There are no two ways about it—for many Americans, pets are part of the family, and for some people, pets outrank their own children. According to a recent survey:

  • 78% of respondents considered their pets part of their family
  • 34% of respondents said their pet was their “favorite child”
  • 67% of respondents thought of their pet as their best friend

These statistics make it easy to understand the angst many pet owners feel when making vacation plans. The choices are 1) bring your pet(s) with you, 2) board your pets, or 3) entrust your pet’s life to friends or family members. For many pet owners, this is a no-brainer—the pet goes too, or the vacation turns into a staycation. 

But, before you make travel plans for your four-legged kid, stop to consider whether he would enjoy it. Some pets would be happier having a fun week at the boarding kennel or to stay home with a pet sitter.

If you’ve decided your pet is joining you on your road-tripping adventure, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of safe travels. Here are some tips to keep your trip both fun and safe:

  • Ensure your pet has proper identification — A collar that displays your contact information is essential, and a microchip goes one step further. This permanent form of identification only works if you’ve registered your current contact information, however, so don’t forget that important step.

  • Help your pet be comfortable in the car — Before you head out, take some time to acclimate your dog or cat to the car. Have your pet sit in the car with you for a minute or two and call it a day. Reward good, calm behavior, and try to ignore any anxiety. Gradually increase the time your pet sits in a still car, and when he’s ready, drive around the block. From there, keep lengthening the driving distance until he’s ready to go cross-country with you.

For some pets, motion sickness is the reason for their anxiety while in the car. If your four-legged passenger is anxious or nauseated during car rides, give us a call to discuss your options. 

  • Brush up on car-travel safety for your pet — Cats and small dogs are safest in secured carriers, while larger dogs may do best with a harness. Never let your pet wander unrestrained in the car.

  • Ensure everyone has a place to rest at the end of the day — There’s nothing worse than showing up at your hotel or Airbnb at the end of a long travel day to discover that pets are not welcome. Do your homework beforehand to ensure you’ve booked accommodations that allow pets.

  • Medical records — Don’t forget to pack or download your pet’s medical records, including paperwork showing he is current on vaccines. If you don’t have current paperwork, we’re happy to prepare records for you—let us know. While you’re thinking about your pet’s health, remember to pack a pet first-aid kit if you’ll be traveling by car.

  • Flying the friendly skies— Some pets shouldn’t travel by air for their own safety,  including geriatric or infirm pets on most flights, and perfectly healthy pets on flights where the cargo hold area will be an inhospitable temperature. But, if your air travels with your pet take you through New York City, make it a point to book through JFK airport, whose state-of-the-art pet center, called The ARK, provides top-notch service to pets, horses, birds, livestock, and exotic animals. Your pets may have a better layover than you.

  • Training for distance— Travel by rail is an experience like no other. The seats are large, the electrical outlets are plentiful—and don’t forget about dining in the club car. But until a few years ago, if you traveled by rail, you traveled without tails. Thankfully, Amtrak is now allowing pets up to 20 pounds to ride with their owners, with some exceptions. 

Now that you’re an expert on the ins and outs of traveling with pets, we hope you and yours have a wonderful vacation. Let us know if you need us, and happy tails, um, trails to you and your four-legged family member.