A dog ready for car travel. Courtesy Kahoots Feed and Pet Stores

By Alicia Towkaniuk

As you plan your summer vacation, the question of where your furry friend will stay is an important one to consider. Do you take them with you, or leave them behind? Whether pets travel with you, stay at home, or spend the vacation in a kennel, a little planning and preparation can make the experience easier for animals and their owners.

Taking Fido or Fluffy on vacation is easier than it’s ever been. Websites like TripsWithPets.com and GoPetFriendly.com are a great resource when planning a trip, with lists of pet-friendly hotels, restaurants and parks along the way. If you are wandering further afield, visit PetTravel.com for detailed information on international pet travel requirements.

Before you go, make sure your pets’ ID tags are up to date, pack their usual food as well as their bowls, harness and leash, a favorite bed, toys to keep them entertained, and plenty of waste bags or a disposable litter box.

If you are flying, contact your airline directly for the best info on safely transporting your furry best friend. While pets are welcome on most domestic flights, each airline has its own policies regarding carrier size and type, vaccination and health certificate requirements, check-in and boarding restrictions, and pet travel fees. Making sure you have all the facts ahead of time can prevent frustrating delays.

If you are driving the open roads instead, consider a seat belt or car seat carrier option for your dog. They’ll be able to enjoy the wind in their ears and all the fun of watching the scenery fly by.

Cats tend to prefer a small, safe space for car rides. Set them up in a larger than normal carrier to allow for a small litter box, and attach a clip-on water bowl to the carrier to help keep them hydrated during long rides.

Map out the best places on your route to make frequent stops, and pack plenty of pre-moistened pet wipes for emergency cleanups. Don’t forget to check that carriers are securely fastened, or that you have a firm hand on the leash, before opening the car doors at each stop.

If your pets are being boarded while you’re gone, providing them with their favorite toy, a familiar bed, and sticking to their usual diet can help ease separation anxiety or the stress of an unfamiliar place. Consider arranging a play date or two before you leave to help them become comfortable in the place they will be staying. If you can, leave them and return a few hours later–this can reinforce the understanding that the separation is temporary. Making sure they are familiar with the environment and the caregivers ahead of time can make all the difference when you are gone.

Staying at home with a pet sitter is often the most comfortable way for your pets to spend vacation. Being in their own home surrounded by familiar smells and things can reduce the stress of missing their family. Work with your pet sitter to familiarize them with your pet’s normal routine–not just feeding and bathroom routines, but also play activities, cuddle time and grooming preferences.

Whatever your plans for travel this summer, be sure to follow these tips to keep your pets happy and healthy.

Alicia Towkaniuk is a pet health, nutrition and behavior consultant with Southern California-based Kahoots Feed and Pet Stores.