Travel with pets: Everything you need to know, including your budget

The English bulldog is comfortably placed in the trunk of a...
The English bulldog is comfortably placed in the trunk of a... / SOPA Images/GettyImages

You adore your four-legged friend and would take them everywhere if you could — including vacation. What do you need to know to travel with pets safely, and how can you do so within your budget? 

A little planning goes a long way. Remember, it’s your responsibility to see to your pet’s safety. You must also remain mindful of others who may not share your affinity for the furry set thanks to allergies or past bad run-ins with uncontrolled dogs. Here’s everything you need to know about traveling with pets, staying within budget, and ensuring you and your four-legged friends enjoy your holiday.

Safety Starts in the Car

Think back to your school vehicle safety assembly, where they discussed why you should always wear your seat belt. The same physical forces that affect you in an accident also apply to your pet, and an unsecured dog or kitty can become a projectile. They could suffer worse injuries or harm another, so secure dogs with a special harness designed to work with your seat belt. Smaller dogs and cats are often happier in carriers or secured travel cages. 

Doing so may protect you from liability. Recently, Florida made it illegal to travel with an unsecured dog, requiring a seatbelt or harness. It only makes sense, as unsecured pets can distract drivers, leading to accidents.

Whatever type of pet you own, take them on shorter practice runs before going on a longer excursion. You’ll have a much better idea of what you’ll need other than the basics of a leash, water, treats and poop bags. For example, you’ll find out quickly if your pet gets carsick — if so, you may need to budget for a vet visit to obtain medication that prevents it. Fortunately, many such prescriptions cost little, often only a few dollars.

Selecting Appropriate Lodging for Your Pet

If staying at a hotel, ensure it allows your pets before booking. Some have strict no-Fido policies, while others go above and beyond, even providing water bowls and beds for your pet’s comfort during their stay. Although most establishments don’t charge extra fees for pet-friendly rooms, some do — this may range from a small surcharge to as much as $100 in more upscale lodging houses.

If you’re going camping, ensure your dog remains on a lead, even at the campsite. It’s all too easy for Rover to get distracted by a squirrel and disappear. Worse, they could lure an unwanted critter like a bear back to your site.

What About Planes, Trains and Boats?

Flying with your pet could require the most wiggle room in your budget. It’s advisable to book the roomiest seat you can find, which may mean springing for first or business class. Furthermore, most airlines charge a fee for pet passengers, which you must pay in advance. Expect to add about $300 to your current ticket price.

Please bring your pet in the main cabin with you. While some airlines allow them in the cargo hold, the experience is extremely traumatic, and several animals have died as a result of the unpredictable temperatures and environment. You might need to give up your carry-on, but check your bag, not Rover.

You must obey airline rules regarding your pet’s size and weight. Please be a good sport. Previously, many airlines allowed passengers to bring emotional support animals on board but have since restricted it to service animals only because of abuse. For example, some folks tried to pass off miniature horses and peacocks — can you imagine the chaos it caused? Communication is key, so make that call, talk to an agent and find out the rules.

Furthermore, come prepared. Savvy travelers bring extra pee pads to line their pets’ carriers. Although many airports have areas for pet relief, not all do. Taking a pad into the family restroom allows your dog to do their business.

What about boats? Most cruise ships prohibit pets, although there are a few friendly carriers. However, even these have strict restrictions, so talk to your agent and ensure you meet the necessary qualifications to avoid the costly mistake of denied boarding. Intentionally breaking the rules negates requests for refunds.

All About Quarantine

Are you planning to travel overseas with your pet? Be aware that many countries mandate a quarantine period, which may well outlast the duration of your journey. Be sure you know the rules. Even before the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard courtroom drama heated up, the actors had caused trouble in Australia by bringing in dogs without permission.

Essentials for Protecting Pet Health on the Road

Other than airline and hotel fees, most of what you must budget to travel with your pet is the same as what you do at home. Taking their usual bowls and bedding with you is wise, as it creates a sense of cozy familiarity that soothes your pet’s fragile nerves. Are there any other unexpected expenses you may encounter?

A microchip can make the difference between losing your pet and bringing them home if they escape while on the road. Therefore, set aside enough money for a vet visit to get one if needed. Fortunately, such procedures take little time and cost only $25 to $60, although your vet may charge an additional consultation fee.

Other supplies to carry when traveling with your pet include:

  • Paperwork, including their proof of vaccination and copies of prescriptions.
  • A collar complete with an identifying name tag and contact information.
  • A leash.
  • A crate, harness or restraining device.
  • Food and water bowls.
  • Food, water and snacks.
  • Poop bags and pee pads.
  • A pet-friendly first-aid kit.
  • Familiar toys and blankets for comfort and easing homesickness.

Make Travel With Pets Safe and Affordable

Your pet is a part of your family, and attending that reunion means bringing them along. Understanding the associated fees and what to budget for helps you avoid surprises, and following the right protocol protects your animal companion.

Ensure you cover all the bases to enjoy a much more pleasant journey with all the legs in your family safe and accounted for.

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