Travel with Pets

Travel with pets

How do you go on amazing vacations without feeling guilty for kenneling your beloved fur babies? Take them with you, of course! It may require a little more paperwork, but travel with pets is doable and not as dangerous as some news stories would have you believe.

I have two cats myself, and if I’m being honest, they are my biggest (aka only) barrier to full-time travel. I know they will never be my travel companions since my tuxedo cat Oliver meows incessantly on long drives. However, I am *hoping* to move my home base to the UK in the next few years, and I don’t plan to abandon them here.

This has opened my eyes to what is available. Cruises, planes, there are entire services available to comfortably relocate pets. While my move with them will be a one-time travel experience, my research has shown pets can adapt and even enjoy travel if made to feel comfortable. 

By Air

I wanted to avoid air travel with my cats at all costs. All you seem to see in the news is poor animals that have died on airplanes. But the more I read, the more I realized it’s pretty safe, and will definitely be the quickest and cheapest way to transport your pet if you are traveling a ways to reach your destination. 

Before booking any flights, check your destination country’s policies on bringing pets in. Some countries have quarantine periods, require a pet passport, need updated vaccinations, or more! The timelines required can be tricky. Do your own research, as you cannot expect your vet to be an expert of foreign pet policy. Take your findings with you to the vet and schedule the vaccines and checkups leading to your trip so that they will be in compliance. 

Once you are ready to book a flight and know the rules, you’ll have to find an airline that takes animals. Some will allow pets of a certain size to travel in-cabin with you, and others require them to travel in the cargo hold. You can easily check an airlines pet policy by visiting their website and doing a quick search. You will likely need to call to book your flights to ensure that you buy tickets for your pets as well.

If you are traveling from the US to the UK, all animals must be in the cargo hold. This was pretty distressing to me. I am personally an anxious flyer, so I can only imagine how scary it would be in the dark for pets who have no idea what is going on. However, everything I’ve read about the experience suggests that animals do just fine. Do not give your pets any anxiety or sleeping medications without vet approval, they can be dangerous if used at high altitudes. Instead, relieve stress by packing a blanket from home in their carrier so that they have something comforting to smell and snuggle with.

Travel with pets
My tortoiseshell cat, Leona.

By Land

Road trips are probably the least stressful way to travel with pets. You have much more control of their comfort and are with them the entire time. You also can gauge when it’s time to stop based on your pet’s actions. 

My cats have made the 4.5 hour trip from my university to my parents’ house more times than I can count. Besides that, they have moved with me from Florida to Washington, DC, and back. Those moves were multi-day trips that I was able to break up to keep them comfortable.

They even had to evacuate for a hurricane one year, putting them in a car stuck in traffic for 14 hours. While that was not optimal, they did great. One of my cats cries in the car, but it doesn’t seem to be out of distress. He is always fine when we arrive at our destination, he just continuously meows on the way. My other cat curls up and goes right to sleep. 

My cats go into a large kennel together in the car, and I try to schedule the days so that we do not stop except for gas (6-8 hours). They will not eat or drink water in the car, and definitely will not use the litter box. I’ve set all of that up before, but they ignore it until we arrive somewhere that they can walk on solid ground. And since neither is leash-trained or accustomed to the outdoors, they don’t want to stop at rest areas. 

For me, road trips with my pets are not leisurely vacations in themselves, but a means of transportation to get from one location to the next. If your pets have leash-training, it is a whole different world.

Travel with pets
My tuxedo cat, Oliver.

By Sea

Did you know some cruises allow pets? I personally was looking at the options to cross the Atlantic with my cats. In that case, there is one option, the Queen Mary 2. They have a kennel on-board where your pets will stay. You can visit during certain hours and play in a pet area. I think this would be a great way to travel with your pets if they are not greatly distressed by being near other animals. They will of course always be separated by their various carriers, but the sights, sounds, and smells of other animals could be a bit much for some. If you ever kennel your pet at home, this would be no problem.

Travel with pets
Photo by Ibrahim Rifath on Unsplash

At the end of the day, traveling with your pet should be based on your pet’s comfort. I will always put my cats’ safety and comfort first, which means I will not travel with them unless I have to. They don’t seem to enjoy it, so for me it is a means of moving rather than traveling. But I see others who travel with both cats and dogs and they love it. Everyone’s pet has it’s own personality, and you know what’s best for yours. Consider taking Fido along on your next trip if it seems like something he would enjoy!

Travel with pets
Photo by Bruce Galpin on Unsplash