A small brown dog with a red bandana hangs his head out of a car window on a sunny ride.

On the road again? 2024 is going to set a new high watermark for seasonal travel, as people all over the U.S. gear up for summer break and sunny weather ahead. 

For many different reasons, dog owners may prefer to take their fuzzy family member along for the trip. This can be a great idea, but make sure to take the time to do some planning and prepare for the extra responsibilities and requirements that come with it.

There are many ways for dogs to travel safely — especially when the trip is non-optional, such as for a permanent relocation move. Just make sure to read the tips below and put them into action in order to avoid risks to your dog’s health and safety, as well as the safety of others, during your voyage.

Start With a Vet Visit

Every trip that lasts more than a few hours should be preceded by a visit to your dog’s regular vet. Even if the vet saw them recently, you want to evaluate their current state, ensure they’re cleared for safe travel, and prepare in advance for any challenges that could arise. They may be able to recommend safe sedatives, for example, that won’t add to your dog’s risk of overheating while flying or riding in the car.

At very least, you’ll be ensuring that your dog is current on all recommended vaccinations, including both mandatory ones and those that are optional but can be highly beneficial during travel (especially kennel cough and Bordetella vaccines).

You will also want to make sure that your pet is microchipped, too, just in case you happen to get separated.

Ask For Specifics for Lodging and Other Situations Where the Dog Is Present

One of the biggest mistakes traveling pet owners can make is to assume that everything will be fine once they get to their destination. They may even receive assurances from the person they will be staying with or their lodging provider that the place is 100% ready to accommodate a pet.

Unfortunately, as many dog owners have discovered, reality and expectation can often end up having a wide gulf between them. You may, for example, discover that there’s no safe place to walk the dog for a bathroom break, or there may be other pets present that won’t get along with yours.

To avoid surprises, make sure to ask for details. If a hotel says they are “pet-friendly”, for example, does that mean there will be an extra fee for the pet? Where is the pet allowed to go while leashed? Can the pet be left in the room for brief periods, such as while everyone goes to get breakfast?

The bottom line is that others aren’t going to be nearly as worried about your dog as you will be, so they may overlook key details in their efforts to assure you that everything will be fine. While it’s never fun to be the fussy one, you should dig in and get all of the information you’ll need to ensure that your pet can have a safe, enjoyable stay.

It’s especially important to ask about travel requirements when taking a pet on a flight or cruise. Ensure that they will be able to accommodate your pet and that you will have everything you need to actually bring them on board and get them to where they need to go.

Have ID Ready

While at the vet, you may need to retrieve paperwork proving that your pet is healthy and has had all of its needed vaccinations.

As the American Humane Society points out: “Most airlines require a health certificate for animals, typically issued within 10 days of travel.” They add that “this is also a good time to ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and that they aren’t battling any illnesses that could be exacerbated by heat or stress.”

Hotel accommodations and other businesses that serve the public may want to see their paperwork, too, so go ahead and request everything you need from your vet during your visit.

You should also have tags on your dog that state its current address and your contact information. Some experts recommend including a second tag that states your destination, just in case you and your pet become separated. You can also carry a second set of tags in the event that the first one breaks off or gets misplaced.

Get a Sturdy Leash and Harness (And Consider Bringing a Crate)

Your pet’s current leash or lead may not cut it in the situation you’re going to be in — both during your travel and once you reach your destination. The leash should relatively short, strong enough to resist tugging, and attached to a collar or harness that is all-but impossible for them to slip out of. 

In fact, strongly consider buying a secure harness since this will allow you to control the animal’s movement safely, even in hectic situations, while keeping them comfortable and safe.

A USDA-approved crate is required for all dogs and cats flying in the cargo hold of a plane

Even if you’re not flying, you may want to strongly consider purchasing a crate so that your dog has comfortable and familiar accommodations to keep them housed at all stages of their journey. Introduce them to the crate at least six weeks before the trip so that they can get used to the smell and sight of it. While traveling, provide them with comfortable bedding and a way to be fed and stay hydrated, such as a collapsible bowl or a bowl set that latches securely onto the crate.

Bank in Extra Time for Meals, Water, Bathroom Breaks and Other Concerns

If you’re trip involves a very tight schedule, don’t bet on your furry friend to understand the need for speed. They will likely be stressed and less likely to eat or go to the bathroom in the same time frame you expect, especially if you’re taking a road trip with your dog. They may even encounter issues — such as an upset stomach or an inability to “hold it in” amidst all the stress — that can add “tackling a mess” to your itinerary.

The safest bet is to ensure that you have plenty of leeway throughout your schedule just in case things go awry. Besides, your dog deserves to not feel rushed when given the chance to eat, drink, or potty. If you forget to add in this time, or you end up trying too hard to force the issue, your animal could end up malnourished, dehydrated, or encountering health issues.

Bring Plenty of Food (And Creature Comforts)

Don’t count on finding your pet’s preferred diet at your travel destination. Even if it’s a brand you’ve seen a billion times before, there’s a strong chance it may not be available wherever you’re going — especially in the midst of persistent pet food supply chain challenges of recent years.

Even when cargo space is precious, bring enough food for your dog to enjoy their regular schedule of meals for the planned number of days plus one or two extra.

In addition to food and clean drinking water, your dog will also likely appreciate having some familiar scents and objects around. Provide them with comfortable bedding for their trip, and bring along one or two of their favorite toys to keep them occupied.

Have an Emergency Plan

To egregiously paraphrase Steinbeck: “the best-laid plans of dogs and dudes often go awry.”

Traveling with a pet is often stressful enough, but what if something happens during the trip? You and your travel companions (including Fido) can benefit greatly from having an emergency plan in these situations.

Try to account for factors like:

  • The location of an emergency vet at your destination
  • Contingency plans if your current lodging doesn’t work out
  • A disaster preparedness plan for travel
  • Instructions for others to care for the pet if you are temporarily unable to
  • A plan for if you get separated, especially when flying
  • What to do if you need to leave a few days early or late
  • What you’ll do if you encounter a car accident or a medical emergency
  • How you’ll respond when the animal needs an emergency bathroom break (pro tip: they do make dog diapers!)

The Red Cross also recommends taking along a First-Aid kit for pets, along with extra medications your dog needs, whether its daily or just in the event of an emergency.

Book Your Pet’s Stay-cation at Greenlin Pet Resorts in Harrisburg

Your dog deserves a break and some new scenery, just like you, but sometimes they just can’t make the journey without a lot of extra stress or risk. 

In the event that you feel worried about your pet’s safety — or you begin to suspect that taking them along could interfere with the relaxation you’d been hoping for — then remember that there’s always a safe option of boarding your dog at Greenlin pet resorts.

Our climate-controlled facilities are staffed by animal lovers who have all been trained in pet First-Aid and CPR. We provide your dog with a safe home-away-from-home, with the opportunity to enjoy activities and a packed routine, especially if you add dog daycare or dog training classes to their stay package.

While you may end up missing your pup, you can at least rest easy knowing that they are in good hands, with spacious accommodations designed just for their comfort. We promise to pull out all of the stops, and we are able to accommodate senior dogs, puppies, and dogs with special medical needs. Vets are also close by to all of our facilities — a fact you can’t say for every resort or travel destination!

So if you’re weighing your options and aren’t fully set on bringing Rover along for the ride, then give us a call or come visit one of our six Harrisburg area pet boarding locations to learn how we can help them have a five-star vacation of their own!