Parker's 1st Birthday & How I Travel With Her
Updated: Feb 10
Wow! I can't believe our sweet girl is already a year old! I definitely spent the morning looking back at all the pictures and adventures we've had with this girl over the last year. I've shared a few of my favorite pictures at the bottom of this post, so be sure to check those out! I also made sure to link all the items we purchased to celebrate Parker's special day, which you can shop by clicking below.
To celebrate Parker's 1st birthday with all of you, I decided to finally talk about how I travel with her. This is probably one of my most requested topics, so here goes nothing!
This year we were lucky enough to be within driving distance of Nick, so Parker and I have spent a lot of time in the car. After dealing with her anxiety, throwing up, and crapping in the back seat, I think it's safe to say we've mastered this one.
Tips for driving:
1. Get a seat cover
This is going to save your life and your seats. Trust me, you do not want to try getting shit out of your seats and all the little crevasses. The seat cover I have linked below is durable, water resistant and super easy to clean. I also love the seat cover because I fold it up before taking it out of the car and it keeps all her hair in one place.
2. Consider medication
Before you take your first road trip, you might want to consider giving your dog Benadryl or Dramamine. This will be a trial and error process, as some medications don't work the same on dogs. For example, Parker just tries to fight the Benadryl and ends up working herself up and getting sick. So we learned the hard way that this sleepy time pill was not for her. Also, make sure you roll down the windows every few hours, this really helps them get fresh hair and can keep them from feeling uneasy.
3. Keep cleaning supplies in your car It doesn't hurt to keep a spray bottle of cleaner or even Clorox wipes in your car if there is an accident. You don't want to be stuck with a bad smell the whole trip if you only have water and napkins
4. Pack a portable water bowl and treats
Parker gets extremely dehydrated when we're driving so at every stop I take time to let her drink water. She usually drinks at least a full bottle of water on an 8 hour trip. Then just keep treats for her during the trip. I don't let her eat the morning of the road trip because I don't want her to get sick. A great treat to invest in if you're going to give them medicine, is pill pockets, which I'll link below.
5. Take time to stop
Parker and I stop every 4 hours for gas and a bath room break. I make sure she goes #1 and #2 and I let her walk around for a little bit to stretch her legs. I don't plan stops based on dog friendly areas, as most gas stations have plenty of room for her to do her business and walk around.
6. Book a pet friendly hotel
If you are staying in a hotel for you trip, call and ask about their pet policy. Sometimes their online policy or fees can be outdated and it's best to check with the hotel. Luckily Parker is an emotional support animal, so all hotels have to accept her and there can legally be no pet fee charged to the room. I'll get more into this at the end of the post.
7. Don't forget to pack for your dog too!
I have linked the best travel bag for your dog. It can store toys, treats, up to 30 cups of food and so much more! I love having this little number because we just keep it packed and restock the food and treats before each trip. It's so nice to have all of her belongs in one place and ready to go, so that I don't have another thing to worry about before the trip.
Ps. I linked Parker's favorite toy because it goes one very trip! It's one of the first ones she can't completely destroy.
8. Talk to your Vet
This is just a good rule of thumb. Before any trip you want to call your vet and make sure that your pup is up to date on vaccines and that it is safe for her to travel!
Essentials for driving with your pet:
This is a tricky one and things will vary depending on the size of your dog.
For this part of the post I am going to talk about flying with Southwest and a little with American Airlines for comparison. I would love to research each and every airline for you guys, but I just don't have the time. Hopefully going over Southwest's policy will help you have a better understanding.
If your animal is not a service dog or an ESA animal, your little baby will need to fit in the approved Federal Aviation Administration carrier.
This carrier has the following dimensions: 18.5" long X 8.5" high X 13.5" wide. Not only does your animal need to be able to fit in the carrier, it needs to be able to stand up and move around. Parker didn't even fit in this thing when she weighed 10 pounds, so make sure your dog can actually move around in the carrier before showing up to the airport. You will not be able to fly with your dog if this task can not be performed in front of an airline employee.
Tips for airline travel:
1. When you purchase your ticket note that you will have a service animal, ESA animal or carried on pet. Airlines only allows 6 animals per plane, 2 in first class, and 4 in the main cabin, so you'll want to make sure they know you'll be on the plane with a pet. If you are flying with a service animal or emotional support animal, the number of those is unlimited per flight. Also keep in mind that you are only allowed one pet per ticketed passenger. Your dog is also subject to a $95 pet fare each way. This fee is paid at the ticket counter, not when you book your flight.
2. Southwest does not check animals. If your pet is too big, you will need to fly on another airline. Southwest doesn't have the required compartments that are safe for a dog to travel as a checked item. Most airlines do have pressurized and heated luggage compartments for your pet. If you do go the checked route keep these things in mind:
Checking a pet is first come, first serve. For example, American Airlines only allows 7 kennels per flight and if they put you on an American Eagle flight, they only allow 5
The weight of your pet and the carrier should not exceed 100 Ibs
You must provide a health certificate for you pet that has been issued within 10 days of your travel date
For AA the charge is $200 per kennel and $125 for a carry on kennel
There is a long list of dog bread restrictions for airlines, even if the dog is being checked, so check that out before you purchase your flight
3. Why you might not want to check your dog for a flight:
The first problem could be that your pet could be sent to the wrong place. It happens with luggage all the time and your pet's kennel isn't protected from a routing error.
Although most airlines pet policies ensure your pet will not be exposed to extreme cold or extreme heat, we can't know that for sure. Animals may be left in extreme heat, cold or rain while handlers transport and load them into airplanes from the tarmac. Even after loading, pets may sit in sweltering or frigid conditions until the airplane takes off and the climate control kicks in.
Finally, there's the chance that your pet's kennel may get tipped, crushed or opened accidentally during transport, loading or unloading.
4. Things to consider if you decide flying will work for you and your dog:
Try to book a nonstop flight. If you can't take a non stop, try to be cautious of a flight with a longer connection so that handlers can actually check the well being of your checked pet. A longer connection also gives you time for food and potty breaks for your smaller dog.
All airports have a pet relief area, but they aren't always in the airport. For example, in Austin, you have to go outside passed security, and then come back in and go through security again. For this reason, we brought potty pads for Parker. There was no way we were going through security AGAIN. Other airports like LAX have designated spots near the terminals for easy access. To check your desired airport, click here.
Potty pads are also nice to have to help you clean up, because your pet could have an accident at the airport. Parker peed in the terminal waiting area..on carpet. So it happens and you're not alone if it does. Just clean it up and move along.
Considering packing the following: poop bags, potty pads, treats, anxiety medicine (ask your vet what's best for your dog- Parker went without and was fine), water bowl, Airline approved carrier, ESA vest just to keep people from touching your pet if they are registered. You can shop these items here:
5. Going through security: If your dog is going to fly they must go through security. You will be asked to hold the pet through the screening device while your carrier is x-rayed. Parker is too large to carry, so they let me walk through the old security entries with her on her leash. This part was super easy and harmless and TSA loves seeing cute pups!
6. So you don't want your dog to be checked, and they're too big to carry on, so now what?
There are other options, but you may not be qualified to use them. We chose to register Parker as an emotional support animal or an ESA animal, because I personally need her at my destination. Speak with your doctor to see if you need an ESA dog for flying or at your final destination, which qualifies you to fly with your animal inside the cabin. I highly recommend looking into this if you're a frequent flyer and NEED your animal with you.
Before you book your flight with Southwest Airlines, there are some requirements you will need to meet to ensure you can get on the flight:
Your mental/emotional disability must meet the requirements of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM-IV)
You must need the ESA for the flight itself or at the final destination.
The signing mental health professional must give proof (ie license number) and the jurisdiction and date of that issued license.
Information must be on therapist’s own letterhead and dated no later than one year from traveling date.
Due to country-specific regulations, no ESA can be transported into or out of Jamaica.
7. Training for animals, including ESA, when flying:
"Animals must be trained to behave properly in public and they won’t be permitted in the cabin if they display any form of disruptive behavior that can’t be successfully corrected or controlled, including but not limited to:
Biting or attempting to bite
Jumping on or lunging at people
Emotional support / psychiatric service animals must be in your control at all times by leash and / or harness.
If this behavior is observed at any point during your journey and isn't corrected or controlled, the animal will be considered a pet and all requirements and applicable fees will apply." (this information was taken directly from American Airlines Pet and ESA Policy)
Also, keep in mind, that if your ESA is too big to sit in your lap, it will need to be trained to stay seated at your feet during the entire flight. Sometimes flights aren't full and I've had flight attendants move me to preferred seating, which usually has more leg room. But there have also been times where I'm stuck in a last minute flight and get the middle seat in the back and Parker still has to sit at my feet. If you have plenty of notice for your flight, try to book a seat with the extra space. Your dog can not block the isle in anyway. Plus you don't want the bar cart running over any tails or paws!
Information on ESA dogs:
Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), an individual who meets the proper criteria is entitled to an emotional support dog to assist them with their life. The FHAA protects individuals by allowing their emotional support dog to live with them (even when there are no pet policies in place). The ACAA protects individuals by allowing the emotional support dog to fly with them in the cabin of an airplane (without having to pay any additional fees). Any dog can be an emotional support dog, and emotional support dogs do not have to be professionally-trained.
I hope this answers all of your questions! If not please be sure to leave any questions or comments you have for me below and I'll be sure to get back to you!