How to Safely Travel With a Dog for the Holidays

travel with a dog

Everyone knows there’s no place like home for the holidays!

You just can’t wait to be with family and friends this holiday season — and there’s nothing you’d love more than to take your best pal with you. Whether you’re introducing your family to your new dog for the first time or bringing your road-ready hound who’s used to the journey, we want to ensure happy trails for you and your best pal.

That’s why we’ve put together everything you need to know in order to travel safely with your dog this holiday season!

Prepare in Advance

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile there are steps you can take in the days and weeks leading up to your trip to stave off any potential holiday stress that may result from traveling with a dog.

If your dog isn’t fully comfortable in their crate, work on crate training in the weeks leading up to your trip. The goal is for your pup to see their crate as a safe, relaxing, cozy place where they can snooze the miles away.

Make sure your dogs are fully vaccinated, and print out their vaccination records from your vet if you’re taking them on any public transportation such as a train or plane. Also, double check that your pups’ ID tags and the info linked to their microchips are up to date. The last thing you want if your pet escapes is for someone to call your old phone number and be unable to reach you.

Finally, pack a pet bag that contains everything your dog may need, including: food, water, treats, medications, toys, poop bags, two leashes in case one breaks, blankets, cleaning wipes and a doggy first aid kit.

Traveling by Car

When traveling with a dog in the car, it’s much safer for your buddy to be in a secure crate or in a buckled dog harness than loose in the vehicle. A loose dog is more likely to be injured if an accident occurs, and also, an excited pup climbing around the vehicle and on top of the passengers can be quite distracting to the driver!

Make sure your pal’s crate is big enough for them to stand and turn around comfortably. If you’re concerned about potty accidents, consider laying pine shavings or an absorbent pad (such as those for puppy training) inside their crate.

It’s important to stop every few hours to give your pup (and humans!) a chance to stretch their legs and pee. Whenever you leave the vehicle, keep a very tight hold on your dog’s leash. Even if they’re normally fine off-leash, these are unfamiliar surroundings. You never know when a semi truck backfiring will have your pup making a run for it.

If you go into the gas station for snacks, leave someone else in the car with your dog. If you and your pup are traveling alone, take Fido into the gas station with you if allowed. Otherwise, leave the car running with the heat on and make your pit stop extremely short — less than five minutes, ideally, as the temperature in a car can drop quickly in the winter.

Unfortunately, any time you leave your pet unsupervised, there is a risk of your pooch being stolen from the car — another reason not to leave your best pal alone if you can help it.

Finally, watch out for anything suspicious that your dog could get into while they’re sniffing around at a rest stop. There may be cigarette butts or other trash on the ground, or stains from oil and gasoline. Don’t let your pooch have an experimental lick of anything but their own food and treats!

Book Overnight Stays at Dog-Friendly Hotels

When you stop overnight, don’t assume the first motel you find will be accepting of your pack of Huskies!

Save yourself time and stress by booking in advance at dog-friendly hotels. Be aware of any rules, such as breed restrictions or limits on your dog’s size or the number of dogs you can bring. Websites like and can help you identify dog-friendly hotels in the places you’re traveling through.

Remember that even dog-friendly hotels may still charge you extra if your dog causes any damage to the room — so if you know your pup becomes a chewer or pillow-destroyer in unfamiliar circumstances, be forewarned!

Traveling by Metro or Subway

The New York City Metro official pet policy famously states: “No person may bring any animal on or into any conveyance or facility unless enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers.”
The rule’s vague wording and lack of size restriction has resulted in some creative pet parents carrying their dogs (even large dogs) in a tote, backpack, IKEA bag, or other ‘container’!

However, NYC is fairly lax in this regard. Most metros and subways across the U.S. have a weight limit on pets as well as requiring them to be in an approved carrier — which means your 15-pound pup can probably travel with you, but your 80-pound Labrador probably cannot. There may also be age restrictions or vaccine requirements.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of your local subway or metro, if that’s how you’re planning to get Rover to Aunt Kathy’s house this holiday season!

Traveling by Train or Rail

Traveling with a dog by train means following similar rules to those for subways, metros, city buses and other forms of public transportation.

Amtrak allows dogs that are vaccinated, in an approved carrier, and over eight weeks old to travel with you. However, each traveler is only allowed one dog, which must be 20 pounds or less (making Amtrak travel with a St. Bernard out of the question, unfortunately!).

You’ll have to buy them their own ticket, although the cost is fairly reasonable. However, dogs may not be allowed on Amtrak tracks at all times, particularly during busy periods, so it’s always best to check in advance in case the status changes. 

If your pup does meet requirements, the railway can be a relatively painless and relaxing way to travel with a dog. Although your best pal must stay in their carrier throughout the trip, it still gives you the opportunity to interact with them, reassure them, give them treats, and notice right away if they start appearing stressed. In addition to food, water, treats, and toys, we suggest you also bring a blanket for your pooch in case the train carriage gets cold.

If you do have any stops on your train journey, give your dog a chance to potty in a suitable location — without either of you feeling rushed!

How to Travel With a Dog by Plane

If you’re flying with your dog this holiday season, check your airline’s rules and restrictions prior to your flight. Many airlines have banned breeds that they previously allowed, such as ‘flat-nosed’ breeds like pugs and bulldogs that have more health issues with airline travel.

Be sure to have your vet give your pooch a thorough physical check-up in advance to confirm they are physically fit to fly. Be prepared to change your plans if your vet does detect any causes for concern or reasons your pet would not fly well.

Remember: do NOT use any medications or tranquilizers to calm your dogs prior to flying. You may think this will relax them, but the drastic pressure changes of airline travel can change the impact of medication on your pet. That means your dog’s usual anti-anxiety medication that they’ve used before without issue may have a different and dangerous effect at altitude.

Airline Alternatives

As much as it would be fun to have your dog at Grandma’s house for Christmas, if your only option is to fly your dog in the cargo hold, we strongly suggest you consider leaving your dog with a trusted petsitter or boarding facility at home instead.

It may seem sad to not have your bud with you on the big day, but trust us — dogs don’t know what day it is! They’ll simply have fun with their friends while you’re gone, and be happy to see you when you return.

Or, although it’s more expensive, booking a pet transporter to drive your dog and meet you at your destination is overall a much safer option than stashing your best buddy under the plane. Reliable pet transporters will encourage you to call and check in on your dog at any time, and they will even send you photos of your buddy enjoying the road trip!

We know you envision having the whole family together this holiday season, including your furriest family members. If you are planning to travel with a dog, prepare in advance and pack for contingencies, so you can have a stress-free travel experience.

Before you know it, both you and your best pal will soon be arriving at your holiday destination safe and sound, ready for the food and festivities to begin!

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