Our pets are part of the family, and for many people, a vacation just isn’t the same without them. Pet-friendly hotels, rental homes, and campgrounds are available across the country—in fact, many cater to four-legged guests. “We provide a dog bed, bowls, a treat, a dog towel, and a toy,” says Hana Pevny, innkeeper of the Waldo Emerson Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. If you decide to take Spot along, here’s a plan of action.
Prep your pet
Visit the vet to be sure your animal is in good physical condition to travel, update any vaccinations, and get a certificate of health and vaccination records, which you’ll need for many airlines and when crossing state and country lines, says Gary Weitzman, DVM, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society. Make sure your pet has proper, updated ID, too.
You’ll likely need a crate or carrier for a safe (and perhaps required) way to house your animal during travel; it can also provide a cozy spot in a new environment. Is a crate new to your pet? Leave it open at home with treats or toys inside prior to your trip, says Dr. Weitzman.
Don’t forget to pack for Spot: Bring food, medications, treats, a leash, toys, and ideally, his bed.
On the road or in the air
If you’re driving and your pet isn’t used to car trips, prepare by going on shorter drives together in the weeks leading up to your vacation. Do your best to plan your routes so you’ll know when and where you can stop for walks and “bathroom” breaks. When in unfamiliar environments, make sure to keep your pet on a leash with a secure harness or collar, says Judy Morgan, DVM, founder of Clayton and Churchtown Veterinary Associates in New Jersey.
If you’re flying, check with your airline for rules. Many restrict brachycephalic (short-nosed) dogs in cargo because they are more susceptible to changes in humidity and temperature. Pets that can comfortably fit in a carrier under your seat can typically go in the cabin with you, but larger animals will most likely go in the cargo hold. Cargo travel can be very stressful for animals and has its own risks; you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth bringing your pet along.
Keep them calm
Have a nervous pet? Talk to your vet. Pheromone collars or sprays or a drop of lavender essential oil rubbed onto their coat can help, says Dr. Morgan. Something cozy and familiar, such as a blanket that smells like you, can also be therapeutic.
Once you’ve reached your destination, try to maintain your walk and feeding schedule—a sense of normalcy will make pets feel at ease in their home away from home.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter