The car's all packed. You hop in, start the ignition, crank up the radio and -- whoops, suddenly the dog is in your lap. Or the cat's throwing up in the backseat. Not a good way to kick off your holiday.
But taking your pet along with you can be fun -- and for many animal owners it's essential. According to a 2009 report from the U.S. Travel Association, 18 percent of adult travelers usually vacation with their pets. In a lot of ways traveling with them is easy: Rental cottages and campgrounds often accept furry travelers, and many hotels are rolling out the red carpet for them, too. Advance planning is key to a successful experience en route. We talked to top experts about how to keep a road trip fun and safe for the four-legged members of your family.
Think it through. As much as you'd love to have your pet join you, consider how well he deals with unfamiliar environments and new, possibly scary situations. "Think about whether or not your pet would enjoy or benefit from taking the trip," says Louise Murray, DVM, director of medicine at the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, in New York City. "It might be kinder to leave him home with a family member or a pet sitter."
Check with your vet. If you decide your pet's up for the adventure, make sure his shots are current and ask your vet about how to prevent any illnesses he could be exposed to. You may also want to ask about using sedatives or anti-nausea medicines to keep him more comfortable on the trip. Your vet can go over the pros and cons: With sedatives, for example, an animal might become excitable instead of relaxed or may be more prone to falling down in his crate. Scope out animal hospitals in the area where you'll be staying so you're prepared in an emergency; healthypet.com lists locations accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association. Bring proof of your pet's immunizations, copies of his medical history, and your vet's contact information, just in case.
Bring proper ID. Outfit your pet with a temporary write-on identification tag that includes phone numbers for friends or family members in case he gets lost and you're unreachable. And consider getting him a microchip. It's a simple, inexpensive procedure -- less than $50 -- that can be done at the vet's. Since cats are safest in a breakaway collar, a microchip can be essential. Services like HomeAgain and the AKC's Companion Animal Recovery program offer lost-pet alerts, 24/7 hotlines, and assistance in sending your found pet back home.