Your Guide To Traveling With Your Dog
Turns out you can take your furriest family member on adventures outside your backyard.
While studying at the Royal Veterinary College in London, Jamie Richardson, BVS, fell in love with a black Labrador retriever named Ralph, and once she finished school, was faced with traveling back to her native U.S.
“That wasn’t the only time I flew with him,” Richardson, who works as chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary in New York City’s West Village, says. “I ended up moving to Hong Kong, adopting a Chihuahua named Freddie, and then moving them both to Bermuda and now New York City.”
In addition to domestic and international flights, Richardson frequently brings Ralph and Freddie along on road trips when she visits her parents in Upstate New York, a three-hour drive from home. Here, she offers guidance on how to travel with a dog via all the most popular modes of transportation.
How To Travel With a Dog in a Car
Hitting the road with your dog can be a great way to travel, but many wonder how to travel long distances safely with your dog in the car. First, make sure your dog is comfortable on car trips. If you are currently only going to the vet and groomer in the car, try to create more frequent positive associations for your pooch (like venturing to the dog park and to the pet store for treats).
Like humans, dogs can also get car sick, which can make car travel a headache for some pet parents. “If your dog gets sick after a 30-minute trip, talk to your vet about medications that may help him or her,” Richardson suggests. “Think about when you’ve gotten car sick; you don’t want your pet to feel the same way.”
Consider keeping your dog enclosed in a travel carrier or wearing a seatbelt harness designed for dogs in cars, she adds. “And keep them well hydrated and comfortable by packing a collapsible travel water bowl, plenty of fresh water, and make sure to stop frequently.”
Along your route, make sure to stop frequently for potty breaks and walking breaks to allow both you and your pup to stretch your legs. Take a look ahead of time at pet-friendly hiking trails so you can get an extra bit of vacationing in while on those breaks.
RELATED: The Right Way to Hike With Your Dog
Traveling With Your Dog on a Plane
It is a good idea to consult a vet long before you purchase an airline ticket. When traveling internationally, it can often take months to get all the vaccinations necessary for your pooch, so plan ahead. And if you have some extra money to spare, consider hiring a pet travel company to handle the process for you.
Dogs must be kept in carriers on planes. One thing to keep in mind when you fly with your dog is the size of the dog and the restrictions per individual airline. Most airlines will allow you to bring a dog on board if he or she weighs 20 pounds or less and is able to fit in a carrier under the seat in front of you while in flight.
If your dog weighs more than 20 pounds (and usually 100 pounds or less) she may need to be labeled as excess baggage and checked at the same time when you check your suitcases, which always comes with a fee. Not all airlines have this option, as it can be dangerous for your pet. If it’s not absolutely necessary to take your dog on your flight this way, consider leaving her at home with a trusted pet sitter or a local boarding kennel where she’ll be cared for and kept safe.
“The exception to that is if your dog is designated an emotional support animal,” Richardson says. “In that case, you won’t need a crate, but they still cannot block the aisle. You will also need documentation from your vet.”
Service dogs can also be taken on planes, and must accompany the handler in the space in front of the handler’s seat and cannot block the aisle or an emergency exit. If you’re taking a service dog on a plane, it is a good idea to keep these rules in mind and select a seat ahead of time that will give your dog room to be comfortable and safe on the flight.
Before booking any flight with your dog, consider the best types of flights that will keep your dog most comfortable. Try to book overnight flights and exercise your dog during the day before your flight so they may sleep while on the plane and maintain their circadian rhythm. If your dog must travel with you in the cargo hold, consider the time of year you’re traveling and try to book during months with milder weather conditions so it’s not too hot or too cold and uncomfortable for them.
Can You Take a Dog on a Boat or Cruise?
Pre-planning always comes in handy when thinking about the best way to travel with a dog. If you’re thinking about going on a ferry, contact the ferry company before arriving with your dog to make sure pets are allowed on board.
When it comes to cruise ships, most cruise lines do not allow dogs on board, with the exception of service dogs (even emotional support dogs are often prohibited). It is always best to call ahead and inquire about specific rules and regulations before your trip.
What About a Train?
U.S. train company Amtrak allows small dogs on board as long as they are in a pet carrier, and the dog and the carrier weigh no more than 20 pounds total. However, regulations can change depending on if your Amtrak train is crossing over international borders.
Can You Take a Dog in a Taxi, Uber, or Lyft?
Traveling with dogs in a taxi can be a bit tricky. The best option is to call the taxi company in advance and ask about their specific pet policies. Some will allow small dogs in carriers, while others may ask for the dog to stay home.
Uber has a specific pet-friendly ride option, which can be requested using UberX by pressing the “tap to customize button” and swiping over to Pet Friendly Ride on the app. With this option, pet owners can bring one small animal on the ride, such as a dog or cat.
To avoid a cleaning fee, it is best to be safe and bring a proper safety carrier for your dog to ride in (or a leash or harness if your dog is too large for a carrier) and be courteous by bringing a blanket for the seat if your dog sheds.
Lyft leaves it up to the individual driver. The best thing to do is to book a ride using the app and then call the driver as they are on their way to you to ask if they are open to allowing your dog in the car. Since the cars are usually the drivers’ personal vehicles, it will be up to their discretion.
Service dogs are always permitted on Uber and Lyft trips, regardless if it is a pet-friendly trip or the preference of the driver. Depending on federal and local laws in your area, your service animal may be able to accompany you at no extra cost.
Finding Dog-Friendly Hotels and Lodging
These days, it’s common for pet parents to want to bring their beloved pets everywhere they go. While pets aren’t allowed everywhere, a simple phone call to a hotel can answer any questions regarding their pet policies.
The BringFido app is a great resource for finding pet-friendly hotels and lodging, and most vacation rental companies (such as Airbnb and VRBO) offer online filtering options which are helpful in selecting places to stay while traveling with your dog in tow.
Other Tips to Safely Travel With Your Dog
Maintain a routine.
Routine is key when traveling with your dog, Richardson says. “Pets thrive on a sense of routine, so try to stick to their home routine while you’re away by feeding them and taking them out for walks at the same times as usual.”
Plan and prioritize meals and water breaks.
Make sure to always have enough food and fresh water for your pooch when traveling so you don’t find yourself in a pinch without the nutrients they need. A dog travel bag that has food packets, food and water bowls, a few toys, some treats, and anything else your doggo needs is super helpful to have on-hand.
Plan ahead for emergency situations.
Make sure you’ve already researched pharmacies and veterinary clinics in your vacation destination and have the pet poison helpline (855) 764-7661 or ASPCA Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435 in your phone’s contacts. If your local vet has a 24/7 on-call number, it wouldn’t hurt to also have that ready to ask non-emergency questions to the vet most familiar with your dog’s health history. Get yourself a pet first aid kit (or make your own) and bring that along in your car or carry on bag just in case.
Ensure your pet is properly identifiable.
Have your dog microchipped if she isn’t already, and always attach ID tags with your contact information to her collar so she can be easily found if she gets lost in an airport or runs off during one of your bathroom stops.