Planes, Trains and Automobiles: How to Travel With Your Dog
A day of travel might not be the cat’s meow, but it might be just the ticket for your dog. I take my dog everywhere with me, whether I am visiting family or going to the beach. Unless it’s impossible, Lulu goes too.
For Lulu, who loves to travel, the journey is more exciting than the destination. This makes it fun for me.
Perhaps you too are dreaming of a get-away to a dog-friendly destination? If so, here are some tips to get the most out of travel--for both of you.
Some Essentials to Keep in Mind
- Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccines. If your travel plans include the great outdoors, or being around new dogs, check with your vet about vaccines such as Bordetella (kennel cough) and Lyme disease.
- Be sure your dog has a rabies tag, and an identification collar marked with your mobile phone number.
- Buy a first aid kit for your dog, with tweezers, towelettes, antibiotic ointments, etc. Amazon, the online retailer, sells well-supplied kits for around $20 USD. They are also available at many pet supply stores.
- Hotels that allow dogs require them to be on flea deterrents.
- If you are driving with your dog over a national border, you will be required to provide a good health certificate, which can be supplied by your veterinarian. Be sure to have your own passport and identification in order.
What to pack
- Have enough food for your journey and all stops. Include extra, in case of an emergency or change of plans.
- Be sure to pack your vet’s number and any medications your dog is taking.
- Some dogs get sick when drinking unfamiliar water, so for dogs with sensitive constitutions, fill containers with the water they are used to drinking. As a last resort, you can purchase bottled water.
- Pack bedding, some towels (for messes), a few toys, leashes, snacks and plenty of bags to collect waste (For biodegradable bags, see www.poopbags.com).
Travel by Car
Automobile travel is by far the least stressful way to go, if your dog doesn’t suffer from car sickness. If you need to transport a dog who suffers from anxiety about travel or motion sickness, discuss the issue with your vet. Medications can alleviate most symptoms and provide some comfort for your dog.
- Have a dog harness for the car. These are sold online and well-stocked pet supply stores. Like seat belts for humans, they provide security in case of a road accident.
- Be sure the vehicle is well ventilated at all times (keep windows cracked while driving!)
- DO NOT LEAVE A PET UNATTENDED IN THE CAR — NOT EVEN FOR A MINUTE. Cars can overheat quickly, and dogs can die.
- Stop every two or three hours to offer your dog a quick walk and fresh water.
- For travel during warmer months, you can use a pyrex container with a fitted lid for the water bowl; freeze the bowl of water before departure, allowing it to melt along the way. That way, your dog can enjoy fresh, cold water.
- Consider using a crate for travel if your dog is used to that. Crates can also be safely secured using a crate harness. If your dog is averse to crates, do not use one; it will only make travel more stressful.
By train or by plane
Amtrak does not allow dogs except those deemed to be service animals. Nor do Greyhound and other major bus lines. Some North American cities do allow animals on local train transit; you should check each destination individually.
Plane travel is tricky. Unless it is absolutely necessary, plane travel is not recommended.
It’s stressful for animals, even those riding in the cabin. In either case they are subjected to long periods without a chance to move around or relieve themselves normally.
Animals placed in the aircraft baggage or cargo holds are sometimes loaded together with large cases and boxes or other animals, to endure less than ideal ventilation and temperatures. So many things can go wrong — including, worst-case scenario, the animal getting lost by the airline. If an emergency requires you to transport an animal by air, remember to get a health certificate from your veterinarian; for air travel, it’s required.
There are precise rules about the size and style of the carrier your animal is required to travel in, and how to position such items as food and water containers that come with the carriers. Food and water needs will depend on how long the aircraft will be in flight and on the ground. If your animal ever must be transported by air, call the airline well in advance and know the list of rules to follow. International travel involves specific health procedures upon arrival at the destination: be sure to learn the details before you consider any such trip.
Finding a place to stay
I am guilty of going where I can impose on a friend or family member. This also means having friends who enjoy the company of a rambunctious, senior Boston terrier — who tries very hard to be a perfect house guest (all she wants is someone to play ball with)!
But most people have to find pet friendly hotels. This is getting easier than ever before. Even many bed-and-breakfasts are pet-friendly — ask!
Here’s a list of pet-friendly hotel chains in the United States (most of these hotels also can be found worldwide, with the same policies):
Best Western: 1-800-780-7234
Choice Hotels: 1-877-424-6423
Hilton Hotels: 1-800-445-8667
Holiday Inn: 1-800-315-2621
La Quinta Inns & Suites: 1-800-753-3757
Motel 6: 1-800-466-8356
Studio 6: 1-888-897-0202
My last piece of advice: try to make sure your dog is on her best behavior. Are you sure she won’t bark as soon as you leave the room to go ride roller coasters at Disney World or hang out on the beach in Miami? As much as you can, take your dog with you on your jaunts. When you can’t, make sure she gets plenty of exercise before you leave the hotel room — and don’t forget those toys! (Those Kong toys work wonders when stuffed with peanut butter — providing hours of enjoyment.)
And do leave your mobile number with the front desk of the hotel so they can get in touch with you immediately. I learned this the hard way after Lulu barked non-stop when I left our bed and breakfast to go to the beach without her.
With a little planning and preparation, your trip can be a vacation — for everyone involved.