It wasn’t until the late 1980s, after every state passed laws to make it mandatory, that securing your children in car seats became a priority for most parents.
More than 30 years later, another road trip warrior is finally getting that same consideration — the family dog or cat.
A proliferation of pet-friendly hotels, restaurants and other travel services means it’s easier than ever to travel with a pet. And more people than ever are hitting the road with Spot or Tiger.
In its most recent survey, the American Pet Products Association discovered that at least 25 million Americans take their pets on vacation with them each year and that a majority of those trips are by car.
Which means it’s more important than ever to ensure that pets are comfortable, secure and safe inside a vehicle.
“For road trips, traveling with a pet is much easier and safer when the animal has a comfy place to ride in the car,” says Erin Ballinger, the Destinations Editor at BringFido, which publishes the Ruff Guide to the United States: 365 of the BEST places to stay and play with your dog in all 50 states. “The most important tip when preparing for a road trip is to ensure that your pet is restrained.”
Vehicle safety devices for pets have come a long way since the 1920s when canvas dog sacks and the “Bird Dog’s Palace” — a steel crate attached to the vehicle’s running board — were all the rage.
Almost a century later, pet safety as evolved into attractive, expertly engineered creations like the new car seat from Tavo Pets, which doubles as a pet bed and carrier. Additionally, if your pet is older, or just not as mobile as they once were, Tavo also makes a compatible pet stroller adaptable to all sorts of travel conditions.
Good for short or long trips, Tavo pet car seat performance is benchmarked against the latest United Nations ECE child restraints standard, utilizing R129 velocity and performance criteria as a testing model in dynamic crash testing facilities. The material incorporates built-in-tailor tech memory foam that absorbs and disperses energy, creating a comfortable and secure environment for your pet while you travel.
Given that travel can present a drastic change in an animal’s daily routine, give your pet a chance to get used to the carrier beforehand and show them it’s a safe space by practicing on short trips or even around the house.
Beyond safety, there are other ways to make road travel a more comfortable and less stressful experience for pets, even those who are used to accompanying their owners on pleasure or business trips.
“Get Fido dog-tired before the trip,” says Ballinger. “Let your furry friend burn off some steam the day before you leave by taking him to a dog park or doggy daycare. On the morning of your trip, start the day with a long walk or game of fetch. Expelling lots of energy early in the day will allow your pup to relax comfortably on the journey.”
When it comes to mealtimes, Ballinger recommends serving your pet a light meal a few hours before departure and then feeding them according to their normal routine. Keep them well hydrated and take advantage of opportunities for play and bathroom breaks — like roadside rest stops. It’s recommended that you stop every three hours, but that depends on the animal.
For longer journeys, pack a portable water bowl and dog or cat treats or food to tide you and your pet over until you reach your destination.
In case you and your pet should get separated during the journey, make sure they can be readily identified via dog or cat tags that include your cell phone number and a microchip if the animal doesn’t already have one. You might also consider pet travel insurance that covers vet expenses if your pet gets sick or injured during the trip as well as hotel/vacation rental damage caused by your beasty besty.
Last but not least, plan pet-friendly activities, especially if your dog is along for the ride.
“Since you’re bringing your furry friend with you, spend some quality time together during your trip,” says Ballinger. “Whether it’s morning walks on a dog-friendly beach, trips to a local dog park for off-leash romps, or catching the sunset together in a kayak, you’ll have more fun with your dog in tow.”