If your holiday travel includes bringing your furry family, you might want to invest in a little extra preparation and planning to make the trip smoother for both you and your pets. Each method of transportation presents with different obstacles, but careful planning can help you negotiate those obstacles with cookie cutter precision and reindeer fast speed.
First of all, no matter how you plan on getting to your destination, the most important initial step is making sure your pup or kitty is properly and even overly identified. This means microchipped, collared and tagged and even travel tagged with your destination address and phone number. Make sure the collar is adjusted properly, so not too loose and also not too tight. Double check that your critter’s microchip is still readable and correctly positioned. This can be performed by most veterinary offices or animal shelters.
Show your veterinarian a little Christmas cheer by getting your pet in for a wellness check that includes vaccinations if necessary. This is an important step especially if you are traveling by air or crossing state or country lines. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with any relevant paperwork for these occasions. It’s also a good idea to make sure your pet is healthy enough to travel. If you think traveling is stressful, just imagine what it can be like for your little pals. We all know that stress can trigger illness, so making sure your pooch or cat don’t have any underlying health concerns before dumping on the stress will make everyone’s sleigh bells ring.
Hitting That Wide Open Road
If your furry friends are taking the backseat on a road trip this winter, it’s going to take more than just loading them up and taking off. Make sure they have a safe and comfortable area free from loose luggage, holiday treats, presents, etc. These not only possess an ingestion risk but also can topple over on them when taking those curves.
If your pet is an inexperienced passenger, a well-ventilated crate would be the best answer. This prevents Rover or Fluffy from roaming where they shouldn’t be (the driver’s seat) and also protects them from falling objects. Some more anxious animals may be more comfortable in a crate, especially if it contains their normal bedding and toys. Help ease them into traveling by taking them on several short trips in the months and weeks leading up to your vacation so that they can get their ‘car legs’ underneath them.
More experienced canine riders may prefer a pet seat belt rather than crate. This will provide them with a better vantage point of the winter wonderland and may make them a more jolly passenger. Again, if your pet is new to the seatbelt, a few practice runs earlier in the season will make using it easier for you and him. We have also prepared a guide on how to select the right dog restraint.
Pets can also travel safely in SUVs or hatchbacks by using a pet gate that keeps them confined to the back of the car. The pet gate needs to go from the floor of the car all the way to the ceiling to properly corral them. If this is your preferred method, don’t stack any luggage back there with them as things can shift during transport.
Whatever your method, it is best to never leave your pet free to roam in your car, no matter how experienced they are. With longer trips and winter driving conditions sometimes being unpredictable, a loose pet can cause unwanted disturbances as you go on your merry way.
Also, pack an emergency kit for your pet, just as you would yourself. This should include food, water, and extra blankets for bedding or warmth. That way if your trip ends up taking longer than expected or you encounter car or weather troubles, your critter will be safe and cared for.
Taking to the Skies
If air travel is on your list this holiday season, nothing can be more helpful than speaking with your airline prior to the trip. They will identify the exact paperwork and crate specifications your little buddy will need to quickly clear that holiday security line.
If your pup or kitty is riding in the cabin with you, make sure he is confined in a safe and proper crate or carrier. You don’t want to be chasing as escapee through a crowded airport. Also, make sure your crate has proper and easily viewable identification on it in case it somehow gets separated from you. Keep your pup on a leash whenever he’s out of the crate, which should only be for potty breaks.
If your pet is too large to fit in the cabin, please consider leaving them at home. In most areas of the country, it is too cold to have pets in the cargo area and most airlines won’t accept them. If leaving them home is absolutely not an option for you, make sure you have a proper crate that is large enough for your critter to turn around in and sturdy enough to protect him from other luggage. Provide him with absorbent, warm bedding. You can also provide water by freezing some in a dish. This helps prevent spillage and your animal might enjoy the entertainment of licking the ice cube. Over-identify your crate with your personal information as well as your destination’s information. You should also mark ‘Live Animal’ on there so airport personnel know to handle with care.
Pet Hotel versus Traveling
Finally, if you are traveling but leaving your furry family at home, there are a few things you can do to make this transition easier.
If your pet is going to a boarding facility, make sure they are up-to-date on vaccinations. This will help prevent contagious illnesses they may come in contact with. If your pet is new to this type of vacation, consider boarding him for short stays prior to the main event to get him more comfortable. It’s a good idea for you to check out the situation beforehand as well. This will help you make the choice between a stand-alone boarding facility, veterinary clinic, or someone’s in-home facility.
If boarding doesn’t seem to be your cup of hot chocolate, you can always have someone come into your home. This let’s Rover and Fluffy maintain their at-home comforts while still being cared for on a daily basis. Make sure you find someone you trust and that comes well referenced. Again, a trial run prior to the trip is never a bad or naughty idea.
Make the most wonderful time of the year even more wonderful and stress-free with careful planning. If you are traveling with your beloved pet this year, it is especially important to plan to ensure that everyone arrives at their destination safely and joyfully. Planning ahead means visiting your veterinarian and knowing the paperwork guidelines for clearing airline security. It also means practicing to make sure your pet can make the trip as comfortably and merrily as possible.