For many pet owners, it’s time to firm up holiday travel plans. While most people find booking plane tickets and hotel rooms stressful enough, adding pets to the mix creates another level of planning. Whether you’re heading down the road to your parents’ house, or across the country to visit relatives, consider these five tips that will help make your holiday travel plans with your furry friend a piece of (fruit)cake. 

#1: Get your pet cleared for takeoff

Traveling can take a serious toll on your pet’s health. Stress diarrhea, motion sickness, and anxiety can exacerbate medical conditions, so schedule a veterinary exam before taking to the skies or highway. During your pet’s physical, our team will check her cardiac function to ensure travel will not affect a heart murmur or arrhythmia, and her lungs to ensure her breathing sounds clear, as respiratory issues can worsen with flying. Any abnormality we notice should be fully explored and diagnosed before you take your pet on a holiday adventure. 

Before your pet comes in for her appointment, check whether she will need a travel health certificate. Many airlines require proof a pet is healthy, so if you’re planning to cross state lines or country borders, you will need a health certificate filled out no more than 10 days before your trip. It is always best to double check with your specific carrier as some requirements may vary (see below).

#2: Perform a trial run if your pet requires anti-anxiety medication

Many people suffer from anxiety during flights, or feel claustrophobic during long car rides. Similarly, your pet may not be a good traveler, but relief is available for pets who become nervous or anxious while in cars or on planes. We can prescribe supplements and medications designed to relax your pet for a calm, quiet trip—including the cat who yowls as soon as she enters her carrier. 

If you think anti-anxiety treatment would benefit your pet, talk to us. Behavior-modifying medications have greatly variable effects from pet to pet, so we recommend a trial run before your trip. Some pets may seem unaffected, while others may be too sedate. Pets who appear calm at home may suddenly become nervous as soon as they step foot in a vehicle or enter their crate, so go on a brief trip to see your pet’s response. 

#3: Plan your path

Once you’ve decided you’ll be traveling with your pet for the holidays, choosing the route can be a challenge. Are you planning on flying, or would you rather schlep across the country in a rental vehicle large enough for your entire crew? Once you have determined your travel mode, choose where you will stay. Will you spend the night with family or friends, or at a hotel? Not all hotels are pet-friendly, and some may have breed, size, or weight restrictions. For help planning your route and finding the best pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, and accommodations, check out BringFido.

#4: Research pet requirements

You’ve figured out the hard parts—your pet is healthy, you’ve chosen a flight, and you’ve found a fantastic hotel that caters to pets. Not so fast—meeting the requirements for your airline and destination are often the biggest challenge with pet travel. Airlines have restrictions on breed, size, weight, carrier type, flight time, temperature, and health and vaccination status. Before clicking “pay now” for your plane tickets, ensure your pet fits the bill for the airline and your destination. Imagine showing up to the airport with your pup packed and ready to go, only to be told her carrier is too large and she can’t travel. Or, you planned a Hawaiian getaway for the holidays with your two- and four-legged family members, but didn’t account for Hawaii’s stringent health-certificate requirements and learn your pet will be quarantined for months. Always check to ensure your pet and her gear meets all the requirements before hitting the road. 

#5: Pack your pet’s necessities

Packing for your family can be stressful, but it can be a cinch for your pet. Pack the essentials by following this list:

  • Food, with a can opener, if needed
  • Food and water dishes
  • Bed
  • Toys
  • Treats
  • Litter and box
  • Waste bags
  • Leash and collar, or harness
  • ID tags
  • Medications
  • Copy of health and vaccination records

Your pet won’t need 12 pairs of shoes for a two-day trip, but she will appreciate having the comforts of home to limit stress-related gastrointestinal upset. 

Planning a family trip this holiday season? Schedule an appointment with us to clear your pet for travel.