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traveling with pet

For some pet parents, a trip's no fun if the four-legged members of the family can't come. And with plenty of pet-friendly vacation rentals to choose from, it’s easier than ever to enjoy the benefits of vacationing with your dog. Some of our vacation rentals even offer dog shaped pools and separate doggie play yards!

However, while the vacation might be fun, traveling can be highly stressful for both you and your animal companions. Traveling with a pet involves more than just loading the animal in the back seat and motoring off especially if you will be driving long distances or plan to be away for an extended time. Before you start planning your Outer Banks pet-friendly vacation, make sure you prepare yourself and your pet for the road ahead. By following these tips and preparing yourself for the unexpected, you can ensure a safe and comfortable trip for everyone.

Assess Your Pet

The first step in planning a trip with your pet is considering what's in it for him or her. Often, it's more practical to hire a sitter or board your pet so you want to be certain that he or she is going to get just as much enjoyment out of the journey as you will.

Be honest about your pet's ability to travel. If your pet is very young or old, is ill, pregnant, or recovering from surgery, it may be better for everyone to look into a pet sitter or kennel rather than take a chance on injuring your pet by taking it with you. If you are in doubt, ask your veterinarian. If your pet has not traveled before, try a short overnight or weekend trip first.

Pet-Friendly Accommodations

Finding pet-friendly accommodations is becoming easier but still requires a little prior planning. Make sure the vacation rental you choose accepts dogs – specifically the size and type of dog you're bringing. Be aware that some vacation rental companies may charge an additional fee for your pet, so be sure to speak to the company directly to find out about any fees associated with bringing along your dog. Look for areas that are further away from busy roads or for homes that are in communities with good sidewalk access. Consider looking for a home with a fenced-in yard, especially if you plan to be outside a lot. Our guest services representatives can help you find the right home for you and your four-legged companion.


Once you've decided to bring your dog along, you need to think about safety. While packing extra food, water, and his favorite toys is important, it's wise to take a minute to locate the closest veterinarian to where you'll be staying. It's also a good idea to pack a basic first-aid kit for any journey.

Your pet should wear a secure collar at all times with tags showing proof of rabies vaccination and your name, address, and phone number in case your pet becomes separated. Make a set of temporary paper tags with the address and phone number at your destination.

Microchips are also a safe and secure way of keeping track of your pet. Many pets become separated from their people while traveling and often collars are not on pets when they are recovered at shelters. Animal hospitals, humane societies, kennels, and shelters nationwide are using scanners that will read these implanted chips and let you be reunited with your lost pet. Microchip procedures are safe, quick, inexpensive, and very common. Your veterinarian can tell you more about this procedure. Pack a few extra color photos in the event that you get separated.

Never allow your pet to wear a choke, pinch, or training collar while traveling. Safety collars, which attach with elastic or Velcro, are recommended for cats.

Schedule A Visit To The Vet

Inform your veterinarian where you will be traveling to, for how long, as well as whether your pet will be traveling by air or car. Ask your veterinarian about any flea, heartworm, or tick risks for areas you will be traveling to. If your pet becomes carsick or restless when traveling, ask your veterinarian about appropriate medications or treatments.

Make certain that all vaccinations are up to date and obtain current health and rabies certificates no more than ten (10) days prior to your departure. You will be required to have these if your pet is traveling by air. These certificates are also strongly recommended if your plans do not include air travel as you may need to board your pet unexpectedly and many kennels will not accept pets without these certificates. If your pet does require emergency medical care, these will allow this to take place much more quickly and without the potentially dangerous duplication of vaccinations

Obtain A Secure Pet Carrier

You need a sturdy, properly ventilated crate of adequate size for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down in comfortably. Knobs or a rim at least 3/4 inches deep is required so that the ventilation will not be blocked. The crate should be free of interior hazardous protrusions, have a door that securely latches and have handles or grips on the outside to prevent anyone who might need to handle the crate from being bitten. The bottom should be leak proof and covered with a towel or other absorbent material. Never put a leash in the crate as your pet could get tangled in it.

Print your pet's name and your name, address, and phone number (home phone, cell phone and destination phone) on the outside of the crate with a permanent marker.

Make sure your pet is accustomed to the crate before you begin your trip. Start by introducing the animal to it for short periods and then slowly increase the amount of time for each session.

It’s a good idea to create a routine and ritual around getting into and out of the vehicle so that your dog doesn’t bolt out of the car or carrier when you stop. It’s best to create the routines and practice them in the safety of your home – in your garage, driveway, etc.

You can also get your pet geared up for a long trip by taking him on a series of short drives first, gradually lengthening time spent in the car. Be sure to always secure the crate so it won't slide or shift in the event of a quick stop.

Items To Bring

  • A sturdy leash
  • An extra collar
  • An old blanket or sheet for the back seat of your car or wherever the pet's carrier will be secured to make cleanup easier
  • Two old sheets to cover bedding and furniture at your destination
  • Some of your pet's bedding
  • Food. If you do not feed a brand you are certain will be available at your destination, bring enough for the whole trip. If you feed canned food, bring a can opener and spoon
  • Two gallons of extra drinking water from home. When you are down to the last half gallon, begin mixing in equal parts with the water supply at your destination. If your pet is especially sensitive, use distilled water.
  • Food and water bowl set
  • Portable water bowl or bottle for use when away from your lodging
  • Treats, toys or chew items. Pack a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity.
  • All required medications, supplements, and preventatives
  • Tweezers to remove foreign objects from fur or paws
  • Grooming supplies
  • Lint and hair remover
  • A waste scoop and waste removal bags
  • Old towels, carpet cleaner, disinfectant spray, and trash bags for accidents
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight for nighttime walks
  • Travel papers

The Trip

Avoid sudden changes of diet. If you are unable to obtain your pet's normal brand, switch gradually over to the new food over a period of four or more days. Clean your pet's food and water bowls out regularly with soap. Your pet's travel-feeding schedule should start with a light meal three to four hours prior to departure. Don't feed your furry friend in a moving vehicle even if it is a long drive.

Never leave your animal alone in a parked vehicle. On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in no time and heatstroke can develop. In cold weather, a car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

Don't allow your pet to ride with his head outside the window because could be injured by flying objects. The safest position is to keep him in the back seat in his crate or with a harness attached to a seat buckle.

Keep fresh water available for your pet at all times. Opt for bottled water or tap water stored in plastic jugs. Drinking water from an area he's notused to could result in an upset stomach for your pet.

Keep Your Routine

Most pets rely on routine so it's important to keep things as normal as possible. Robert D. "Jake" Tedaldi, D.V.M., winner of Boston Magazine's 2006 "Best of Boston" award for veterinarian, suggests that you "Try to make the arrangements and transitions as stress-free as possible by attempting to reproduce the living experience your animal is already accustomed to." For instance, keeping a regular feeding and walking schedule wherever you go will help your pet feel more secure. It's also comforting for the animal to have familiar items such as a favorite toy or blanket.

Obey Local Leash Laws

Obey all Outer Banks leash laws and make certain to keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier at all times when not securely in a room. Be sure to always clean up after your pet.

Be Prepared For The Worst

While no one likes to think about it, many pets do become separated from their family while away from home. To increase the chances of a safe and quick return, bring a recent photograph and written description of your pet including call name, breed, sex, age, any microchip or tattoo numbers, and a description of coat, color and markings including any unusual markings, scars, or other identifying marks, as well as weight and height. These will be invaluable if your pet does become separated from you.