There’s a lot to consider when you begin planning a much needed vacation, and if you’re anything like us, your first thoughts in planning your trip are often focused on how to escape as far away from home as possible for as long as possible (and at this time of year, to a destination that is as warm as possible!). However, once we’ve worked all that out and dreamed up all the hypothetical details of the most magical spring vacation we’ve ever had, it hits us. What in the world am I going to do with Mildred the little grey cat while I’m gone? Although our pets are a beloved part of our families, we can’t stay at home forever just to be with them! If you find yourself in a situation where you’re traveling for an extended period of time and it’s not practical to leave your pet behind, or you simply can’t bear the thought of leaving your pet behind, we’ve got you covered. Today, we’re here to talk you through a few tips to planning a great, pet friendly vacation!
Tip #1: Plan ahead!
Traveling with your pet requires a lot of extra preparation, so unless you travel with your pet regularly and are truly a pet travel pro, we recommend that you start planning a few months in advance to avoid last minute hassles while you’re trying to enjoy your trip!
Tip #2: First things first!
As you begin to plan your trip with your pet, we recommend that you break it down into manageable pieces and start at the beginning, just like you would if you were planning to travel by yourself.
Planning my trip, step one: Where am I going?
Some destinations require that your pet have a special health certificate in order to enter the state or country freely, so it’s important to check for any regulations before you arrive. If you’re traveling within the contiguous United States and Alaska (Hawaii has separate restrictions), an interstate health certificate is usually required for travel. This health certificate proves that your pet is healthy and free from apparent disease, and can be issued after any healthy exam at your vet. It typically needs to be issued within 10 days of departure in order to be considered valid, so you’ll need to time your vet appointment accordingly. If you’re traveling outside of the United States, you’ll likely need to obtain an international health certificate for your pet prior to travel. Like an interstate health certificate, this form is usually filled out and signed by your veterinarian within 10 days of travel. Unlike an interstate health certificate though, once these forms are completed, they must be sent via Fedex or UPS overnight to the USDA office in Albany, NY, where they are approved by the USDA and shipped overnight back to you. Every destination country has different regulations, and some can be quite strict, so we recommend that you visit the USDA APHIS website early in your planning process to make sure your pet meets your destination country’s requirements for travel.
Planning my trip, step two: How am I going to get there?
Once you’ve planned destination, your next step is to determine how you’re going to get to that destination. If you plan to drive, we recommend that you take your pet’s personality into account and be aware of how well they do in the car on short trips prior to leaving on a longer road trip. If you feel that your pet may need an anti-anxiety or anti-nausea medication in order to travel comfortably by car, we recommend that you consult with your vet well in advance of your trip. This way, you have time to take small car trips to test out any needed medications prior to your planned travel date. If you plan to fly with your pet, we recommend that you call your chosen airline or check their website for any special travel restrictions for your pet. Most airlines require that you purchase a special ticket for your pet and may have a maximum number of pets that they allow to travel on each flight, so it’s a good idea to make arrangements well in advance. Your airline will also have regulations that determine whether your pet small enough to travel on the plane under the seat in front of you. If your pet is not small enough to travel under the seat in front of you, he or she will need to travel underneath the plane in the cargo hold. If your pet needs to travel in the cargo hold, keep in mind that your airline may also have requirements that specify what brand or size crate is needed for your pet to fly, and might have restrictions that dictate what outside temperatures must be in order for your pet to fly (it can be dangerous for your pet to be in the cargo hold if temperatures are too high or too low). As with car trips, you should also consider your pet’s personality prior to travel by plane, and talk to your veterinarian about any concerns that you may have well in advance of your trip.
Planning my trip, step three: Where are we going to stay once we’re there?
There’s nothing worse than working hard to get your pet to your chosen destination only to have your hotel turn you away when you get there! Make sure you do your research and plan to stay in a pet friendly hotel or rental property. If you have a large dog, beware of size and breed restrictions at hotels that may appear to be pet friendly. It’s better to call the hotel to clarify before you arrive than it is to get there and be turned away! Finally, it’s not a bad idea to do a quick search for veterinary hospitals near your hotel or rental property to make sure there’s a doctor nearby if your pet needs anything while you’re away.
Planning my trip, step four: How are we going to get home?
If you’ve used a travel agent or any of the many online travel search engines to book your flights, it’s worthwhile to double check to make sure that you’ve booked a flight home on the same airline that you traveled out on. If you’re flying home on a different airline, make sure your pet meets all their requirements for travel so you don’t end up stuck on vacation for longer than you had planned!
Tip #3: Pack for your pet.
Our pets need to pack for their vacations just like we do! Make sure you pack enough of your pet’s food to get through your whole trip, or have a store close to your destination where you can pick up more of your pet’s food while you’re away. Sudden changes to your pet’s diet can cause unpleasant digestive upset, so it’s best to plan ahead to ensure that you don’t run out of food in a place where your dog or cat’s usual food is unavailable. You will also need to pack any medications that your pet normally takes, and it’s not a bad idea to bring along a copy of your pet’s medical records in case of emergency. If your pet can’t make it through a day without chewing on a particular toy, it’s also a good idea to pack one or two or your pet’s favorites for your trip!
Tip #4: Ask for help.
If you have any questions or concerns about traveling with your pet, please do not hesitate to call our office. We’ve seen a wide variety of pets of all shapes and sizes travel to a wide variety of destinations, and would be happy to help you find the answers to any of your questions!
The CVH Team