As summer nears, it’s almost time for beaches, drinks with little umbrellas, and the most wonderful time of the year — summer vacation! Whether you’re hitting the open road or boarding a flight to your destination, you may want to bring along your favorite furry friend. And who could blame you? I want to take my little fluffy guy everywhere with me, and he enjoys trips just as much as I do. To minimize stress for both you and your pet, advance travel planning and picking the right pet-travel products can ease the process.
If you’re road-tripping in an automobile, Brittany Gilliam, Hollywood Feed’s regional manager, recommends getting your pet comfortable with the vehicle before going on a long drive. “If you have a dog that is not familiar with a vehicle or hasn’t been on a long trip, I recommend making the vehicle a happy, friendly place before the car starts moving,” she says. If your dog is afraid of car rides or hasn’t been in a car before, chances are he’ll be quite uneasy on an extended trip. “You want to make the car a really friendly place, kind of like a crate,” Gilliam says. “Before your trip, you can feed the dog in there or let it sleep in there and let him get in and out before the car even starts moving.”
When taking your pups on a trip in a car, you also want to ensure their safety just as you would for yourself or your children. “Having your dog in your lap or sitting in the seat next to you is not very safe,” says Gilliam. “Of course, if you have an accident, or even if the dog sees a squirrel next to your car at a stop sign, he’s going to run across your lap, and it can cause a lot of issues.”
It’s best to make sure your dog is in a secured position before you head out, and for that, Gilliam recommends the Kurgo line of products. Kurgo offers all sorts of products that can come in handy on road trips — seat covers, barriers, collapsible water bowls, harnesses, and more — to make traveling with your pup safe and stress-free. The brand’s products undergo strenuous crash and durability testing, and much of its selection is available at Hollywood Feed.
For small dogs who tend to want to climb all over you while you’re driving, products are available to keep them off your lap and safe in the event of an accident. “For little dogs, there are seat boosters,” Gilliam says. “This is essentially like a little box, and it hangs around the headrest off of your seat. You put them in there and clip their harness to it. They can see out the window, but if you have to quickly hit your brakes, they’re more likely to hit the front of their little box rather than flip out or anything like that.”
It’s also important to note that if you’re going to put a dog in a car and restrain it, you want to be sure to use a harness. “A lot of people will get the booster seat and just want to clip the carabiner to the collar, and if the dog does flip out, it’s like a noose around the neck,” she says. “So you always want to have a harness on the dog.”
For long road trips, be sure to bring plenty of food, as well as toys to keep your dog occupied. “If you have a [bigger] dog in the back of an SUV, and you don’t have them tethered, they tend to get antsy,” Gilliam says. “You may want to consider things like a Kong filled with peanut butter or Nylabones, the same types of things you would give a dog if they’re home alone.”
Be sure to consider how much food will be needed for the trip. “Planning ahead of time is definitely important because the worst thing is when you try to go and buy food at a pet store where you don’t normally shop, and they don’t have your food. Then you have to give your dog a different kind of food, and they may get sick.”
Calming tablets are also available to help if your pup gets nervous or carsick. Some are made specifically for upset tummy and nausea, and others that make the dog sleepy using ingredients like chamomile or tryptophan.
If you’re planning to travel by air, check with your airline regarding prices, breed restrictions, and specifications of acceptable pet carriers. All airlines suggest that you call to reserve a space for your pet and to discuss necessary accommodations in advance. Pet fares vary, but here are current costs for one-way pet flights based on these major airlines’ websites:
American Airlines – Cabin (carry-on): $125 per pet carrier; checked (cargo): $175 per pet carrier
Delta – Cabin (carry-on): $125 per pet carrier; checked (cargo): price varies depending on kennel size and destination
Frontier Airlines – Cabin (carry-on): (Based on fare option purchased) Classic Plus, Classic, and Economy: $75 per pet carrier; Basic: $125 per pet carrier; no checked pets
Southwest Airlines – Cabin (carry-on): $95 per pet carrier; no checked pets
United Airlines – Cabin (carry-on): $125 per pet carrier; checked (cargo): price varies depending on kennel size and destination
U.S. Airways – Cabin (carry-on): $125 per pet carrier; checked (cargo): price varies depending on kennel size and destination
Gilliam suggests you talk to your vet ahead of time if you’re planning to travel by air. “If you’re flying dogs in cargo, which I have a hard time recommending, you really want to talk to your vet,” she says. “You may want to consider getting a blood panel first, making sure that there’s nothing wrong that any sort of altitude or elevation issues could affect, and then see if they’re comfortable giving your dog a light sedative so the experience isn’t bad for them.”
If the dog is small enough to travel in the cabin with you, it’s going to be similar to traveling in a car but with much less space due to airline restrictions and pet carrier specifications. “I would definitely recommend conditioning the dog to being in a crate for three to four hours at a time, so you’re not sitting there halfway through the flight with a crying dog,” she says. “It’s all about the pre-prep to ensure that the dog is comfortable in that little carrier. And definitely call the airline ahead of time.”
Luckily, many hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, vacation rentals, and even condos allow pets for an additional fee. Be sure to check ahead of time to see if your selection has any restrictions.
Now that you know the basics, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Your furry friend will thank you for bringing him along. My pup Doogie Howser and I wish you safe and happy travels!