Family vacations are no longer just for two-legged children. According to a study by AAA and Best Western International, more than half of U.S. pet owners take their cats and dogs with them when they travel.
If you’re looking to hit the road or fly the skies with your canine companion or feline friend, we've got tips to make the trip as smooth as possible.
Road trips with Rover
Trial run. Before embarking on a long trip, take some shorter drives to see how your pet responds. Does he get anxious? Car sick?
Buckle up. About 30,000 accidents are caused each year by an unrestrained dog in the front seat, according to the AAA. Pets freely wondering the vehicle aren't only a distraction to the driver, but they're also more likely to be injured in the event of an accident. You can help ensure a safe trip by restraining your furry friend with a pet seat belt, pet car seat or travel crate.
Keep heads and paws inside. Your dog may enjoy sticking his head out the window, but riding this way could cause ear damage or expose your pet to lung infections, according to the ASPCA.
Prepare for the worst. Attach a second tag to your pet's collar that includes the address and phone number of where you'll be staying during your trip. Also, bring your pet's medical records along in case of an emergency.
Pit stops. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises pet owners to stop every two to three hours for your pet to use the bathroom and get some exercise.
Hydrate. The ASPCA recommends keeping a gallon of cold water on hand to ensure your pet stays sufficiently hydrated during the trip.
Don't leave them alone. On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes, which can be deadly. If you'll be visiting a destination where pets aren't allowed, leave them at a pet-friendly hotel — or at home — instead of the car.
Flying with Fluffy
A baggage handler talks to a dog waiting to be loaded into a plane at the Miami International Airport. (Photo: EQRoy/Shutterstock.com)
Fit to fly. If your pet is very young, very old or not in good health, it's best to leave the critter at home. Also, some breeds don't travel well in cargo, such as snub-nosed dogs like pugs, which are prone to breathing difficulties. Many major airlines no longer allow such breeds to fly in the cargo hold.
Do your research. Regulations and fees vary depending on airlines and whether your pet flies in the cabin or as checked baggage. Be sure to check an airline's history of flying animals. Incidents of pets being lost, injured or dying have increased in recent years. Currently, about 15 major carriers provide monthly incident reports to the DOT, which list pet-related incidents.
Consider your airline options. Animal Airways will help you plan out your flights, walk through the paperwork and explain the different options available.
Pet papers. If you're traveling outside the country, find out what vaccinations your pet will need and if quarantine is required. Consult this database of animal import requirements for more information.
Prepare the carrier. Purchase a kennel that has room for your pet to turn around and stand without hitting its head. If your pet hasn't traveled before, spend some time getting the animal used to being in the carrier. Airlines have different crate dimension requirements, but the USDA requires the following: food and water dishes, "Live Animal" stickers, upright arrows and bedding.
ID tags. Attach contact information to both your pet's collar and its carrier.
Exercise. Before the flight, play with your cat or take your dog for a walk. The more tired your pet is, the more likely it is to sleep during the trip.
Relax. Cesar Millan recommends using lavender oil as an "association scent" to help your pet relaxed while flying. In the weeks before the flight, he suggests putting a drop of oil on your hands at feeding times or before walks. Once on board, “the positive association will allow him to calm down and remain relaxed.”
Other pet travel tips
Consult your veterinarian before embarking on a trip, especially if your pet hasn't traveled before or if you have any health concerns.
Keep a familiar blanket or toy with your pet to help it feel more comfortable during the trip.
If your pet gets nervous when traveling, consider getting a Thundershirt. These snug-fitting shirts target pressure points, and veterinarians often recommend this drug-free option for animals that suffer from anxiety.
Book pet-friendly hotels, and look for destinations where you're allowed to take your canine companion or feline friend. GoPetFriendly.com offers a wealth of information on these topics and can even help you plan your road trip.