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Dog sitting on a half packed suitcase

Packing for pets on vacay

Packing for a pet can be as tedious as getting a child ready for vacation, but a little organization and the right tools make the job simpler. It only takes one successful trip to nail down your go-to steps, then it’s smooth sailing. Sometimes, pet owners learn the hard way, but we’re here to help prevent any hiccups!

Pre-Packing

Before you begin the packing process, make a list on your computer that can be printed every time you get ready to hit the road with your pet. Do this at least a week in advance, as you go about a normal day, and just fill in items that you use on a daily basis.

Keeping your suitcase separate from your pup’s is more helpful than you might imagine—because who wants to rustle through their carryon in the overhead bin, mid-flight, for a squeak toy or a snack? Overland’s Dog Travel Bag features plenty of compartments for medications, toys and snacks, as well as lined food carriers, a placemat for mess free eating on the go, and collapsing bowls. Of course, this is a great organizational tool for cats and other pets, too.

Pet Travel Essentials

Typical essentials for your pet include:

  • Food/treats/water
  • Medications
  • Leash
  • Favorite Toy
  • Crate

Things you may have not thought of include:

  • Vet records (the Figo Pet Cloud allows you to download them to your phone)
  • Refillable water bottle for air travel
  • Vaccination tags
  • Anti-anxiety tools like compression shirts
  • Pet specific first aid kit
  • Lint roller
  • Information for a reputable vet at your destination

Entertaining Your Pet

Whether you are flying, driving or riding a train, your pet is going to spend more time sitting still than he or she probably prefers. Think of things that keep them occupied, while relatively contained. Chew toys and catnip are solid, obvious choices, but that only works for so long.

Change things up frequently—snuggle for a few, giving them a nice massage, then play with them a bit via a gentle game of toy tug-of-war.

On a plane or a train, or even just in the car, lift them up so they can gaze outside—this can temporarily stop a fidget fit. And the good ole go-to: snacks. Use food sparingly, it’s never good to rely on calories for entertainment. Break treats into smaller bites—its amazing how one tiny taste of something delicious can distract!

Pet Travel Safety Tips

Traveling abroad or even domestically means navigating unfamiliar terrain and people. Take every precaution possible, then sit back and enjoy exploring.

  • Consider carrying emergency antibiotics.
  • Try to travel with another human buddy that can help keep an eye on your baby.
  • Review any US Embassy alerts on your destination.
  • Microchip your animals. One in three pets will become lost at some point during their life, and microchipping is a solid solution.
  • Be attentive of climate and how this may affect particular breeds—Bulldogs and Pugs are at high risk for heatstroke, and small, thin breeds at risk for hypothermia. Dress your dog appropriately in the winter, with boots and a warm coat. And when heat is the issue, reduce long term exposure, making sure they’re getting enough fluids.
  • Pack your leash, and always keep them on it when out, so that they don’t run into traffic or take off.

Preparation is key to a great trip, so packing is an important part of your journey. The more you pack for your pet, the easier it gets. Methods are established, and favorite tips and tricks are discovered. Just give yourself time to think daily needs through, and if you’re planning a vacay in a rush, enlist some help from other traveling dog owners.


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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