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How to Bring Pets with You on Vacation

Traveling with pets involves planning for your pet's comfort and safety. Here are some tips for bringing your pets along on vacation:

  • Have a vet examine your pet before you leave.
  • Confirm that your accommodations are pet-friendly.
  • Pack any necessary pet-care gear.
  • Pack its license and vaccination papers [source: ASPCA].

The Humane Society of the United States recommends avoiding air travel with pets. If you have no choice, follow these guidelines:

  • Familiarize your pet with its carrier at least a month before the trip.
  • Don't give your pet tranquilizers without a prescription from your veterinarian.
  • Don't feed your pet four to six hours before flying, except for small amounts of water.
  • Use a pet collar that can't get stuck in carrier doors.
  • Clip your pet's nails.
  • Attach two tags each to the collar and carrier: one with your name, address and home phone number, and one with your destination address and phone number.
  • Bring a current photo of your pet.
  • Choose a direct flight.
  • Travel on the same plane as your pet.
  • Tell the captain and at least one flight attendant that your pet is in the cargo hold.
  • Never put short-nosed animals in the cargo hold.
  • Take early morning or late evening flights in the summer, and afternoon flights in the winter.
  • Avoid peak vacation flights.
  • Examine your pet after each flight. Take it to a veterinarian if necessary. Get any exam results in writing, including the date and time of the examination [source: HSUS].

Currently, the only pets allowed on Amtrak are assistance dogs. European companies often allow pets, but owners must feed and exercise their pets at stations.

Few cruise liners allow pets other than assistance dogs, and then only on trans-ocean cruises [source: HSUS].

If you're traveling by car, follow these guidelines:

  • Use an airy and spacious carrier.
  • Take your pet for several short drives in its carrier, gradually increasing the length of each drive.
  • Give your pet a light meal three or four hours before the trip. Don't feed it during the drive.
  • Never leave your pet alone in the car.
  • Bring your pet's favorite toy.
  • Never let your pet stick its head out the window.
  • Bring drinking water from home [source: ASPCA].