The Ultimate Pet Packing Guide
In recent years pet-friendly travel has become increasingly popular. As a result, some hotels have begun offering pet concierge services and guides geared towards pet-friendly activities for families who wouldn't dream of leaving Fido at home.
But once your travel plans have been sorted, and the suitcases pulled from storage one question remains — what are you supposed to pack for your pet? Even though they're thought of as a member of the family, pets undoubtedly have unique needs to consider. Beyond food and water, if you're traveling by plane either domestically or internationally, there are several basic as well as time-sensitive items that you not only need to prepare for, but you also need to pack.
If you're planning to bring your four-legged fur ball on your next adventure this guide will show you exactly what to pack for your pet to ensure their safety, decrease their stress and increase the likelihood of fun for every member of the family.
Health Certificate and Vaccination Records
Organizing your pet’s health and vaccination records for both domestic and international travel will require patience. However, the more prepared and informed you are the smoother your pet's travel experience will be.
Health and vaccination record requirements vary from airline to airline. According to a Delta Airlines representative, to travel with your pet in the aircraft's cabin, domestically both a health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination is needed. However, with JetBlue, interstate, in-cabin travel with your pet doesn't require either. As pet travel requirements are subject to change, make sure you reach out directly to your airline of choice well before your travel dates.
Once you've confirmed your chosen airline's policy, you'll then need to figure out if the state you're traveling to has any health documentation requirements. For example, to protect their delicate ecosystem, Hawaii has strict vaccination and health standards. However, West Virginia doesn't have any requirements. And don't forget, for both domestic and international travel, you'll need to investigate your home state’s or country’s pet vaccination and health record requirements for your return.
As with domestic travel, international travel health regulations vary from country to country. As a result, the task of sorting out what your pet needs can quickly become overwhelming. To avoid confusion or having your pet turned away at your destination it's wise, in addition to independent research, to work closely with your vet to ensure your pet's health records are in order. And there's always the option of hiring a reputable pet transport company to guarantee your pet will satisfy all health regulations. Regardless of your choice, it's always best to begin sorting your pet's health and vaccination documentation as early as possible. And don’t forget to make extra copies.
ID Tags and Microchipping
Whether you'll be globetrotting with your four-legged friend or loading up the car and hitting the road, prepping your pet with some form of identification will put your mind at ease if he or she decides to explore on their own.
The Humane Society recommends that your dog or cat be fitted with an ID tag, securely attached to a collar. The tag should include your current contact information, as well as a phone number for a trusted friend or relative. With an ID, if your pet is picked up by a shelter, they will know immediately that your beloved isn't homeless.
Today, in addition to tags, it's become increasingly common to have your pet microchipped. A microchip is a device, the size of a grain of rice, that get's implanted under your pet’s skin. The chip, when scanned reveals your pet’s unique ID number as well as your contact information.
To date, many countries require pets to be microchipped. As a result, this will be yet another rule you must satisfy to bring your friend abroad. Keep in mind, the chip must meet ISO or International Standards Organization specifications otherwise the chip cannot be read internationally.
For added protection be sure to pack a copy of your pet's unique chip number as well as the name and contact information of the monitoring company the chip is registered with. For extra peace of mind tuck a few snapshots of your pet in your suitcase. It will make describing your pet easier if the worst case scenario should unfold.
Veterinarian Contact Information
Packing an easily accessible copy of your veterinarian's contact information will come in handy should your pet require unexpected medical attention. It's also a good idea, especially with air travel, whether your pet is with you in the cabin or stowed in the plane's cargo area to attach your vet's contact information to their crate or kennel.
While it's tempting, in the digital age, to forego hard copies and store everything on cell phones, it's important to remember that cell batteries die, and while traveling, you're not guaranteed consistent Internet access which could make it challenging to get to emergency information when you need it the most.
Additionally, consider researching vet clinics and hospitals at your travel destination, especially if you're venturing to a different time zone.
A List of Hotel Pet Policies
After booking your pet's flight or mapping out your road trip, researching pet-friendly hotels or rental homes (think Airbnb) will guarantee you're not scrambling at the last minute for accommodations, especially if, after hours of traveling you and your pet are hungry, in desperate need of a bathroom break or disoriented by jet lag.
During your research and before booking, make sure you understand all pet policies and any additional charges you'll be required to meet if an accident should occur. To avoid any misunderstandings, pack hard copies of all email exchanges and everything you've agreed to upon booking.
Additionally, be sure to pack a list of pet-friendly restaurants around your hotel or any other areas you'll be exploring with your furry travel buddy.
Pet-Friendly First Aid Kit
When building a first-aid kit for your pet, The Humane Society suggests starting with a basic kit designed for humans and adding pet specific items to it such as animal appropriate nail clippers, styptic powder to stop bleeding and fur friendly bandages.
After adding in these basics, it's time to take your pet's individual needs into consideration. Any prescribed medications as well as veterinary approved sunscreens, remedies for allergies, motion sickness, and diarrhea, can also be included.
Finally, consult with your vet for additional ideas and recommendations tailored specifically for your pet. And if you'd rather leave your pet's basic first aid needs up to the experts, you can also purchase a pre-assembled kit online or, if available, at your veterinarian's office.
An Airline Approved Crate or Kennel
When it comes to kennels and crates, traveling in a car grants you complete control over its size and construction. However, whether your pet is in the cabin with you or riding in cargo, there are some strict guidelines you must follow depending on your airline's rules and regulations.
For in-cabin travel, JetBlue requires a soft-sided carrier that cannot exceed 17 inches in length, 12.5 inches in width and 8.5 inches in height. Additionally, the combined weight of the carrier with your pet in it cannot exceed 20 pounds. When shipping your pet in the cargo hold with United Airlines, the kennel requirements become hyper-focused. The kennel cannot be more than 30 inches high. It must have ventilation on three sides for travel within the United States, and it must be constructed of wood, metal or plastic.
Prepping and packing your pet's crate or kennel, for domestic or long-haul international travel, requires patience and attention to detail which is why it's always a good idea to confirm all requirements directly with the airline.
Pet De-Stressing Supplies
Like humans, travel can rattle even the calmest of animals. As creatures of habit who appreciate routine, the unfamiliar smells and sounds of an airport, confinement to a crate or kennel for long stretches of time as well the motion of a car can trigger anxiety. According to PetMD signs of stress in cats and dogs often include increased vocalization, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. But with enough planning, you can pack an array of de-stressing remedies to re-introduce calm and balance.
For dogs, chewable supplements that contain natural herbs such as chamomile, thiamine and valerian root can help calm rattled nerves and reduce tension, while L-tryptophan or serotonin can help induce sleep. Cats, as well as dogs, often benefit from exposure to synthetic versions of calming pheromones available in sprays, collars, diffusers, and wipes.
Poop Bags and Litter Boxes
In general, packing supplies for a dog's bathroom can be as simple as throwing a few rolls of waste or poop bags in your carry-on. However, for cats, there are a few more essential items you don't want to leave home without. These include a litter box, litter, a scoop, and waste bags.
Luckily, litter boxes have become more travel-friendly over the years making jet-setting with your feline friend a reality. Portable boxes, equipt with waterproof lining are perfect to take on the road. Most fold flat and snap closed making them not only convenient to pack but reusable.
Another option to consider is environmentally friendly, disposable litter boxes. Unlike the easy to pack reusable option, these are a bit more awkward to stow and will take up more room in your suitcase. However, you won't be bringing them home with you.
Food and Water
Prepping food and water for a road trip can be a bit more convenient to do for your pet when compared to air travel. On the road, water bottles aren’t prohibited by the TSA and the amount of pet food you pack is primarily dependent on the amount of room you can spare. However, for both modes of transportation, there are some shared guidelines to consider.
In addition to packing enough food for every day, you'll be traveling with your pet it's also wise to prepare extra for any unforeseen events that could keep you on the road longer than expected. And for the sake of space, collapsible food bowls are the easiest to keep stowed in your pet's suitcase.
Unlike the open road where you can pull over and feed your pet at any time, in the air your choices dwindle. For example American and United Airlines require you to keep your pet in their carrier, beneath the seat in front of you at all times making it nearly impossible to feed and water your pet. However, thanks to a federal ruling passed in 2015, airports that serve over 10,000 passengers a year must provide pet relief stations in every terminal.
After landing, you can tend to your pet's needs at one of these stations. Check with the airport beforehand to see if any restrictions apply.
Leashes and Harnesses
Keeping track of all that you need to pack for yourself, possibly your family and your pet can make everyday items such as your pet's leash easy to forget. For dogs, a leash is necessary for daily exercise and bathroom breaks which is why, in addition to not forgetting it, it's a good idea to pack a backup just in case. Especially if you're planning a road trip that will include hikes, nature walks or wandering through parks.
For a vast majority of cats, a leash isn't necessary, nor would one likely be tolerated, however, while moving through airport security, especially if he or she is traveling with you in the cabin, you will be asked to remove your pet from their approved travel bag for a security check. And this is where a harness with a short leash could come in handy, especially if your guy or gal is feeling a bit fidgety or anxious and poised to bolt for the nearest exit.
Extra Towels and Old Sheets
Packing extra towels will help keep muddy paws clean and prove to be invaluable should you and your pet get stuck in wet weather or if a bathroom-related accident should occur during travel.
In recent years a wide variety of grooming and deodorizing wipes have become available making it even easier to keep your pet mess-free and smelling clean in every corner of the world.
Additionally, packing old sheets to lay across hotel furniture or car seats can help minimize hair build-up and possibly deter your pet from gnawing on knobs or using a hotel chair leg as a scratching post. Remember to pack a laundry bag, a used grocery bag or old pillowcase to keep your pet’s used towels and sheets separate from clean items.
It's estimated that adult cats and dogs sleep an average of 14 hours a day. And while traveling can shave a few hours off you and your pet's snooze time, it is a vacation after all which means making up those hours is entirely up to you, and your four-legged companion, which is why packing their favorite bedding is a must.
Their preferred pillow, blanket, sheet, bed or anything they sleep on that's packable is fair game. And the more the item or items carry the scents of home, the better. In situations where your adventure includes roughing it in the wild or camping, a child-sized sleeping bag stuffed with a sheet or blanket your pet loves will also make for a good night's rest or a much needed afternoon nap.
Peanut butter slathered Kongs, balls, ropes, catnip and fuzzy mice are a small sampling of the toys that make your pet's life complete. And just as they promote exercise, mental stimulation, and fun at home, toys can serve the same purpose while traveling, especially those with the familiar scents of home.
However, it's crucial for air travel to understand your chosen airlines policies for shipping your pet via cargo which could impact the number of toys permitted in their crate. For example, Alaska Airlines forbids non-bedding materials in your pet's kennel except for one small comfort item, but United Airlines strictly prohibits toys of any kind or size. Regardless of the regulations, toys are still a welcomed bonus for your pet once you've arrived at your destination.
Odor and Stain Removers
Let's face it, accidents happen and if you're not prepared to deal with them, they can quickly morph into disasters. Cat's throw up hairballs and overshoot their litter boxes while dogs get nauseous in cars and can easily mistake a kitchen corner or the leg of a hotel bed for a fire hydrant. And while these gaffes may not be intentional, they can undoubtedly leave behind unwanted stains and odors.
Packing a small bottle of stain and odor remover, especially for younger pets or those with a history of digestive or other medical issues, is not only a considerate item to bring, but it can also help avoid additional charges on your hotel or home rental bill.
Raincoats and Booties
Unless your cat is keen on long walks with a leash, which some felines are, packing a raincoat, booties or a warm coat for colder weather is an additional consideration for dog owners.
If you're traveling with a pup, who loves rolling in the mud or is used to bounding up and down the sides of mountains you can probably leave these items off your packing list. But for a newbie adventurer or a smaller dog who may need a sweater on a chilly plane, a furry dog who may need a cooling vest in warmer weather or if you're staying in a hotel, and you don't want to bring a soaking wet dog back to your room, a raincoat could be a sensible and smart option.