Safer travelling with pets

Travelling can be stressful for the whole family, but for animals that may not be used to long journeys, it can be especially traumatic. Here are a few tips on how to make travelling with pets as smooth and safe as possible.
View from inside a car looking out to the road.

Plan your trip

The time of day might not seem relevant, but being stuck in traffic jams at the hottest part of the day can be really unpleasant for our four-legged friends. Your pet will also travel better without a full tummy, so it’s a good idea not to feed them for two hours before your travel time. If your journey is long you should build in time for a feeding break (but keep their packed lunch light, and stick to their usual food).

Creature comforts

If your pet has a favourite blanket or toy, consider taking this along as a comforter. Make sure you have water onboard for the journey, and a suitable container depending on how you’re travelling. If you do stop for a comfort break on your journey, don’t forget your pet. Vehicles get extremely stuffy, even on days that don’t feel hot. Unattended pets can quickly overheat, even with the windows slightly open. Your pet will need a break on long journeys for exercise, toilet and food. For cats it’s an idea to have a small portable litter tray they can use, but put them on a lead first or keep the car doors shut to avoid them running off! Dogs should also be exercised on a lead, especially if your stop happens to be beside a busy road.

Buckle up

Your pet should be confined for safety reasons but they’ll still need space to move around. You can buy specially made grills for the boot of the car to stop your pet climbing or being flung forward in the event of sudden braking. Dog safety harnesses and dog seat belts are available online or from your local pet shop. These will help to protect and restrain your dog in the event of an accident. However, these can become restrictive so you’ll need to take regular exercise breaks for longer journeys. If they’re in box or basket, ensure it’s big enough. You may also need to line the bottom just in case your pet is car sick or has any nasty ‘little accidents’. Taking along a spare lining is recommended! If you’re travelling in multiple vehicles (for example by train, then car), a lightweight box or basket might be more suitable. With any cage, basket or box do ensure the grills or door is correctly fixed into place before you travel and double check it regularly during your trip.

Check the rules

If you’re travelling further afield than the UK, you might want to check the legislation. Bringing your pet back into the UK requires them to be micro-chipped and have certain vaccinations such as Rabies. You can find out more at https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad If you’re flying your airline should offer guidance on how they will be taking care of your pet on board and what you need to consider before your trip.

Have a trial run

For longer train journeys, it can be beneficial to take your pet on a short local trip first to get them used to the unfamiliar sights and sounds of the train station. The movement of the train itself can be strange for cats and dogs so check that they’re happy with this type of transport before embarking on your travels.

Check your cover

Our Pet Insurance can cover treatment by a vet whilst abroad (cover is restricted to countries in the Government’s Pet Travel Scheme. Other exclusions apply, please check our Pet Insurance Policy Wording here). It’s a very good idea to check your policy wording before you travel for peace of mind. If in doubt contact your insurer to let them know about your trip. For a quick reminder why not download our Top tips for pet road trips PDF.


First published 01/04/2014

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