Hitting the road (or the air) with your pets can make your vacation more fun than ever. But even though you can already feel the sand beneath your toes and taste that Mai Tai, remember that Fido or Fluffy doesn't know he's about to take a trip.
First and foremost, determine whether it's wise to bring Fido along at all. Will he love putting his paws in the sand? Or does the beach allow dogs? Will your cat scratch the hotel furniture to pieces? Sometimes the most pet-friendly option is going it alone and letting your pet stay at a clean, friendly kennel, or hiring a pet sitter. If you choose to get a sitter, make sure you leave them with the right information and pet materials. Take a look at a dog-sitter vacation checklist to make sure you're not forgetting anything important.
YOUR FIRST TRIP IS TO THE VETERINARIAN
Many destinations require that your pet has a clean bill of health, certified within 10 days of departure and documentation of rabies vaccination. Your veterinary visit is a good time to ask for international pet-travel advice, get familiar with your pet's medical history or get the number of an emergency veterinarian clinic at your destination.
Now is the time to fine-tune your pet's behavior, too. Any mischievous inclinations could derail your trip quickly. For dogs, perfect their ability to stay, heel and walk comfortably with a collar and leash. Carry pick-up bags and a solution of vinegar-water in case of an accident, but don't reinforce your dog's behavior if he shows anxiety. Just clean up and move onto something new.
FRIENDLY SKIES (AND RAILS) AHEAD
Pet travel can be a little nerve-wracking, but if you've already worked on pet-friendly behavior before you get to the airport or train station, you and Fido should arrive at your destination ready to relax. If you're a nervous flier or worried about traveling, Fido will pick up on it. Remember to stay calm.
Book your trip as far in advance as you can and try to book a direct flight or express train. Each airline has its own cat- or dog-friendly travel rules that you will need to learn. Follow all of them exactly for a smooth trip.
Make sure you understand all crate restrictions well before you travel. Your crate or carrier should be strong and large enough for your dog or cat to stand up and turn around inside. Make sure your pet has plenty of air. Food and water should be positioned to avoid spilling. If your pet is traveling in the plane's cargo area, label the crate with the words, "LIVE ANIMAL," and include your contact information. Create an environment that is welcoming and familiar for your pet. Blankets, toys and treats can help.
BUCKLE UP FOR CAR-TRAVELING FUN
Road trips make for great dog-friendly travel because chances are you and your pup have already hit the road together. You may not have traveled much with your cat yet, but take a few warm-up rides before you go and increase the distance gradually.
Shop for cat or dog car seats far enough in advance that you can both get used to the one you pick. For small dogs, puppies and cats, look for basket-style seats with a comfortable harness. Never let your dog hang his head out the window—the debris could scratch his eyes or damage his throat.
Stop frequently for leg-stretching and bathroom breaks and bring along dry food as snacks or treats. If you leave your pet in a car seat alone for a few minutes, make sure the temperature is comfortable and provide appropriate ventilation. The temperature in a parked car in warmer months or climates can kill your pet in a matter of minutes.
Your dog's behavior at your resort or hotel is particularly important. If there is a problem, the hotel does not have to honor the entirety of your reservation. Keep your dog's behavior in check so that everyone has a good time. Don't leave him alone and don't allow barking or chewing.
When you arrive at your hotel room, set up an area that includes all your pet's comfort items from his crate. Learn immediately where you are allowed to go with your pet and then take him for a walk to establish a routine—and, as always, clean up after him with pick-up bags or vinegar-water if there is an accident.
Including your pet in your summer travel is an amazing bonding experience that you'll remember for a long time. Just make sure you take the right precautions so that the trip is as fun for you as it is for Fido. Happy trails!