A checklist is one of your best tools if you’re planning on traveling with dogs this holiday season. And what you do with your checklist after your trip is what turns it from a scrap of paper to a compass for future trips.
Nothing is worse than interrupting the fun to find a pet store in a strange town to get an essential item you left at home. When traveling, you want to keep your life simple — and you certainly don’t want to add stress to your dog. A checklist helps keep you focused and frees your brain for other details and preparations.
What your checklist needs to include depends on:
- How many dogs are you traveling with?
- Where are you going?
- How long will you be away?
- What kind of transportation are you using — airplane, car or train?
- Will you be staying in a hotel or at the home of a friend or relative?
One of the best ways to start your checklist is to create categories. Here’s an example from a trip that Fido is planning to go on. The elements within each category have been sketched in.
- Food and water: Canned or dehydrated food? Do you need kibble? Bowls for water and food are important. Will you need to bring bottles of water so your dog can stay hydrated while traveling? Measuring cups? Stirring spoons?
- Transportation: If you’re traveling by air or train, your dog may need to be in some type of hard-sided crate. Be sure to check the carrier’s requirements in advance. If you’re traveling in a car, it’s important that your dog be in a crate or restrained so he won’t be hurt in the event of a car accident.
- Bedding: A familiar nest or bed to curl up in helps make a dog feel safer and more secure.
- Weather protection: If you’re going to a cold climate, you may need to think about bringing a sweater or coat for your dog. If you’re going somewhere wet, you may need to bring a towel. Hot climates may require a cooling mat or coat to keep your dog comfortable. In some cases, you may not need to give this a thought.
- Everyday gear: These are the most obvious needs on the ones that are easiest to forget because they are just always at hand when we’re at home. They include: leashes, harnesses and identification tags. And POOP BAGS! Nothing makes you and your dog more unwelcome than not cleaning up after a poop. If you’re going to be hiking or walking at night, be sure your dog has a reflective leash or jacket to wear.
- Medicines and supplements: If your dog has prescription medications, it’s best to bring them in the bottle they come in from the pharmacy rather than putting them in a different container. If your dog gets car sick or anxious about traveling, your vet may prescribe medications for that. You may also want to pack a small first aid kit for your dog in case of an emergency.
- Documents: Proof of rabies and bordetella shots. Dog license information. Prescriptions. These are important if your dog needs to go to a vet during the trip or needs to spend time in doggie day care. It’s also important if your dog gets excited and nips someone. Don’t forget to bring your dog’s chip information as well.
You can create your checklist on paper that you can copy for future trips; on the computer using software such as Evernote, Microsoft Word or Excel or any of a number of list-making applications; or in the cloud using Google Docs or DropBox, where you can get to it even without your own computer. Be sure to note the dates and itinerary of the trip for future reference.
It’s important to be able to check items off as you pack them so you don’t overlook anything. But it’s also important to keep the list both for future trips and to tweak it over time. Saving checklists will make it easier if you go to the same place at the same time of year in the future.
What will really transform your checklist into a power tool is sitting down after the trip and looking for improvements:
- What was missing?
- What did you take that you didn’t need?
Building on past experience with a checklist in hand makes traveling with your dog virtually painless.