Traveling with Dogs: A Guide to Travel From Preparation to Arrival

Dog lovers everywhere are including their dogs on family vacations and road trips, but successful travel with your dog depends on more than good intentions. Uneventful travel with the family pooch relies on planning, preparation, and plenty of research!

Road Trips with your Dog

Road Trips with your Dog

The most common type of travel for dog lovers and their dogs is by car. As easy as it may seem to travel by car with your dog, however, there is still plenty to consider in order to have a safe and uneventful trip.


Having the right supplies on board when taking a road trip with your dog will make the road trip more comfortable for the both of you. Recommended supplies include:

  • A crate or safety harness to keep your dog safely restrained while traveling.
  • A water bowl and bottle of water to keep your dog hydrated.
  • A food bowl and food if traveling for an extended period of time or in poor weather.
  • Waste bags for rest stops.
  • A first aid kit for both of you in case of an emergency.
  • A record of your dog’s vaccinations for interstate traveling.
  • A supply of your dog’s medications.
  • Up-to-date identification tags in case your dog gets loose at a rest stop or while on vacation.
  • A recent photograph of your dog in case they get loose at a rest stop or while on vacation.
  • A bed or pillow for your dog to sleep on when you get to your destination.
  • A supply of food for your dog when you get to your destination.
  • Wet wipes in case of any accidents in the car due to car sickness or upset tummies.


In addition to supplies, planning plays a major role in successful car travel with your dog and should begin before you even leave home.

Rest Stops for your Dog

Keep in mind that depending on your dog’s age and size, you will need to make stops as often as every 90 minutes to allow your dog to use the bathroom and stretch their legs. To make these stops as dog-friendly as possible, you should map them out at rest areas where there are designated dog areas.

Overnight Stops with your Dog

If you are going on a particularly long road trip, it is necessary to plan overnight stops ahead of time. For the safety of your dog, you should never leave them overnight in your vehicle alone.

When making overnight stops, you can consider staying in a dog-friendly hotel, camping, or using websites like Air B&B to book an overnight stay in a rental that permits pets.

Food and Water

Your dog’s food and drink schedule should be considered when you intend on taking a road trip. Keep in mind that whatever goes in is eventually going to come out! Feed your dog a minimum of an hour before you travel to give time for them to process their meal. While you do not want to restrict your dog’s normal water intake, make sure that anxiety before travel does not cause your dog to drink more water than normal. This can lead to an upset tummy as well as to a need for repeated stops for bathroom breaks!


When traveling with your dog, every time you open the car door or trunk door is a chance for your dog to escape. This is another reason (besides safety during travel) that you should always keep your dog restrained while they are inside your vehicle. The best methods of restraint include a crash tested canine car seat, a crate, and a seatbelt harness.

Flying with your Dog

Flying with your Dog

Every airline has their own pet policy and this can change at any point in time. To avoid inconvenience, always research the airline you will be traveling with to determine their pet policy for non-service dogs at the time of your travel.

General Tips for Flight Travel with your Dog

The following general tips will make the flight with your pup as smooth as possible.

  • Call ahead. Some airlines have limited in-cabin space for smaller breed dogs, to ensure that your dog gets one of these spots, you need to call ahead.
  • Dogs traveling in the aircraft cabin must be contained in a carrier that can fit under the seat in front of you. Often this carrier (with your dog inside) must also meet a specific weight limit.
  • Age limits may apply to puppies. Very young puppies are not permitted to fly on some airlines.
  • In-cabin pets must pay a fee for travel even if they are being stowed in a carrier under the seat in front of you. This fee generally ranges between $100 to $200.
  • Medium to extra-large breeds are generally not permitted to travel inside the cabin of the plane and must travel in an air-safe carrier in the cargo area of the plane.
  • Not all airlines permit dogs to travel in the cargo area of the plane!

A Note for Medium to Extra-Large Breed Dog Owners Considering Air Travel

Medium to extra-large breeds are almost always relegated to the cargo hold. Cargo hold travel is worrying for pet owners as well as for pets. If you have a dog that exceeds in-cabin travel weight limitations, Virgin Atlantic is the big-dog airline of choice. By providing a unique temperature controlled section of their plane just for dogs – think of it as the canine cabin – the cargo hold is avoided altogether!

Choosing a Flight for Your Dog

There are benefits to choosing certain flights over others. The following tips will help you to choose the best flight for your dog.

  • Always choose a straight through flight when possible.
  • Avoid flights on peak travel days and during peak travel times.
  • Opt for a redeye flight when there is one available.
  • Inquire with airlines about special handling of pets to determine whether your pet will spend any time sitting in the cargo hold or on the tarmac before and after flying.

Preparing Your Dog for Flying

Once you have researched the different airlines, their pet flight policies, and individual flights you need to ensure that your dog is prepared for flying.

The first step in this process is obtaining a pet carrier or airline approved crate that meets the specific dimensions set out by the airline you will be traveling with. Once you have a crate or carrier, begin using it at home to get your dog used to being inside it before they travel inside it. This will help to reduce any anxiety that your dog has associated with being inside their carrier or crate.

The next step is to talk to your veterinarian. You not only want to talk about anti-anxiety medication and sedative medications if necessary, but you must also get a health certificate for your dog. All dogs must have a health certificate that details their current health status from their veterinarian before they can fly.

Before traveling, you also want to make sure that your contact information is on the outside of your dog’s travel crate and that it is easy to read. This should include your home and destination contact information. Additionally, your dog should have an identification tag attached to a break-away collar. This will serve to identify your dog if they break free of their crate or carrier, but a break-away collar will be safer within the crate.

Fit food and water dispensers on the inside of your dog’s crate and make sure that they are firmly attached and functional. Also, make sure that your dog can reach the dispensers from their position in the crate. If your dog will have a layover where they will require feeding, put kibble in a secure bag and tape it to the top of your dog’s crate.

Lastly, familiarize yourself with the process of getting to the pet cargo section of the airport and what you are expected to do when you get there. This will ensure that you get your dog to the pet cargo area on time for their flight, but minimize the time they are forced to wait on the ground before their flight.

Traveling with your dog in the cabin is much less concerning for both you and your dog. While your pet must remain within their carrier throughout the flight, having them positioned at your feet will allow you to check on them regularly. To make the in-cabin trip as easy as possible, you should include the following items in your carry-on luggage:

  • A small baggie with your dog’s kibble
  • A sealable baggie for any in-flight accidents
  • A collapsible bowl to offer water to your dog.

A Few Last Words About Air Travel with your Dog

When you travel by air internationally it is important that you are aware of any special requirements necessary for your dog to the country. For example, many countries require a quarantine period to ensure that an animal is healthy before they are permitted into the country.

Taking the Train with your Dog

Taking the Train with your Dog


If you plan to ride an Amtrak train with your dog at any point, it is important to understand their rules and regulations as they pertain to pet travel. Amtrak allows dogs up to 20lbs (this includes the weight of the carrier) to ride their trains for trips of up to seven hours long. These dogs must be contained within an approved pet carrier for the extent of their trip and the carrier must be stowed under your own seat. This pet carrier is counted as one piece of carry-on luggage. Additionally, no pet carriers are permitted in any car other than coach class and some train routes have designated pet-friendly cars. There is a $25 fee for all pet riders and when paying this fee, you will be required to sign a release and indemnification agreement.

The NYC Subway

If you are considering riding a subway with your dog, be aware that the New York City subway does not allow dogs unless they are carried in a bag or carrier. There are few rules and regulations that govern dogs on the subway aside from this stipulation, however, common courtesy should be kept in mind. Don’t travel with your large dog in a crate when the subway is most crowded. If you must travel with a bigger dog in a crate while taking the subway, time your trip so that you are not inconveniencing others and consider taking a cab instead.

The London Underground

If you are in London with your pooch, dogs of all sizes are permitted on the tube train. These dogs must, however, be carried up and down the escalators to get to the train itself. As with travel on the NYC subway, it is important to be courteous to other travelers when taking your dog on the London Underground. For example: don’t put your dog in a seat that is needed by another passenger!

National Rail

If you are in the UK and want to travel on National Rail with your dog, you may travel with a maximum of two dogs. Your dogs must not be a danger or inconvenience to other passengers and must be contained or leashed at all times. Dogs in carriers must be kept under passenger’s seats and are not allowed in restaurant cars. Dogs taken on the National Rail are not charged a fee unless their carrier is placed in a seat, in which case, you must pay for the seat in full. You may take your dog in certain Sleeper trains, but must make your arrangements for travel at least 48 hours ahead of time and be prepared to pay a deep cleaning fee.

Boats and Ferries and Your Dog

Boats and Ferries and Your Dog

Whether your dog is permitted on a ferry varies depending upon the specific ferry in question. For the most part, all ferries do permit dogs so long as they are secured in a cage or crate and or muzzled. In the case of larger ferries such as those traveling from England to France, pets are permitted to travel for a fee provided that they remain inside individual vehicles while on the ferry. This is a somewhat questionable practice, however, since soaring temperatures can result in dogs overheating quite quickly.

If you have plans to travel on a smaller or privately owned boat, it is always prudent to keep your dog restrained and secured in a life vest. This will prevent your dog from going overboard and ensure that in the event of an emergency, your dog is already fitted with their life vest.

Hotel Stays with Your Dog

Hotel Stays with Your Dog

Whether you travel by car, by plane, by train, or by boat, you need to plan ahead for pet-friendly accommodations. If you are fortunate and staying with friends or in a pet-friendly rental, you won’t have to worry too much about where your pup can and can’t go. If you are staying in a hotel, however, you will need to do a little research before you travel.

Locate a pet-friendly hotel or motel at your destination point and familiarize yourself with their rules and regulations. Just because a hotel permits pets does not necessarily mean that your dog can run amok. Even dog-friendly hotels have rules in place to maintain sanitation, safety, and to be courteous to other guests.

While the specific rules for pet-guests vary from hotel to hotel, there are a few general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Let the hotel know ahead of time that you are traveling with your dog and make sure that your dog meets any size or breed regulations for the hotel.
  • If you book ahead, request a ground floor room, particularly if you have a larger dog.
  • If your dog is easily bothered, ask for a room away from entrances/exits/elevators to avoid barking.
  • Always have your dog wearing their collar with your current contact information displayed in case they (or you) get lost.
  • Be prepared to pay an additional “pet rent” for the room at some hotels.
  • Always pick up and clean up after all of your dog’s messes.

After Check-In

Once you check into your room with your dog, make sure to hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. This will eliminate disturbances that may cause your dog to bark and bother other guests. Next, you want to check the room over to be sure that it is safe for your dog to “go free”. Check for any leftover items from the last guest, any items that may have been dropped on the floor, or any cables that your dog can reach. Lastly, make a space for your dog in the room. Put their crate in one area of the room and let your dog get used to their new environment with the option to go to their “familiar space” if they desire.

If You Leave Your Dog Alone in Your Hotel Room

If you find that you must leave your dog alone in your hotel room (even for just a few moments), make sure that your dog is crated or secured in their carrier. Place the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door to prevent your dog from being disturbed. Lastly, make sure that the front desk has your contact information so that they can contact you if your dog becomes a nuisance or in case an emergency arises.


Whether bringing your dog on a three-week vacation or daylong road trip, the key to a smooth trip lies in preparation. Knowing what to expect, how to prepare, and anticipating every eventuality will not only make a successful travel experience for you, but also for your dog.