Tips for traveling with pets over the holidays

Planning to travel with your dog or cat this holiday season? These tips from a former airline attendant will help make the journey as smooth as possible!

Pets are family. I have been blessed with five dogs over the span of thirty-three years and each one of them has traveled with me because I couldn’t imagine leaving them behind. Some trips were cross country from New York to California. Others were international from the U.S. to Europe. And some were in my car or on the subway. While the destination was always different, the traveling tips I implemented for each adventure were the same! I’ve outlined them below to help you on your next travel expedition with your fluffy friend.

1. Bring out the pet carrier before the trip

Find a carrier your (and your pet) love and leave it out with their favorite toy or treat inside. Encourage your pet to go in and out of it, and practice carrying it so that your pet gets familiar with the feeling of being lifted off the ground. The more comfortable they become with the bag at home, the less anxiety they’ll have being in it when you travel.

2. Add an extra layer of comfort

Your pet doesn’t have the luxury of using the in-cabin facilities to relieve themselves on a plane, and can’t easily tell you to “pull over at the next rest stop”. Check to make sure your carrier has a waterproof liner and, if not, make the investment. Keeping a clean liner in the carrier is a must and having one that is easily washable will make the trip easier on you and more comfortable for your pet. You can also add a towel for added protection and I would recommend packing extra towels in case your pet gets motion sickness.

3. Motion sickness happens – but can be reduced

Some pets experience motion sickness when riding in a car or flying. Motion sickness can stem from stress or anxiety, so try to create positive experiences in vehicles as often as possible. Make special trips to the dog park, a friend’s house, or the beach! Start with short trips and increase the length slowly as your pet starts to feel more comfortable. Watch for signs of motion sickness (yawning or drooling) and crack the window to increase ventilation. Fortunately, most pets outgrow motion sickness, so don’t give up on bringing your pet in the car!

4. Be mindful of food

Be mindful of what you are feeding your pet the day of travel. Don’t try any new food or treats and try to keep meals as light as possible. To prevent sickness, no food should be offered within six hours of departure and no water within two hours of a flight. You can give your pet an ice cube or two on car rides to provide refreshment and entertainment!

5. Get them ‘dog tired’

Because your pet will be in their carrier for the duration of the trip, try to tire them out before you go. Take them for a walk or to the dog park. Play fetch with them inside if time doesn’t allow for an outdoor adventure. When it’s time to go, whether it be in the car or to the terminal, make sure to go for a walk and let your pup use the bathroom. Don’t forget your plastic bags to properly pick up and dispose of the waste!

6. Keep ‘em in the bag

If you’re traveling by air, keep your pet in the carrier from the time you enter the terminal until you reach your destination and exit the terminal. You can and should reach in and pet your pet, as this will offer them comfort. For extra security, make sure the leash is attached to the safety ring inside the carrier at all times and that zippers are pulled to one side to prevent your pet from sneaking out!