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Holiday Travel With Pets: Your Stress-Free Guide to Winter Adventures

We love including our pets in all the winter festivities, but safety comes first. Discover tips for pet-friendly travel this holiday season, from crowded airports and icy roads to snowy car rides wherever you go.

family cuddling with dog in back seat of car

We all know what the holidays are about: spending time with loved ones, indulging in delicious food, and taking a well-deserved break. And, of course, we want our pets to join in on all the fun.

Sometimes, that means navigating icy roads, dealing with overcrowded airports, and bracing for winter weather to get where we’re going, whether that’s Friendsgiving or a festive dinner party. It can all be a bit much.

Don’t worry; we've got you covered with some tips for making holiday travel with your cat or dog a painless experience for all. Here's how to master traveling with your pets during the holidays.

Pet safety tips for your holiday travels

A lot is happening this time of year, but we can’t lose sight of keeping pets safe during the holidays. From the roads to the skies and all the unpredictable weather in between, let’s take a look at how we can do just that.

  • Road salt and antifreeze: These substances can be toxic to pets. Clean your pet's paws after walks to prevent ingestion of these chemicals.

  • Paw protection: Use pet-safe ice melts and booties to protect their paws from harsh chemicals and cold surfaces.

  • Temperature checks: Regularly monitor your pet for signs of cold stress or hypothermia, especially during long trips or exposure to severe winter weather. Observe your pet's ears, paws, and tail for signs of frostbite after time spent outside.

  • Holiday hustle: High-traffic travel times can increase the risk of accidents. Keep your pet securely leashed or in a carrier to prevent them from getting lost or injured.

  • Bright and warm gear: Opt for bright-colored leashes and collars, and consider a warm pet jacket to increase visibility and warmth during pit stops or outdoor activities. Look for reflective gear options when possible, and invest in booties or socks for their little paws.

  • Stress-free surroundings: Create a peaceful travel space with blankets and their favorite toy to help mitigate anxiety during long trips.

  • Stay hydrated: Cold air can be dehydrating. Offer fresh water regularly to keep your pet hydrated and prevent dry skin.

  • Recognize the signs: Be aware of discomfort or anxiety signals in your pet, such as whining, shivering, or excessive lethargy, and respond appropriately.

Safe car rides with pets and navigating frosty trails

Some dogs love the car, while other pets associate car rides with going to the groomer. No matter their comfort level, car rides between holiday gatherings present unique challenges. Consider these tips when driving amid snowflakes and icy roads to make it a smooth, safe journey.

  • Vehicle readiness: Check your vehicle's antifreeze levels, brakes, and tires to make sure it's prepared for winter roads.

  • Comfort in the cold: Extra blankets and a waterproof seat cover can provide coziness and protection from the chill.

  • Anti-anxiety gear: Consider an anxiety wrap for your pet if they struggle with travel or changes in routine during the busy holidays. Talk to your vet about calming supplements and other solutions if your pet needs additional support.

  • Emergency kit: Pack an emergency kit with extra food, water, and a portable pet heater to combat the winter cold if weather conditions have you stuck on the side of the road.

  • Ice and snow precautions: Shorten your pit stops and keep your pet away from antifreeze and salted pavements that can harm their paws.

Continue reading: Car Rides & Pets: Your Turn-by-Turn Guide to Safe Travels

Dog in Car with Winter Coat

Flying with pets and soaring through snowy skies

Air travel during the holiday season can mean navigating through flight delays and crowded terminals. That’s stressful enough for humans. Keep these points in mind before you head to the airport.

  • Weatherproof crating: Choose a well-insulated crate with plenty of warm bedding to shield your pet from the cold while loading and unloading on the tarmac.

  • Flight delays: Pack additional supplies in case of travel delays, including extra medication, food, and a collapsible water bowl.

  • Calming techniques: Bring familiar items like toys and blankets to soothe your pet's nerves during long waits or loud noises.

  • Early check-in: Arrive early at the airport to avoid the holiday rush and keep your pet away from the busiest crowds.

  • Seasonal health concerns: Discuss with your vet any winter-specific health precautions you should take when flying, especially for brachycephalic and senior pets.

Continue reading: Air Travel and Pets: Navigating the Skies with Your Curious Copilot

Riding public transit with pets (and their wintry whiskers)

Taking the bus, subway, train, or other public transit? Remember these tips, especially with poor weather forecasts on the horizon.

  • Avoid peak travel: Where possible, travel during non-peak hours to avoid overwhelming holiday crowds.

  • Warm carriers: Ensure your pet carrier is appropriate for cold or wet weather conditions and has cozy blankets inside.

  • Dry and covered: Have a waterproof cover for your pet's carrier to protect against snowfall or sleet while waiting for or exiting vehicles.

  • Short waits: Keep waiting times to a minimum to avoid exposure to the elements and the stress of bustling stations.

Continue reading: Riding Public Transit With Your Pet: A Guide for Traveling Tails

Gear up for a safe and memorable season ahead

Warmth, safety, and a little adventure can make this holiday season unforgettable for you and your pet. As always, consult a vet for any concerns you have beyond these general guidelines.

For more inspiration, check out our gift ideas for adventurous pet parents or how to take a perfect fur family photo.

Safe travels and happy holidays from your friends at Figo!

Dylan M. Austin is Independence Pet Group’s highly caffeinated Sr. Content Writer, supporting Figo Pet Insurance, Pets Plus Us, and PetPartners. Based in Seattle, he's usually hanging out with his Chihuahua Terrier mix, Will, and tending to an increasingly excessive houseplant collection.

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