Going on vacation with your pooch or tabby offers a host of pampering possibilities these days. Many hotels now offer pet amenities, catering to both the canine and feline clientele. But before you get too lost in the excitement of your vacation getaway, make sure you’re taking everything into consideration. You need to get there somehow. While you may do just fine on the road or in the air, how will your pet handle the adjustment?

First off, ask yourself if your pet is suited for travel.

  • What’s your pet’s temperament?
  • How healthy is your pet for travel? Does your pet have a physical condition or illness?

It’s a good idea to speak with your vet to determine if your furry companion should travel. If the vet doesn’t anticipate any problems, your next step is planning how to travel safely with your pet.

Before the big trip, arrange for a smaller trip to the vet. Your pet will definitely need a medical checkup and an up-to-date vaccination record. The veterinarian will also provide your pet’s health certificate which you’ll need if you’re traveling out of the country, or for interstate travel.

Car travel is the least stressful for most pets, and, as air travel with pets becomes increasingly complicated and pricey, taking the road can offer a great alternative. However, pet safety and comfort need to be considered no matter what the mode of travel.


Once your pet’s medical requirements are in order, make sure you pack these essential items for a safe trip.

  • Pet ID tags: Many pets are lost and remain unidentified because they are not wearing tags. Keep a tag secured to your pet’s collar that has on it both your home address and phone number.
  • Health certificate: In addition to the health certificate, bring your pet’s medical records, prescription medication, and the vet’s contact information.
  • Food and water: Running out of food can wreak havoc on your pet’s digestion. If you’re unable to find the same brand at a store, switching to something else can cause stomach problems for your pet. Avoid this issue by packing more than enough food and water. It’s better to have too much than too little.
  • Familiar items. Create a comfortable environment by surrounding your pet with familiar toys and grooming supplies, and even their favorite blanket.

Plan your accommodations well in advance. Look for animal-friendly lodging along the way and at your final destination. Preparing ahead of time saves you the hassle of searching for pet-friendly places once you’re on the road. Check out petswelcome.com for pet-friendly hotels.

Car Travel Safety Tips

  • Bathroom Breaks: Just as you appreciate stops to stretch your legs and use the restroom, your pet welcomes these same travel requirements.
  • Food and Water: Keep the food familiar—instead of serving a new brand of pet food—and meals to a minimum. Water breaks are also important. You can also provide your pet with ice cubes to “drink” from, which are more soothing for your pet’s digestion.
  • Sedatives: You may want to discuss the option of a sedative with your vet. A dog may be more accustomed to road travel, but cats are a different story. Whether dog or cat, if you think your pet may become highly stressed in a long car ride, a sedative can be a calming solution during the trip.
  • Backseat Travel: A dog lapping up the air with its head out the window may look cute, but the habit is highly unsafe. Safely secure your pet in the backseat, away from flying objects that could cause injury. Practicing backseat travel for your pets ensures their safety as well as yours—pet carriers or pet barriers keep animals secure and safe and also protect you from distraction.
  • Car Safety: On a hot day, your car can reach over 100 degrees—quickly. Leaving the windows slightly rolled down doesn’t provide a safer environment. It’s simple: don’t leave your pet in a car unattended.

By Air

Pet travel is becoming more and more complex by air. Major airlines charge high fees to allow pets onboard, and air travel, though generally safe, is not without its risks. Animal injury and deaths have risen, with a reported 39 animals deaths in 2010 in commercial air travel, according to the Department of Transportation. Temperatures in cargo areas can get too hot for pets, and most carriers won’t allow cats and dogs on the aircraft in extremely hot or cold temperatures.

If you decide to travel by air with your pet, there are steps you can take to ensure smooth travel.

Pet Air Travel Checklist

  • Non-stop: Non-stop is ideal, since this puts the least stress on your pet. If you can’t get a direct flight, arrange for the least layovers and transfers. Sedation is not generally recommended for air travel since high altitudes can have negative effects on your pet.
  • Mealtime: feed your pet six to 12 hours before boarding.
  • Temperature: Extreme temperatures can be dangerous to pets, making it difficult for them to breathe, especially for certain breeds of dogs and cats. Check with your airline about cargo travel, since there may be pet restrictions during certain seasons.

International travel requires that you have an international health certificate (IHC) for your pet which must be completed by an accredited Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) veterinarian. The IHC must be endorsed by a Veterinary Services (VS) office in your state, in order for the certificate to be considered valid. When it comes to traveling abroad, each country has its own specific requirements. Depending on your destination, type of pet, and how you’ll be travelling, requirements vary.

Questions to Consider

  • What are the restrictions for importing my pet?
  • What documents do I need to import my pet?
  • Does my pet require special vaccinations?

For more information, the USDA provides a reference, by country, for international pet importing requirements.