Sometimes it seems to take forever for family holidays to roll around. You have worked hard all year and it’s finally time to plan your family vacation but there are so many decisions to make. Where will you travel? How will you get there? What about the kids? And pets?
My husband Christopher and I have traveled with our dogs on many long road trips, and each trip we learned something new to make the next trip easier and trouble free. For example, we learned the hard way to leave an extra collar and leash in the vehicle (in case you leave them at the hotel), and to bring items that are familiar such as toys and a bed. One messy lesson was to resist the temptation to try new treats or food on holidays…and to have double the poop bags you think you will need.
Making a family holiday a memorable success comes from good planning, great ideas and troubleshooting trouble before it happens. Here are a few tips for planning family and pet friendly vacations that create great memories.
Decide on where you will go & how you will get there
If you are taking your pets with you, this may limit where you go, stay, and how you travel for. If you are renting an RV, don’t assume that all RVs allow dogs. Many have a “no pets” policy, while others have size and weight restrictions. Ensure you inquire about the “pet fee” and any other stipulations related to four-legged family members. If you are traveling by car and staying in hotels, there are many hotel chains that are pet friendly, and many online sites to find them such as GOPetFriendly.com and BringFido.com. These sites list pet friendly accommodations, along with pet friendly tourist attractions and features. When we traveled with our dog Toby, we found some hotels to be more than accommodating for dogs providing dog beds, dishes and treats/welcome gifts upon check in. We also preferred pet friendly hotels that were close to grassy and well lit areas to walk Toby. Parking lot walks just don’t cut it after a long day of travel. If you are traveling by air, ensure you enquire well in advance about the pet policies, and consult with your vet about air travel with your pet.
Ensure your pet is chipped and tagged
Imagine being in a dog park during your long awaited holiday and your dog escapes. This is every pet parent’s nightmare, but it happens all too often. There are some essential steps you can take to keep your pet safe and help your pet find his way back to you if lost. The first is to have your pet microchipped. Ensure that your contact information is up to date on the registry, and that your cell phone and a backup contact are on file. Also make sure that your pet has an identification tag (on each collar you have with you) with a cell phone number on it. In the off chance that you and your pet get separated, and people call your home number, there is no one there answering the call. Ensure that you have a clear photo of your dog’s face, side view and full body view without costumes or toys in his mouth.
Don’t forget the paperwork
Ensure you have all necessary paperwork for your pet including veterinary contact information, a list of medications (and a letter from the Vet if taking medications across the border), vaccination record (and ensure vaccinations are up to date). If you plan on checking your dog into any daycares, dog spas or boarding facilities, check well in advance the vaccination requirements and bring along the necessary paperwork. Also take a digital photo of all the paperwork so it is accessible on your cell phone should the paperwork get misplaced. And, make sure you do the same for family members (your list of medications and any medical records). If you have health insurance for your family and pets, bring that along too.
Now that you are prepared, and have a plan, here are a few tips to make the actual road trip a safe and enjoyable ride, for the two legged and four.
Pit stops and potty breaks
Airdrie City View
Frequents stops are important for the humans and pets. Ensure when pulling off the road that you collar and leash the dog before opening the car door. This seems obvious however, we have seen many people open the car door, and the dog leaps out of the vehicle. Remember that holidays and traveling can be tiring and stressful, and if your pet is like ours, he picks up the energy of the people around him. Pit stops and play breaks will keep everyone happy.
Ensure that you have extra water in the vehicle for the humans and pets at all times. My husband created a helpful habit on our last pup friendly road trip (4 weeks) where he filled two large plastic juice containers with ice from the ice machine each morning before checking out.
Make time for play and relaxation
Research dog friendly parks, beaches and attractions before starting the vacation. Not only will this help you plan your holiday activities, you will know in advance if you need to check your pet into a daycare facility to keep him safe while you are out enjoying tourist activities that you pet cannot join.
Don’t end up in the dog house. To sum it up, a memorable family vacation starts with preparation and a safety plan. With a little bit of preparation, you can make this the vacation that everyone is talking (and barking) about for years to come.
Charmaine Hammond, is a leadership and success expert, bestselling author and professional speaker. She and her dog Toby are on a pet friendly adventure, a Million Acts of Kindness, a kindness tour traveling across North America. You can find out more at charmainehammond.com or theoriginalteamtoby.com. Canadian Traveller Magazine is a proud partner of the Million Acts of Kindness Tour.