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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 from your vet and keep track of them when you create a free GreatPetCare account, 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

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 GPS tracker on your pet’s collar, you can put these worries to rest. Small, clip-on trackers use satellite data to track and transmit your pet’s exact location. Many brands offer real-time monitoring using a smartphone app. Some 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.

Collapsible Food and Water Bowls

When traveling with your pet, you’ll always want to make sure they have plenty of access to water. So it’s a good idea to invest in a water bowl that’s designed for easy transport. Look for collapsible bowls to make feeding and hydrating your dog on the go super simple. Some brands offer bowls made from flexible silicone that can be folded down to less than an inch in height. For an added bonus, opt for models that come with a metal carabiner clip that you can attach to your backpack or pet carrier, so the bowl is always on hand when you need it.      

Airline Approved Pet Carrier  

For jet-setting small pets with a taste for travel, a compact cat or dog carrier bag is a must. There are plenty of options to choose from, and many are marketed as “airline-approved.” However, we always recommend checking specific sizing requirements with the airline you are flying before you travel. Choose from a wide variety of eye-catching patterns and styles, but ensure it has all the creature comforts your pet will need — from soft faux fur bedding to plenty of ventilation for comfortable travel.  

Pet 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. Make sure your kit contains travel-friendly essentials, such as medical tape, gauze pads, and bandages. And, for easy access in an emergency, pack it in a clearly labeled bag that can be stored in your car or your luggage.   

Car Seat Cover 

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. So it’s a good idea to invest in a heavy-duty car seat cover designed to protect your car seats from accidents, scratches, and pet hair. Look for options that are easy to clean with a cloth or vacuum. Some are even designed to be hosed down. For added safety, opt for covers equipped with seatbelt openings so you can secure your pet’s carrier or harness to the seatbelt when traveling.