Getting Your Pet From Here to There

Getting yourself and old Puss ‘n’ Boots from point A to point B is an exhausting adventure that I would not wish upon anyone. There are limited stress-free options for pet travel – unless you own an animal who only sleeps, or some sort of freakish travel-friendly beast who is totally content at cruising altitude.

And you thought finding a pet friendly apartment was going to be the hard part…

Be it roadtripping in a U-Haul, chugging along in a train, or sitting pretty at 38,000 feet, there is inevitably going to be some red tape, rules and regulations, and grumpy seatmates when you introduce fur to the travel equation. Here is what you can expect when your carry-on is alive and barking.

Rules of Car Travel

Labradoodles love the open road.

Labradoodles love the open road.

Rule 1. Don’t have your multi-day road trip be the first time your pet has seen the inside of a car. Even dogs who are notorious for loving the open road can get anxious at 30 mph around a corner – and don’t even get me started on cats. Short starter-trips are the only way you are going to avoid incessant yowling.

Rule 2. Don’t leave your pet inside the car alone.

Rule 3. Every pet/animal website ever says not to let your pets roam the car as you’re driving, but I don’t know anyone who does this. That being said, you should have a nice crate that is big enough for your pets to sit, stand and roll over for bumpy rides.

Rule 4. Bring your pet’s vaccination records in the car if you will be crossing state lines to get to your new apartment in downtown Atlanta (for example). It is rare you’ll be stopped, but better to be safe than sent back the way you came.

Rule 5. I’m sure you’re plan on taking Fido and Fluffy for plenty of walks, but no matter what, it won’t be enough. Bring a portable litter container, waste scoop, plastic bags and some deodorizer for good measure. You won’t regret it.

Rule 6. Research pet-friendly motels before you go.

Air Travel


Oh yeah - tons of room under here.

Air travel is the most convenient when transporting your pet long distances – it’s certainly the quickest. And even though seeing crates of pets get loaded into a plane’s cargo along with suitcases and golf clubs is traumatizing to children, it isn’t so bad for your pooch.

Still worried? Then you should only own tiny animals. Small animals whose carriers can fit under the seat in front of you are allowed on most flights, even though you can’t let them out of their crates. Your seat mate might shoot your some annoyed glares if the thing starts barking, but remind them that at least you didn’t bring a toddler who likes to kick the back of your seat. It could be worse.

If you’re flying with a Saint Bernard, there is no option other than checking him into baggage.

Some tips:

1. Make sure your pet crate is compliant with International Air Transport Association and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service rules, i.e. the appropriate size and sturdiness for your pet.

2. Avoid sedatives or tranquilizers. Dramamine may be your lifesaver on long trips, but most drugs have adverse effects on pets in high altitudes.

3. Plan ahead. Call your airline to let them know you’ll be bringing a pet and what their specific guidelines are. Each airline is different.

4. Most airlines will require some forms from a vet indicating your animal is in good enough health to fly. Also, if your Big Move is happening in the depths of winter, you will have to have an acclimation certificate which states that your animal will be okay in very cold temperatures.

5. Animal waste is always a concern when you’re traveling in an enclosed space. Feed your pet a small, but decent meal four hours before the flight – not right before or during. If you have a dog, take it for a walk outside before you check in and after you get off the flight. For cats, invest in a portable or collapsing litter tray (or disposable pie tin) and a couple plastic baggies of litter. You can take your pet to a bathroom at the airport, or just wait until you are at your new home.

Train Travel

Unless your pet is a service animal, you can’t bring it on any Amtrak train. Sorry.

Have you had any animal travel horror stories? Successes? Share any of your tips here!

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  1. Posted September 16, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    If your travel happens to fall between the right cities there’s also Pet Airways. I’ve never flown our pup with them, but it’s comparably priced to other airlines’ cargo option. They fly pets only, in the main cabin.

  2. Cameron
    Posted October 26, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    We just moved from Texas to California, and we left our cat temporarily with the in-laws. A month or two later, when we were settled in, we were ready to bring our cat. We reviewed all our options, and while “friends roadtripping” and “airline shipping” were our top options, everything was too expensive, either literally or in friendship-currency, if you know what I mean! We finally settled on UShip, and it was a FANTASTIC experience. We posted our cat’s itinerary and our budget, people traveling that way placed bids, and we ended up shipping our little in the cab of someone’s UHaul size truck for $300 less than the airline shipping fee.
    Not to mention it was ADORABLE to get picture messages of our little dude from the drivers along the way. I definitely recommend UShip!

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