As with flying, it is important to get your pet used to its crate or harness ahead of the trip. The goal is to have your pet associate only positive things with its crate, harness, and the vehicle. For pets that are very old, sick, or otherwise affected by changes in their environment, travelling by land or sea can be a milder alternative to flying. When travelling by land or sea, you may give sedatives if deemed necessary and prescribed by your vet.
When travelling by car, there are a few things you can do to make the journey comfortable for your pet. Depending on your pet, they will need to travel within a crate (fitted to your car, or if loose strapped down) or strapped to a seat with a harness. It is extremely dangerous to let your pet ride in the back of an open truck, should an accident happen or your pet get spooked, they could experience severe injuries or even death.
- If your pet has never travelled in the car before, you will need to start with acclimatization. Have them stay inside (in the crate or with the harness which they will wear) and without leaving the driveway, reward them with praise or treats for simply staying calm.
- Once calm within the vehicle, you can try taking short trips (15-30 mins) to get them used to the movement of the car. If they sound a little worried, continue for a few minutes more to see whether they will calm down or require a stop. It's important not to act like anything is wrong - our emotions carry over to our pets and can heighten their distress!
- Avoid carsickness by letting your pet travel on an empty stomach where possible (or with a light snack mid-trip for longer journeys).
- Make sure that water is available, or make regular stops (every 2-3 hours) for watering and potty breaks. Remember to clean up after your pet!
- Keep the car well ventilated: weather permitting, allow fresh air to flow in (your pet must be secured so that it cannot escape or stick its head out of the window). If it is very hot, then air-conditioning may be a better option.
- Remember, dogs and cats are much less tolerant of heat than humans due to having limited physiological means of cooling down. Never, ever leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, particularly in the summer. If you must leave the car, make sure someone is available to supervise your pet.
Travelling by car gives you the most flexibility and you have the most opportunity to acclimatize your pet to this kind of vehicle. However, not everyone has a driving license. While some countries do not allow pets on trains, it is far more likely that they'll be allowed on the train than on a long-distance bus or coach. Of course, once in a city or town, you will have to deal with buses, trams and other modes of transport!
On trains, it is quite rare to have spaces dedicated to those travelling with pets. This means that unless you book extra seats, you can expect to hold your pet on your lap (in a bag or box) or have them lay at your feet. This may not be too bad if you are travelling with a smaller pet, but with a very large dog or multiple pets, buying an extra seat is a must.
On Deutsche Bahn as an adult you can book two additional seats for no extra cost when travelling with children aged 14 years and under. Unfortunately, this does not apply to pets and for large dogs you need to pay the equivalent fare of an unaccompanied child's ticket. I recommend paying extra for seat reservations for yourself and your dog, as if the train is full there won't be any room for your dog and in the worst case you will have to stand (the aisle must be kept free of obstacles).
When it comes to travelling by sea, there are a few things to keep in mind. In all cases, however, it is important to book ahead of time as the number of pets allowed onboard per journey is limited.
- Your options as a foot passenger will be slightly limited compared to if you are also transporting your car. Not all routes that allow pets will also allow foot passengers as there is a strict separation between seating or restaurant areas and pet-friendly deck zones.
- If you are travelling as a foot passenger on a pet-friendly ferry or ship, there will be a dedicated kennel area and a separate (usually outdoor) area for your pet to relieve itself. It is best to become familiar with the layout of the ship prior to embarking.
- Generally speaking, if you are transporting your car, your pet will be allowed to stay inside your vehicle for the duration of the trip. There may or may not be dedicated kennel areas for foot passengers, but an area for pets to be exercised and relieve themselves is provided.