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With Christmas right around the corner, I’m sure you’re just as excited to spend time with your family as I am – whether it be in person or on Zoom or Facetime. Nothing quite beats enjoying family time during the holiday season. And if you’re like me and the millions of dog owners across the world, that undoubtedly includes your pup.

So, for those of you who’ve decided to bring your pooch along for the trip this Christmas, I’ve created this guide to show you exactly how to travel with your dog for the holidays. And before we dive in, let me acknowledge that while traveling is a difficult task in general, traveling with our dog can sometimes seem like an especially daunting task – particularly this year.

Dog in front of Christmas Tree

However, with proper planning and research, there’s no reason why you can’t take your furry little friend with you on your holiday trip. Because when we get to enjoy the holidays with our dogs, the holidays instantly become 1,000x better. And I’m speaking from experience (As I’m sure you can, too).

It allows us to meet and talk to dog-loving strangers who would’ve otherwise walked right past us. Furthermore, it also gives us an unavoidable reason to go outside, exercise, play, and have fun. So without further ado, here are a few tips to make traveling with your dog an easy and stress-free experience:

Pre-planning for the trip

The first step of how to travel with your dog for the holidays is to create a plan. But before you make any plans for your holiday, the first thing you should consider is whether your dog would enjoy the trip you’re planning. A successful holiday is one both you and your dog can enjoy. So you should always consider your dog’s temperament and plan accordingly.

Ask yourself whether your dog would like adventure and excitement, or if they would prefer a calm and relaxing holiday. Does your dog enjoy other people or other pets? Does your dog have any physical limitations or special needs that might affect the holiday? All of these should affect the type of holiday you choose to plan.

Next, you need to do your research on your planned destinations and find out if they allow dogs and are pet-friendly. While more locations are becoming progressive and allowing permits for pets, there are still places like museums and fine dining restaurants that do not allow pets.

If you’re not sure about a place’s restrictions, it’s best to double-check rather than assuming. A quick phone call can save you a lot of time and frustration. If you plan to stay with family or friends for the holidays, find out if any one of them is uncomfortable with dogs, and do some research on making them feel safe with your dog around them.

It’s also a good idea to visit your veterinarian for a check-up before your scheduled trip. Ensure that their vaccinations are up-to-date and enquire if there are any more vaccinations they may need for the trip. You should also get copies of your dog’s medical records drawn up and take them with you. Kindly note that if you plan to use air travel, you’re going to need health certifications. Also, ensure you have the contact information of a 24/7 veterinarian office located in the area of your holiday destination just in case you have an emergency.  

I also recommend updating your dog’s ID before going on holiday travel if something bad happens and your dog gets lost during the trip. Always be sure to keep their tag up to date with your correct phone number or contact information.

Packing for dog

Once you’ve planned for your holiday trip, the next step is to create a list of everything your dog may need. Having familiar things around your dog while on your holiday trip might can them relax and reduce their anxiety during their trip. Here are some items you may need:

  • Food and a portable collapsible food bowl
  • Treats
  • Water bowl
  • Medications
  • Dog-safe insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Portable dog bed
  • Dog blanket
  • Dog crate
  • Flea comb and tick remover
  • Brush and dog shampoo
  • Favorite dog toys
  • Poop scooper and bags
  • Extra leash and harness
  • Pet first aid kit

Traveling

If you’ve decided to travel this Christmas, you need to take into account what method of transportation your dog is most comfortable with. For most pet owners, driving is usually the best and most convenient mode of transportation.

If you plan to use air travel, make sure you’ve carefully read and followed the airline’s guidelines about traveling with pets, as they usually differ slightly from each airline.

This will help you have a stress-free plane ride with your dog without being frustrated by the airline. Also make sure you have an airline-approved crate or carrier with you and put in your dog’s favorite blanket and toy to keep your dog calm. Exercising your dog before going to the airport is advisable to tire them out for the plane ride.

Traveling by car

If you choose to travel by car, you can prepare your dog for a long trip by taking short trips around your area and slowly lengthening the time.This will allow your dog to get used to being in the car and traveling and will make them more comfortable during the long trip as they’re already in a familiar situation.

For your dog’s safety, you should ensure that your dog is put in a secure crate or carrier, or a harness or seat belt. Allowing your dog to roam free and do whatever they want in the car can prove dangerous for both you and the dog, especially if you’re the driver.

Check that your dog is used to whatever you’re using to restrain them, be it a crate, harness, seat belt, or carrier. This will greatly assist their anxiety levels while in the car and keep them calm throughout the ride. It also helps to have your dog’s favorite toy and blanket with them. Have something familiar that smells of your home and will help keep your dog calm. Note that if your dog sheds a lot, it may be a good idea to invest in a quality seat cover or cargo liner for your dog.

This keeps your seats free of the ‘oh so hard’ to remove the mess that is dog hair. Seat covers are especially useful if you plan to use a harness or a dog seat belt to secure your dog. Before your trip, you should ensure that you feed your dog a light meal 4 or 5 hours before your departure.

No matter how comfortable your dog is, they may experience some anxiety, leading to stress diarrhea. I can assure you that is the last thing you want to deal with during your drive. Carsickness can also upset your dog’s stomach, so be careful with this. If your dog is prone to motion sickness, it may be advisable to forego the meal altogether.

However, it would be best if you kept your dog hydrated during your trip. Dogs get easily dehydrated while traveling; hence it’s of utmost importance that you have extra water bottles for your furry little friend. A sneaky way to keep them hydrated during your trip is feeding them wet food rather than dry food, as the water in the wet food can assist in keeping your dog hydrated.

Another tip to ensure a comfortable ride with your dog is to tire them out before the trip. You can take them out for a walk or run before the trip to tire them out. A worn out and tired dog will quickly fall asleep the minute they enter the car. You should also ensure that you take a lot of breaks during your long trip.

The general rule of thumb is to take a break every two hours. This will allow your dog to have its bathroom break and add in some exercise, particularly for a high-energy dog. Always remember to never leave your dog alone in a car, especially during summer. This is the most dangerous thing you can do for your dog.

At destination

For you and your pup to have the best possible trip this Christmas, try to make your holiday destination feel like home for your dog. You can easily do this by carrying their toys, their favorite blanket, and their comfortable bed. This will provide a calming sense and give them a feeling of home. Allow your dog to explore their new surroundings (if possible and appropriate) so that they get familiar fast.

It may also help to maintain the same schedule you use at home to feed and exercise your dog if possible. Dogs are usually creatures of habit, and maintaining the same schedule can help them relax. Make sure that your dog is always on their best behavior and ensure they’re leashed whenever you’re out in public.

Also, be careful not to leave your dog alone in a room for a long period if they start barking and annoy other guests. It could take only one complaint from a guest to make your destination a ‘no dogs allowed’ destination.

If you plan to go to a restaurant or anywhere with furniture, I’d advise you to bring your seat cover or blankets with you to cover any possible place your dog may sit or lie. Carrying toys will also give your dog something to distract himself or herself with so they resort to chewing on the furniture. Lastly, always be responsible for your dog’s waste. Ensure you always have poop bags with you and clean up after your dog does his business.

Conclusion

While traveling can be a daunting task – especially this year – it can be made an easy and stress-free process with a little planning and research.This guide not only shows you how to travel with your dog for the holidays, but reviews each stage of the trip to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time. Because nothing quite beats family time during Christmas. Especially when you get to bring your furry friend along.

Where are you traveling to this Christmas? What are your favorite travel tips?