How to Travel With Your Pet on a Long Trip

Let’s face it: it’s hard to leave our sweet fur babies when going out of town. Although pet travel has gotten a bad rap in recent months, about 40% of dog owners reported taking their pets on trips in 2016, up from 20% in 2006. Americans love their animals.

Although it’s hard to leave pets at home when leaving town, sometimes it feels even more daunting to bring them with us.

But it doesn’t have to.

If you are gearing up for a long trip, whether by car or plane, you can bring your pet with you. You just need to prepare.

Check out these five steps to a hassle-free trip:

1. Book your accommodations in advance

Whether you decide to stay in a hotel or rental property, you’ll want to book in advance. Pet-friendly rooms tend to fill up fast. Make sure to call and confirm your pets are allowed.

Same goes for booking your transportation. Many airlines and trains have a set capacity for pets.

2. Expose them to new places

Before you hit the road, you’ll want to get your pet accustomed to new places. This is especially important if you have never traveled with your pet before.

According to Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, certified applied animal behaviorist, some animals are terrified of strangers and noisy places.

If you plan for your dog to accompany you on your journey, start exposing him to new environments. This means taking him anywhere from the local Lowe’s Home Improvement store to new parks. The goal is to expose your dog to new environments so he becomes used to the feeling of being in an unfamiliar place prior to entering an airport.

3. Plan what you need to pack

Don’t wait until the last minute to pack for your trip. About a week out, start making a list and gathering the items that will make for a good trip. Collapsible cups and calming chews are essentials for smooth trip.

To keep your load light, you might even consider shipping a small portion of your pet’s food to your destination via Amazon Prime instead of bringing it with you, especially if you are flying and have limited space.

Some other items you might consider packing in an easily accessible bag:

    1. Wet wipes for dirty paws (especially, if he is sitting in your lap).
    2. His favorite toy—not all of them.
    3. A collapsible water bowl— this is especially important if you are traveling in the car. You never know when you could break down and hot summer temps can be lethal to pets.
    4. A bed sheet to cover your back sheet if you are driving and your pet sheds.

4. Get their energy out

The day before your escapade, you’ll want to get your pet’s energy out. In other words, make them tired.

Take them for a long (very long) walk the night before your trip so that they are tired the next day. You don’t want them wound up in transit.

5. Calm their nerves

It’s not uncommon for your dog to be anxious on a long trip. Thankfully, there is more than one remedy for calming anxiety in pets.

Chamomile essential oil
Chamomile essential oil can be a good option if you prefer a natural alternative to drugs.

Sleeping with your pet the night before
This is definitely not for everyone, but sleeping with your pet may reduce anxiety in pets and their owners. Just make sure to have the proper sleeping arrangements to experience the benefits of snuggling up with your fur buddy. Make sure have enough space to stay comfortable and undisturbed all night long.

CBD oil
Another natural alternative to drugs is CBD oil, which can reduce anxiety in pets. Just be sure to consult your vet on dosage guidance.

Anxiety vest
Anxiety vests work under the theory that pressure applied to your pet’s torso causes a calming effect similar to swaddling a crying infant or hugging a distressed person. If your pet experiences anxiety regularly, you may want to consider investing in an anxiety vest.

Three additional tips for air travelers

  1. Feed your pet a small breakfast or no breakfast at all (if they are used to eating in the afternoons only) the morning of your trip. This will help avoid any accidents on the plane.
  2. Locate the pet relief areas are in the airport you're traveling to prior to arriving. This will keep you from stressing out and your pet from having an accident.
  3. Have your paperwork ready. No one likes being held up at the airport.

Last but not least, have a smooth ride and enjoy being with your pet on vacation!

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