Pet-Friendly TravelCategory|

Dealing with Pet Travel Anxiety? Here are 10 Ways to Keep Calm

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A recent survey1 revealed that 70% of Americans plan to travel this summer and 68% say that traveling with pets provides a sense of security. But as pet parents, you don’t need a survey to tell you what you already know. We love traveling with our pets because our pets are part of our family, and leaving our furry companions behind can be stressful.

To make it easier to bring our dogs and cats on our travels, Hilton offers pet-friendly brands including: Canopy by Hilton, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton. While that’s great news for pet owners, some pets may feel anxious when traveling, especially post-pandemic, when travel was limited and we spent a lot of time together. To ensure your pet is just as happy as you are to hit the road for your next trip, Jessa Paschke, pet behavior specialist, Mars Pet Expert Team (and dog owner), provides tips on how to prepare your pet and care for them while traveling. Here are her 10 tips for reducing your pet’s travel anxiety.

1. Provide Socialization Training

"Preparing your pet to travel begins with socialization. Introducing your pet to other people and pets as well as crowds and new places helps pets feel less anxious when they leave the house. Instead of being fearful of new people and places, socialization training gets them excited for new encounters.

“Expose puppies and kittens to new places and social settings in that sensitive period of 12 to 16 weeks, when they are a sponge for learning and open to new experiences. The more positive experiences they can have with everything and anything, the less likely they will be nervous and anxious about going into those environments as adults."

2. Prepare Older Pets for a Road Trip

"It’s never too late for older pets to socialize. To prepare an older pet for travel, break it down into baby steps. Start off with short, small and very positive excursions. Watch your pet’s body language and make sure they remain in that happy, wiggly body motion. If you start to see any signs of tension like heavy panting when not exercising, the whale eye (when their eyes widen and show the whites of their eyes), or displays of avoidance (when your pet avoids looking or moving to an unfamiliar place), those are all indicators that they are starting to get nervous and maybe need a quieter or less-stimulating environment.

"Treats are a great way to provide a ‘job well done.’ By providing a treat or even regular kibble, you are making everything positive. Food equals 'happy,' and it’s a way to reinforce that their new experiences are good things."

3. Practice Road Trips

"Car sickness can be a big cause of anxiety for both pets and pet parents. There are different reasons for carsickness; one can be the unfamiliarity of being in a car. Taking short road trips before you travel, even if just going up and down your street, can help alleviate car sickness because pets become accustomed to the motion. If your pet continues to experience motion sickness, it may be helpful to consult your vet for ways to help ease their symptoms during road trips."

Pet‑Friendly Travel

Many of Hilton’s pet-friendly hotels also offer amenities such as pet bowls and extra waste bags. Canopy by Hilton’s Paws in the Neighborhood program provides guests with dog beds, food, water bowls and a “bark bag” filled with a toy, treats and guide to pet-friendly neighborhood activities. Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton team members provide local pet-friendly resources, such as where to find local dog parks, nearby 24-hour vets, pet stores and pet-friendly restaurants.

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4. Keep Pets on Their Schedules

"Aim to keep pets on their regular schedule when traveling as that can relieve anxiety because they know what to expect regarding their food and exercise schedules. Also, ensure they are getting plenty of exercise when traveling because physical activity can help expend their energy and in turn reduce stress.

"Every dog has their own energy requirements, and pent-up pets can become more anxious. If you have a high-energy dog, you may need to stop every few hours while driving or return to the hotel to provide exercise. If you have a couch potato, maybe you can go four to six hours, and they are fine. Tailor exercise time to your pet's individual needs and ensure they are getting what they need."

5. Give Pets Their Space

"When pets are in a hotel room, a great way to set up is to give them their own space. If they are accustomed to crating, bring their crate because they know it’s their safe spot. But even if it’s just a space with their bed and toys from home, it can help because they have familiar scents. Dogs and cats are just like us: They like their security blankets!"

6. Calm the Senses

"To keep your pet calm in the room when you are away, turn to the different senses. You can use the sense of smell by leaving out a shirt you have worn, so your scent is close when you are not, or you can also talk to your veterinarian about using therapeutic-grade essential oils with calming scents like lavender. Just remember that with essential oils, a little goes a long way. 

"For sound, you can use music to help keep pets calm. Soft classical music is great for pets, and many streaming services now offer designated channels of calming music for cats and dogs. You can turn that on and let them play while you are out to provide calming background noise.

“And for the mind, brain games that pets can work on and play with that keep them busy and stimulated while you are away can also be a good way to help lessen anxiety."

7. Reach out for Help

"If you are staying at any of the 4,600 Canopy by Hilton, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton hotels in the U.S. and Canada, you can ask the front desk for information to access the Mars PET On-Demand service, which is a digital portal where you can chat with one of our experts either online or on the phone. The Mars team of advisors and experts is always available to answer any questions should your pet have trouble settling in or experience any other issues. Guests can also access various PET On-Demand articles for tips and tricks for having a great stay with your pets.

"If you know you may need some assistance while traveling, you can always check out doggy daycare and boarding franchise, Camp Bow Wow, to find daily boarding and support."

8. Enroll in Extra Protection

"Through the partnership with Mars Petcare, Hilton guests have access to a special promotion from Banfield Pet Hospital. Available via the Mars PET On-Demand service, travelers in the U.S. can enroll in the Optimum Wellness Plan and Banfield will waive the enrollment fee, which is up to a $75 savings. This Optimum Wellness Plan is a great way to have high-value preventive healthcare for your pets. It includes routine wellness exams, vaccinations and preventative care with 24/7 access to Banfield’s live Vet Chat advice for additional support. The Optimum Wellness Plan also provides discounts on other products and services that aren’t included in the package. The waived enrollment fee for this service is a great perk for Hilton guests.

"If there is ever an emergency while you are traveling and you’re away from your veterinarian, Banfield Pet Hospital,  BLUEPEARL and VCA Animal Hospitals have amazing services that can help you on the road too."

9. Speak to a Veterinarian

"If you are planning a trip, we recommend that you speak to your veterinarian before you go. If you are crossing state lines, for example, you will want to have a travel certificate for your pet that is updated within seven days of your trip. If you are going on an international trip, you need to check in with the rules or regulations of your final destination as they may have quarantine or vaccination requirements for pets. And be sure to bring your pet’s medical records, in the off-chance you need them."

10. Visit Pet-Friendly Destinations

"Some cities are well known for providing pet-friendly activities, restaurants and parks and we highlight those pet-loving places on our Better Cities for Pets website. Each pet-friendly Hilton hotel has pet facilities that pet families can utilize, and many have team members that can point you to other pet-welcoming places. You can also look at a city’s visitor web page for available pet-friendly amenities. Many places today are becoming more welcoming of pets because many people want to travel with their furry companions!"

Paschke’s final takeaway? “The best rule of thumb when traveling with your pet is to do what’s best for you and your pet,” she said.“That, and have fun!”

To learn more about Hilton’s partnership with Mars Petcare, read Hilton Expands Pet-Friendly Offerings and Mars Petcare Partnership to More Than 4,600 Hotels Across the U.S. and Canada. For more tips and tricks to help keep your pets happy when traveling, visit Better Cities for Pets or Stories From Hilton

1KRC Research conducted an online survey of 1,004 U.S. adults 18 and older between June 1 – 3, 2022.