If you are new to traveling with your doggo or apprehensive about an upcoming trip, you should know two things: You're not alone, and we're here to help.
Once you finish this article, you will know what to research, how to prepare your dog's food, how and when to feed and water before going to the airport, how to plan potty breaks, and what your first stop should be once you reach your destination.
Step 1: Preparing for the upcoming trip
Preparing for an upcoming trip with your pet can go a long way to ensuring the trip is fun for everyone. In the preparation stage, there are several things to think about:
- Visit the vet — "It is always wise to visit your vet before your trip to ensure your pup is healthy enough to travel." — Ben Team, SeniorContent Editor, K9 of Mine
- Plan for food — "When traveling to a new city with your pet, you have a few options: you can pack your dog's food, go to the pet store when you arrive, or have it shipped to your destination via an online pet retailer." — Samantha Schwab, Resident Pet Expert at Chewy
- Prepare documents — "Identification! Proper ID is ultra important when traveling." — Dana Humphrey, AKA "The Pet Lady"
"Make sure you have a health certificate and microchip. A health certificate is needed for your pet to fly. It is always best to have your pet microchipped; this may be the only way you get them back home if they do get lost in their new city." — Sara Ochoa, DVM, consultant for doglab.com.
- Think about breed — "It's also worth considering that some breeds are better suited for traveling than others. So, if you have a breed that isn't likely to take the trip in stride, you'll want to do everything you can to help ensure he feels safe, secure, and comfortable during the journey." — Team
- Check with the airline — "Always check with your airline before going to the airport with your pet to ensure you are following their guidelines." — Schwab
Pet travel carriers and kennels
From there, the next biggest hurdle in your prep process is getting an appropriate carrying case for your dog.
"When purchasing carriers," says Schwab, "look for those that are designed to meet airline requirements. The Overland Weekender Pet Travel Bag is approved for most airlines and has special compartments for food, water, and poop bags.
It is recommended you put your pet in a hard kennel if they are traveling in cargo in case an accident occurs." However, she adds, "If your dog will travel in the cabin with you, we recommend soft carriers; they're flexible and can easily be fit under the seat in front of you."
Expert advice about pet crate training:
- "If you will be traveling by plane or going a long-distance, prepare your dog ahead of time. Get him used to his crate. Give him plenty of opportunities to sit it in at home. Also, pack him a comfort toy. By having something familiar nearby, it will make traveling a little less stressful for him." — Jenny Smith, a frequent traveler and founder of the travel blog MoveToNewZealand.net.
- "[I]f your dog is going to be traveling in a crate or carry-on pet bag, make sure it's one they are comfortable with because then it will be a source of comfort for them and not another unfamiliar environment they are stuck in. If you know you have a trip or move coming up and your dog doesn't already have a crate or pet carrier they are comfy with, get it early on, and start introducing them to it, so it is a familiar safe place for them on the day of travel." — Katie Warner, Owner and Founder of Lucid Routes Luxury Travel & Lifestyle Collective.
- "You need to plan ahead and prepare your pets for the move. Dogs and cats that need to travel in crates should be trained to go into the crate on their own. Use plenty of treats to help your pet form a positive association with being in the crate. You can take your pets on brief car rides, crated or uncrated depending on your mode of transport, to help them acclimate to being in a crate in a moving vehicle. You need to start with short trips paired with tons of tasty treats and stop before your pet becomes stressed. Sometimes the use of natural supplements that can decrease anxiety is helpful or have a discussion with your veterinarian if a prescription medication is necessary to help your pet remain calm before, during, and after the moving process." — Chewy Veterinary Behaviorist Dr. Wailani Sung
Step 2: Packing for a trip with Fido
When it comes to packing for a trip with your pup, what should you take into account about what goes in a carry-on and what goes in a checked bag? Should you portion out meals for the remainder of the trip?
First, some TSA basics:
"TSA allows you to pack both wet and dry dog food in your luggage and carry-on: wet pet food is allowed in checked baggage and less than 3.4oz/100 ml is allowed in carry-on," explains Candy Pilar Godoy, pet travel writer at boogiethepug.com. She adds, "There is no medical exemption for prescription pet food, even for service animals. Solid pet food, described as dry or "moist" pet food, is allowed in both carry-on and checked baggage. These are rules for the TSA, an agency in the United States. If you're traveling internationally, check with your destination country."
Beyond that, here is some more expert advice about packing for your upcoming trip:
- Pack light-weight treats — "I pack my dogs freeze-dried dog treats in my carry-on since its super light weight." — Godoy
- Pack pre-portioned meals — "I put the food she needs for each meal in baggies and give them to the airport staff in a big bag. They like having rationed food so they don't have to worry about measuring it out themselves." — Becky Beach, Pet Traveling Expert and Lifestyle Blogger, MomBeach.com
- Make a contingency plan — "Always pack some food in your carry on, in case your bag is lost, you have a long layover, or the local pet shop is closed when you arrive at your destination. You'll need some backup food before you get your hands on more." — Godoy
Step 3: Before the airport
"On your actual travel day, limit how much he eats and drinks," suggests Smith. "Take him for a long walk before you head to the airport. He can do his business, and he will have the opportunity to get out some of his energy."
"Dogs who are flying should not eat immediately prior to or during the flight," advises Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet Life Today. "This limits the chances of vomiting as well as the need to defecate, which will make the trip more pleasant."
So, how should you prep your dog on the day of travel, and when should you feed, water, walk, and relieve your dog on the day of travel? Here's what our experts said:
- Before you leave — "I feed my dog before coming to the airport as a rule of thumb… Feed your animal before leaving the home and walk them before going into the airport to avoid accidents." — Beach
- Six hours before flight — "It's a good idea to feed him about six hours before your flight." — Smith
- Water is important — "You should give him sips of water to keep dehydration at bay, but don't overdo it. Many dog owners freeze a plastic water bottle, and put aluminum foil around it. They will then puncture the cap to make a small hole, and use a zip-tie to attach it, upside-down, to their dog's crate. This will allow their dog to be able to drink a small amount of cool water when they are thirsty." — Smith
Plan potty breaks — "I always make sure to know ahead of time which terminals have pet relief areas if we are going to have a long layover. I don't do doggie diapers because my dog hates them, but I have pet parent friends who swear by them, so I think it just depends on the dog. I do, however, put a potty pad in her crate in the event she does have an accident." — Warner
- Doggie diapers — "You can put your dog in a diaper to help prevent accidents at the airport, but it'd be wiser to simply ensure your dog is as "empty" as possible before checking in. Also, while full-coverage doggie diapers will work for your dog's number-two needs, they don't work fantastically in this regard, and you'll be left dealing with a poopy diaper. — Team
Step 4: During flights and layovers
"Dogs should have the opportunity to drink, urinate, and defecate immediately before and after flying," says Dr. Coates. Additionally, she says, "Water should be available during long flights."
So, while stuck in airport limbo, how exactly should you take care of your dog's needs? Here is some expert advice:
- Bring food and water — "I will usually bring treats and food on the plane with me. I will also ask for a glass of water filled 1/2 way up with no ice when they come around with the drink cart. I will allow my dog to drink a little bit of water and have a few bites of food on board the plane. A hungry and thirsty dog usually will not rest on the plane." — Ochoa
"If you will be at the airport for more than six hours and there is a place for your dog to relieve himself, then it's okay to bring his food and feed him." — Smith
- Take care of potty needs — “If your airport doesn't have a puppy relief station, what's next? I will use doggie pee pads. I take my dog into the family bathroom at the airport. This is the one usually located between the men and the women's bathrooms. It is used for women to take small children or a baby with a stroller. These have locks on them. I will put down the pee pad and let my dog run around and use the bathroom. Then I will pick up the pee pad and throw it away in a small trash bag I bring then throw that bag into the trash. This allows my dog time to pee and play between quick connecting flights." — Ochoa
Step 5: Arrival at your destination
Traveling isn't the easiest for humans, but how about dogs? We asked experts what the ideal first stop would be, once they reach their destination, with Fido in tow. Here are their tips:
- Take a walk — "Take a walk around the vacation location where your pet might explore to make sure there is nothing they could get into, eat, or hurt themselves within the vicinity. There may even be snakes or other varmints that could harm your pet. Better safe than sorry!" — Sadie Cornelius, Canine Journal
"Anytime we stop, we take the dog for a walk to stretch her legs and do her business. I carry water and a collapsible water bowl so she can have water anytime she needs it. I carry her food in the front seat in zip lock bags that are split up for each meal time. I always carry extra because you never know what can happen. We got stuck on a California highway during one travel trip and it ended up taking us an extra four hours to get to our destination. I also bring treats to give her if it's an extra long day, this way she knows we love her." — Grainne Foley, travel blogger at The Roving Foleys
"I just walk my dog around the hotel or home we will be staying at if getting an AirBnB. Always walk your dog every time you stop to avoid accidents and unhappy furbabies." — Beach
"As soon as we arrive at the campground and set up, we take her for a nice long walk so she is ready for bed after her hard day." — Foley
- Explore your new surroundings — "I look up ahead of time pet-friendly areas, including parks or areas of the hotel, or nearby wherever I am staying. The concierge also many times will have some great recommendations if it's a pet-friendly hotel or if the staff are pet owners themselves,. It's always great to reach out to them before you head that way, so you have a few options for good and not so great weather." — Warner
"Once you reach your destination, give your dog a chance to safely investigate his new surroundings and settle in. Then, he'll probably want to take a long nap before embarking on any new adventures." — Coates
"Once I arrive at my destination, I'll usually take my dog for a walk around the area to get to know our surroundings and stretch our legs. I'll also make sure my dog gets plenty of rest post-travel to decompress. For my first meal, I'll look for local dog-friendly restaurants so my dog can come along." — Schwab
- Let your dog take the lead — "When you get to your destination, take your dog's lead. He may want to go for a walk, or he may be tuckered out from all of the traveling. You should find a place for him to relieve himself. If he still has a lot of energy, take him for a walk in a park or around your hotel. If he seems tired, let him take a nap. There will be plenty of time for him to explore when he is well-rested." — Smith
"Once you arrive at your destination, you should try to take your dog outside as soon as possible. Not only will this allow him to relieve himself, it'll give him a chance to stretch his legs. It'll likely also help him de-stress from all of the excitement he's experienced over the last several hours." — Team