How to Decide Whether to Board or Bring Your Pet on Holiday Road Trips

How to Decide Whether to Board or Bring Your Pet on Holiday Road Trips


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Many people think of their furry, four-legged friends as being part of their family, so it can be hard to leave them for the holidays. But with holiday travel being hectic enough on its own, it’s not always clear whether to add your mutt to the mix.

Flying with pets is one thing, and, for a variety of reasons, may be easy to rule out. But what about a road trip? Hypothetically, that seems simpler: Loading your dog and/or cat into the car and hitting the road.

In reality, though, there’s more to consider. In an article for the university’s website, Devin Rokyta of the Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine breaks down what to keep in mind when deciding whether to bring your pet on a holiday road trip, or make boarding arrangements instead. Here’s what to know.

To bring or to board: What to consider

As you’re thinking through the pros and cons of bringing your pet on your holiday road trip, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your pet’s temperament
  • Your pet’s special needs
  • Whether anyone traveling in your vehicle or staying in the same home is allergic to your pet
  • Whether there’s room in the vehicle to safely accommodate your pet
  • How well your pet is able to adapt to a new environment and schedule/routine
  • Whether your pet gets sick in the car

When to board your pet

As much as you may want to bring your pet with you on your holiday road trip, sometimes it’s just not feasible, says Dr. Jessica Bell, community practice veterinarian at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“If your pet doesn’t enjoy traveling or stresses easily, you should look into boarding or a pet sitter,” Bell told Rokyta. “You also need to consider your destination. If it is not an animal-friendly environment or you are staying with someone who doesn’t have space for your animal, then it is better to board them.”

Another thing to keep in mind this year is that there’s still a shortage of veterinary and pet-care workers workers, so your usual boarding spots may be closed or operating at a reduced capacity. Plus, demand for boarding always goes up during the holidays, so you’ll be up against that as well.

Tips for bringing your pet on your holiday road trip

If, all things considered, bringing your pet along for the holiday ride is the best option (or at least feasible), here are a few tips, courtesy of Bell:

  • Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, microchipped, and wears a collar with an ID tag.
  • If your pet isn’t used to being in a car, do a few quick test runs around your neighborhood to get them used to this mode of transportation. Or, if it turns out that your pet absolutely cannot handle being in the car, it’s better to find that out now, rather than after you’ve packed the car and hit the road for your actual trip.
  • If your pet tends to get carsick, avoid feeding them a full meal before you leave.
  • Give your pet plenty of water, and remember that they need potty breaks, too.
  • Make sure your pet is properly and safely secured in the car, either in a crate, or with a dog seatbelt.
  • Double check that the hotel or rental house you booked is pet-friendly. If you’re staying with relatives or friends in their home, have a conversation about your pet’s needs and their rules/expectations.
  • Don’t forget to pack for your pet—including things that they may not need at home but do on the road. (For instance, if you have a fenced-in yard, but your cousin doesn’t, bring a long leash.)
  • Also pack their food, food and water bowls, waste bags or litter box, favorite toys, and any special bedding they need to sleep.

Finally, Bell advises sticking to your pet’s usual schedule as much as possible. “Try to keep as much of your pet’s normal routine as you can—the same foods, the same blankets, their walk schedule the same,” she said. “That will definitely reduce their body’s stress reactions and make the trip much more enjoyable for them.”



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