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Pet-Friendly Vacations: Where to Go, What to Bring

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Vacationing with your pet can be incredibly rewarding. The new sights, smells, and adventures awaiting are enough to get any pup’s tail wagging and any cat’s whiskers twitching. 

These days, more pet owners than ever before are keen to travel with their furry friends. According to a recent survey of pet owners conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 25 million pet parents take their dogs on vacation with them. 

However, a great vacation with your pet does require some special planning to ensure a safe, enjoyable, and stress-free getaway—for both you and your pet. 

Where should you go? What should you take? How should you prepare your pet for the stress of travel? In this article, we’ll answer these crucial pet travel questions and more.

How to Plan a Pet-Friendly Vacation

Well before embarking on a trip of any length, always speak to your veterinarian to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are all up to date. It’s also a good idea to ask if they think your pet can mentally and physically handle traveling. Some pets may cope just fine with a short road trip, but find longer journeys or flights more challenging.

Whether you’re flying with your pet or traveling by sea, rail, or bus, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with any rules, regulations, and health or paperwork requirements before you hit the road. For example, some airlines have breed and size limitations, and some trains only allow pets in coach class cars. To further complicate things, those requirements often vary according to carrier and destination, especially if you’re traveling overseas. 

Never fear. Just do your research before you book your travel and give yourself plenty of time to secure everything your pet will need to accompany you. Talk to your veterinarian about obtaining a pet passport and any additional immunizations and records required for travel–international or domestic.

To make things easier on yourself, you can also request your pet’s vaccination records for free and keep track of them through Pawprint, a simple way to store all your pet’s digital health essentials in one place.

And since many countries require pets to be microchipped, ask your veterinarian to scan your pet’s chip and ensure your registration information is up to date.

Where to Go: Choosing a Pet-Friendly Destination

This is the fun part! Exploring a new destination is always an adventure. And pet travel has become so common, you’re sure to find pet-friendly options, no matter where you roam.

However, when it comes to destinations that are perfect for pet lovers, we have a few top picks for both dogs and cats. 

Top Dog-Friendly Travel Destinations

California – From dog-friendly wineries to miles of sandy beaches just waiting to be explored with your dog, California is a great destination for dog lovers. Ever been tempted to teach your dog how to surf? Time your vacation to coincide with the Surf City Surf Dog expo and competition at the famous Huntingdon Dog Beach. If you prefer land-based adventures, there are plenty of stunning hiking trails to enjoy. Some historic sites, like Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, are even open to dogs, so you and your pup can travel back in time together. 

Oregon – With pet-friendly cities like Portland and Bend, plus plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploring, Oregon is a great pick for dog-friendly vacations. Enjoy wandering through the Portland Saturday Market and pick up some freshly-baked treats for your pup, or head into the Deschutes National Forest and enjoy exploring the riverside and lush hiking trails. Many of these can be enjoyed off-leash, but always check restrictions first. Bend is well-known for its dog-friendly approach, and you’ll find plenty of dog parks and pet-friendly accommodations. 

Top Cat-Friendly Travel Destinations 

Florida – Though “pet-friendly” destinations are often geared toward dog travelers, Florida has plenty of attractions and amenities geared toward cats, too. If you’re heading to Orlando Universal Resort, choose a hotel that offers your cat a welcome pack including treats, a bowl, and an ID tag. And if your trip includes any time in the Florida Keys, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is definitely worth a visit to take in the famous polydactyl “Hemingway cats.” 

Illinois – From its stunning metropolitan capital, Chicago, to its beautiful state parks, Illinois offers a wide range of experiences for you and your cat to enjoy. If your cat is the curious kind, pop them in a cat backpack and hit some of the best undiscovered hiking trails in America. If your cat prefers to stay in your room while you’re out exploring, then choose a cat-friendly hotel or rental. If you’re visiting Chicago, you’ll probably want to stop in at one of the popular cat cafes in the city, although be sure to leave your own cat at your hotel while you’re there! 

Where to Stay: Pet-Friendly Resorts, Rentals, and More

Once you’ve decided on your destination, it’s time to choose a place to stay where you and your pet can feel at home. It makes sense to start your search by narrowing in on accommodations that bill themselves as “pet-friendly.” But, even then, you may face an overwhelming number of choices. 

To help zero in on the right choice for you and your pet, be sure to keep your pet’s personality and preferences in mind. 

  • Is your pet loud or protective? If so, consider looking for a pet-friendly Airbnb or Vrbo option where you can have the whole place to yourself.
  • Is your pet messy, destructive, or prone to accidents? If so, you might want to consider camping to avoid damage charges.
  • Is your pet a bit pampered? If so, look for resorts that cater to travelers with pets, like the Kimpton Hotel chain, which welcomes pets of any size or breed for no extra charge (and even offers extras like loaner pet beds and feeding bowls).

Wherever you choose to stay, here are some important questions to ask before you arrive:

  • Is there a pet weight or size limit?
  • Are any breeds prohibited?
  • Do I need to pay a surcharge to bring my pet?
  • What’s the policy around room cleaning when pets are in residence? 

What to Bring: Top 5 Pet Travel Essentials

Whether you’re heading to a beach-front resort, staying in a pet-friendly apartment, or hitting the road in your RV, certain pet travel essentials can help your trip go more smoothly. So we’ve rounded up five of our favorites for your traveling enjoyment. Remember, it’s always worth trying new purchases out before you hit the road to make sure they work for you and your pet. 

Pet GPS Tracker

Our Pick: Tractive GPS Pet Tracker

Save $10 off a Tractive GPS device with code GREAT10

One of the things that worries pet parents most about traveling with dogs and cats is the prospect of losing their pet in unfamiliar surroundings. At home, there’s a good chance they could make their way back safely. But, on the road, there’s no telling where they might go. 

With a Tractive GPS tracker on your pet’s collar, you can put these worries to rest. This small, clip-on tracker uses satellite data to track and transmit your pet’s exact location, which you can monitor in real-time using a smartphone app. Tractive’s cat and dog GPS trackers even monitor activity and sleep patterns to ensure your furry travel companion is getting enough rest and exercise on the road. Best of all, Tractive’s worldwide coverage capability means there’s no end to the places you can travel—safely—with your pets!

Highlights

  • 100% waterproof and adventure-proof
  • In LIVE mode, location updates every 2-3 seconds
  • Alerts you if your pet leaves a predetermined “safe zone”—like your hotel room
  • Unlimited range and coverage in over 175 countries
  • Lightweight, flexible tracker fits most collars
  • Suitable for dogs and cats 

Things to Consider

  • Needs cellular service coverage to work
  • Requires a subscription; plan fees start at $5/month

Collapsible Food and Water Bowls

Our pick: Rest-Eazzzy Store Collapsible Food and Water Bowls

When traveling with your pet, you’ll always want to make sure they have plenty of access to water. But most standard water bowls are not necessarily designed for easy transport. This two-pack of collapsible bowls is the perfect choice for food and water on the go. Each bowl folds down to just 0.7 inches tall and can be expanded to a medium size of 1.3 inches tall, or full size of 2.1 inches tall. The metal carabiner clip means you can attach this to your backpack or pet carrier so it’s always on hand when you need it.      

Highlights

  • Choose from a wide range of color combinations
  • Available in small and medium 
  • BPA free
  • Dishwasher safe

Things to Consider

  • May not be big enough for large breed dogs

Airline Approved Pet Carrier  

Our Pick: Petote™ Duffel Pet Carrier

For jet-setting small pets with a taste for travel, this cat or dog carrier bag is the perfect option. It’s airline approved, although we always recommend checking specific sizing requirements before travel. You don’t have to sacrifice style with this pet carrier, as it is available in eye-catching patterns that make it look more like regular luggage. But it also provides all the creature comforts your pet will expect—from soft faux fur bedding to plenty of ventilation for comfortable travel. For longer road trips or large breed dogs, you may want to choose a dog travel crate to go in your trunk or on the back seat instead.  

Highlights

  • Available in mini and regular sizes 
  • Side pocket for all your pet’s essentials  
  • Top and side entry 
  • Available in camouflage and buffalo plaid patterns
  • Made in the USA 

Things to Consider

  • No interior leash clip 

Pet First Aid Kit 

Our Pick: rcpets First Aid Kit

Keeping a small first aid kit on hand during vacations with your pet means you’ll always have the supplies you need to treat any minor injuries. This small kit is packed full of travel-friendly essentials, including medical tape, gauze pads, and bandages. It also contains a first aid manual to help guide you through the best ways to treat common pet injuries. Everything is packed into a clearly labeled bag which can be stored in your car or your luggage.   

Highlights

  • Includes a first aid manual 
  • Supplies are packed in a durable bag 
  • Multiple storage compartments 
  • Clearly labeled as a first aid kit 

Things to Consider

  • Bag may not be large enough to accommodate any extra safety items 

Car Seat Cover 

Our Pick: URPOWER Cat Seat Cover for Pets

It’s inevitable that some pets get travel sick on journeys or may have a messy accident in the car. And, as seasoned travelers know, it’s easier to protect your car upholstery than it is to clean vomit or poop off your seats after a blowout. This heavy-duty car seat cover is made from four durable fabric layers designed to protect your car seats from accidents, scratches, and pet hair. It can easily be cleaned using a cloth, vacuum, or hosed down. There are also seatbelt openings so you can secure your pet’s carrier or harness to the seatbelt when traveling.    

Highlights

  • Choose from five colors 
  • Available in two sizes 
  • Use on the back seats or in the trunk
  • Easy to install

Things to Consider

  • Not completely waterproof 

Tips for Vacationing with Pets

When traveling with your pet, thoughtful planning and foresight help reduce stress on the road, in the air, and wherever you land. Always try to think a few steps ahead of your pet and anticipate their needs. 

Here are a few proven tips that will make any trip easier on you and your furry travel companion.

Plan bathroom breaks. Decide how often you need to stop for bathroom breaks, and schedule those breaks into your itinerary. Is your dog happy to do their business anywhere, or will you need to hunt for a specific type of surface, like the astroturf dog comfort station in some airports? For your cat, you may want to bring a travel litter box and familiar litter from home.   

Test out our pet’s travel gear before you go. The last thing you need during a stressful travel day is to find out your pet is boycotting their newly-purchased travel crate or portable food bowl. Some pets need time to get used to new gear, so try introducing new items a few weeks before departure. That way, they’ll look and smell reassuringly familiar, which may help calm your pet’s travel day jitters.

Have a backup plan for keeping your pet safe. Cat and dog trackers are a great way to keep your pet safe on vacation. But if you’re traveling someplace with limited cell service, keep in mind that may affect how well some trackers work. For optimal coverage, even in remote areas, choose a GPS tracker. And always make sure your pet is microchipped and your contact information is clearly visible on their pet identification tags.

Bring your own food. It’s always a good idea to bring some of your pet’s own food with you, especially if they have a sensitive stomach or use a brand you may not be able to find in stores while you’re away. Make sure to pack plenty of bottled water for the trip too. If you’re bringing new food and water bowls, test them out at home first to familiarize your pet. 

Give yourself plenty of extra time. Just like small children, dogs and cats can be unpredictable…especially if they find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. Try to avoid planning an itinerary that’s chock full of time-sensitive activities and give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to get anywhere. Not only will that give you some breathing room in case your pet isn’t feeling cooperative, but you (and your pet) will be more likely to return refreshed if you can actually relax on vacation!

Vacations with dogs and cats can be a huge amount of fun, as long as you take the time to plan things carefully first. While some pets might be homebodies and prefer to stay at home—others will enjoy the chance to spend even more time with their adventurous humans! 

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