Traveling with pets, whether you're handling the details yourself or hiring experts to help you, can be an overwhelming experience for many reasons.
The fact is, though, there are many misconceptions about pet travel, and clearing them up will make life much easier. Read about a few common misapprehensions below, take a moment to adjust your point of view accordingly, and travel well, everyone!
1. Pets should travel the way humans do
Example: many air travelers have trouble with the idea of separating from their pets and placing them in the cargo area, when in fact this part of the plane is actually preferable in many ways.
Temperature and pressure-controlled and offering less commotion and confusing noise than the cabin, the cargo hold of a plane that's operated by a pet-friendly airline generally offers a better flying experience for pets.
This is one illustration of why it's necessary to consult the experts before you make your plans -- your first instincts ("my cat should be next to me the whole time"), don't always ring true when it comes to high-flying pet travel.
2. Direct flights are better
Booking one direct flight may seem better than choosing a multi-leg trip with one or more stopovers, but in fact it's easier on the pet when they're able to take a break from their travel crate in the middle of a long journey.
Top-notch facilities like the Lufthansa Animal Lounge in Frankfurt, for example, are designed to provide a safer and happier travel experience for all kinds of animals. It may mean adding a few hours to your total travel time, but if they could, your pets would thank you for keeping their comfort in mind.
3. The experience of traveling will leave pets forever changed
It's true that the travel day can be stressful for everyone, and pets may seem a little dazed or dehydrated after a very long journey, but it's amazing how often we hear that pets bounce back to their normal selves in just a few hours. Take a look at a few of our recent client pet travel stories for accounts and details that will put your mind at ease.
Pets don't hold grudges and they love to be wherever you are, so as long as you resume your usual schedule as soon as you can upon arrival and show your furry travelers plenty of love, the spring will be back in their step in no time.
4. Airlines are prone to mistakes and don't seem to care about pets
The key to this one is simple: choose a pet-friendly airline. Not all carriers devote the same attention to flying animals, and PetRelocation has a short list of pet-friendly carriers that we will do business with. Look for established pet programs and good safety records when making flight reservations -- United, KLM, and Lufthansa are a few of our top picks.
5. Pets "want" things a certain way
When it comes to travel, trying to guess what your pet would like to do (which often means projecting your own preferences upon them -- see Misconception #1), is simply a waste of time. As a pet owner, it's your responsibility to make the right decision on your pet's behalf.
Do the research, talk to your vet as well as the travel experts, and then plan a course of action that makes logical sense. This means being honest and deciding if it's safe to relocate your pet in the first place, as well as putting in the time and energy into crate training, etc.
Will you receive looks of confusion from your pets during all of this? Very likely. Will they get over it in the moment it takes to start a game of fetch or give them a good belly scratch? No doubt about it.
Contact one of our Pet Relocation Consultants if you have more questions about pet travel. We'd love to help clear up any other misconceptions and help you plan a safe pet move!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2011 and has been updated with new information.