How To Travel Safely For The Holidays With Pets AND Kids

Last updated on December 19th, 2016 at 02:29 pm

As I have said previously in numerous previous posts, I love that our dogs have become so much a ‘member of the family’ that many would not give it a second thought to bring them along on their holiday travels, or include them in their holiday plans. But there are several things you can do to ensure that you, your pets, your kids, and others around you also have an enjoyable holiday as well.

For starters; if you are driving

  • Make sure you have seat-belts for each dog.  A dog being allowed to roam free in the car is a safety hazard for everyone in the car. If you have to slam on the brakes, they can go through the windshield just as easily as any other unrestrained passenger in the car would. Another serious issue that could arise if you should have to suddenly hit the brakes is they could accidentally slam into your kids, causing a serious injury. I have personally gotten some painful ‘fat lips’ just from going to kiss my dog on the top of his head at the same moment he brought his head up quickly…. So you can just imagine the injuries that could occur in a fast moving vehicle that suddenly stops! On top of that, dogs will instinctively use their front paws to brace themselves, and their nails can really hurt your children if they are on their laps. Lastly, if they hit the back of your seat when you are driving, it can put everyone in the car in serious jeopardy.
  • Make sure the seat belt is attached to a harness. Never attach a seat belt to your dog’s regular collar. This can cause some serious injuries to your dog’s neck if you have to stop short or are in an accident.
  • Make sure they are in the back seat. Even if they are appropriately restrained (a booster car seat for small dogs, or a harness for larger dogs) a deployed air bag can be deadly for our furry friends.

Hotel ‘Etiquette’

  • Make sure hotels are pet friendly in advance! If you are traveling with your pet, the days of ‘We’ll just find a hotel from the road” are a thing of the past. Unless your dog is a service dog, make sure the hotel is pet friendly. You must map out your trip in advance, and most importantly, you must inform the hotel that you will be traveling with a pet. Many hotels have specific rooms used for pets, not unlike ‘smoking rooms’ for smokers. So I recommend you call them and make sure they can accommodate you and your pet. Here is a link that allows you to search for pet-friendly hotels in whichever state you are traveling to. If you are getting a separate room for the kids, I recommend the pet stay in YOUR room. As I always stress, children should never be with pets unsupervised.
  • Remember that the dog should be on a leash outdoors at all times. This is especially important as many hotels are located on busy roads…. Not a great idea for the kids to be the ones to walk them, even if it is their job to do it at home. For safer nighttime walks, bring a flashlight with you. Many hotel guests arrive at night, and they may have been on the road for a long time, and are tired too. This will ensure they will see you and your dog when they are pulling in. It will also help you to see Fido’s poops so you can responsibly clean up after him. You might want to ask the hotel staff if there is a designated ‘Pet Relief Area’ that you should bring him to. Make sure you have a leash that is no longer then six feet, and free of any fraying, rips or tears. Also, do not use retractable leads while out and about. You need to have control of him at all times, and if your friendly outgoing dog runs up to another child that is fearful of dogs, you can be putting someone else’s child in danger.
  • Since you’ll probably want to go out as a family:
    • Bring a crate with you. Do not forget that this is not your dog’s regular environment… and you are ultimately responsible for any damage your dog does.  You do not want to risk your dog panicking and tearing up pillows or blankets or chewing on furniture while you are out. Also, leave a note for housekeeping on the door informing them that there is a dog inside. Just because it is not your home does not mean your dog will not be protective of its environment, and a person that your dog does not know who unexpectedly enters into ‘his space’ can be a recipe for disaster.
    • Bring a blanket or bed for your dog, and plenty of bones or toys. Make sure you have brought sufficient items to keep your dog occupied while you are out.
    • Make sure you leave at least one cell phone number at the front desk if you have to go out. I have seen some of the best trained dogs still panic when left alone in an unknown place, causing them to bark and whine.  Be considerate and make sure you leave a reliable number for the hotel staff to contact you if your dog is freaking out while you are out.
  • Be aware of ‘No Pets Allowed’ spaces, and respect their policies. Pools and spas are there for the humans to enjoy, not the dogs. If the hotel has a restaurant or serves a Continental breakfast in the morning, dogs should not be in those areas unless they are service dogs.

Flying with your dog

  • Always check the Airline’s policy. Each airline has its own policy with regards to flying with your pet. puppy in a travel bagMost small dogs are permitted to fly in a carry case under the seat, but each airline’s seat dimensions are different. Make sure you have the appropriate sized travel bag for your dog that will fit under your seat. Keeping a constant eye on your children in a busy airport is imperative, so the last thing you want is to spend any time being distracted because your dog’s flight bag is not fitting.
  • Find out security’s protocols in advance. Having to go through security is stressful enough… add corralling kids through there, it can be very difficult. Now you are adding a dog to this as well! Find out exactly what you need to do in advance. Do you need their leash and collar off? Do you walk through first and then send the dog through…. Knowing exactly what to expect allows you to have them ready in advance so that you can safely and effectively help the kids through.
  • Make sure you know where the Pet Relief Areas are. Call up the airline in advance and make sure you know where these are, and take them for one last potty break before boarding. Last thing you want is Fido relieving himself in flight!
  • Leave the dog in his bag! The kids may feel badly that their pup is cooped up in a tiny bag and wedged under a seat the entire time, and may beg you to take him out. This is not a safe idea for anyone! Think about how loud it is to us, and multiply it ten-fold with their sharp hearing! I absolutely hate take offs and landings, but I calm down once we are in the air. Just because I have calmed down, does not mean my dog has!! So for the safety of everyone around, leave your pup where he is until you have safely landed and are off of the plane. Some bags have a leash inside so you can open a flap and pet your dog…. I suggest leaving the flap closed! If he is scared, the second that flap is opened, he will try to get out, and getting the ‘genie back into the bottle’ will be no easy feat!! Especially in a small cramped area!
  • Pack a chew stick for him in his bag for takeoff and landing. I do not honestly know if their ears ‘pop’ the way ours do, but if it does, the chewing motion will help.

Going to friends or relatives houses

  • Always ask in advance if it is okay to bring your pet. Just because you view your dog as a family member, does not necessarily mean your host will too. Be courteous and ask beforehand. Hosting a ton of people in their home can be difficult enough without a dog running around! Also, you never know if another guest, especially a child, is allergic to dogs, or if someone else DID ask in advance and is bringing their dog!
  • Keep a constant watch over your dog. As we discussed in an earlier article (Kids, Pets & Your Holiday Party: Read this List (check it twice!) your dog may react differently to “everyday situations” than they would in their home or typical environment. A child that your dog does not know, doing nothing other than reaching over to calmly pet your dog, can get a serious bite if your dog is in a nervous heightened condition.
  • Be aware of your dog’s body language at all times! Holidays can be stressful for people – imagine what it might be like for your dog.  Be alert to what their body language is telling you! Dogs only have two options when they are in a heightened state… fight or flight. Hopefully, they will always resort to the latter one, but they can resort to the former one in an instant! So let’s avoid this by being constantly aware of them, and if you see signs that they are getting stressed out, remove them from the situation! If you need some assistance on what your dog’s body is saying to you, read my article (Recognize a Dog’s Body Language Before Your Child Gets Bitten) to help you out!
  • Again, bring a crate with you. If your dog is getting stressed, the last thing you want is to have no options of where to put him! Do you want to be on ‘doggy patrol’ all night? Having a crate gives you a place to put him so he and everyone else around you are safe!

Grooming

The last thing I want to touch on is grooming your dog prior to taking him on vacation with you! Regardless of whether you are driving or flying, staying at a hotel or going to a friends, make sure they are well groomed.  Give them a bath, make sure their ears are clean and do not smell.  If they have a long coat, even if you brought them to the groomer, make sure you brush them out thoroughly to get rid of any dead hair and excess dander (helps with allergies in close quarters) and make sure nails are trimmed back so no one gets scratched accidentally.

So to wrap this up, the most important things to remember before traveling with your beloved pet is to do your research and always be courteous to others around you! Much of what I have written is common sense, but the fact is, in a stressful time, even the incredibly obvious can escape each and every one of us!!! So follow some of these guidelines laid out for you, make your to-do lists, check them twice, and you, your family, and everyone around you can have a fun, wonderful and safe holiday!!

Happy Holidays everyone!!!

About the Author

I trained as an EMT in NY, than recertified in Atlanta. I loved being an EMT and was involved with it for several years. I worked on the “Rainbow Response Unit” at Egleston’s Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, and when not on a call, worked in the PICU and NICU, which was both a blessing as well as a heartache because I learned and saw so much. Helping to create a child safety seat for ambulances was my way of making sure children who were already compromised health-wise, would not be put in any more danger. When I realiized I could no longer be an EMT due to medical reasons, I found an alternate outlet for my desire to nuture and protect; I became a dog trainer...something that was always a second love and passion for me. Now, whenever possible, I combine my passion for children and canines by working to make the world a safer place for both. Suzanne is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

Comments

9 Responses to “How To Travel Safely For The Holidays With Pets AND Kids”

  1. Mike says:

    Very useful, thanks Suzanne! Lots of great reminders here – I definitely think the body language one is key, especially when it’s so easy to get distracted with all the other things happening during a family Christmas. Paw-licking is usually a tell-tale sign with our guy. Thanks again, happy holidays!

    • Suzanne Hantke says:

      Thanks Mike,
      Yes, Paw-licking is a very common sign that they are getting stressed. And as you stated, quite a bit of this is stuff many of us already know, so they are reminders, but I will admit that even though I had thought to call the airline in advance, I had not thought to call security in advance the first time I flew with my Service Dog! It was a serious lesson for me! And I am a professional dog trainer!

      But there are also many out there who may be first time dog owners so while quite a bit of this may be reminders for us, I felt it was important to make them aware of all these things as well. Glad you liked the article!! And thank you for taking the time to comment! It means a lot to us!

      Suzanne

  2. Sarah says:

    Some great tips here – we’re planning some travel with our dog next year and I feel like it might be a military operation! Can’t wait though.

    • Suzanne Hantke says:

      Hi Sarah,
      One very important thing to remember is that your dog will pick up on your stress, so doing the research in advance and knowing what to expect will reduce YOUR stress, thereby reducing your dog’s stress as well. It’s the old ‘boy scout’ credo….. BE PREPARED. Remember, You are not bringing your pet because you are a gluten for punishment…. it is because you want your beloved pet to enjoy it as much as you will! So try not to go into it with dread. Get excited, and they will be too!! And once you have researched everything and know what to expect, let the older kids in on it…. let them be helpful as well!!! Thank you for taking the time to comment, and I hope your trip next year is a very enjoyable one!!!

  3. As someone who also writes guides – I am jealous! This is such extensive guide that I am bound to consult it next time I travel. Thank you for taking time to share your expertise!

    • Suzanne Hantke says:

      Dear “HowToAddict”
      I am so glad you found it helpful and useful! And please, feel free to consult it anytime you like!! As I mentioned in the article, I too got caught off guard’ the first time I traveled with my dog! Long story short, I ended up walking BACKWARDS through security, telling my 4 month old mutt to stay, Praying I had done a well enough job with this command, and also praying he would not decide to bolt, since I had no leash or collar on him! For every experience we have all had…. we have also all had that first one! And I was not traveling with children! So I wish you safe travels, hope your holidays were great, and good luck in the future!!

      Warmest Regards,
      Suzanne

  4. Sarah says:

    Really good tips, thanks very much for doing the write up. Flights are always a tricky one and we always try to have a friend or family member take care of the dog if we are going on holiday, I think putting them through the whole flight/travel situation is quite stressful for dogs so we try and avoid it.

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