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9 Tips that Make Traveling with a Pet Hassle-Free

Traveling with a pet can be a stressful experience for both you and your furry friend.  However, with a little planning the experience doesn’t have to be stressful. 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. As pet travel rises, we want to help you be better prepared for your next travel adventure with your pet. The tips we provide below will help make travel hassle-free and more enjoyable.

9 Tips for Traveling with a Pet

Bring a long a travel dog bed next time you head out on a trip with your pet.

1. Travel Bed

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 a Kurgo Wander Loft Bed.

As soon as we board the vessel, we set the bed at our feet and ask 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.

Want to know what we think of the Wander Loft Bed? Check out our honest review!

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. It’s great for travel and for backpacking alike.

Sora eats from the Dexas Silicone Collapsible Cup

2. Hydration

Whether we’re out to dinner, going for a hike, or flying across the Atlantic, we always bring a collapsible water bowl and a water bottle for the dogs. Depending on the type of travel we’re doing, we’ll bring along a different water bowl for the purpose.

In the car, we prefer the Kurgo Splash-Free Wander bowl. It’s not entirely spill-free, but for car travel, it works pretty well much of the time as long as you don’t fill it to the top. When we’re out for a walk or out to dinner, I love the Dexas Travel Cup. It’s small and clips to my backpack or purse easily. At camp, we bring along something a bit larger, like the Ruffwear Bivy Bowl or Ruffwear Basecamp Bowl. The Basecamp Bowl is not collapsible, but super durable and holds a lot of water. It’s great for car camping and to keep as part of your dog’s camping gear.

For those flying with a dog, airlines have very specific rules about the water and feeding bowls. These regulations must be followed exactly per the airline. Generally these MidWest Homes for Pets Snap’y Fit Stainless Steel Food Bowl / Pet Bowl work for most airlines. Just be sure to check before purchasing!

We're experts on flying with a dog and our tips will help you have a successful flight.

3. Air Travel

The key to a successful flight with your dog is to do your homework well in advance. This means communicating with the airline about their pet policies, ensuring your dog is accustomed to her travel crate, and arranging any necessary paperwork in advance.

We have written several articles about flying with a dog that will provide you much of the information you need to know to prepare for your flight:

How to Fly Internationally with a Dog outlines the process of gathering paperwork, vaccinations and medications, and other important import information to safely bring your pet to your final destination.

Best Dog Kennels for Flying helps you select the right kennel to transport your pet on the plane. There are a lot out there and the process can be surprising overwhelming.

14 Questions to Ask before Flying with a Large Dog ensures that you ask the right questions before booking a flight with your dog who will likely be transported in the cargo hold. This is a scary and stressful thing for both the pet and pet owners.

Flying with a Dog in Cargo Gear List highlights the items that we have found most necessary to bring along like puppy pads, toys, and treats.

Flying with a Dog: Is it Safe? guides nervous pet parents through the process of booking a flight and learning what to look for to ensure a safe flight.

For those flying with a small dog, my pal Jessica at You Did What with your Wiener has got you covered.

Most people travel with their pets by car and it's important to keep safety in mind for both human and pet.

4. Car Travel

The majority of the travel you’ll do with your pet will likely be by car. It’s important to keep your pet safe in the car, just as we do for humans. There are several options for secure methods of car travel for your pet, including:

Harness with Seat Belt. This is what we use for our dogs. We like the Kurgo Tru-Fit Crash Tested Dog Harness serves as an every day walking harness with a no-pull front clip. It’s easy to put on and clip the dogs safely into the car.

A Travel Kennel or Crate. Something like the 2Pet Foldable Dog Crate is a great option for those regularly on the go. The foldable crate is soft sided, with a strong, yet lightweight steel tube design for durability. The mesh panel windows are perfect for those whose dogs tend to get excited at the sight of other dogs or people.

For larger dogs traveling in trucks or in the trunks of cars, consider something like the Elite Field Folding Soft Dog Crate or the Amazon Basics Double Door Folding Metal Crate. If your dog tends to chew, then the metal option is the best choice for him.

Booster Seat. A third option is to go for a cozy bucket seat that secures to the car. Look for something with a deep bucket and soft padding like the Devoted Doggy Deluxe Dog Booster Car Seat.

A few things to note about traveling with your dog in the car:

We know to never leave them alone in the car in warm temperatures, right? Cars heat up more than we think. For example, when the outside temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the car will reach 80 degrees in 10 minutes.

Take frequent pit stops to walk . Need to pee yourself? Opt for a pet store like PetSmart or PetCo where you can bring your pet inside with you rather than leave him inside at a rest stop.

Never allow your pet to join you in the front seat if you have air bags.

CBD oil is a great option for pets who feel nervous during travel.

5. Nervous Dog? Try CBD Oil

Once Sora’s cancer returned for a fourth time, I began looking into various supplements that might aid with comfort and tumor suppression. A friend highly recommended that I look into CBD oil. I learned that in addition to studies showing that CBD oil can slow the growth of cancer cells, it also aids with a number of other problems, including anxiety.

Veterinarians do not recommend giving pets sedatives before flights, so CBD oil is a great alternative for helping calm a nervous pup. Similarly, I have friends who say it works great for those with dogs who become nervous riding in the car.

We use HempMy Pet CBD oil on our dogs. It is certified organic, single strain grown, so you always know what you’re getting, and third-party tested. If you’d like to learn more and read our honest review of their product, see this post.

Try not to feed your pet too much before traveling, otherwise, they might have to "go" during the flight.

6. When to Offer Water and Feed Your Pet

It’s a best practice to go light on the amount of food and water you give your pet before a long flight. Limiting the amount of water intake before departure will decrease the need to pee during travel. Some water is OK to maintain hydration, but keep it limited to a few sips every hour or so. Always have your pet eliminate as close to departure time as possible (see #7 below for more details).

Depending on the time of day you travel, it’s OK to offer the full meal. Generally, if we are traveling 6 hours after a meal, we’ll feed Sora. Another tip is to feed a half portion of their meal, then use the remaining amount as a reward, like when passing security or interacting with the flight attendant.

Seattle Airport - 10 Tips for Traveling with a Dog
SeaTac Airport in Seattle publishes their map online and shows where the pet relief area is located.

7. Know Where Your Pet Can Relieve Themselves

Many airports have pet relief locations, available by location 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 and determine whether they have a pet relief area. The airports staff in general has been pretty knowledgeable of where the pet relief areas are located. Note that they are often not in the same terminal, so if you have a short layover, take note of the location before arrival.

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.

Request to sit at the bulkhead of the plane when traveling with a pet.

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. Boarding early means we don’t have worry about strangers petting her from behind when we’re 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. 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 traveling in cabin. Usually, Sora’s Gentle Leader was 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.

Choose a muzzle that allows your dog to breathe easily. Flying is stressful and your dog may pant out of nervousness or just because they’re uncomfortable. A soft basket muzzle like this one from Baskerville is a great option.

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Traveling with pets doesn't have to be stressful. We've traveled with our dogs for many years now and pass along several tips to make it hassle free.

Dave Hoch

Dave finds joy in supporting a vegan, intentional, and spiritual lifestyle. When he’s not jamming out to Phish and reggae, he’s running, volunteering at animal rescues, playing in nature, and being alive.

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