Photo: Sarah Ros/Shutterstock

Essential Packing List for Pet Owners

by Michelle Schusterman Apr 30, 2010
Michelle Schusterman outlines what pet owners need to pack for their furry travel companions.

I’ve taken my dog on a cross-country road trip in a U-Haul and a few flights across the Pacific, and between “pet-friendly” hotels with no grass within a mile radius and watching my puppy’s crate being loaded onto the wrong plane, I’ve learned there are a few items you need to pack for your pet’s comfort and safety during travel.

Keep in mind that different airlines have their own rules and regulations for pet travel, so do your research well in advance of showing up at the airport.

USDA Approved Kennel

Unless yours is in like-new condition, it’s best to purchase a new kennel with a USDA-approved sticker. The kennel needs to close properly without any special locks, keys or combinations, and must be roomy enough for your pet (see airline guidelines for specifics on kennel sizes).


Your airline probably won’t supply these, but you can purchase them at your local post office or online. Don’t forget to slap on a sticker on the kennel with your name and contact information as well.

Divided Food and Water Dish

The dish should come with an attachment to secure it to the kennel door, a requirement for flying and a good idea if you’re driving. If someone else will be caring for your pet during your travels, include specific feeding instructions taped to the top of the crate.

A word of advice – leave the bowls attached to the kennel, lest your dog decide that this little piece of plastic is actually her new favorite chew toy, leaving you scrambling around Seoul trying to find a USDA-approved dish days before your flight.

Puppy Pads and Disposable Litter Boxes

Because…well, you know. Accidents happen, and we all know cat pee makes sulfuric acid look like lemonade. A little mishap and you’ll end up with a Flinstone-style hole in the floor of your truck.

Pet Notification Door Hangers

Very useful for road trips if you’re staying at a different hotel every night. Just leave it on the door to let housekeeping know if your pet is unattended in your room while you’re out exploring.

Keep in Mind
  • If you’re flying overseas, look into that country’s rules regarding animals no less than six months in advance. In most cases you’ll need to have a series of vet check-ups and vaccinations a certain amount of time before your pet’s arrival, and many countries have a quarantine rule for even the healthiest animals.
  • While many pet owners give their pets tranquilizers prior to travel, I choose not to and don’t recommend it. Introducing a new drug to your pet in the midst of the stress of travel isn’t a good idea, considering it may have a reaction to the drug you aren’t anticipating. Drugs also affect your pet’s sense of equilibrium, and the kennel will most likely be moving frequently.
  • While you don’t want anything in your pet’s crate that could hurt them while unattended, a soft, familiar toy or blanket will help them feel more comfortable during travel.
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