If you're like most dog parents, you're bound to take him on a dog-friendly vacation with you at some point. Whether it's a fully planned outing or a trip to visit family, bringing your pup is one of the best parts of getting away for a while. Dog-boarding facilities can be uncomfortable, in-home pet sitters expensive, and some dogs just can't be away from you. Whatever the reason, taking your dog on vacation can be one of the most rewarding experiences you ever have together.
Before You Go
You'll need a checklist whether or not a pet accompanies you, but nothing helps plan a dog-friendly vacation better than a list of his own items. Here are some of the most important things you need to remember when planning a dog-friendly vacation:
- A crate or pet carrier, ensuring it's suitable for airline travel if you're catching a flight
- A secure collar or harness with proper identification
- Your veterinarian's contact information, should your pet become ill or hurt
- A health certificate, even if it's not required for transportation
- Extra food and water for him
- Dog treats to reward him for being good or distract him if he feels stressed
- A dog-friendly first-aid kit
- Waste bags (leave no trace!)
- His favorite chew toys
- Collapsible bowls that are easy to store and unpack
- Bedding, extra blankets and towels to keep him comfortable and clean
When packing first-aid, per the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMA), think gauze, non-stick bandages, and adhesive tape.
Keeping Him Comfortable
With this checklist, preparing for travel should be relatively easy. Once you have everything you need—and there could very well be much more to pack–you'll want to plan his transportation. Traveling by car? The crate or containment system you use doesn't much matter, but you should use whichever your pet is most comfortable in. Hard-sided crates and carriers are arguably the safest, but there are plenty of seat belts and barrier systems that work just as well in the average vehicle. When traveling by plane, however, you'll have to use an air-approved dog crate. Be sure to check with the specific airline you're flying with, as each one has its own criteria.
If you're not staying with family or friends, make sure your hotel is pet-friendly. More and more animal-friendly hotels are becoming available, so you should have no issue finding a comfortable place for you both to stay. Before travel, however, be sure to check the weather–especially if you're staying in a different climate. Dogs who live in Southern California but are traveling to, say, Michigan during the winter, are likely to need extra cover to make sure they can properly adjust to the cold.
If you're driving to your destination, be sure to plan your stops accordingly too. You don't ever want to leave your dog in the car unattended. Weather that becomes too harsh, on the other hand, should prompt stops only for gas and restroom breaks before you get back on the road. And remember, traveling with puppies will require more stops and attention than an adult dog.
Making the Trip Enjoyable
Although travel certainly takes a lot of time, try to keep your dog on the schedule he's used to at home. Keep his meals regular with respect to time and portions, and provide plenty of exercise. The more familiar you can make your routine, the less likely he is to feel stressed by the travel itself. Airports and hotel lobbies can be busy places, so take the time to make sure your buddy is comfortable and has enough time to use the restroom before relaxing in his crate. Setting him up on his favorite bed or blanket can help soothe any nerves he has about the change in environment while in his carrier. Vacationing globally? Provide plenty of his favorite treats at various checkpoints of the trip.
Because travel is a stressful time for everyone, ensuring your dog is ready to go too is important. You don't want to realize you've forgotten essential items that could make the experience extra soothing. Ultimately, the more you travel together, the easier it'll be to explore with him beyond your own neighborhood.
Katie Finlay is a Los Angeles, CA based dog trainer and writer. She has been working with dogs and their owners both in person and through online content for over six years.