Traveling with a pet can be a stressful experience for both you and your furry friend. However, with a little planning you can make the experience much more enjoyable and hassle-free. Trust us, we know. Having traveled with Sora on various flights, trains, ferries, and other modes of transportation across three continents, we’re pretty well-versed in the topic. From food and water to creature comforts, we bring you our 10 Tips for Traveling with a Pet.
The first goal when traveling with your pet is to make sure they are comfortable. Pets like to follow routines and having their bed encourages them to relax in a specific space. When we travel, we bring along Sora’s Kurgo Wander Loft Bed. As soon as we board the vessel, we set the bed at our feet and encourage her to lie down. We like this bed because it rolls up easily and has velcro straps that enables the bed to compress and be carried with the handle. Check out our review of the Kurgo Wander Loft Bed.
We recently got our paws on the Ruffwear Highlands Bed and absolutely love the packability and lightweight of it and the way it rolls up like a traditional sleeping pad for humans.
2. Water/Food Bowl
Always have a collapsible bowl for your dog. You never know when a flight or train may get delayed and your dog will need some food or water. Make sure your bowl is lightweight and easily compressible. We currently travel with the Dexas Collapsible Travel Bowl and have also used the Kurgo Zippy Bowl in the past.
3. Puppy Pads
On long trips where you can’t exactly pull over for a pit stop, puppy pads are the next best thing. Of course, take your dog to go potty as soon as you can before departure, but 8+ hours is a long time to ask your dog to hold her pee or poo. While many airports now include a [pet relief area], most do not. We carry puppy pads so that we can quickly clean up an accident or direct Sora to relieve herself on the pad. These pads proved to be useful during a long layover between flights in Europe. After a 10-hour flight, we had one hour until our next two-hour flight. We encourage to go in the corner of the airport on the tile floor. This airport didn’t have a pet relief area, nor was there ample time for us to leave security and return. So we walked Sora at a brisk pace and used our vocal command for toilet time “Go Potty!” With pad in hand, we quickly mopped her pee and disposed the used pad in the closet trash.
4. Mind Games
Like humans, animals get bored too. And sometimes boredom leads to destructive or disruptive behavior. We have traveled with a Treat Ball Interactive Food Dispensing Dog Toy and a PetSafe Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug Meal Dispensing Dog Toy,. We put a few treats in the toy and give it to Sora on her bed while en route. She gets to use her mind, enjoy a few treats, and we get a break from having to solely focus on her.
Pro-tip: Teach your dog in advance a command word associated with their food dispensing toy. You can use this word to get their attention and associate an experience with an upcoming positive reward.
It seems so obvious, but we’ve traveled several times only to realize that we forgot to pack the treats. There are scenarios where we have needed to coax Sora into walking forward (tile floors can be very scary when boarding a plane) or when the toddler in the seat next to you is staring at your dog. Travel is a great opportunity to train your dog and reward them for desired behaviors. Just go easy on the number of treats, you don’t want to create
Pro-tip: To get the most interest from your dog, use high-value treats. These would be treats that are yummy and that your pup should only get for ultra high rewards. We have a special bag of Zuke's Treats Jerky Cords that we only use for travel. Sora goes bonkers for them and knows they’re only for special situations.
6. When to Feed / Give Water
It’s a best practice to go light on the amount of food and water you give your pet when traveling. Limit the amount of water intake, so you decrease the need for pee. Some water is OK to maintain hydration, but keep it limited to a few “sips.”
Depending on when you travel, it’s OK to give the full meal. Generally, if we are traveling 6 hours after a meal, we feed Sora. Another tip is to give a half portion of their meal, then use the remaining amount as a reward, like when passing security.
7. Know Where Your Pet Can Relieve Themselves
Many airports have pet relief location, which you can find easily on petfriendlytravel.com. SeaTac in Seattle, for example, has a pet relief area past security that even has a fire hydrant. Before you fly, you can check with the websites of the airports you are flying into and see if they have a pet relief area. The airports do a good job of letting you know where the areas are located and if past security.
Pro-tip: Download a map of the airport to your phone before flying. You can always save a screenshot of an image or save a PDF for quick retrieval later. You can also call the airline you’re flying and ask what gates they typically use at a given airport. That will let you know how far you need to travel to give your pet a chance to drop a deuce or “Go Potty!”
8. Board Early / Ask for Bulkhead Seating
One of the simplest ways to make the trip more enjoyable for your pet and yourself is to allow for extra time to get settled. When boarding a plane or train, ask if you can board early, before the masses scramble for overhead bins or rush the gates at once. Making sure that Sora gets down the aisle and not sidetracked by crackers on the floor usually takes a few extra minutes. Plus, we don’t have worry about strangers petting her from behind when locating our seats.
Pro-tip: When traveling, always reach out to your airline, train, bus, or mode of transportation and tell them your situation in terms of space. All airlines we’ve flown have given us the bulkhead seats free of charge (expect Condor, don’t ever fly with them). This gives Sora more space and us just enough room to for our feet.
9. Pack a Muzzle
Even though Sora isn’t aggressive or too reactive, it’s a good idea to have a muzzle easily accessible when traveling. First, some airlines require your dog to be muzzled when on the plane. Usually, Sora’s Gentle Leader is sufficient as many people think it’s a muzzle, but we’ve had an airline request that we muzzle her. Second, you never know whom you will encounter when traveling. Some pets don’t do well around disabled people, children, or anything to which they are not accustomed. The last thing you want is a situation where your dog bites someone, even if it’s not their fault. Plus, some people are scared of dogs and knowing you’ve got a muzzle will ensure they also have a good flight.
10. Special Item / Blanket
Sora has a few favorite toys and we usually pick one for her to travel with, preferably the one that doesn’t squeak so as not to drive other passengers nuts. The toy really has a dual benefit of keeping your dog mentally stimulated when bored, and it offers them a bit of comfort as they’re used to having it around. You may want to keep an eye on the toy, because a bored dog can and will easily destroy a toy as if it were a squirrel.
Do you have any other tips for traveling with a pet? Any other pro-tips that others might find useful? If so, please comment below.