The holiday season is one of joy, sharing, and cheer–and what better friend to experience that with than your pet? It’s common this time of year to travel to visit those you love in other places. Many of us consider bringing our pets with us. If you’re considering doing so, it’s important to create a list and prepare ahead of time if you plan to travel with your pet. Holiday travel with pets will be a breeze if you know what to expect and have plans in place before you go. It will also help reduce fear and anxiety in your pet while you travel for the holidays.

What to Pack for Pet Travel

small black and white dog sitting on top of a packed suitcase

Packing for pets can take a bit of time, so be sure to pack ahead. When traveling with your pet during the holidays, or anytime, here are items we recommend packing:

  • Pet medical records
  • Pet medications for the duration of your trip
  • Protective pet clothing for cold weather
  • Pet food for your trip and a little extra
  • Pet treats
  • Traveling pet food and water travel bowls
  • Pet toys
  • A cozy pet bed or blanket, and at least one extra (in case it gets soiled)
  • Pet poo bags for dogs and a traveling litterbox for cats
  • A leash or harness for outdoor adventures and optimal safety

Being prepared will help keep your pet safe in case of an emergency. Be sure your pet has an updated tag on a collar that fits. We also suggest microchipping your furry friend, as this significantly increases your chances of being reunited if your pet gets away. Have a trustworthy collar and leash or harness that fits, and always bring pet medical records with you–or have them saved on your phone, just in case.

Where to Stay With Pets

Not all hotels, Airbnbs, and motels allow pets. Be sure to double-check pet policies and fees ahead of time before you travel. If you’re staying with friends and family, discuss bringing your pet along, and what to expect from your pet during your visit.  Before your trip, make sure your pet is trained, socialized, and up-to-date on his or her vaccinations before you travel.

Car Travel With Your Pet

little brown dog riding in car, with head out with window

Whether your furry friend loves riding in the car or not, it’s easy to take them along on a holiday adventure to visit friends or relatives. A drive with a stressed and anxious pet is no fun, so we suggest creating a cozy and safe space for your furry BFF and a pet car routine.

Bring along a fuzzy and cozy pet bed or blanket that your pet loves. Place the blanket in the backseat, which is the safest space for your pet to ride in case of an accident. Consider purchasing a pet safety belt or car seat for your dog, and always transport cats in cat carriers or crates. Traveling in the car with your pet will be a breeze after you’ve had a bit of time to prepare and practice. Be sure to stop every few hours for a pet potty break and to help your pet exert some energy with some playtime.

Plane Travel With Your Pet

Airlines have different rules and regulations for pet travel, especially after COVID-19. Be sure to verify all requirements and make arrangements for your pet before flying. Especially in our post-pandemic world, regulations are changing all the time and can create challenges when bringing your pet on a plane. Recurring requirements we found for pet airline travel are:

  • Pets must be carried on the plane in a travel carrier, to be placed under the seat in front of you
  • All pets must be up-to-date on their vaccinations
  • Pets are not allowed to fly internationally
  • Pet travel fees apply
  • Checking pets in as cargo has special requirements. These vary by the airline (some allow this for members of the U.S. military only, while others make exceptions for other pets)

For current examples, see the airline pet travel policies for Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines.

Travel on a Train With Your Pet

snowy train car with cat in window, and two girls in other windows

Train travel is popular in certain parts of the U.S. and the world, and pet policies are part of the protocol. While train travel is more spacious than other methods, giving pets potty breaks can be challenging. Amtrak’s pet travel policy, for example, only allows pets on trips that are 7 hours or less, for pets in a carrier that weigh less than 20 pounds. They also require filling out a Pet Release and Indemnification Agreement before travel, and state that “your pet must be at least eight weeks old and be odorless, harmless, not disruptive and require no attention during travel.”

Traveling with a pet outside the U.S. will look different, as different rail lines in different countries have varying pet policies. Research your travel route before making definite plans for traveling via train with your furry friend.

Make sure to read all pages of the pet travel policy to ensure your pet meets their guidelines. Your furry friend must abide by all requirements, or they will not be able to travel–whether traveling with you by train, plane, or automobile.

Pet Travel on a Boat or Cruise

Traveling on a boat with a pet is difficult, and most veterinarians don’t recommend it due to the safety and health concerns surrounding your pet. Most cruises don’t allow pets on board unless they are service animals. For example, Carnival Cruise Line “only permits service/working dogs onboard our ships. Therapy/companion or service dogs in training are not permitted on board.” Royal Caribbean’s pet policy states that “Royal Caribbean International welcomes service dogs on all ships” and adds, “Please note we do not accept pets.” We suggest traveling with your pet using a more pet-friendly and form of transportation.

Pet Travel During the Holidays and Year-Round

Chihuahua outside with Santa sweater on

Pets make fantastic travel companions when they feel comfortable and plans are made ahead of time by their pet parents. Your furry friends pick up on feelings of stress, anxiety, and worry–so making arrangements ahead of time is essential. As always, if you have any questions about your pet’s health and wellbeing–around holiday travel time or anytime–please give our veterinary team a call here at Bayside Animal Hospital in Kemah, Texas.