Travel, especially during the holidays, can be incredibly stressful. What do you pack? When do you leave? Will there be an extra-long TSA line? Should you leave early enough so you have time to go through an extra-long TSA line?
To avoid any unnecessary or additional stress, I try to plan ahead. That’s even more important when traveling with pets. Just this Thanksgiving, I traveled with my new 4-month-old terrier mix puppy, Diego, for the very first time. Looking back, I think I was a little more anxious than he was, but due to some research and professional insight, I can say the trip was a success.
There’s a lot to consider pre-travel. First and foremost, if you’re traveling by plane, remember some airlines require all sorts of documentation to be submitted days prior to your travel date, especially if your pet is an emotional support or service pet. Check with your airline when booking your flight to find out what documentation is needed. And according to the staff at Los Angeles’ Hancock Park Veterinary Clinic, you should visit Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the site of the government entity that controls health certificates with the Department of Agriculture, ahead of your flight to search information about travel to different countries or US states.
Also, on the day of travel, make sure you have your checklist of must-have items for your pet. The most obviously essential item to have is a carrier, and one that meets all the regulations set by the airlines for traveling furry friends. “When you book your flight, confirm the dimensions of the travel bag that’s allowed on board with the airline,” says Ronnie Lapone, dog trainer and owner of training service A Bark Away From Home. “All airlines are different.”
And there’s so much more to consider. To get ahead of any travel stress or anxiety (for you and your pet), below are a few tips to follow before — and while — traveling with your pets, plus 15 Amazon products that make traveling with pets a breeze, including water bottles, bags, beds and more. If you’re looking for a different kind of treat for your pet, we’ve rounded up the best gifts for pets and the people who love them, too.
GoTags Stainless Steel Pet ID Tags ($7.95; amazon.com)
When you’re traveling with pets, the risk of their slipping out of your hands is higher than ever. That’s why one of the most important travel essentials is an ID tag that features all of your current contact information. “I love pet ID tags, and you can personalize them with up to eight lines of text,” Lapone says.
Lewis N. Clark RFID-Blocking Stash Neck Wallet ($9.99, originally $14.99; amazon.com)
And if you’re flying with your pet, there’s lots more information you’ll need on hand. “Bring a printed copy of a rabies certificate and proof of up-to-date vaccinations,” Lapone says. “And a printed copy of your receipt from the airline for the flight that you purchased specifically for your dog. (This is usually on your own receipt, but some airlines require you to purchase your dog’s flight after you purchase your own flight, rather than at the same time.)”
With this pouch, you can keep all those important papers organized and in reach. According to Lapone, you also want to have a strategy when first arriving at the airport with your pet. “Head to the special cargo/oversized items area for your airline,” Lapone says. “Most airlines will not allow you to check in with your dog at a regular kiosk for humans. Present your own boarding pass, and your printed receipt for your dog’s flight, and airline staff will give you a boarding pass for your dog.”
That being said, allow an extra 30 minutes (at least) for this process, since the line can always get backed up. Once you have your dog’s boarding pass, you can head over to the security line.
Alcott Treat + Ball Bag ($13.99; amazon.com)
You’ll want to keep treats handy when traveling for when your pet gets a little anxious or deserves a reward for great behavior. Alcott’s Treat + Ball bag is one of Lapone’s favorites for keeping them at the ready.
Blue-9 Balance Slip-Over Harness ($49.95; amazon.com)
My dog, Diego, is a wiggler. He gets excited at the sight of any human or puppy that walks by. When his traveling excitement is on overload, this Blue-9 slip-over harness offers security and control. He won’t wiggle out of his harness, but he still has room to show everyone, everywhere that he’s pumped to see them.
Unicreate Pet Travel Bag ($36.95; amazon.com)
No matter how you’re traveling, Hancock Park Veterinary Clinic recommends packing food and toys for your pet to use on the trip. Amazon’s Unicreate pet travel bag is a weekend tote organizer bag featuring two food carrier bags and two silicone collapsible bowls.
Sleepypod Atom Pet Carrier (starting at $100.74; amazon.com)
If you have a little money to splurge, Lapone recommends the Sleepypod air travel bag, which you should try to get your pet used to right away. “Keep it out in your home (and open), and randomly toss treats into the bag,” she says. “This gets your pet thinking, ‘Wow, great things happen in this bag!’ Practice closing the bag with Fido in it (for a short period of time, then slowly increase time), while he’s happily snacking on some treats.”
Adaptil Travel Spray for Dogs ($11.95, originally $34.99; amazon.com)
Your pet may have to stay in her carrier for a long period of time. To comfort her, Lapone advises bringing a T-shirt that smells like you to keep in the travel bag. She also recommends purchasing Adaptil Travel spray and a bandana. “Follow the instructions for use, and try this at home before travel day,” Lapone says. “This is a harmless Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) that may support dogs during new or stressful situations. I like to spray it on a bandana, and tie the bandana around my dog’s neck.”
However, do be sure to check with your veterinarian prior to travel if your pet struggles with stress or anxiety, as all pets are different and may react differently to certain ingredients, and may do better with medication.
Vastar Adjustable Pet Car Seat Belt ($7.99; amazon.com)
When you’re traveling by car, you want to make sure your pet is buckled in safely. With more than 2,000 reviews on Amazon, these seat belt attachments are easy to use, and buyers love how they allow your pet to sit in the exact position he wants.
Brindle Soft Memory Foam Dog Bed With Removable Washable Cover ($34.99; amazon.com)
If you’re traveling by car and have ample space, bring Brindle’s soft memory foam dog bed along for the ride. It has a removable washable cover in case it gets a little messy after dirty paws. The 3-inch layer of orthopedic shredded memory foam is perfect for when your pup gets tuckered out.
Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Meal Mixers ($9.99, originally $13.44; amazon.com)
If your dog will be munching on a new brand of food while visiting friends and family, he may not be too fond of the taste at first. Try topping the food with some of Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Meal Mixers. The food toppers are grain-free and come in different healthy flavors.
Purina Waggin’ Train Chicken Jerky Tenders ($9.88, originally $10.99; amazon.com)
Diego is currently in training mode, so every time he acts out something he’s learned (sit, down or stay), I offer him a treat. He loves Purina’s strips. When traveling, I cut the treats into smaller bits and store them in zip-close bags. I offer him some during travel to reward him for awesome behavior and to keep him entertained if there’s commotion or distractions that may startle him.
Upsky Portable Pet Water Bottle ($8.99; amazon.com)
It’s not always easy to find places to stop when traveling. To make sure your pet stays hydrated during short or long travels, bring along a portable pet water bottle like this one.
Pet Parents Washable Dog Pee Pads ($15; amazon.com)
When you gotta go, you gotta go. If your pet is giving you signs that he has to go, and unfortunately there isn’t a pet-friendly spot around where he can do so, you can use one of these washable pee pads. Beloved by Amazon shoppers, these premium pads have a 4.5-star rating.
If you’re flying, Lapone advises checking in advance to see if there’s a pet relief area at the airport by calling the airport directly, or viewing the airport layout map.
Kong Classic Dog Toy ($10.99, originally $12.99; amazon.com)
Whether you’re on the road or at the home of a loved one for the holidays, your dog will want to play. Lapone once advised me to pack a Kong with treats or kibble when traveling anywhere, to make sure my dog stays happy all day long.
Relaxivet Calming Collar For Cats and Small Dogs ($17.45, amazon.com)
Our feline companions are known to get anxious when traveling and aren’t afraid to show it. Before a long trip, try going on short trips with your cat. That way, you can also test out calming remedies such as Relaxivet’s calming collar. But as always, be sure to talk with your vet to figure out what the best option really is for your cat.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.