Vacation Planning

Planning a trip with your pet? Whether it’s a two-week vacation or an extended RV extravaganza, here are a few tips to help make travel easier.

It may sound silly, but tell your pet what’s happening. They won’t understand the words, but making sure they get plenty of attention helps relieve some of their anxiety when the suitcases come out.

If a travel carrier is involved—i.e., if you are traveling by air or will need to crate the pet for even part of the trip, try to acclimate the animal to the carrier well in advance. Some people find it easiest to keep the carrier out at all times, with the door open. Encourage the animal to sleep inside, or at least take treats there. Place comfortable bedding inside, and praise the pet whenever they enter voluntarily. As time goes by, start closing the door for short periods initially, always praising the pet and offering favorite treats. This crate may be your pet’s home away from home, so make it comfortable. If your pet was crate trained at an early age, this will be easy.


If you must bring the family cat on a long trip, don’t be tempted to take him or her out of the carrier while driving or when exiting the car. For one thing, the cat will feel more secure in the confined space—just make sure the crate is large enough to accommodate a litter pan and a dish of canned cat food. Canned food makes sense as it has a high water content, and the strong odor makes it more appealing to the cat during times of stress.

Another reason is safety—a cat loose in the car may try to climb onto the dashboard or crawl beneath the brake pedal. If you did have to slam on the brakes, a cat (or small dog) might be thrown against or even through the windshield.

If flying, the carrier must necessarily be smaller and no litter box is allowed. Accidents do happen, however, so I recommend layering the bottom of the carrier with plastic trash bags and newspaper. Newsprint is cushy and very absorbent; if soiled can easily be rolled up and placed into the waiting trash bag. Another layer should be waiting below the first. Commercially available “potty pads” are also an excellent choice to line a carrier.


On a long drive trip, remember to plan your stops to accommodate the family dog. Do keep a leash securely fastened to the collar or harness— even the most devoted dog might bolt under unfamiliar circumstances. The last thing you want is to lose your dog in a strange town, or watch as they take off across a busy highway!

Make sure your pet is expected! Many hotels and some RV parks still don’t allow pets, or require a reservation and extra fee to do so. And though you can’t imagine, even your favorite aunt may prefer you make other arrangements for your pet while visiting. Airlines each have their own requirements for transporting pets, and if you’re crossing certain state— or especially international—lines, you may need a health certificate and proof of vaccination to get through. For more information about pet-friendly travel and lodging, visit

Some pets love to travel. Others don’t. In many cases, especially for a short trip, it’s best to leave the pet with a great boarding facility, a good friend, or a professional pet sitter instead of dragging them along on your vacation. Not only will they be less upset and anxious, but you’ll be able to relax without constantly worrying about whether they are having a good time.

Forgetting Something?

Here’s a basic list of items you’ll want to make sure you’ve brought with you. This is also a great starter list for your emergency kit.

• Collar with ID tags on pet at all times (consider writing your contact telephone number directly on the collar as a backup. If a pet gets lost, tags can be pulled off the collar.)

• Microchip your pet! Make sure chip is registered and contact information is up to date.

• Leash & back-up leash

• Medication, including flea, tick and heartworm prevention

• Food & water bowls

• Food (wet & dry)

• Treats

• Water

• Pick-up bags

• Potty pads

• Toys

• Bed/crate/carrier

• Pet first aid kit

• Dog harness & seat belt attachment if loose in car

• Brush/nail trimmer

• Pet sunscreen

• Cooling vest/sweater

• Paw protection

• Old blanket/sheet to cover furniture in hotel room if your pet gets on furniture


• Vaccination records, medical history, veterinarian contact information

• Health certificate (if required)

Lillian Roberts, DVM, is the owner of Country Club Animal Clinic, which is located at 36869 Cook Street in Palm Desert. 760-776-7555

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