams.
- Never leave your pet behind in the vehicle: Even if you plan on only being away for a few minutes and leave a window open. Just don’t do it; anything can happen. In hot weather the temperature in a vehicle can climb rapidly and become unbearable within minutes, even if it does not feel that hot outside. In cold weather a vehicle can retain the cold, much like a refrigerator.
Pet Car Sickness
Be prepared car sickness. Even if your furry has done well on test runs or is used to travelling locally, car sickness can happen on long trips. Almost 95% of cases of pet car sickness are triggered by stress as opposed to genuine motion sickness. Pets are very sensitive to what is happening around them and can perceive your stress or excitement and well as environmental changes. All of this can be quite confusing to your pet and that confusion can lead to stress.
It is important that you don’t feed your pet a heavy meal for at least four hours before you leave home. That can help greatly if car sickness strikes. Remember that if your pet is in a pet carrier or pet crate in the vehicle, and you have music playing or everyone s chatting, you might not realize you pet is vomiting, and if it is vomiting a lot it could choke. Travel on an empty stomach.
If you are going on a long trip you can’t leave your pet without food because hunger can also cause vomiting. Make regular pit stops every three hours or so and feed your pet small light meals while the vehicle is stationary. Small light meals will make your furry feel comfortable but not weighed down, especially since it is confined to a pet carrier or pet crate and cannot run off some of the meal.
Another important thing to do is to engage with your pet regularly while you are travelling. It is probably not used to being confined for such a long time, so by speaking to it you can ease and stress that might be building up.
Also, unless you pet is used to very loud music playing all the time, keep the music in the vehicle at a lower volume. Animals have a much better sense of hearing than humans do, so the music will be much louder for your furry and that can trigger stress and anxiety too.
Plenty of fresh air is vital to prevent car sickness for anyone. Make sure that the pet carrier or pet crate is situated in a spot where it is well ventilated. Also make sure that it does not get too hot, even if the weather is cold outside. Overheating can cause nausea and car sickness.
Pet car sickness is not fatal, but it can lead to dehydration which can be. It is very important to address your pet’s car sickness immediately that you become aware of it to prevent dehydration.
Not all car sickness will result in your pet vomiting, and there are signs and symptoms that your pet is car sick. These include:
- Inactivity (cats and dogs)
- Restlessness (cats and dogs)
- Yawning constantly (dogs)
- Panting (dogs)
- Lip licking (cats and dogs)
- Trembling (cats and dogs)
- Excessive drooling (dogs)
- Weeing or pooping unexpectedly (cats and dogs)
- Vomiting (cats and dogs)
If your pet does get car sick and starts vomiting you will have to stop the vehicle and take your pet outside. Clean out the pet carrier or pet crate no matter how disgusting it seems. You can put your pet back into vomit, and the stinky vomit smell will fill the whole vehicle in next to no time. Wait until you can see it is feeling better and all vomiting has stopped. Before you take to the road again, see if you the pet carrier or crate to a more stable, well ventilated spot in the vehicle.
If the car sickness continues you will have to take your pet out of the pet carrier or pet crate and keep it facing forward. You do get specially designed pet seatbelts, but if you don’t have these there is nothing you can do while you are travelling. If you are going to keep your pet strapped to the front passenger seat, turn off the airbag. Airbags do pets more harm than good unfortunately.
Open all the windows in the vehicle slightly and equally to equalize the outside and inside pressure in the vehicle. Keep the vehicle interior cool rather than warm, and turn off the music so that your pet can begin to relax and recover. Car sickness will add to any stress that your furry already has.
Once your pet is showing signs of recovery, try to engage it in some gentle play to help it relax further. If it begins to doze off and it’s breathing and heartbeat are regular then “yay!” let it sleep for as long as it wants to because sleep is an excellent remedy for stress.
Pet car sickness can be an unexpected once off or it can become a regular occurrence. If your pet does get car sick on a trip, discuss it with your vet before you take to the road again. There is medication that can alleviate the problem, but always make sure that you give it to your furry under veterinary supervision.
Conditioning techniques can also help, and any good animal trainer should be able to take you are your pet through the process. Also consider if your pet only associated vehicle rides with un-pleasantries like visiting the vet. For owners who only take their pet in the vehicle occasionally, those occasions could hold more dread for your furry than pleasure. If that is the case, let your pet create a positive association with vehicle rides by taking it out to parks or for joy rides more often.
Water travel is the least common form of pet travel and the tourist market in the USA has not yet come up to speed as other forms of pet travel have. There are a number of small ferry that allow pet owners to bring their furries along, and to keep them in their cabin but rules and regulations are set by the ferry owners themselves.
Currently the Queen Mary 2 is the only cruise liner that allows pets on long voyages. There is also nothing stopping you from taking your furry onboard a small boat or yacht and sailing around the world if you want to. The only thing you have to take care of is international laws of entry and exit pertaining to animals.
If your cat or dog remains on the boat while you go ashore in the countries you visit then there is usually no paperwork required. But some countries will not allow you to dock with an animal on board for fear that it may get off the boat and come ashore, intentionally or unintentionally. If a country that you are visiting does have this policy you will be required to anchor out of port.
When you leave with your pet onboard you must have your pet’s passport and all certification s and documents with you at all times. You must also research and keep note of required information and vaccinations of all countries you intend calling on. You must also budget for unexpected costs charged by different countries to allow your pet access.
Requirements for traveling with your pet by river or sea is not easy to track, particularly if you want to travel internationally. There are a lot of grey areas, so take a practical standpoint and ensue that you comply with standard immigration laws and keep your pet vaccinated along the route if you are sailing for a few months or more. Also keep some cash on hand to pay for undocumented exit or entry requirements.
What about Accommodation?
Wherever your destination, it is vital that your furry is as welcome in the accommodation that you have booked as you are. If you are staying with family they are most likely fur-lovers as well so that’s no problem. But if you are staying at a resort or hotel, you don’t want a no-entry sign flashed in your face when your furry makes an appearance.
Pet accommodation (and that’s not kenneling) is becoming big business and many hotel chains and resorts have set new rules and regulations to give their guests what they want. Early pioneers of pet friendly hotels like Kimpton Hotels have been joined by among others the Ritz-Carlton, Aloft Hotels, Viceroy Hotels and Resorts, Virgin Hotels, the Beverly Hills Hotel and Best Western to name a few. Pet friendly hotels and resorts welcome furry guests and offer a wide range of special facilities and treats. Hotels and resorts say an added benefit to opening up to pet accommodation is guest loyalty. Once guests and their furries have enjoyed their stay one, they keep coming back.
And it’s not just hotels and resorts! Many states in the USA have declared themselves pet friendly and encourage tourists to bring their furry family along on vacation. Their tourism departments actively market pet friendly hotels, vacation rentals, parks, pet sitters, and fun things to do with your pet. Their websites also list pet friendly restaurants, veterinarians and other pet services.
From Wisconsin to Texas, and California to Virginia there are well over 55,000 pet friendly hotels and resorts listed, so there is definitely one in the area you’re planning to visit.
Each hotel or holiday resort set their own rules, regulations and pricing for pet accommodation, and the services vary greatly.
So let’s look at what you can expect to find:
- Cost: Cost range from no extra charge (you only pay for yourself) to $25 extra per pet per day. Some hotels and resorts also charge a once off upfront fee of around $75 to $100 when you book pet accommodation. This fee is non-refundable. In most instances pet owners must sign indemnity that hold the hotel or resort, the owners and their staff harmless from all liability and damage suffered as a result go their pet; in other words, if your furry goes on a rampage or comes to harm you cannot hold them responsible. Pet owner are also liable for any damage caused to the rooms or hotel or resort property by their pet, so kitty can’t go clawing the furniture to shred without you having to pay for it.
- Pet species: Cats and dogs are mostly welcome everywhere as are rabbits and guinea pigs. Kimpton Hotels Pet Policy is “if it can walk through the door it is welcome.”
- Pet size: Many hotels and resorts do limit size. Some accept pets under 15lbs. only, while others will go up to 50lbs. There are a few hotels and resorts that do not limit the size of pets.
- Number of pets: Most hotels and resorts limit the number of pets to two per room.
- Pet passport and recent veterinary certificate: These are a prerequisite at all hotels and resorts. Your pet must have all vaccinations up to date and must be recently dewormed and treated for external parasites like ticks and fleas by a vet. If your pet’s does not have a passport and a valid veterinary certificate you will not be allowed to book it in.
- Controlling your pet: All hotels and resorts require your pet to be on a leash and collar, pet harness or in a pet carrier when you are walking on the common property and enjoying open facilities. Most places also state that pets cannot be locked up alone in the rooms while you are out. You brought your pet with you, so take it along with you.
- Housekeeping services: Where housekeeping services are offered, it includes cleaning your pet’s bedding and living area. Most hotels and resorts state that pets must be crated if they are in the accommodation while it is being cleaned.
- Cleaning up pet poop: Guests are expected to pick up their pet’s poop on the hotel property and in the neighboring areas. Most places provide disposable bags for that purpose.
- Aggressive pets: Almost all hotels and resorts state that aggressive pets can be refused accommodation, or you can be requested to remove your pet from the premises if it is causing problems. (But that’s no different to people; if people are rowdy and aggressive any hotel or resort has the right to kick them out).
- Local law and regulations: Due to state laws and regulations, pet accommodation services differ within hotels and resort chains. They have to abide by the laws and regulations set out by the state that they are situated in.
Those are the basic rules and services that you can expect, but pet accommodation comes with many extras depending on where you book in. No place expects you to sit cooped up in a room with your pet, and most go out of their way to keep you and your furry traveler happy. Some of the standard pet services that you will find include:
- A bag of pet treats are often complimentary when you book in
- A pet toy is also often complimentary when you book in
- Pet ID tags are mostly issued when you book in
- Pet bedding is provided by all hotels and resorts
- Disposable poop scoop bags are mostly a standard provision
- Kitty litter boxes are mostly standard provision
- A pet place mat and a food and water bowl per pet are standard in many rooms
Some of the specialized pet services on offer include:
- Specific pet walking routes and trails
- Pet grooming services
- Pet sitting services
- Dog walking services
- Pet friendly restaurants
- Room service pet menus, including snacks and dishes like:
- Muffins: liver, chicken, salmon and banana
- Quiche: with beef, chicken, liver or salmon
- Fish cakes and meat patties
- Bites and cookies: with peanut butter, apple, pumpkin or carrot
- Meatloaf: with beef, bacon and shredded vegetables
- Lasagna: with beef, bacon or chicken
- Terrines: with bone marrow, oxtail, salmon or trout
- Grilled lamb, beef or chicken with rice
- Grilled liver or salmon with rice
- Vegetable side dishes
- You can hire: pet life jackets, harnesses and protective outdoor gear
- Photographic services so that you can make a video of you and your furry
You and your pet can have a really great time. Most important though is that you select your destination and book pet accommodation well ahead of time because pet friendly rooms are limited and pet travel is very popular. You don’t want to be let down!
Pet Carrier versus Pet Crate
Throughout this article we have been referring to a pet carrier and a pet crate and that can create some infusion. Which is what and what is best? You are entitled to get confused because there is a huge difference between the two, and depending on the situation each can be right, and each can be very wrong.
So to make sure that your travel plans don’t get unhinged, let’s understand the differences:
When selecting to buy a pet carrier or a pet crate, the most important factor is the purpose. What do you want to use it for? That will take a bit of analysis and some forward planning, especially if you are new to furry parenting.
Let’s talk about pet carriers:
Most importantly per carriers are made of fabric and nothing else, other than for the fastenings. They are soft and are designed to be carried easily. They are smaller than pet crates and are suited to smaller pets that can be easily picked up and carried around.
But they are not only for carrying because your pet can also sleep in a pet carrier at home, particularly if it is a small breed. Many pet carriers are expandable, most of them are foldable and they are all washable. They are very convenient and are mostly cheaper that pet crates comparing size for size.
Pet carriers are best for in-cabin flights are car travel.
On to pet crates:
Pet crates are made of fiberglass, hard plastic, wire mesh or wood. They are rigid and the smaller sizes can be carried easily. Larger sizes are often fitted with wheels. Pet carriers come in all sizes and can accommodate large dogs.
For the most part pet crates are not easy to carry on casual outings like shopping trips, etc. because their rigid design can make the cumbersome, even in small sizes. They can be used to house your pet indoors, for house training and for any type of travel. Depending on the material they are made of, they can be sanitized. Storage can be an issue if you don’t use the pet crate daily.
They are suitable to all travel and commercially manufactured pet crates are mostly IATA approved. Most pet crates can be snuggly secured in a motor vehicle and they are considered to be safer for your pet than a pet carrier in the event of an accident.
Pet crates are generally more expensive than pet carriers comparing size for size, but they are more versatile, durable and will last longer.
So it comes back to the purpose you want met; pet carrier or pet container?
Although the temptation to give your pet a sedative before any form of travel can be tempting, don’t do it! Not unless your vet specifically recommends that you do. And even if your vet does recommend sedation, think very carefully before you go ahead. Sedatives can have many nasty side-effects including breathing problems, affected heartbeat and unsteadiness. They can make you pet feel ill and uncomfortable, making travel a very unpleasant experience. If you really believe that travel might be too traumatizing for your furry, consider other options like a pet sitter for it while you are away. There is no value in taking your pet along with you if the trip is going to cause it discomfort and potential harm, and have you stressed out.
Animals are always more comfortable in familiar surroundings, so you might think that your furry will miss you terribly, but maybe it won’t be that bad. Yes, of course you will be missed and welcomes back with much fanfare (and possibly you’ll get the stink eye for going away), but a reliable pet sitter in your home will make it much easier to bear.
In the End Pet Travel is about Planning and Practicality
When you think about pet travel, it must be approached much the same as you do taking small children on a trip. Although pets are packed in per carriers and pet crates, you still have to plan everything minutely for your pet. You have to make sure that you bring along extra’s for in-case, their reaction to the trip is mostly unpredictable and you are fully responsible for your pets welfare and safe journey. Pets really are part of the family.
One thing that is obvious is that not all pets will travel well, and not all trips will be better because you brought your pet along. It’s much like taking a toddler to a crowded supermarket. All the hustle and bustle tires the toddler out, the toddler becomes niggly, and you become stressed … you know how it is. Sometimes babies and furries are best left at home in the acre of a loving adult to save them the agony and you the drama.
So when you are planning a trip and are thinking of taking your furry along with you, you must have a practical approach. Unless your pet is a frequent and seasoned traveler, don’t just assume that all will go well. Plan, prepare, listen to advice and when you leave on your trip, be calm and have patience.
These are some things to do, consider and be prepared for when you and your pet go travelling together:
- Visit your vet: Visit your vet before you make any travel plans. If your furry is still a baby or is a senior, discuss your travel plans and the mode of transport and ask you vet how your pet will likely cope. If your pet has known health issues, discuss them as well. Don’t ignore warnings if there are any, particularly if you are intending to fly to your destination. Not much is known about the effects of altitude on animals, particularly those with existing health conditions.
- Be honest with everyone wherever you go: Starting with your vet, through to booking your travel plans, be honest about your pet’s health, size, temperament and everything else. Don’t try to sneak issues through and hope no one will notice. Issue like hyperactivity, aggression, or being highly strung must not be hidden. If anything untoward happens you could end up paying a very high price and possible regret it for the rest of your life.
- Pet carrier/crate training: Don’t introduce your pet the pet carrier or crate on the day of travel. Get it acclimated for at least a month before the time by taking it on short road trips in the pet carrier or crate, and also allowing it to spend some time in there are home. This way it won’t find the whole environment unfamiliar when you travel.
- Be prepared for odd behavior: Unless your pet is a frequent flyer, you might find that anxiety can bring on odd behavior. Your furry might become clingy, or reserved or anything in-between. If you see odd behavior and you are sure that your furry is fine, don’t give the situation too much attention. Just carry on as normal. If you become tense or overly attentive it could add to stress and anxiety.
- Your furry will not be allowed out at the airport: Most airports will not allow pets other than in their pet carrier. The only place where you are required to remove your furry from its pet carrier when you go through security. The pet- has to go on the conveyor belt, while your pet has to be checked through with you. Even at security, your pet must be carried and you cannot put it down.
- Find the pet relief station: All airports are required to have a pet relief station, primarily for service dogs. But your furry can use it as well and it offers a welcome moment to stretch those legs.
- Have your pet groomed before travel: Clipped nails and clean short coat will ensure that your pet does not get hooked, caught up or entangled in anything that can cause stress and injury.
- Always have a recent clear photograph of your pet with you: If your pet gets lost a recent photograph will make it much easier for people to search for it and identify it.
- Research veterinary practices along your travel route: In the event of an accident or emergency you don’t want to waste time trying to find a veterinary practice in the area. Having a list of all veterinary practices with you will save valuable time.
Per carrier tips:
- Food and water: depending on the length of the flight, your pet will need to eat and drink. Make sure you bring a non-spill water container and a small food dish along as well as enough food and water. Keep food and water safely limited while in the air; what goes in must come out.
- Comfort and toys: Packing something that has your scent on it in the pet carrier can make your pet feel more comfortable. A pair of socks or a t-shirt will do the trick. A favorite toy from home that is placed in the pet carrier could also make the flight easier.
- Don’t feed before the fight: It’s best to not give your pet any food for at least four hours before the flight, and no water for two hours before. As long as your pet is healthy, there should be no negative effects. This will lessen the likelihood of your furry needing a toilet break with no toilet in sight.
- Exercise or play before you leave home: A tired furry will fly better. An in-flight nap will take care of unnecessary anxiety, toilet breaks and restlessness, so take your dog for a long walk or get your cat involved in active play just before you leave for the airport. This will get rid of some energy and make the stay in the pet carrier a bit easier.
- Try an ice cube instead of water: During the flight you must keep your pet hydrated, but you also don’t want them taking in too much water. An ice cube serves two purposes: it hydrates and it becomes a temporary toy in the pet carrier. The flight attendants will gladly give you a few extra ice cubes during the flight.
- Comfort and toys: Packing something that has your scent on it in the pet crate can make your pet feel more comfortable. A pair of unwashed socks or an unwashed t-shirt will do the trick. A favorite soft toy from home or a hide chew placed in the pet-carrier could also make the flight easier. Don’t put any hard toys, chews or objects that can cause injury in the pet crate.
- Plan for all kinds of weather: Not only weather, but also air-conditioners. Some aircraft have floor air-conditioning vents that could make your pet get cold. Line the pet carrier well and carry some extra blankets for if you need them. Also check the weather to see what temperatures to expect when you land at your destination.