More and more people travel with their dogs, whether on vacation, visiting friends and family, or even business. Knowing how to travel with a dog on a plane, in a car, or by train, bus, or even water can prepare you for what to expect and make the experience pleasant and stress-free.
Wherever you go, and for however long, it’s vital to understand that the best way to travel with your dog is to be prepared.
This means everything from the correct documentation, suitable transport and accommodation arrangements, and understanding and respecting the people in your destination.
Pet Travel Checklist
- Crates or pet carriers
- Identification tags with all your contact details
- A microchip for permanent identification
- Health Certificates from your vet with up-to-date vaccinations
- Copies of pet-related documents
- A dog seatbelt restraint
- A recent photo of your dog
- A collar or harness and a leash
- A comfortable blanket or bed
- A dog car seat cover
- Food and clean water
- A collapsible water bowl or popup bottle
- Bags to clean up poop
- Tick and Flea Treatments
- A tranquilizer (only if your vet recommends it and not for cargo flights)
- The contact details of your vet, nearest of kin, and the veterinarian services at your destination
- Bookings at a pet-friendly accommodation
How do you travel with a dog in a car?
Road tripping with your best friend is a fun experience so long as you have put a few precautions in place.
A dog should never be allowed to roam about the car freely or be put on the back of a truck. Both can lead to severe injury or even death in the event of an accident. Our article on dog-friendly states covers the specific local regulations you should be aware of.
To keep your pup safe, you can consider a harness and dog seatbelt or a well-ventilated, appropriately sized car crate. This is to secure your fur baby in the case of collision and keep them from bounding out of a window or open door at the wrong moment.
You can prevent car sickness by ensuring that your dog travels on an empty stomach and that it stays well-hydrated with plenty of water.
Make sure to have the air-conditioning when it’s hot, and never leave your dog locked inside the car alone.
Just like with children, your dog can get bored on a long journey. You can include a favorite toy like a Kong or chewy to keep them busy.
Even with the toy, it’s a good idea to take frequent bathroom breaks and stop for a short walk or some exercise. Try to plan your trip so that you know beforehand about safe dog-friendly spots you can stop at along the way and enjoy.
Useful apps like BringFido can help you identify great stops that will welcome you and your four-legged companions.
How do you travel with a dog on a plane?
Air travel is not preferable to driving since it can be dangerous, especially for dogs with short noses like Bulldogs or Pugs.
But if a trip by plane can’t be avoided, then flights need to be reserved well in advance for you and your dog. Spots for dogs are usually limited, and latecomers might miss out.
Visit your vet beforehand to make sure your dog is fit to travel. Most airlines require a certificate of health at least ten days before departure.
Different airlines have different rules and regulations regarding the weight and breed of the dog, the type or size of the carrier, and other restrictions, so triple-check yours on the airline website and ask for confirmation via email well in advance.
In general, a puppy has to be at least eight-weeks-old to travel. All vaccinations, including rabies, need to be up-to-date.
Different countries have different rules regarding allowing dogs to cross their borders. Some, like Australia, require lengthy quarantines while others only require health documents. If you are taking your dog abroad, and if all the paperwork feels overwhelming, some companies can help you navigate the process.
Whenever you can, choose flying dogs in the cabin. The temperature and air pressure in the cargo hold can fluctuate dangerously, and your dog will be less stressed if it gets to stay close to you.
However, you can expect to pay extra fees for a spot in the cabin, usually ranging from $95 to $175.
The following airlines are the best for flying your dog in the cabin:
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Allegiant Air
- Frontier Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
If your dog must fly in the cargo hold, check the departing city’s temperatures as well as the destination to ensure it is not too cold or hot. If possible, avoid flying in the hot summer months altogether.
A direct flight is a better option than transfers, which could cause delays and more stress for your pup.
Try to be on the same flight as your dog to ensure a label with all your contact details is securely attached to the carrier.
Do not give a dog traveling in the cargo hold tranquilizers. If your vet prescribes them, be sure they understand how the dog will be traveling.
Can you travel with a dog on a bus or a train?
Unfortunately, most major bus and train companies only allow service dogs to board.
Greyhound specifies that only trained guide dogs for the visually impaired may use their services, while Amtrak allows dogs that are 20 pounds or less for a $25 fee.
You may have more luck abroad. In Europe, small dogs in a carrier can generally travel for free on trains, while bigger dogs need to be leashed and muzzled and can board for a reduced fee.
Different companies have different rules though, so it is worth calling ahead to inquire and take all your paperwork to avoid any trouble.
How do you travel with a dog on a ship?
There is currently only one commercial ship that allows canines on deck, and that is the RMS Queen Mary 2, also called the QM2. This service is so in demand that you’ll need to book one of their luxury onboard kennels a full year in advance.
It might be worth it, though. While your dog will not be allowed to stay in the cabin with you, the QM2 boasts a full-time Kennel Master who will take care of your pup and see to its every need. There is also an exercise area next to the kennels, and owners are encouraged to visit as much as possible.
Since the QM2 is a transatlantic cruise liner, you will need to ensure that you have all the necessary paperwork to take your dog with you when you dock.
Once in Europe, though, there are several ferries that do allow dogs.
It is also possible to take your dog boating or sailing on a private yacht. While this will involve many of the same elements that go into traveling by car, you will also be battling the elements and will need to make sure your dog is equipped with a life jacket in case it falls in the water.
You may also need to tether your dog during severe weather and teach it where to potty on board.
Best Dog Travel Practices
One of the first questions you might ask before going on a trip with Fido is what to do with your dog while traveling. The answer depends on your destination.
From strolling along dog-friendly beaches, hiking trails, to local dog parks, or even just taking a walk through a city to see the sights, you can have countless adventures with your buddy at your side the whole way.
Doggy Apps to help you find your way
It is essential though, to always make sure that dogs are welcome wherever you are going. Great apps like BringFido can help you find paw-friendly restaurants, hotels, and attractions.
All Trails is another excellent app that identifies over 50,000 hiking trails and has a pet-friendly filter.
In case of emergency, you can also use VetFinder or Pet First Aid: American Red Cross. These apps give guides for how to deal with the most common emergencies and helps you find the nearest pet health center.
There’s even a fantastic app called BarkHappy, which allows you to set up a profile for your dog and alerts you to other dogs and their owners in your area who may want to meet for a play date. Something like Tinder, but for dogs.
Be aware of cultural differences
Something to keep in mind while traveling is that as adorable as your pup is, not everybody is completely ditzy about dogs. Depending on where you are, attitudes to dogs may vary wildly, and this should be respected.
In Africa and parts of Asia, for example, dogs are not always seen as companions. People can easily be scared by them or have very different views on their place in the world.
Something as simple as your dog running up to greet a stranger can cause a misunderstanding or even conflict if that stranger is terrified of dogs or doesn’t understand why you may keep one as a pet.
This issue can be avoided most of the time by respecting other people’s cultures and space. Keep your dog on a leash and teach it basic commands, such as stay or to come when called.
Be sure to clean up messes your dog makes, as it only takes one indifferent owner to make a cause an entire ban on visiting mutts.
Also, do not travel with a dog that lacks basic manners. A large, overexcited canine that jumps on people can easily knock over a child and immediately create an unpleasant situation.
On the other hand, if somebody wants to come up to pet your dog, it creates a better impression if your dog is friendly and calm with strangers. A well-behaved dog can act as an ambassador for other dogs, smoothing the way for future canine visitors.
Socializing with other dogs
An app like BarkHappy, or simply visiting dog-friendly places like dog parks and beaches, can give your dog ample time to play with other dogs and you a chance to meet like-minded dog lovers.
Nevertheless, be aware that not all other dogs are friendly, even if yours is. Always keep your dog on his leash until the other owner signals that it is okay to approach.
If the other owner sounds a warning, be sure to walk away. Never let your dog off-leash unless it has a reliable recall and you are sure the surroundings and other animals are safe.
If your dog is the aggressive one, take extra precautions. If your dog bites another dog—or person—you can be held liable for damages. Avoid taking an aggressive dog to busy places. Instead, if it the dog is aggressive, don’t go where you know there might be other dogs.
A muzzle is usually the best and safest option when traveling with an aggressive dog. Even if your dog has been trained and the aggression has been made manageable, it is never worth the risk of old habits re-emerging during a stressful situation.
Hotel accommodation and other types of lodging
Planning your trip is not just all about the journey, it’s also about the destination. Naturally, you need to book only pet-friendly hotels. But some hotels are a bit pet-friendlier than others. To ensure that you and your dog will enjoy your stay and there won’t be any misunderstandings, you may want to ask the following questions:
1. Does the accommodation accept dogs?
Asking if the hotel accepts dogs after you already checked their website might seem like a waste of time, but websites may be outdated and policies can change at the drop of a hat. Always call and email for confirmation.
2. Are there any breeds or sizes that are not accepted?
Certain hotels have policies that limit the size of the dog that may stay or the breed. Staff may be happy with your 5- pound Chihuahua, but somewhat less thrilled if you stroll in with a 260 pound St. Bernard.
3. What amenities are available for you and your dog, and are any of them off-limits?
While a dog-friendly hotel may allow you to keep your dog in your room, certain amenities such as parts of the garden, a swimming pool or a dining room may be considered off-limits. It’s worth checking, since your dog may be delighted to discover the pool and dive in, but being ushered away by angry staff can be embarrassing.
4. How many dogs are allowed in a room?
Pet-friendly hotels and other types of accommodation often have a limit on how many dogs are allowed to be kept in a room.
5. Are there special rooms designated for people with pets? If so, are they as hygienic and comfortable as the other ones?
Hotels have been known to stick dog owners in the most run-down rooms, or even the rooms designated for smoking. Make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of.
6. Are you allowed to leave your dog in the room alone?
Hotels have varying policies regarding whether a dog is allowed to the room alone, unattended. If you can and do have to leave your pet in your room for a while, make sure it has a chew toy to keep itself busy. Consider crating while you are away to prevent damage to the hotel property if your dogs suffer from any separation anxiety.
7. Is there a rule regarding your dog on any of the furniture?
Hotels and any accommodation which accept canines may or may not allow pets on the furniture, depending on their individual policies. It can be a problem if your fur kid is used to sharing the same bed as you, but the hotel manager frowns on any doggy hair on the linen.
8. Is there a secure garden area attached to the accommodation in which your dog will be allowed to roam?
Some pet friendly hotels and other accommodations have wonderful gardens. However, not all of them want your pup running free and potentially damaging their new hydrangeas. Neither do all of them have secure fencing that will allow you to let your pup off-leash. Always call to check first.
9. Are there other pets on the property your dog may not be comfortable with?
Many pet-friendly resorts have other animals already staying on the property. You may have a dog that loves romping and playing with all other canines but will chase a cat up a tree in seconds. Be sure there are no other animals your dog could potentially harass or vice versa.
10. Is there a fee?
Perhaps most annoyingly, some hotels ask for up to $50 a day for a dog, while others may ask for a deposit—refundable if your pup doesn’t damage any property during its stay—or a once-off fee that could be as much as $250! Obviously, these extra charges add up.
Can you Avoid Pet Fees?
Luckily, there are some great hotels that do not charge extra to allow your pup to stay. Some of our favorites are:
- Kimpton hotels welcome dogs of all breeds and sizes.
- Graduate Hotels, who even provide a BarkBox on arrival.
- Aloft Hotels allows all dogs up to 40 pounds.
- Motel 6 allows up to two dogs per room.
- The Red Roof Inn chain allows one dog per room, weighing up to 80 pounds
Other Pet-friendly hotels
Hotels and guest houses are not the only options for accommodation when traveling with your dogs. Airbnb also allows for a pet-friendly search option.
But if extra-fees don’t scare you, there are plenty of hotels and other kinds of accommodation that will be happy to take on your dog. Many of these can be found on websites like PetsWelcome.com or on apps like BringFido.
Traveling with your dog might take a few extra precautions and a lot of planning, but the endless variety of doggy adventures can make your trip worthwhile. If you enjoyed this article, or would like to share your experiences or tips for traveling with your dog, comment below. We would love to hear from you!
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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