Although I grew up with pets (5 inside dogs and 3 outside, horses and two pet chickens), Mom and I don’t own any now. But lots of elderly people do… and for good reason! According to many studies, pets can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, increase social interaction and encourage physical activity. A dog or cat helps reduce depression and lowers the loneliness that some elderly people experience. Because pets offer affection and unconditional love, seniors with animals around them often take better care of themselves.

So what do you need to know if your parent wants to bring his or her pet on a trip?

We looked to the American Kennel Club, and the U.S. Humane Society as well as the “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan for answers to traveling with your pet by planes, trains, buses, ships, and automobiles.

 

Traveling with Pets on Planes

traveling with pets

In-cabin animals have to be in a carrier that fits under the seat (unless it’s an emotional assistance dog).

All sources agreed that traveling with a pet on a commercial airline can be challenging primarily for the animals health and safety. If your Mom is set on taking Fido with her, make sure to research thoroughly and keep these tips in mind.

  1. Start by checking with the airline as policies vary. While many allow small animals in the cabin, several airlines do not. If an animal is allowed to travel with you, you’ll need to purchase a carrier that fits underneath the seat in front of you. NOTE: Before you go, make sure your pet will go in a carrier! My friend has a dog that goes nuts in the enclosed carrier she bought. She drives or leaves the dog at home.
  2. Most airlines charge an extra fee for your pet, impose restrictions on the type and size of the carrier you need to use, and have a maximum weight of the pet and carrier combined. Also know that the pet carrier is typically counted as one of your two carry-on bags (although again, be sure and clarify with your airline of choice).
  3. Airlines allowing pets in the cabin have a maximum number of pets they’ll take per flight, so it’s wise to book early.
  4. Beware of the risks in transporting your pet in the cargo hold. Some airlines just don’t do it at all. Excessive heat or cold and poor ventilation along with rough handling might result in tragedy.
  5. Check a variety of online sources regarding pet air travel. You’ll find general tips for things like monitoring the tightness of your dog’s collar, carrying a photo of your pet, and not feeding them for 6 hours before the flight, among other recommendations.
  6. Make sure to have your veterinarian check your pet to see if Fido (or Fluffy) is healthy enough to travel, and is up to date on vaccinations. Health certifications are required for airline travel on some airlines, but not on others. All air carrier regulations are subject to change; so check each carrier every time!
  7. If you’re going outside the U.S., you’ll want to see what those countries’ health and vaccination policies are for incoming pets, and then make sure to see the U.S. requirements for your pet on its return home.
  8. As a final option, there are pet charter companies who specialize in transporting small animals. It’s not cheap, but if you’ve got the cash, it may be worth checking out!
  9. Airlines have different rules for assistance or emotional support animals (rather than for your everyday pet) although it’s typically an involved process, so don’t wait until the last minute to investigate this option.

 

Traveling with Pets on Trains and Buses

This is a quick one. As of this writing, Amtrak and Greyhound allow only assistance dogs on board. Meanwhile, the Pets On Trains Act (H.R. 674) was introduced in the House of Representatives on 02/03/2015. The law, if passed, would allow Amtrak passengers to bring their cat or dog on certain trains. Unlike Amtrak and Greyhound, some local bus and train companies allow pets. As usual, check with your proposed carrier before showing up with Fido on a leash!

 

Traveling with Pets on Ships

Very few cruise ships allow pets. Many allow service animals, but some don’t even welcome those. We found one — the Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossing — that accepts pets although before boarding, you’re required to get a “pet passport.” It’s part of the Pet Travel Scheme (“PETS”) system allowing animals to travel to and from member countries without undergoing quarantine. The U.S., UK, EU, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are participating countries.

 

Traveling with Pets in Automobiles

Automobiles are the safest way to vacation with mom or dad’s pet. It can add to the fun of the vacation, and relieves worry about who’s taking care of their pet if you leave Fifi behind. But there’s still lots to know!

  1. Interestingly, the Humane Society says cats should stay at home as they typically have problems adjusting to travel (and they can easily escape).
  2. Before you go, make sure that they will be welcomed in the hotel where you’ll be staying (hotels typically require you to state that you’re bringing an animal when booking the reservation). Also know that many hotels charge extra for animals.
  3. Chances are the restaurants and possibly tourist sites you’ll visit won’t allow animals (save for certified assistance dogs), but be sure to check before you hit the road.
  4. To prepare the pet for vacation travel, take your mom or dad’s dog for a little longer car trip than to the local doggy park so they’ll get used to it. It would be awful to get on the road, only to learn that Mom’s dog really can’t take being in the car!
  5. Don’t let the animal roam in the car. Dogs should be crated, but at the very least, a dog restraint or seat belt is safest for you and for them.
  6. Keep the pet in the back seat. A deployed air bag could kill an animal of almost any size.
  7. Include their favorite blanket, a familiar toy, or nice bone to chew to make them feel comfortable and to give them something to do.
  8. Make sure they have plenty of water, lots of ventilation, and are NEVER left alone in a locked car. (We counted 16 states that have laws against it.)
  9. Make sure you make plenty of rest stops, and that your pet never leaves the car without a collar, leash and ID tag.
  10. I know dogs love it, but don’t let them hang their head out the window. You need to focus on the road, not making sure Fido doesn’t jump out the window if the car next to you has a dog!
  11. Of course, check with your vet to see if your mom or dad’s pet can travel.

 

As always, let us know what you’ve found. We love to hear stories from our TWAP family, including the furry ones.