Travel Hacks

How to: Travel with Pets

Tips on how to travel with pets by plane or car


While your dog might be man’s best friend, it might make a great travel companion, too. According to the International Pet and Animal Association (IPATA), over 4 million pets and live animals are transported by air per year alone. With more pet-friendly vacation homes and gadgets to keep your furry friend cozy for the journey, pets are coming along for the adventure more often. When you can dig your feet into the sand together or head out for a day on the trails, why not? Though it takes a little bit more preparation, bringing your pet on vacation is worth the effort for the memories you’ll share together.

If you’re a pet owner looking to include your dog or cat in your travel plans, here are a few tips to keep in mind whether traveling by plane or car. No one should miss out on vacation.

General tips for traveling with dogs or cats

The back of a vacation rental in the Outer Banks with a private pool.

Prepare beforehand

Featured Vacasa dog-friendly rental: Land’s End

There can be a lot of commotion in bringing a dog or cat along with you on vacation, but preparing a few things beforehand will lessen the stress for both you and your four-legged friends. In the weeks before you travel, it’s a good idea to:

  • Search for dog-friendly vacation rentals within your destination.
  • Stock up on pet food for the days you’ll be away.
  • If you plan on giving your pet any anti-anxiety medication that is new to them, be sure to test how your pet reacts to it before you travel so you are not surprised by any unexpected side effects.
  • Ensure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and in healthy shape to travel.
  • Gather your pet’s medical records or any other required travel documents.
  • Find the nearest veterinarian clinic to where you will be traveling in case of an emergency.
The exterior of a snow cabin rental that's pet-friendly in Colorado.

What to bring

Featured Vacasa dog-friendly rental: Mountain-View Modern

You’ve got your luggage, now be sure to pack your pet’s. While they probably won’t fill up a carry-on, here are some important items your pet will need while joining you on vacation:

  • Updated medical records, health certifications, and identification information (including the ID tag on their collar)
  • Food and water for the trip and the duration of your stay
  • A leash
  • Any daily prescriptions, as well as motion sickness or anti-anxiety medication
  • A pet carrier, crate, or pet bed
  • Treats and a treat-dispensing toy
  • A toy that your pet loves, though one that would be okay if it were to get lost
  • Any needed puppy pads, potty bags, litter, or brushes
The exterior of a yellow vacation rental in Pensacola, FL.

How to keep your pets safe during travel

Featured Vacasa dog-friendly rental: East Hill Vibes

With travel how-to’s, there are also travel do-not’s. It is important to be mindful of your pet’s safety when traveling, so keep an eye out for anything that might pose a risk to their well-being, including harmful food, dangerous roads, or turbulent travel conditions. Streamline your travel plans by keeping these safety tips in mind:

  • Never leave your dog or cat unattended in a closed vehicle.
  • Do not let your dog ride with its head out the window or in the back of an open truck.
  • Keep any harmful snacks (such as chocolate, nuts, grapes, and raisins) away from your pet’s reach.
  • During travel, keep your pet on a leash. You don’t want to lose your pet or disturb other passengers while en route.
  • If you’re staying in a hotel or vacation home, bringing a pet carrier or crate can keep your pet from getting into trouble. When searching for a vacation rental, opt for one with an enclosed yard.

How to travel with pets by car

A vacation home in Depoe Bay, Oregon.

Pet-proof your car

Featured Vacasa dog-friendly rental: Foxglove Terrace

If your pet hasn’t joined you on a road trip before, it’s best to work up their comfort level before heading off on a big adventure. Start by spending time with your pet in the back seat or a pet carrier with the car parked in the driveway, then slowly move up to a drive around the block or a destination an hour or two away.

You may want to consider investing in a few pet-friendly car accessories, like a dog seat belt or dog car seat, a harness, and waterproof seat covers or blankets. Clean up any spills, loose candy, or road trip snacks that your pet might get into while you’re on the road.

The deck of a vacation rental overlooking the ocean in Depoe Bay, Oregon.

Car travel tips

Featured Vacasa dog-friendly rental: The White Anchor

Key things to know when bringing your pet along for a drive are to make sure they are secured in by crate or harness (pet carriers for cats) and to leave the seats in front for other humans. If you’re traveling with kids, be sure they let your dog or cat get some rest on the drive as well—road trips can be tough for everyone. Plan frequent breaks for the bathroom and for everyone to stretch their legs. Other car travel tips include:

  • Bring an empty plastic dish or collapsable water bowl to keep your pet hydrated on stops.
  • Pack plenty of towels and napkins.
  • Be sure the car is well-ventilated and that your pet is getting enough airflow.
  • Consider buying a lick pad, chew toy, or puzzle treat dispenser to keep your dog entertained on long trips.
  • If your dog is susceptible to motion sickness, let your pet travel on an empty stomach, but make sure they have water available.

How to travel with pets by plane

The exterior of a lake house cabin rental in Tennessee.

Health, required documents, pet fees, and service animals

Featured Vacasa dog-friendly rental: Lake Therapy Hideaway

Flying with a dog or cat is often trickier, as airlines require more information, as well as a pet fee (unless your companion is a fully-trained service animal). Before booking tickets and checking passports, make sure your pet is safe to travel by plane. Some breeds (including bulldogs, Persian cats, and pugs) are at a greater risk for oxygen deprivation and heat stroke, so air travel might not be the healthiest option. In addition, airlines require a pet’s health certification and proof of rabies vaccination no more than 10 days before your flight, so plan an appointment with the vet before you travel. During the appointment, ask the vet if it would be best for your dog to be sedated for the flight.

Depending on the size of your pet, your dog or cat may be able to fly in the cabin with you. Most airlines, including American Airlines, have breed and size restrictions for animals transported by pet carriers, which can travel as a carry-on after a pet fee. Larger dogs, with the exception of service animals, will have to travel by cargo hold (considered “shipping” of a live animal, so their crate must be labeled and ventilated as such).

As your pet will be uncomfortable and away from you for an extended period of time, it is recommended that pet owners only bring pets along if completely necessary (a distant move or a multi-month trip). Otherwise, it might be safer to travel by car or hire a dog-sitter while you’re away.

How to travel with pets FAQ

The convenience of bringing your pet along for an adventure depends on the breed of your four-legged friend, and whether you plan on traveling by car or plane. (With the exception of service animals.) If your travel plans include a small dog breed that can be transported by a pet carrier in your car or fly in the cabin with you, it might only be a matter of paying a pet fee, showing a health certificate, and making sure your pet gets plenty of potty breaks. Larger dogs pose more of a challenge when traveling by plane, so opting for car travel might be the best way to go.

With the exception of service animals, airline pet fees can differ from carrier to carrier, but as a safe bet, expect to pay at least $100 each way. Fees will be confirmed at the time of booking, whether you plan on bringing your pet in a carry-on bag, will purchase a seat for your pup, or will transport your dog in the cargo hold.

Make your road trip pet-friendly by making sure your dog is secured in the back seat by harness or crate, ensuring your dog has plenty of food, water, and airflow, and never leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle.

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