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Holiday travel with your pet

It’s inevitable—at some point, you may have to travel with your pet during the holidays. There are some challenges to overcome, but it can be fun to bring your fur baby along. (Worrying if the sitter is doing their job or if your pup is terrified at the boarding facility just doesn’t sound like too great of a time for either of you.) So, here are some holiday travel tips to help make your (and your pet’s) season even more merry and bright.

Determine Lodging and Accommodations

First and foremost, you must find out if the holiday host is cool with you bringing along your cuddly plus one. Put out the vibe, see how they feel, and be willing to book a hotel if you sense hesitancy. If they give you the green light, ask them to think for the next few days about rules and expectations. Maybe the rules seem to stringent, or perhaps you aren’t sure if your pup can behave—cut it there, book a hotel.

Editor’s Note: Would you like to bring your cat along on vacation but aren’t sure if you’ll find lodging? These tips for finding cat friendly hotels will encourage you to bring Fluffy along.

Transportation Considerations

Should you travel by plane, train, automobile…or some unusual method of getting where you need to be? Think about the pros and cons.

Plane travel. It’s fast, efficient, and you don’t have to be the one behind the wheel. However, some airlines have strict pet rules. American Airlines typically won’t allow dogs to fly when there’s a connecting flight involved, but otherwise they are accommodating. JetBlue’s JetPaws program caters to dogs, and you’ll even earn extra flight points for bringing one along.

Train travel. It can be exciting, and Amtrak allows dogs up to 20 pounds on certain trips. Check in advance for specifications and restrictions.

Car travel. Taking a car means more control if anything were to go wrong. (Maybe you need to swing by the vet, or perhaps you have to head home early.) Cars are the safest bet when traveling with a pet. If you’re unsure of how your pet will behave during a long car trip, take him along on smaller trips to ease him into it.

Tip: Always travel with vet records. Depending on your preferred method of travel, records may be required. Also, in case of a pet emergency you have them on hand. The Figo Pet Cloud gives you access to pet records while on-the-go.

Comforts on the Road…or in the Air

Before hitting the road, you’ll want to pack a few pet essentials.

Road trips are easier if you can make it happen, and a good doggie car seat will be your saving grace. For everyone’s safety, be sure to use a pet barrier and harness (or belt) while driving to minimize distractions and to keep your pet secure. Regardless of how well behaved your baby is, they may not be able to resist the urge to leap into your lap. The K&H Bucket Booster seat from Petsmart allows for a better view out the window, and has a solid five star rating.

Bring along a favorite toy to comfort them with the scent of home and to give them something to keep them busy. Other distractions can prove to be quite useful if anxiety or a generally antsy temperament creeps up. And consider bringing along a Thundershirt for particularly stressed pups.

Keep snacks on hand too, and collapsible water bowls. If flying, you can fill up a water container once through security. Dogs can dehydrate quickly so it’s important to prevent that.

Potty Time

A topic so sticky, it deserves its owns section. On the road, allowing your pet to relieve themselves really isn’t a problem. However, if you’re navigating through an airport, it’s not easy and pet relief areas aren’t always around. Staying in a hotel several floors up, or at your light sleeping relative’s house could be tricky, too. While there’s no great answer, the best one would have to be the Shake Dog Potty Relief System, a foldable grate which captures waste in an easily cleanable receptacle. You can fly with it—doesn’t sound glamorous, but it’ll do.

During Your Stay

Make sure you’ve brought along a blanket to help your dog adjust to their home away from home. A t-shirt could work if you forgot to bring their typical snuggle item. Try to keep all the familiar items from your house around, like food, water, treats, and you, of course.

Keep the conversation open with your hosts, if there’s an issue, discuss it before it becomes a problem. Discuss preferred potty spots, off limits areas and other potential issues.

When bidding adieu, leave a ‘thank you’ trinket for your hosts, for not only welcoming you, but your sweet baby. Being good guests mean that this could become a yearly holiday tradition. Most importantly, enjoy the experience!


Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.

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