It’s getting to be that time of year when many of us cross the country by air or car to see family and friends. What to do with your four-legged companion(s) is always an issue.  Do you take him with you or leave him behind? If you’re thinking of traveling with your pet this holiday season, here are a few things to consider:

  •  Book early.  Airlines have limited spaces available for pets in the cabin and in the cargo area. You can't just show up at the gate with "Fido" and expect to be able to fly with him. Hotels, too, should be booked well in advance. Some hotels welcome pets; others do not. Some properties also limit the number of pets in the hotel at one time.
  • Get Your Pet Used to the Carrier. If your dog or cat only associates the pet carrier with a stressful trip to the vet, start several weeks before your holiday getaway and get him or her used to sitting in the carrier by leaving it open during the evening while you are watching television or beside your desk while you work during the day. Place a favorite blanket or toy inside to make it seem less threatening.
  • Never Leave Your Pet Unattended. EVER! You wouldn't leave your child unattended. Don't leave your pet vulnerable to unscrupulous strangers, weather, or other hazards.
  • Find a Vet at Your Destination. Ask your veterinarian for the name and contact information of a veterinarian that they would recommend at your destination. Alternatively, if you are visiting friends that have pets, ask for the name and contact information of their vet.
  • Plan for Pet Safety. Make sure that your pet has a happy and safe trip by taking a few precautions. Microchipping your pet is a simple, inexpensive, and painless procedure that helps your pet to return to you should he or she become lost.
  • Pack a Pet Wellness Kit. If you are traveling by air or car, put a few things together to help in a pet emergency. These include your pet's health certificate, a dog or cat first aid kit, extra food (in case you get stranded on the road or stuck in an airport), a water bowl and bottled water, and an extra collar and leash (for dogs).

Not every pet enjoys traveling (just as not every human enjoys it.) If your pet is a stay-at-home kind of guy or gal who finds traveling stressful, consider boarding your pet while you're away. Pet boarding facilities have evolved from the in-the-cage-all-day variety of our youth. Today's kennels have play rooms, exercise facilities, and plenty of doggie (and kitty) treats. "Test drive" a boarding facility by leaving your pet there for an afternoon first to see how he or she likes it. Planning ahead is also crucial if you decide to board your pet. The limited spaces fill up quickly at the best facilities.

Tips for Traveling with Pets