Pet Travel Essentials Checklist

Traveling by car is by far the easiest way to travel with your pup, but I often fly with Toby. I have several essentials I always take. Remember that Toby is a small dachshund, so your mileage may vary depending on the size of your animal. All products are linked to Amazon, which is where I bought them all originally.


I carry two important forms with me whenever I travel with Toby.
  • I carry his complete and most recent shot records. You can easily request this, often by email, from your vet. I can't stress enough how important this is. If something does happen - to someone else, someone else's dog, or to Toby, this information is essential.
  • I always carry a copy of his most recent rabies certificate.
  • When flying with Toby as an ESA, I carry the above documentation, airline required forms, and the original letter from my doctor. Review my ESA post for more information on flying with your pet as an Emotional Support Animal.
I can’t stress this enough. AAA says that “a 10-pound unrestrained dog in a car traveling 30 miles an hour will exert 300 pounds of force during a crash.” The number one rated safety harness is the Sleepypod Clickit. I actually use tethers that allow Toby to get to a window, but also keeps him from becoming a projectile. For the front seat, I use a Kurgo tether that plugs directly into the seatbelt. I like this because, in our vehicles, if the seatbelt is activated but the weight is under 70 lbs, the airbag is deactivated. In the backseat, I use a heavy-duty tether that attaches to the car seat hooks.
Honestly, traveling with a pet bed is a pain. It’s bulky, hard to drag into hotels when you’ve also got your dog, your suitcase, your pet’s other accessories, and so on. I recently discovered the Petmaker travel bed that rolls and takes next to no space. I can even squeeze it into a suitcase. He uses it in the car, during the trip, then I quickly roll it up and slide it on top if my suitcase. It’s the perfect travel bed. If you have a small dog, it’s quite soft and cushy if you fold it in half.
I like to protect my leather seats from Toby’s tongue and nails. In my tiny car, I use the Petmaker bed I mentioned above to cover the side of the backseat that Toby can reach from his seatbelt. If he’s in the front seat, I have a bucket seat cover that stays put. In the SUV, he’s generally in the backseat, so we use the Solvit bench seat cover. It attaches around the seat corners, around the headrests, and in the seat seam. It does not budge.
Toby has his own suitcase. It’s a brilliant invention. It includes two pop-up bowls for food and water, a placemat, containers for a week’s worth of dry food, several outside pockets and a large empty space. I tend to fill the empty space with Toby’s meds, pill pockets, spare leashes and harnesses, and treats. The outside pockets are where I slip a few pee pads, a small bottle of urine remover, and a small roll of paper towels. I also keep a water bottle in the side pocket. I am positively in love with this little bag. I haven’t tried it on a flight yet, but since Toby is a carry-on and the bag would be a carry-on, it’s probably more suited to the car.
Some hotels require that you crate your pup when out of the room. I rarely do this, because Toby just goes to sleep and he’s not a barker. If you do need to crate your pup, I recommend a soft pop-up crate that weighs very little and folds flat into it’s carry case. For travel, I use the smaller Unleashed foldable playpen, as it fits into my suitcase. We also have the larger Zampa foldable playpen.
We have two of these, and again, it depends on the car we choose to take. Toby has short legs and a delicate back. At the moment, he’s on a diet, so he can’t walk very far yet because it’s uncomfortable for him. I also worry about people stepping on him in crowded areas – he’s very low to the ground. The strollers are very much like a child’s stroller, and they fold up for transport. For quick travel, especially in my smaller car, we use the the Pet Gear Lite. It’s very similar to a child’s umbrella stroller and it fits in my small trunk. When we take the SUV, we try to bring the larger (and more sturdy) Pet Gear No-Zip. I don’t know about air travel. It seems to me that a stroller is a stroller. Child strollers are pink tagged at the gate and checked at the jetway for immediate pick-up on landing. I’ve asked airline gate agents and airline trainers both, and no one can tell me if a dog stroller is treated the same as a child’s stroller. Alternatively, you can rent a stroller at your destination. For instance, in Key West, you can rent a dog stroller for $10/day and have it dropped off and picked up at your location.
Whether by air or car, I always have a pop-up water bowl clipped to my purse and a bottle of water in my carry-on (post-security of course). While I don’t recommend giving your animal water within a couple of hours of a flight, it’s still handy for landing and layovers.
Airports that carry more than 10,000 people per day are required to have pet restrooms. Many do. A lot don’t. Check my list for your airport to find the location. However, you want to have pee pads and bags handy. If you don’t make it to the pet restroom or there isn’t one, your pup may decide to use the concourse as his backyard. A pee pad in your carry-on can wipe up that urine as quickly and efficiently as possible. I also have a poop bag or two already open (I think they are impossible to open when you need them) and in my purse or pocket so I can quickly scoop that up as well. You don’t want anyone stepping in, slipping on, or rolling their suitcase over pet waste, so clean it up.
If you’re traveling with your pet on a plane and they are not an Emotional Support or Service animal, they must fit under the seat in front of you. There are very specific sizes for pet carriers. I use a medium Sherpa that is branded by Delta. If it’s branded by the airline, then it’s going to fit. The carrier has several outside pockets, which fit my Kindle, my phone, headphones, spare pee pads, and a bottle of water. Inside the carrier, I use a small crate pad and under that, I line the carrier with a pee pad (just in case). I use the carrier on take-off and landing, as well as through the airport. Again, Toby is low to the ground and I don’t want anyone stepping on him in the chaos of a busy airport. My carrier also attaches to a seatbelt, so you could use it in a car as well.
For both air and car, I pack one or two toys, I always include one squeaky toy, but that doesn’t come out until we’re at our destination. An 8+ hour car ride or any flight with a lot squeaking will drive everyone nuts! To counter that, I buy Hear Doggy toys with silent squeakers for the trip itself. Supposedly, only the dog can hear the squeak. Toby loves them, and he’ll only play with toys that squeak, so my guess is that they work.
Not all pets need these, but Toby used to take them. I highly recommend True Hemp Calming Chews. These are not marijuana and do not have CBD. You are not getting your dog high. Hemp is different and legal everywhere. (If you can buy it on Amazon, it’s legal.) In addition to hemp, these chews have chamomile, and both have calming properties. I’ll be honest, I’ve only taken these in the car and not through the airport security line. I have no idea how a drug-sniffing dog would react, if at all. Hemp is legal, but you never know.