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The Ultimate Guide to Stress-Free Traveling with Your Dog

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

Traveling with your dog can transform a regular family vacation into a memorable adventure for everyone involved. However, to ensure a seamless journey, careful planning is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore health and safety considerations, dog travel crates, identification tips, traveling by car or plane, and practical advice for pet-friendly accommodations.

Health and Safety for Dog Travel:

Before embarking on your journey, prioritize your dog's health and safety with the following measures:

  • Make the right decision:

Since travel isn't the right choice for every dog, carefully consider whether it is best for your canine buddy to stay behind. To help with this decision, ask yourself if your dog gets car sick easily and if it likes crowds and exploring. Sometimes leaving your dog with a trusted kennel or pet sitter is best.

  • Be Mindful:

Travelling dogs may need more careful attention and care, especially during the first few days of the trip. More frequent potty breaks may be needed. Familiar smells will help ease nerves and assure your pet. Take along familiar toys and other items.

  • Seek Medical Care:

Schedule a checkup with your veterinarian before an extended trip. Ensure vaccinations are up-to-date and carry a copy of shot records. Health certifications are crucial for airline travel! Consult your vet about your dog's mental and physical readiness for travel. Ask your vet if your pet is a candidate for a behavioral supplement to help nerves during travel. Figure out where the nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic is located in your city of travel.

  • Pack Essential Supplies:

Bring a supply of your dog's regular food, bottled water, doggie duty bags, wet wipes for any necessary clean-ups, and necessary medications. Be prepared for emergencies by knowing the contact details of the nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital. Program these into your phone, along with your regular vet's information.

Dog Travel Crates:

A dog crate is a key component for safe travel, whether by car or plane. Consider the following features when choosing a crate:

  • Size: Allow enough space for the dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.

  • Strength: Choose a sturdy crate with handles, grips, and no interior protrusions that might hurt your dog.

  • Leak-Proof: Ensure a water-tight bottom covered with absorbent material, to handle any messes.

  • Ventilation: Select a crate with ventilation on opposing sides to allow unimpeded airflow.

  • Labeling: On the exterior, attach a "Live Animal" label and arrow stickers indicating the upright position. Mark your contact details in case anyone needs to reach your about your pet.

Dog Identification:

Increase the chances of recovering a lost dog by following these few identification tips:

  • Equip your dog with a sturdy leash and decent collar with identification tags.

  • Include your dog's name, your name, phone number, and proof of rabies shots on the tags.

  • Consider buying a wide fabric collar, customized with your dog's name and your phone number where you are most easily reached.

  • Consider a permanent form of identification, such as a microchip. Microchips can be scanned at veterinary offices and the local animal shelter. Some rescue organizations have a scanning tool as well. (Make sure the information on your microchip account is current!)

  • Bring a recent picture of your dog and a copy of their health records, including vaccinations.

Traveling By Car With Your Dog:

Prepare your dog for car travel with these tips:

  • Never allow a loose dog to ride in the back of a truck. If your dog travels in a crate in the back of a truck, make sure the crate is secured so it doesn't slide around.

  • Familiarize your dog with the car by letting them sit in it, under your supervision, without leaving the driveway.

  • Prevent carsickness by allowing travel on an empty stomach, but ensure they have plenty of water.

  • Keep the car well-ventilated, especially if your dog is in a crate.

  • Consider a dog seat belt, car seat, or crate to ensure your dog's safety.

  • Avoid letting your dog hang its head out of an open window, to prevent eye injuries.

  • Stop frequently for exercise and potty breaks, cleaning up after your dog each time.

  • Never leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle, especially in the summer.

Flying With Dogs:

Air travel requires careful planning to ensure your dog's well-being:

  • Visit your veterinarian before the trip for required certifications and vaccinations.

  • Call your specific airline ahead of time to get information and ask questions. There may be size and weight limits for travelling animals. Your pet, based on size and other attributes, maybe be restricted to only certain parts of the plane: cargo, main cabin, etc.

  • Desensitize your dog to crowds, like would be encountered at the airport.

  • Make sure your dog knows basic commands: sit, stay, off, and come.

  • Purchase an airline-approved crate.

  • Train your dog to relax in a crate. When you first get the crate, leave the door open, put a familiar blanket inside, and place a few treats in there. Acclimating your pet to a crate while you are home reinforces that the crate is a safe space.

  • Verify your airline's specific regulations and services, and make airline reservations for your dog.

  • Understand federal regulations regarding pet travel, and comply with airline-specific guidelines. Click here for information about flying with pets from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Traveling With Dogs by Train, Bus, or Boat:

These modes of travel can be very restrictive for animals, so first seriously consider if it would be possible to drive or fly instead.

Carefully research these alternative modes of transportation:

  • Research policies of train, bus, or boat operators regarding dog travel.

  • Note restrictions.

  • Check cruise line policies before planning to take your dog on a cruise.

Ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip with these practical tips:

  • Plan bathroom breaks, teaching your dog to relieve itself on various surfaces.

  • Bring a supply of poop bags, a leash, and games or toys to keep your dog entertained.

  • Consult your veterinarian about using bottled water to prevent stomach upset.

  • Use collapsible bowls for food and water, introducing them to your dog before travel.

Dog-Friendly Hotels and Lodging:

Choose pet-friendly accommodations with these considerations:

  • Research hotels or motels that allow dogs, considering size restrictions.

  • Consider a motel, that has immediate access to the outdoors.

  • Respect other guests, staff, and property rules when staying at a hotel. Barking dogs at a hotel isn't acceptable.

  • Avoid leaving your dog unattended. If the dog must stay alone in the room, consider leaving it in a crate, to avoid damage to the room. Even the best behaved dog may get into mischief in an unfamiliar place.

  • Inquire about designated walking areas.

  • Puppy-proof the vacation home or room, ensuring it's safe for exploration.


Remember, traveling with a pet requires careful planning and consideration of your dog's well-being. By following these guidelines, you can create lasting memories of joyful adventures with your furry companion. Happy travels!

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