Top Tips for Travelling with Your Pet These Holidays

It has been reported that almost 50% of dog owners and over 20% of cat owners now take their pets on vacation with them every year. Travelling with a pet is much like travelling with a baby and requires a bit of advanced planning to ensure it goes smoothly. To help take the stress out of travelling with your pet and to ensure you both arrive as unstressed as possible, we’ve compiled our top tips for travelling safely by car or plane with your pet.

A person sits with their arm around a dog looking over a canyon

Travelling By Car

Book Ahead

Check that the hotel you are staying at accepts pets and what extra fees and charges might be payable if your pet is staying there. You might also want to check what their policy is on leaving your pet in your hotel room. Some hotels will not allow pets to be left alone and some have a procedure in place if a lonely pet is barking. Another great tip is to find out where your nearest emergency vet is, and to make a note of their address and phone number in the unlikely event that your pet requires emergency care.

A person carrying a backpack walks along a narrow path behind a dog through green grass

Off To The Vet

Before you head off on your holiday, you should check that your pet is healthy and well enough to travel. If you are heading to another country, they may require your pet to be examined by a veterinarian and you will need to provide paperwork to support this. You should also ensure your pet is microchipped and up to date with their regular vaccinations, as well as any other vaccinations that may be recommended for your destination country.

A Golden Retriever puppy is being carried in a backpack

Fleas and Ticks

It is also a good idea to treat your pet with a flea and tick preventative, just in case you end up in wooded areas (dogs are allowed in all of Canada’s national parks if they are on a leash) as part of your holiday or while taking a break from your drive.

A Labrador is sitting in a forest with sunlight shining through the trees behind

Safety In The Car

To ensure your pet travels safely, they should be secured by a harness or in a carrier or crate at all times. This will prevent your pet from making an escape when you stop at a secluded rest area and may limit their injuries should you be involved in an accident. Although we all know sticking their head out the window of a moving car is one of a dogs favourite things to do, when you are travelling at speed, you should keep your windows closed to prevent debris from flying into your dogs face and eyes. Stopping every four to six hours is recommended for adult dogs, to allow them to stretch their legs and go to the bathroom. You may need to shorten the time between breaks for puppies or older dogs.

A brown and white dog rests his chin on the window of a car

Getting Used to the Carrier

Cats in particular may need some time to become accustomed to travelling in their carrier, so make sure you leave it out for them to explore well before your trip is scheduled. You can encourage them to discover their carrier by putting their favourite toys or treats inside, or by spraying it with pheromones. When they are comfortable walking into and lying in their carrier, start off with small rides in the car and slowly work your way up to longer trips.

A brown and cream cat is sitting in a brown suitcase

What to Pack

  • Enough food for your planned holiday plus a little extra just in case
  • A sturdy water bowl that cannot be knocked over and enough water for the drive there and back
  • Something to protect your car seats in case of accidents such as blankets, towels or puppy pee pads
  • Plenty of toys and treats to entertain your pet
  • A leash and collar or harness for when you both need to take a break to stretch your legs
  • Garbage bags for poop and other rubbish
  • A small litter tray for longer drives (or even a disposable pie dish filled with litter will do)
  • Any medications your pet requires
A person is patting the back of a dogs head while they both sit in a car

Travel Sickness in Pets

Cats are particularly prone to suffering from travel sickness and may exhibit some of the following symptoms:
  • Drooling
  • Excessive crying
  • Freezing up or not moving
  • Vomiting
  • Urinating or defecating in their carrier

If you are concerned about your pet becoming unwell from travel sickness, talk to your veterinarian about medications that may be able to help your pet with their nausea.

A small kitten is sitting in the opening of a carrier

Should I Sedate?

Sometimes, sedating a pet can have the exact opposite effect and they instead become hyperactive. Not an ideal mood for a big dog going on a long car trip! If you think your pet may benefit from being sedated during your drive, talk to your veterinarian about suitable medications. It may be worth doing a trial run before your planned journey to see how the medication affects your pet. Remember to give any medication at least 1 hour before your journey begins.

A close up of a beige coloured dog

Travelling By Plane

Many of the tips for travelling by car also apply when travelling with your pet by plane. Airlines will often require a letter from your pet's veterinarian certifying that they are well enough to fly and are up to date on their vaccinations. Both cats and dogs will be required to travel by carrier or crate when flying, so having a pet that is crate trained will make everything a lot easier and less stressful. When thinking about when to fly, consider the time of day and weather and try to avoid flying when it is very cold or very hot as your pet may need to spend some time sitting on the tarmac waiting to be loaded onto your flight. Some airlines will not transport pets if the temperature falls below, or exceeds certain limits.

A German Shepherd dog stands looking out across the country

Check Their Requirements

All of the different airlines have their own rules and requirements when travelling with a pet. Some require you to notify them immediately after you book your flight that you will be travelling with a pet. Some airlines do not require advanced notice and you can simply rock up at the airport with your pet ready to fly. They also have various rules on the type and size of carrier that your pet can be transported in and whether or not they are eligible to fly due to health, age or breed restrictions.

You can view the pet travel policy for some of the main Canadian and US airlines here:
A person is carrying a grey cat in a special cat backpack and the cat is peering out of the window in the bag

Sedating When Flying

Many airlines will not accept pets that have been sedated for travel as there is an increased risk of injury to your pet because they can have a hard time keeping their balance during turbulence. Again, you should check with your veterinarian and your airline before your pet flies to discuss your options. Certain pets such as the brachycephalic breeds like pugs or bulldogs may also have an increased risk of cardiovascular or respiratory issues if sedated.

A bulldog sits in the front seat of a car and is looking out the window

Final Tips

Thorough preparation is key to ensuring both you and your pet travel comfortably these holidays. And as much as you would love for your pet to join you on your holidays, sometimes it just might not be appropriate. Whether that is because of the distance you are travelling, or if your pet can be a bit nervous in the car or anxious around loud noises, that is perfectly ok. Your pet's considerations should come before your own and you might want to consider booking a pet sitter or inviting a friend or family member to housesit and care for your pet while you are away. And as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, so think of how excited both you and your pet will be to see each other when you do return home!

A brown dog is sitting on grass and looking up at the camera happily