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. Read our tips on how to make travelling with pets as smooth and safe as possible.

According to research undertaken by Travelodge, 57% of Brits opted to stay in the UK for their holiday in 2018, an increase of 2% from 2017. On top of this, one in five pet owners will take their furry friends with them if they holiday within the UK.

While some people do take their dog abroad, many feel the pet passport and health check requirements make it much easier to avoid taking their dogs’ overseas with them. 

Here are some tips to help make travelling in the UK as smooth and safe as possible for if you decide to organise your own staycation.

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).

Choose your hotel wisely. Some hotels really roll out the red carpet for man’s best friend, providing dog beds, their own bowls, dedicated play areas and even healthy treats and squeaky toys.

Always check with the proprietors exactly what is and isn’t allowed (some might not let your dog sleep in your room, sit on the furniture or join you in the dining room or bar). If in doubt, be cautious about letting your pooch roam as freely as they would at home.

Also, it’s one thing being in a dog-friendly hotel but you need to make sure you can take your pooch out and about with you to the local attractions as well.

Many national monuments only allow assistance dogs, so check before you plan a long visit to a castle or stately home.

Creature comforts


If your pet has a favourite blanket or toy, consider taking this along as a comforter. Make sure you have water on board 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. It is important that you never leave your dog in the car, not even with the window down and the air conditioning on.

Your car can reach very high temperatures in minutes, even if the weather is reasonable outside. Your pet will need a break on long journeys for exercise, toilet and food.

Dogs should also be exercised on a lead, especially if your stop happens to be beside a busy road. For cats it’s an idea to have a small portable litter tray they can use, a large carrier for the car may allow space for a little tray. Make sure you put your cat back in their carrier before opening any car doors. 

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.

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.

This goes for car journeys as well, if you can you should try and get some slightly longer journeys in with your pet before embarking on their first really long drive. 

There are pheromone products such as Feliway or DAP available if your pet needs some extra help but you can also consult your vet if your pet suffers from travel sickens as other treatments are available.

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).

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.

If you’re planning on going further afield, read our handy tips for travelling with pets in Europe.

Related links