As exciting as it can be to take a cross-country trip, pet owners have to face a heartbreaking prospect: Leaving their beloved fur-friend at home. In truth, sometimes leaving Fido or Fluffy in familiar surroundings with trusted caretakers is the kindest choice; as hard as it is to be separated, long-distance travel can be a source of stress or even injury for your pet. But if you do have compelling reasons for taking your adventurous fur-buddy along with you, a little planning will go a long way toward helping you find pet-friendly travel options.
Car Travel With Your Pets
Traveling by car is generally the best way to travel with pets, because it puts them under the least amount of stress. For long, cross-country trips, consider requesting a sedative from your veterinarian. Although many dogs are used to riding in the car, cats in particular may become stressed, and a prescribed sedative is a useful preventive measure. Another way to prevent stress is to take your pet on short drives through your neighborhood in the days leading up to your trip. This allows your pet to acclimate to car travel.
Although cars are generally safe for animals, it is best to place dogs or cats in a travel carrier or car kennel. This gives them a safe place to relax in the car while also keeping them out from underfoot while you are driving. Stop every three hours to walk your pets and give them water, but only feed them once a day to avoid upset stomachs. Also, don't forget to use a leash or secure the carrier door when you are out of the car. Pets may panic, and if they run off far from home, it may be difficult to find them.
Air Travel With Pets
Most major airlines allow pets to travel in either the cabin or in the cargo hold. Small dogs and most cats can travel in the cabin with you if they are in an airline-approved soft-sided carrier that's small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Pets going by cargo must also be in an airline-approved crate or kennel; these are available for purchase from many airlines and pet shops.
When traveling by air, book the most direct flight to avoid layovers, which are extra stressful to your pet. In fact, some airlines won't let your pet travel on an indirect routing. Most airlines also require a recent veterinary check-up before they'll let your pet fly. Unlike car travel, sedation for air travel is not recommended because spending time in the reduced air pressure of an airliner may cause health problems for your pet. Also, don't forget to pack a leash. You will need to take your pet out of the travel carrier during routine security checks, and a leash may be necessary to keep your pet close by in case it panics.
Bus and Train Travel
On most of the major bus and train companies, including Amtrak and Greyhound, the pet policy dictates that only service animals are allowed on board. If your pet is a service animal, train and bus travel is a solution if you prefer not to fly or drive. Each company has its own rules for travel, but generally you'll need to keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash at all times. Bring a copy of any local laws pertaining to service animals with you in case you run into any resistance as you continue your journey.
Pets and Ride Shares
For ride share programs like Uber and Lyft, pets are transported at the discretion of your driver. Both platforms recommend that, as soon as the ride is confirmed, you text or call the driver to let them know you'd like to transport a pet. Uber also recommends bringing a blanket or travel carrier as a gesture of respect.
There is one exception: Both platforms let riders bring service animals with them. But, again, it's polite to let your driver know that you'll be bringing an animal along for the ride, and to do what you can to keep the pet from getting hair or any other detritus in the car, in case the driver or any future passengers are allergic.