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Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Traveling with Pets During the Holiday Season

Traveling with Pets

Traveling during the holiday season is generally a very stressful experience and adding pets into the mix certainly doesn’t help. How you get from Point A to Point B is largely up to you when traveling with pets, but make sure to factor in your animal’s well-being when choosing the most convenient mode of travel. For instance, while a quick flight might be easier for you, a big dog is probably better off with a cross-country roadtrip. Before you go anywhere – and this goes without saying – but dogs and cats alike need collars and external ID at all times. Also, before takeoff, make sure they are microchipped and your pet’s microchip registry information is up to date.

Also consider your destination. Will your pet be comfortable there? Is your host willing to house you and your dog or cat? Will other animals in the house get along with your pet? Is your pet healthy, vaccinated and spayed or neutered? Do the other animals also satisfy this criteria?

If your pet is likely to suffer no matter the mode of travel, they are probably best left at home. Have a trusted friend or family member look after them. You can also check them into a pet hotel. Many of these kennels are cage-free. They have a daycare-like structure that allows them to socialize and get plenty of exercise during the day. Lots of playtime definitely helps keep separation anxiety at bay.

Read on for more tips on keeping holiday traveling with pets as easy as possible for both two-legged and four-legged family members!

By Plane

Pet owners with cats and smaller dogs are able to keep their animals with them during a flight. You will have to pay extra fare to bring them with you – probably about $100 each way. Pets and their carriers cannot exceed 20 lbs. We recommend using a soft duffle-style carrier. They must remain calm and not obstruct the aisle. Speak to your veterinarian about helping your pet stay mellow during your flight. Try lining the carrier with one of their favorite blankets or a tee-shirt that smells like you.

Flying with a service or emotional support animal falls under a different set of rules. They will not require an additional fee to fly with you and are protected under the Air Carrier Access Act or ACAA. Certain airlines demand written proof of disability from your doctor. Make sure you are familiar with service and emotional support animal requirements well in advance of your flight.

[Update: As of January 2021, the Department of Transportation no longer requires airlines to accommodate Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). As a result, nearly all airlines have dropped this accommodation. Psychiatric Service Dogs are still accommodated, but it is harder to get that designation. More information is available here.]

By Train

Only select railroad companies allow regular pets aboard. Amtrak currently allows some pets so check before you assume you can bring your cat or dog with you. As always, service animals are permitted to travel with their owner.

By Car

Taking a long car trip with your pet is very different from a quick trip to the vet. Animals might vomit from motion sickness. They also might have an accident in your vehicle if you don’t take enough rest stops. During breaks, make sure your pet gets a chance to eliminate, eat and drink water. Look up dog-friendly restaurants and pet-friendly hotels along your route. Pet-friendly hotels include Motel 6, Super 8 and La Quinta Inns & Suites. Check Yelp or for more suggestions on dog-friendly restaurants and places to stay.

Dog owners might also want to invest in a harness that attaches to a seat belt to avoid injury during sudden stops or collisions. During these autumn and winter months, make sure your pet is warm enough. Again, speak to your veterinarian for tips to keep your pet happy and healthy during a long drive.

Traveling with pets during the holidays is likely to be a little stressful. However with the right preparation, anxiety and discomfort can be kept to a minimum.