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With pet-friendly restaurants, bars, and lodging on the rise, many people (read: not just Paris Hilton) are opting to bring their four-legged friends along on vacation. And, sure, it sounds like a great idea (long dog walks on the beach, no pet-sitting fees), but first, you’ll want to make sure your pet can handle the ride.
Whether you’re headed on a short road trip to the mountains, taking a trans-Atlantic jaunt, or even moving to the next state over, here are a few bits of advice on how you can get Kitty or Fido set for your journey.
Before You Go
Consider Your Pet’s Personality
Before going ahead with reservations for two, really think about your pet’s age, health, behavioral issues, and how he might react to traveling. A dog that loves car rides even to the vet, for example, will probably do better than one who hides under the bed every time your friends come over.
And if you’re not sure how he’ll take to the road? Charu Suri, a travel writer who blogs on Butterfly Diary and treks with her dog Butterscotch, advises to start off your companion’s traveling experience slowly. “Take your pet for extremely short trips to see if he can tolerate the car,” she explains. Start with a 10-minute ride, then gradually build up your journey.
Look for Lodging Carefully
From hotel chains to B&Bs, pet-friendly lodging is getting a warmer reception almost everywhere. Find your perfect place by checking out review-centered websites like BetterBedandBreakfasts.com, TripAdvisor, or Oyster.com, or pet-specific sources such as Petswelcome.com.
That said, definitely double-check the pet policies before you book—some places charge hefty deposit fees, have weight restrictions, or require that pets be supervised at all times. Also look for clues that the place really means pet-friendly. “If it’s a good place of lodging, they’ll have snacks, a welcome pack, and a bowl of water for the pet, in the lobby at any rate,” says Suri. Ideally, your lodging should also provide a list of recommendations for nearby groomers, animal hospitals, and pet-sitting services.
Go to the Doctor
A few weeks before you leave, make an appointment with your vet to be sure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date, Suri recommends. Ask about any potential health risks in your destination (Lyme disease, for example) and what can be done to prevent them. And, if your pet is prone to anxiety or stomach issues, ask about pet medications he can take pre-travel.
You’ll also want to study up on where you’re headed to learn what regulations are required for animals. Some countries require additional vaccinations or microchipping your pet, and others have quarantine laws—all of which you’ll want to know about long ahead of time.
If You’re Driving
Before going on a road trip, get your pet used to the car. Do a few trial runs in his carrier or in his harness connected to a seat belt. A prepared pet is more likely to be a relaxed pet, which means a much more pleasant car ride for both of you.
Also, watch his tummy before leaving. “No matter how well traveled the pet, it’s not a good idea to go for a long car ride with a heavy stomach,” says Suri. Instead, stop about every two to three hours for a stretch outside your vehicle and a light treat or biscuit. Also, make sure to give him a good drink of water to stay hydrated—and bring bottled water to avoid possible digestive issues.
If You’re Flying
Planning to cruise at 37,000 feet with your pet? Check out Petfinder’s list of pet-friendly airlines to pick the best carrier. (WestJet, for example, is the cheapest, and Frontier is best for multiple pets. Although, unfortunately, the animal-only luxury liner, Pet Airways, no longer flies).
That said, most U.S. airlines allow pet passengers, just research the polices before you book. TSA has specific requirements, and each airline will have its own regulations on size, weight, and carriers—as well as its own set of fees. Finally, keep in mind that pets may not travel as cargo in certain weather scenarios, so if it’s scorching hot or freezing cold at your departure or arrival city, call the airline before you go.
Want more? Check out some of our favorite pet-friendly sites:
Tell us! Have you traveled with your pet? Any advice for first-time furry travelers?