9 Best Tips for Traveling With Your Pets
Baumgart says it’s best to start traveling with animals when they’re young, meaning it’s not a bad idea to take a new puppy or kitten on a road trip if at all possible. “An animal that gets used to car travel from childhood will not perceive it as a stress,” she says.
3. Research your accommodations’ pet policies.
Picture this: You just drove seven long hours to North Carolina and are ready to relax only to discover your dog is about 30 pounds over your hotel’s weight limit for pet entry. Eek.
Review the details of your hotel or Airbnb’s pet policy before booking your accommodations. “Knowing that your friends stayed in a given hotel with their affenpinscher is not enough,” Baumgart tells SELF. She recommends doing your own research about a property’s pet restrictions, such as breed or weight policies.
“If you have more than one animal, you should find out if several animals are allowed, and be sure to find out if you can leave your pet unattended in a room,” Baumgart says. Your best bet is to call the receptionist for the most up-to-date information.
4. Pack a pet-specific supply kit.
Karen Lynn C. Sueda, doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) and board-certified animal behaviorist in Los Angeles, advises checking with your veterinarian for their specific recommendations on this one. But generally, you’ll need all the basics: Food, medications, leash, collar, bowls, water, kitty litter, litter box, toys, waste bags, and something to catch waste if necessary, like All-Absorb potty pads (Amazon, $20). For example, potty pads can be handy for lining the bottom of your cat’s crate so they can use the bathroom before you reach your destination. You can discard used ones when you stop for driving breaks.
5. Prepare for emergencies.
“Before your trip, make sure your pet’s identification or microchip information is up-to-date in the event that you and your pet become separated,” Sueda says. “You may also want to consider a pet GPS tracker, which can help locate your pet if they become startled and run off or get lost.” This one from Bartun easily fits on dog and cat collars (Amazon, $90).
Speaking of pet tech, Sueda is a fan of the Pawprint app, which makes it easy to retrieve your pet’s medical records—from medications to vaccination schedules—right from your mobile device. “This is incredibly important if you run into an emergency situation or your pet has a health issue while traveling,” she says, adding that your pet’s vaccinations and parasite-prevention treatments should be current before traveling.
6. Expend some of your pet’s energy before the trip.
Give your animal an opportunity to break a sweat before you load them into your car for the drive. “Taking a long walk with your dog, enjoying a game of fetch, or blocking out interactive playtime with your cat can help expend energy, get rid of nerves, and tire your pet out for long car rides,” Sueda says. Although there are plenty of good reasons why physical activity is great for your pets, one is that over time it may actually help them be more well-adjusted for new stressors like road trip travel. Dogs that were less physically active tended to be more fearful in new situations compared to those that participated in weekly training or activities, according to an August 2020 study published in the journal Nature.
Increasing your pet’s physical activity in the days leading up to your trip (coupled with other calming strategies that we’ll talk about later) can make the drive a better experience for you and your pet, Sueda says.
7. Look into calming pet products or even anti-anxiety medication.
First, we want to be clear that you need to be cautious about using products of this nature without asking your vet first. For example, your dog or cat could get very sick from ingesting or being exposed to essential oils. (Even a few drops on your dog’s or cat’s skin can be harmful, according to VCA Hospitals.)