For those that love their pets and love taking travel assignments, learning how to travel with pets should be a top priority before setting off!
If you’re anything like me, you grew up loving animals. I couldn’t imagine my life without a dog being a part of it. I have always treated my pets like they are members of the family, and I know many people who have pets feel the same. When I embarked on the journey of travel nursing about a year and a half ago, my black lab Athena came along too. She has been my trusted companion for the last four years of my life, and traveling with her has made our bond stronger and has been an amazing experience overall. My dog has the opportunity to see all the places I see. Traveling with her motivates me to explore more hiking trails, lakes, rivers, beaches, you name it. Athena and I share the love of adventure and there is no better place to us than being on a dirt trail or taking the open road with the windows open eager for which adventures are ahead of us.
When people find out that I travel for my job, they are often quite skeptical about how I can actually bring my dog along. I frequently hear the question “Wait, you actually travel with your dog?” or “Do you bring your dog with you when you travel?” Well, absolutely I do! Why wouldn’t I? Honestly, traveling with your pet is not as hard as it may seem. It just takes a little bit of preparation, but the payoff is worth it.
To make your life a little easier when you live life on the road, here are my top five tips for how to travel with pets:
1. Remember Health Records + Vaccinations
Always make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and carry heath and vaccination records with you, This is important if you are ever going to have to board your pet at a kennel or daycare or any place where there will be other animals present because these types of places will ask for these records. If you plan to go on outdoors adventures with your dogs, heart worm prevention will be important for places that have mosquitos. It’s always a good idea to notify your pet’s vet where you will be traveling to and see if there are any additional vaccinations or preventative medications they will need for that particular area. Also, if you have not done so already, it is a good idea to get your pet microchipped in case they ever get lost while you are far from home. If a lost pet is brought to shelter or a vet, they can use a microchip scanner to identify the pet’s owner’s information. Having a collar on your pet with tags with your name and number on it is always a good idea as well.
2. Pack Smart
When Athena and I are about to head out on our next long road trip, I make sure I have extra food for her. Remember to pack a collapsible water bowl which can be bought online or at any pet store and easily attaches or fits in a backpack. I always have a few bottles of water in the car and poop clean up bags. I usually travel with an extra leash. If your pet is kennel trained, it is not a bad idea to bring the kennel along. Personally, I put the seats down in my car and put Athena’s dog bed down in the back. I bring plenty of toys and bones to keep her entertained during a long road trip. If you plan to take your pet on a plane for traveling, call the airline to find out the policy for how to travel with pets. Each airline is different and many airlines place pets in a kennel in the cargo hold.
3. Find Pet-Friendly Housing
Check how pet-friendly your desired travel destination is and use Furnished Finder to help you find pet-friendly housing. If you’re like me, you want to travel to all kinds of places including big cities, beach towns, mountain towns, etc. Some places are more pet-friendly than others. For example, most dog breeds are fine, there are a few that get a bad rap. Make sure to check for banned breed restriction laws in the state or city you plan to live and work. Another thing, is that may be difficult to find pet-friendly housing in the middle of a bigger city. Personally, I do not like to live in apartments or condos with my dog because I prefer she has a backyard to freely roam around in. If I want to experience a big city, I often will find housing on the outskirts of a big city near parks, trails, rivers, or lakes so Athena and I can easily explore. Sometimes this is not possible within a big city, so I will even take a contract in a smaller city within 30-45 minutes of the city I want to explore to find a better place for Athena and I to live.
Furnished Finder is a great resource to use for traveling professionals to find pet-friendly housing in any area. You can visit their website or download the Furnished Finder app on your phone to start looking for furnished housing, ready to move in for you and your pet. Furnished Finder allows you to add the “pet friendly” filter on to your search and browse either rooms or entire houses or units available in or near any place you are traveling. I have used Furnished Finder for all of my travel nurse housing needs and I’ve always had great experiences. It also lets you see reviews from other people who have lived in housing you are interested in and also shows you how far housing is from the main hospitals or healthcare facilities in the area.
4. Travel with A Pet-Loving Buddy
If possible, find a travel buddy who also has pets. I’ve met so many other traveling nurses or traveling professionals who travel with their pets. If possible, make friends with another traveler who has pets and find housing together. It is always nice for your pet to have another furry friend to hang out with if you and your pet are traveling solo. Networking on social media platforms to find these types of friends is so helpful. There are plenty of Facebook groups you can join for travelers in any given area. I have posted on these groups and made great friends/roommates with other travelers and their pets. The new MedVenture app is a great resource to make friends and meet other travelers who have their furry friends along in any area you are traveling.
5. Plan for Long Work Days
Find a good dog-walker, pet-sitter, or pet daycare for those long working days. I have been pretty fortunate to live in housing where roomies that would be home throughout the day to let my dog out or take my dog on a walk. However, I have used apps like Rover to find my dog a sitter or walker for the times she will be home alone or I will be out of town for a night or two and she cannot come along. Rover specifically gives you options for in-house visits for a pet sitter or pet walker, or you can choose to drop your pet off at the sitter’s house. Rover also shows reviews for each person. I also buy a pet camera to put in the house that links to my phone so I can check on my dog throughout the day if needed. Furbo is a good pet camera brand for this.
Overall, traveling with your pet does not have to be stressful. It is possible for any pet-owner with a little bit of preparation. Each pet has different needs, so keep this in mind for your pet and plan accordingly. It is always helpful if your pet is well-trained before considering embarking on a travel career. However, I have seen travel nurses travel with puppies and enroll them in training classes wherever they are staying at the time. Traveling with your pet is a rewarding experience and makes you and your pet so much closer. Having your furry companion with you also helps with those days you feel a little homesick or lonely since they can provide.
About Courtney Aragon, RN
Courtney Aragon has been a nurse for four years, spending the last year as a travel nurse. With her black lab, Athena, Courtney takes to the open road for spontaneous adventures, seeing all the beautiful places around the country. Courtney loves hiking in the mountains with Athena and exploring the food/nightlife scene in the city. Follow her adventures on Instagram @courtneyskirts.