Vacation With Your Pet: Strategies, Considerations, and Equipment for Post COVID Travel

Vacation With Your Pet: Strategies, Considerations, and Equipment for Post COVID Travel

Our pets are bona fide members of the family. That means we don't want them missing out on the fun times we spend together, including vacations. 

Many pet owners take their beloved cat or dog on vacation with them.  How do they do it? And how have things changed since COVID shut down the world of travel? In this article we explore how to travel with your dog or cat, what you need to consider before you go, and what gear you will need on your travels.  

Flying with your pet

One of the biggest obstacles to taking your pet on vacation with you is obvious: transportation. Even though airlines do allow cats and dogs to fly with you as "carry-ons", in the post-COVID world pets are required to be placed in a carrier and must fit under the seat in front of you.

small dog in carrier under seat on airplane

Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Spirit, and Frontier, all allow pets in cabin in a carrier. If you have two animals you want to transport, you will have to purchase two seats so your dog or cat can have one carrier under each seat. Airlines charge fees for their "carry-on" privilege, ranging from $75 to $150 per pet. Most carriers will only accept a checked pet in climate controlled cargo areas for active military personnel being deployed or relocating with orders. Delta Airlines is one of the few exceptions to this rule.

Pets in carriers are required to be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier.  Some people prefer hard plastic carriers, while others prefer soft sided carriers. Size is the most important consideration as it must fit under the seat in front of you, meaning it can be no larger than 17 inches by 11 inches by 11 inches

The exception to this rule is if an animal is a certified service animal.  Pets as support animals are generally no longer accepted on airplanes. If you do have a service animal, be prepared to show DOT paperwork that has been completed and verified.

If you have a larger dog, flying will likely be impossible. So, staying close to home may be a smart choice if traveling with your pet is a requirement. Fly With My Pet has a valuable set of checklists to help your prepare to fly with your pet. And they can also help you get ready with their concierge services. 

Driving with your pet

Being within driving distance keeps you in control of your pet's comfort and allows them to travel alongside you without getting too distressed. The question you must ask yourself is, are you willing to sacrifice a trip abroad to assure that your pet travels with you? If you were already planning on taking a trip to a great location that's only a few hours away, then everyone's a winner!

two laughing kids in back seat of car with black dog

Traveling with your pet requires some careful planning and the right supplies.  Bearfoot Theory has a downloadable list of 15 things to consider when planning a road trip with pets. The author suggests that people ensure their dog or cat ID tags are up to date as well as vaccinations with documentation and a fully stocked first aid kit.  The first aid kit is for your pet(s) and is in addition to a first aid kit you would bring for yourself.

If your pet is not used to the car, take your dogs and cats on short trips, gradually increasing the time in the car so they know what to expect.  They will associate it with good things, instead of fearful destinations. 

Just like humans need to stop occasionally and use the restroom, pets need to relieve themselves every so often. Try to keep yourself to a schedule of stopping so your pet can go relieve himself regularly. Also, if you need to stretch your legs, they likely do as well.  

Get them toys they can chew on, food and treats to eat, and a comfy bed they can sleep on in the car.  If they are anxious, set up a collapsible crate with one of their beds in the back of the car to give them a quiet, enclosed space to sleep. Giving your pet their own dedicated space with a comfy bed and toys will help them settle in sooner. On longer stops, try to find a pet friendly park where you can chuck the ball and tire them out so they will sleep on the driving stretches.

Consider having your dog or cat wear a harness and then tether them to the seat with a seatbelt harness.  This way they will not fly into the windshield if you brake suddenly or get into a crash. The secondary benefit of having them harnessed in the car is already having them harnessed when you take them out of the car to explore or go potty.

You can also look for a bucket seat for your dog to sit in or a sport crate for your cat or car seat covers to protect your seats that are designed to keep your pet safe in a traveling vehicle. As with any new thing, get your dog or cat used to it before using it on a long trip.

woman attaching dog car carrier to back seat

Remember that your furry pals have a fur coat on.  Keep the temps in the car as comfortable as you can for them.  If your pet begins to pant or breathe really shallowly and heavily, they likely need water or cooler temps or both. 

Be mindful of their paws when you let them out of the car in a new area.  Gas stations have all sorts of oils on the ground that are very bad for a dog or cat's paws. Stray nails or screws can be laying around or weeds with stickers in them can get wedged in between their toes. 

Never leave your pet in a completely closed up car.  The temperature in the car can quickly become way too hot for your furry pal and cause them to have heat stroke.  Extreme temperatures can even cause death.  

Pet Friendly Lodging

Once you decide HOW to travel and have all the right gear for the trip, it's time to decide WHERE to stay.  Many hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds accept pets as guests these days.  There will be rules to follow, but given a little advanced planning, you can chart out lodging that will be work for all of you.

couple in back of camper van with tan small dog


Go Camping 

If you are heading out on vacation in the car, then camping could be a terrific option for you and your pets. Whether you are in a car or a camper van or a transformed school bus, be sure to plan ahead for food and supplies for ALL of you.

Make sure you invest in a hiking harness for your dog with compartments for food and water. Get familiar with the rules and regulations of the area you are camping. The National Park Service has a handy map showing which national parks accept pets as well as rules for bringing pets into the parks. KOA penned a very detailed article about camping with pets

Most importantly, get a tent that will accommodate all of you, especially if you plan to bring a kennel for your pet to sleep in.

Stay in a hotel

When it comes hotels that accept pets, there are two types of hotels: those that tolerate pets and those that welcome pets with open arms. When you do your research about pet friendly hotels, it's worth learning which category the hotel you are considering falls into. Here are some quick tips for considering which hotel to choose.

  • Check out their policies regarding leaving pets in your room when you are not there.
  • Find out what happens if your dog barks all afternoon while you are out.
  • See if the hotel has activities for pets as well as humans. 
  • Verify which areas are pet friendly and which areas are not.
  • Ensure you bring toys and treats to entertain you pet.
  • Know where the pet relief areas are.
  • Check to see if cats are allowed.  Sometimes "pet friendly" only means "dog friendly".

We like the website Bring Fido to search for hotels and resorts worldwide that accept pets. Also, the American Kennel Club has compiled a list of large hotel chains that accept pets with some quick information. 

We also like these articles by Shandos Cleaver of Travelnuity and Stephen Pepper of Frequent Miler whose excellent tips for staying at hotels with your pets come from their own experiences traveling extensively with their pets. 

Probably the most important thing you can do for your pet is to give them time to acclimate to their new surroundings before you leave them alone in the hotel room. And bring familiar comforts of home with you, like their favorite bed and toys and treats. And last, but not least, wear them out by taking them to the park or on a long walk or run before you leave them in the room.

Pro tip: ensure the hotel staff has your cell phone number in case something goes wrong with your pet while you are out.

Stay in a vacation rental

When you think about vacation rentals, you immediately think of sites like Airbnb, Vacasa, and VRBO. Choosy Traveler has assembled a list of vacation rentals that accept pets and Bring Fido offers a searchable database of global vacation rentals that accept pets. Before you reserve a vacation rental, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

  1. What are the additional fees for pets?
  2. What are the house rules for pets?
  3. What happens if your pet damages something?
  4. What accommodations are there for pets?
  5. Are there pet friendly places nearby?

We really like this article by David Grimm at the Washington Post about when he brought his cats on a beach vacation with them. Check out this article at Pennies Places and Paws with excellent tips for staying in a vacation rental with your dog. Their number one tip? Follow the rules.  These rules ensure the rental stays in excellent condition, the neighbors don't complain and you and your pets have a wonderful stay.

Visit family members

It might seem silly to include staying with family members in this list, but bringing your pet to your family member's house is just as important as bringing them to a hotel. You need to consider a number of factors when bringing your pet with you, including:

  • Is it ok for your pet to stay in the house?
  • Does your family member have pets?
  • Does your pet get along well with other animals?
  • Does your family member have kids? 
  • Does your pet get along well with children?
  • Can you leave your pet at the family's house while you are out sightseeing? 

Any new environment you introduce to your pet is likely to cause anxiety and acting out on the pet's part.  And if YOU are nervous, the pet will sense that as well, which could cause further anxiety. So, make sure you establish some good training and commands BEFORE you show up at your Aunt's house for a week. When you arrive in your family member's home, re-establish that training right away so you pet knows they can relax and just "BE" in this new place. This includes getting a handle on your dog's barking. If the new environment is triggering anxiety or aggression in your dog, go for a walk, get on the floor with your dog and play or harness them up and keep them next to you with commands and a little baggy of treats. 

It also is a good idea to have a Plan B just in case staying at your family member's home with your pet is just not working out. Where else could you stay in that case? 

You can be a great house guest by cleaning up after your pet and bringing your host a gift to say thank you for the accommodations.  Be sure to send them a thank you note after you leave. A few kind words go a very long way.

Sightseeing with Your Pet

It's important to have a clear idea of the kind of vacation you want to have and then decide whether it's suitable or not for your pet. For example, consider the activities you will be doing on your vacation. A beach holiday may be suitable for your kitty if you are staying in a private cabin, but not so much if you are staying in a hotel. The same applies for a ski holiday.

white and tan pug in a red backpack carrier with a person

Remember to factor in the weather and what your pets need to be comfortable. (It goes without saying that a sightseeing city break in a summer heatwave wouldn't be suitable for your pet). If you truly want to take your pet along with you, then it's important to prioritize their needs and comfort.

So, what kind of sightseeing will you do with your dog or cat? How about some of these ideas below:

Safety and Health Considerations

Unfortunately, emergencies happen, even on vacations. Prepare yourself by creating a list of local vets in the areas you'll be visiting. Just like humans, pets can get sick on vacation and require medical attention so having these details ready will save a lot of time and stress in that unlikely event. Pupford has a wonderful article about creating a dog first aid kit. This article also points out the signs and symptoms of heatstroke, hypothermia and dehydration in your pets. 

orange tabby cat wearing harness in car

Here's a list of what to include in your pet's first aid kit, courtesy of the American Kennel Club:


  • Antiseptic/antibacterial cleaning wipes, ointment, or spray
  • Saline wound cleanser
  • Eyewash
  • Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting
  • Diarrhea remedy (check your vet for recommendations)
  • Allergy tablets such as Benadryl (ask your vet first about the safe remedies for your dog and dosage)

Bandaging Materials:

  • Sterile gauze
  • Self-adhering, flexible bandage tape
  • Cotton balls
  • Sock to wrap around a paw
  • Popsicle sticks/wooden paint stirrers for splinting


  • Pet thermometer and lubricant gel
  • Blunt-edged scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Latex gloves
  • Flashlight
  • Space blanket to cover a dog who’s cold or in shock
  • Clean cotton towel
  • Spare collar and lead
  • Soft muzzle for first aid

An anxious pet in a new area can be a recipe for disaster if they bolt off suddenly.  Consider getting a GPS collar or attachment that connects to an app on your smart phone.  That way you can keep track of the direction they are headed. FI Smart Collar and Whistle both have nationwide coverage and are highly rated trackers.

It's important to consider the safety of not only you and your pet, but other people and their pets as well. Think about how your pet reacts to new environments and strange people. Do they become nervous, are they likely to snap? Do they have problems getting along with other dogs or cats? If so, then it may not be a great idea to take them along with you.

The best way to prepare them is to move slowly and deliberately when introducing them to new situations and people and locations. Give them time to adjust and, more importantly, stay calm yourself. Have treats and calming aids at the ready as your guide them into these new situations. 

Bottom line: when it comes to vacationing with your pet, remember that you are bringing them for their own enjoyment as much as your own. Take the time to prepare yourself AND your pets so you can have a wonderful vacation together. 

Additional Resources:

Nerd Wallet: The Most Pet Friendly Airlines in 2023

Pupford: 7 Tips for a Road Trip with a Dog or Pupp

KOA: Going Camping With Your Dog? Here's What You Need to Know

Go Pet Friendly: Barking Dogs in Hotel Rooms: Tips for a Quiet Sta

Blue Cross: Keeping your Family Dog and Visiting Children Safe

Top Dog Tips: 13 Dog Etiquette Rules to Remember when Visiting Family and Friends

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