I recently moved across the country with my two dogs and cats. My pets are my family so there's no way I was going to change cities and leave anyone of them behind. I must admit though, it was a huge challenge and pretty expensive but with the right preparation, you and your four legged companion(s) can keep it as stress-free as possible.
|This cutie is not my pup. I could not get my two dogs & two cats to pose|
Whether you're going away for the holidays or are planning to move, you need to be extra prepared when including your pets. I'm going to break down the most important topics that helped me when I had to travel with my four furry kids.
1. Plane, train, car, other?
How will your bestie get to your destination? It is important to research the stress level for your different animals and keep that into consideration. I wanted to take a Uhaul cross-country because I could take a lot more of my things with me. But the week long journey across the United States would've been extremely stressful on my cats. Dogs can at least go on walks but my cats are not leash trained.
Different airlines have different rules so make sure you call them to find out. I found Virgin America had the best situation to keep my pets close to me in the cabin versus putting them in cargo to suffer extreme temperatures. Some airlines won't even allow you to put them in cargo depending on the weather outside. Virgin America charged $100 per pet to take as a carry-on per person. My cousin went on the journey with me so I was able to fly two animals as carry-on's and I had to buy a ticket for each of my other pets. Since it was one-way, it was roughly $150 more than a carry-on but they were all seated with me in my row.
Many airlines have limitations as to how many pets they will allow on-board at one time. So if you're not booking Virgin America (which has zero limitation on # of animals allowed on board), you'll want to ensure you've booked your pet as early as possible.
Call ahead to find pet-friendly accommodations as well. There are so many pet-friendly hotels out there--- many that charge a fee and others that don't. Marriott has more that 1400 hotels around the world that welcome pets, Choice Hotels have more than 2500, Best Western has more than 1600, and DoubleTree by Hilton has 120 properties ready to welcome your furry friends.
2. Visit your vet!
No matter which way you choose to travel, you want to ensure that your pet is in tip-top shape and that they get their preventative meds/shots done early. Many airlines require you to have a letter from your vet confirming your pet is healthy and that a record of vaccination is attached.
Don't forget to have enough heartworm and flea prevention for the amount of time you are away. If you're moving, get enough for the first three months so you have enough time to find a new vet in your area.
3. Buy Supplies and Accessories!
Traveling will be a stressful time for your pet, so you don't want to do your best to keep the levels down. I packed ziplock bags of their usual food, one for each animal per day of travel. I put names on each of the bags to keep things organized. I purchased collapsible water/food bowls as well. They pack flat to aid take up less space. I also bought some nice treats to spoil them a bit though the cats wanted nothing to do with it.
It's a good idea to travel with an empty water bottle to fill at the airport or just buy bottles when you're there to ensure it's fresh. I also made sure to pack hand sanitizer, doggy poop bags, and a few packs of travel sized wipes. Animals will have accidents. Don't leave it around for someone to step in.
The most important purchase was their carrier. When you decide on what airline you will fly, get the current dimensions to ensure you buy according to their latest standards. I bought the soft carrier as it was best to slide under the seat. If they will fly cargo, you might need to but the hard shell variety.
4. Put their name and contact info on everything!
While traveling, anything can happen so you have to be prepared. I had my pets name and phone number on ID tags on their collars as well as on their carriers. One of my cats is a total scaredy cat so I was worried if they made me take him out of his carrier at the airport, he would bolt. Luckily security allowed me to walk my other animals through the metal detector before taking me in a private room to check my special kitty. I hear this happens on a case-by-case basis depending on the member of TSA you get.
If you're in a similar situation, try to get a harness on your cat. I bought some that were too small because I grabbed them last minute.
If you're pet has a microchip, keep your documents handy while traveling. It still won't hurt to use old school ID tags as suggested above.
5. Have fun!
Pack enough toys and make the experience fun. I know lots of people who love traveling with their pets whether it's for business or pleasure. It's important that your animal doesn't have a bad time or that is all they will remember.
It is also important that you have an enjoyable experience! I booked the earliest flight possible to ensure I had the least amount of people around at security as well as just around us. We were pretty tired, but once we were on the plane, it was smooth sailing. My pets went to sleep and I had a glass of wine to calm my nerves. It might have been only 8am but after all the stress I had just gone through, I deserved it!
Don't forget to take the pups out for a walk as soon as you arrive at your destination. This will help keep them happy and you won't have to worry about cleaning up emergencies. It's also a good idea to look up local pet parks where you'll be staying so your furry kids can be social too!
Have a great time!