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Twinkling lights, colorful decorations, television commercials throwing toy ads at us … the holidays are here and, for some, a time for holiday travel. Aside from choosing how to travel, you will also need to factor in if your pet will be traveling with you this holiday. Be it by car, airplane, boat, or train, when deciding on the mode of transportation for you and your pet, it is important for you to do your research ahead of time so your holiday travels are smooth and pleasant.

You love your dog or cat, so the first thing you need to consider is if taking him/her on a vacation with you is a good idea or if it would be better for him/her to remain in the comfort of your home. Generally, dogs enjoy being with their humans while cats prefer to be on their own at home. However, if you know you won’t be able to spend a lot of time or give plenty of attention to your dog on vacation, it may be best to call the dog sitter.

The two most common ways to travel during the holidays is by car or by plane. Since both have the potential to turn into a pet travel nightmare, these tips for traveling with your pet around the holidays might be of interest:

By Car

Cars were not designed with our furry friends in mind. Therefore, you must create a safe and comfortable space for your pet when traveling a far distance by motor vehicle.

Dogs — Start by securing dogs in the back seat using pet seat-belts, crates, or the open back of larger vehicles like SUVs. If your dog will be riding in the open back area, make sure to layer the floor with plenty of “squishiness” like dog beds and blankets to keep Sparky from being tossed around when you make turns on the road. Also, have a dog gate or block specifically made for your vehicle type so your dog is not running around the vehicle. A free-roaming dog is a hazard to everyone in the car.

Cats — Most house cats do not travel well in cars. As they will likely become scared and panicky, keep them in an animal carrier that’s secured with a seat-belt placed around the carrier’s front. This will keep it from bouncing around the car, possibly hurting your cat and compromising your safety while driving.

For both dogs and cats, do not let them ride shotgun. The front seat is for humans only and as noted by the Humane Society of the United States, if an airbag deployed while your pet was in the passenger seat (even in a crate), it might injure your pet. 

Don’t let your pet stick its head out of a moving vehicle either! Sure, it can be cute to see their little faces flopping in the wind, but there’s potential for falling out, bodily damage, or getting sick from wind or rain, or even getting hit with flying debris. Also remember, especially on long car trips, to take frequent rest stops for doggie and kitty stretching, food and water, and bathroom breaks.

By Airplane

Traveling by plane this holiday? Will you be taking your pet with you? Here’s a quick check list of things to do WAY ahead of time:

  • Research airlines to see if they accommodate pets.
  • Find out the airport’s security policies for flying pets.
    • What are their weight limits?
    • Check to make sure the airline allows your dog’s breed to fly with them.
    • Will you need to provide ANY papers or certificates from your vet?
    • Can smaller crated pets be “carry ons” and have them under your seat?
    • What are the conditions like if your pet is traveling in the cargo area?
  • Air travel for pets can be pricey.
    • Is the fee only for one way or round trip?
  • When packing for your dog, keep in mind that you can always buy food and treats when you reach your destination. So, bring a smaller amount of food and water specifically for the plane ride. Don’t forget to pack any important pet medications!

Now, a final note before you begin your pet travel plans: while many holiday travelers are planning to stay with family or friends, others are taking a vacation of their own as a home away from home. If this is the case for you, be sure that the hotel or vacation rental is pet-friendly allowing pets to stay in the room. Happy Holidays!

Image Source: Mayan Explore/Flickr

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3 comments on “Tips for Traveling with Pets Around the Holidays”

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Herman Smalls
3 Years Ago

Isn't that the same look George Bush had on his face when he was flying over New Orleans : /


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Michelle Green
3 Years Ago

I think this might be Albie. With Rebecca van der Woude


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Marina Drake
3 Years Ago

If you must leave them at home, have a reliable sitter AND make sure that sitter can get into your house. Call to confirm that s/he has gotten in, too. (Speaking from experience here...a mistake I will never make again!)


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