Is your pet an "escape artist"? Or perhaps a most reluctant travel crate occupant? Sometimes it's just easier to bring Fluffy and Fido along for the full ride. Here are 13 tips for traveling with your pets.
1. Before any big trip, you have to make a short trip -- to your vet's office that is. A standard physical will ensure your pet is in good health and ready for travel. The staff can give you advice on how to treat any potential anxiety or motion sickness your animal may experience. And your vet can also ensure that all their vaccines are up to date and that their microchip identification information is current.
2. Remember, you might need more than a vaccination certificate to cross the US-Canada border. Customs officials, in theory, have the right to ask for a letter from your vet declaring your pet to be in good health and disease free. This right is rarely exercised, but if your pet is, say, wearing a cone to keep her from licking a small wound, it would be a good idea to come prepared with a medical note.
3. Your vet or their staff can also trim your pet's nails so they are short and rounded before the trip. This might sound like an unusual travel tip but a good pedicure (make that a pet-icure) is key when it comes to convincing Fluffy or Fido to enter their travel crate without drawing blood.
4. Throughout the trip, temperature control will be critical for your pet's comfort and safety. They should never be left in a car with the windows rolled up. Likewise, they should never be left outside when you are not there. When you are in an unfamiliar location, you may not realize how quickly the evening temperatures can reach freezing or how harsh the rain can be.
5. You may feel very silly declaring an old bag to be "Fido's suitcase". But assigning your pet a small backpack ensures that all their medication, toys, treats, dishes, and food are easily contained in one easy-to-carry package. It's one of the most important things you can do to make your adventure an easy one. You can carry all of their supplies in one go when walking into a hotel and still have both hands available to manage their leash and the doors.
6. The comfort and familiarity of your pet's favourite blanket or bed is an indispensable addition to your gear. If it's too large or awkward to fit into their travel bag, consider sewing a piece of elastic on one corner so you can easily loop it around your wrist for easy carrying.
7. There is a plethora of tempting travel gear just for pets, and a few carefully-selected items can help your trip go smoothly. But remember to introduce your pet to these new items several weeks before your departure date. It is challenging enough for an animal to relax in a new environment without being forced to contend with new dishes that don't smell like home. "Sea to Summit" makes durable collapsible bowls (actually designed for hikers and backpackers!) that work great as food and water dishes. The "Gulpy" brand of pet water bottles is wonderful for car travels and long walks.
8. One item that doesn't have to be familiar? A fun new toy (assuming you brought along a few old favourites for the comfort factor as well). The novelty of a new amusement will distract your furry friend from their anxiety.
9. Pack more food, treats, and, um, "poop accessories" than you think you'll possibly need. At some point in the trip, you'll be very glad that you did.
10. Carefully read hotel policies. Often so-called "Pet-Friendly" hotels will restrict their policies to dogs under a certain size, or have a one-time cleaning surcharge that can be up to $50.
11. Before you check in for the first time, take your dog for a long walk and give your cat lots of extra reassuring pets and cuddles in the car. A rushed check-in will raise their anxiety. Calm, relaxed pets make for good hotel guests and first impressions matter on both sides!
12. Ask for a hotel room in a quiet area with quick access to an exit. This allows for easy walk breaks and keeps an excited dog away from other guests in the lobby area.
13. Finally, show your appreciation and respect for the staff who have to clean up after you leave. Something as simple as laying a circle of newspaper underneath a food dish or a litter pan to catch any stray debris makes everyone's life easier.
To read more about pet-friendly hotels, check out The Top 6 Pet-Friendly Resorts In The US.
Traveling with pets can be a fun and rewarding way to see the world, and with a little extra advanced planning, the experience will be smooth and stress-free for everyone involved.