For many families, summer means family vacations which means traveling. Whether it’s to the beach, Disneyworld, or even just to a local campground or lake, the chance to break away from the daily grind can be irresistible. For those of us with pets planning for even a long weekend away also involves deciding how to care for our pets, or – if traveling with a pet – how to accommodate his or her needs.
For those considering bringing their pets along for the fun, there are some considerations that should factor into your pet’s travel plans.
Consider the destination
There are many factors that weigh in when determining if a destination is right for your pet. There is the obvious concern as to whether your destination includes pet-friendly accommodations and whether your pet is healthy enough to make the trip, but you must also consider how happy or comfortable your pet will be on the journey.
For example, travel plans involving the great outdoors are often great choices for those with energetic dogs, while a “no pets policy” at a favorite theme park may mean long hours at a strange kennel or destruction to your hotel room while you are away.
When you consider including your pet in your travel plans, ask yourself some of the following questions:
- Do I have a plan for dining out – such as finding restaurants that allow dogs on patios or a way to keep Fido happy in a hotel room while I’m away
- Will my pet get to participate in the activities
- Do I have the right gear to protect my pet from the sun, heat/cold, and insects
- Will someone be able to help me with my pet when I need to go into a shop or gas station
- Is my pet relaxed during times of travel and able to handle long periods in the car or in a carrier while flying
- Will I have time to attend to my pet’s needs during vacation
It may be that you’re traveling to see family members who also love pets (or have one or more of their own), in which case, planning travel may be a snap. Keep in mind that your pet may take time to become comfortable with other animals and people. So prepare for introductions in a neutral and low stress environment.
Home, Sweet Home
When traveling to unknown destinations or those that are not pet friendly, the best plan may be to arrange for a stay in a boarding facility or to hire a pet-sitter. For pets who are prone to stress in new places, finding a trustworthy in-home pet sitter may be the perfect option. In many cases the natural choice is a good friend or relative, however you need to take into consideration the following:
- Consider your friend or family member’s comfort level with your particular pet
- Is he/she familiar and comfortable with your pet’s daily care needs – for instance if your pet needs medication on a regular schedule, or has a fear of storms, is the caretaker comfortable with managing these additional responsibilities
- Will your friend or family member provide the same level of care as you would provide.
If you’re doubtful about any of these consider hiring a professional pet sitter or finding a boarding facility.
It can seem scary to entrust your pet’s well-being to a complete stranger. Checking references of a boarding facility or pet sitter, as well as to touring the facility or meeting the caretaker of your beloved pet far in advance of your travel date is a good rule of thumb. During these visits, find out how much one-on-one time your pet will get and what he/she will receive, in terms of daily care, interaction, and exercise. Again if your pet requires special attention such as medications make sure these individuals are comfortable attending to these needs. Also discuss the “in case of emergency” policy. Obviously boarding with your veterinarian provides a certain level of comfort in knowing that if an emergency occurs your pet is able to quickly receive the attention he/she needs. However, if your veterinarian does not offer boarding be certain that any individuals who take care of your pet are aware of your wishes in case of emergency.
In case of emergency
Remember whenever you ask someone to watch your pet (or even while travelling) it is important to prepare a concise list of emergency contact information. None of us want to think about the “what-ifs” that could occur while we are gone but knowing that you are prepared for such occurrences will help keep everyone at ease. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has put together a great template which you can find here to make certain you are including all the necessary information for your pet during an emergency.
Don’t forget to ensure your pet’s vaccinations and preventives are current (with records as proof), as they will be required at any reputable boarding facility and, in certain cases, at hotels or airports. In addition to vaccinations, ensuring your pet is micro-chipped and that the associated contact information is up to date will greatly increase the likelihood of re-connecting with a lost pet should the worse happen.
If we can be of any assistance in the travel preparations you need to make for your pet, please contact us.