Guide to Safe and Smart Traveling with Pets

Cocker Spaniel Dog Photo by Vera Volsanska PublicDomainPictures.netThere is nothing like a vacation with the whole family. Four-legged family members add a lot of fun to the trip, but they also add a lot of work and responsibility. (I’m thinking maybe each two legs is the equivalent of one two-legged person’s worth of energy.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, Frugal Travel Begins Before the Trip: Vacation Preparation Checklist, it is the preparation that determines how much fun you will have; the better prepared, the more you will be able to enjoy your trip. And again, the way to travel frugally is to travel prepared. So to follow up that post, I wanted to share some tips for helping your entire family enjoy your summer vacation. Most of these suggestions will help save you money by avoiding costly situations such as tips for staying in a hotel with your pet, keeping your dog healthy and safe to prevent costly vet bills (either immediate or future), and also just maintain your pet’s general well-being.

Safe and Smart Pet Travel

  • Finding Pet Friendly Lodgings
    Hotels are becoming more and more dog-friendly as businesses realize how many people consider their pets a part of the family and wish to travel with them. Do a search for Pet Friendly Hotels (or Discount Pet Friendly Hotels) to find lodgings at your destination. However, do not rely solely on the word of the pet friendly referral site; even if you will be booking your hotel stay through a referral site such as Expedia, which allows you to search for pet-friendly hotels, always double check the hotel’s pet policy on its official website. Some referral websites contain outdated, incomplete or simply wrong information on hotel pet policies. Some hotels may have accepted pets at one time but no longer, or have pet type, breed or weight restrictions. Sometimes, the easiest thing to do is to just call the hotel and ask.

    When calling a pet-friendly hotel, be sure to:

    • Ask if they accept the type, breed and weight of your pet
    • Ask if there is a non-refundable pet fee (some hotels do not charge a non-refundable pet fee, something called a “cleaning fee”, and others charge as much a $150 per stay)
    • Ask about daily fees – per pet, per stay, etc. (most hotels charge per pet, per day)
    • If you are bringing more than one pet, be sure to check that they allow more than one pet per room
    • Any other pet policies you need to know about

  • What to Pack when Traveling with Pets

    • If traveling by car, I highly suggest a doggie seat belt. This is both for your pet’s protection as well as your own protection. In fact, regardless of distance traveled, dogs should always be buckled in. This makes sure they do not disturb or distract the driver in any way, and prevents them from being flung out of the car in the event of an accident. A 30-mph collision with a 30-lb. dog creates a 900 lb. force that can severely or fatally injure both dog and human passengers.
    • To avoid extra hotel cleaning charges, I suggest bringing:
      • An upholstery cleaner
      • Baby wipes to clean your pet’s feet after playing outdoors
      • Paper towels
      • To clean up after any accidents, an pet safe cleaner so that the pet doesn’t get ill from stepping in it and ingesting it by licking its paws
    • Identification and license with your cell phone number printed on the ID in case your pet gets lost. Include emergency contact information for a relative, friend or neighbor who can care for your pet in the event something happens to you.
    • Food and water dish.
    • Dry and not messy food.
    • Non-greasy treats for keeping your dog from being bored and misbehaving. Non-greasy to prevent carsickness and vomiting. We like carrot sticks which are healthy and be be cool and juicy.
    • When packing your own drinks, make sure you bring enough drinking water for your pet. Dogs get very thirsty when riding in cars.
    • Consider a pair of doggie sunglasses to protect from corneal sunburn. Long term exposure to the sun can result in blindness in old age.
    • If your dog is an indoor dog and will be walking outside, consider a pair of doggie boots to prevent injury from hot pavement, broken glass, rough road surfaces and sharp rocks. Dogs who live indoors tend to have softer paw pads that are more sensitive to outdoor surfaces.
    • Velvet Dog Shoes BootiesIf staying in a place with hardwood flooring, bring a pair of doggie shoes to prevent damaging wood flooring with nails.
    • If your dog will be staying indoors a lot, you might consider bringing some housebreaking pads (large sizes are available for large dogs) and encourage them to use it if confined indoors for long periods of time.
    • If your dog is used to playing outdoors and doing his business outdoors, look up the locations of a few dog friendly parks in the area before you leave. Some hotels object to letting your dog do his business on hotel property. A dog park might be more amenable to such transactions.
  • Pet Health and Safety While Traveling

    • Preventing heat stroke
      Remember that dogs are naturally warmer than we are; even when we are comfortable with temperatures in the 80s, they can be hot, especially if they have longer hair. Heat stroke can cause permanent brain damage, so monitor your dog very carefully. If he is panting, that means he is hot.

      • If driving during summer, freeze a container of drinking water, which will be ice by the time you depart. Bring it in the car and allow your dog an occasional sip as it melts. Don’t let them have too much ice-cold water at one time.
      • A wet bandanna tied around the neck can help keep cool.
      • Consider a dog cooling jacket as pictured to the right. (Click on the picture to see details.) There are also cooling mats for hot dogs to lie on. These are good for staying at home during warm weather as well.
      • Keep your dog in the shade as much as possible. When parking, look for shady spots.
      • Never leave your dog in the car by itself or with young children. Have at least one older child or an adult remain in the car and keep the air conditioning on.
    • Don’t let your dog ride with his head out the car window. As much as they love it, it is very dangerous. My windshield was recently cracked by a flying pebble while driving 50 mph.
    • Never let your dog off leash unless in an enclosed area intended for dogs, such as a dog park or until inside your lodgings. Leave his collar and ID on even when indoors.
    • Don’t have young children hold the leash. The gentlest dog can get excited or frightened in unfamiliar surroundings. Even small dogs can be very strong when excited, which can be dangerous for both dog and child.
    • Don’t forget prescription medication such as heartworm preventatives. Don’t administer medication early for convenience; pack the necessary dosage and give it when it is due.
    • Don’t change your pet’s diet for the trip. Bring the same foods as he would eat at home. Tip: Pets who subsist on a varied home-cooked diet are less prone to diarrhea with diet changes. For more information, check out this article on Cooking for Your Pet.
    • If you are traveling to an area with pests such as mosquitoes, fleas and ticks and diseases not found in your home area, be sure to prepare for it. Ask your vet for disease prevention advice.
  • At the hotel

    Pets get very nervous when away from home. Even if they are normally very calm and friendly at home, this may change when in unfamiliar surroundings.

    • Never leave your pet unattended in the hotel room. Nervousness and stress can cause them to make messes, damage property and make noise that might disturb other guests.
    • Hang the “do not disturb” sign on the door to prevent housekeeping from accidentally letting your pet out and either party from injury.
    • Bring a familiar toy from home, and set out your pets things such as food and water dish.
    • If your dog is crate trained, setting up the crate in the room might make him feel more secure.
    • To reduce barking at sounds of other guests outside your room at night, keep him active during the day so that he sleeps better.
    • Clean up after accidents immediately to prevent stains and odors from soaking in. Use an upholstery cleaner on beds, rugs and chairs. Wipe your pets paws and other dirty parts to prevent soiling the room.

Boarding Your Pet

Traveling with pets is a big responsibility, but when done right, it can be very fun. If you feel like it’s too much work, consider boarding your pet at a reputable boarding facility. When looking for a boarder, don’t choose the least expensive one. Ask your veterinarian, friends and/or relatives for recommendations of reputable boarders with whom they have had good experiences.

A veterinary clinic that offers boarding isn’t necessary the best choice. A facility dedicated for the purpose may be better as the employees’ main focus is taking care of boarded animals, while a veterinary clinic (especially a small one), has ill animals to see to. You don’t want to scrimp when it comes to the health and safety of your pet; you want to make sure that you can enjoy yourself on your vacation without anxiety about your pet. Of course, there will still be some worry, but knowing that he/she is well taken care of will help a great deal.

If you do board your pet, take a few familiar items from home such as a bed and toys to help your pet feel more at home at the boarding facility.

Tan Paw Prints Image by Penelope Pince

Well, I hope some of these suggestions help you and your pet to have a nice summer vacation. Buon viaggio!

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