Labor Day weekend marks the official end of the summer season, and provides a long weekend for many people looking to squeeze in one last road trip before the fall.
Families often seize this opportunity to load everyone in the car – including Fido and Fluffy – and explore sites close to home or in neighboring states. While some people shudder at the thought of being cooped up in the car with children and/or pets, others embrace the prospect.
Dr. Kyle Rozell, veterinarian at The Pet Clinic on Main Street, said that with a little planning, taking the family pet on a road trip can add to the experience.
“A few ounces of preparation and time will prevent future heartaches and frustrations on the trip,” said Rozell. “First, make sure your pet has proper identification on him at all times. This can be as simple as an ID tag on his collar, but a more permanent solution would be the use of an implantable microchip.”
Rozell also suggests making copies of vaccination records and needed medications before the excursion.
“Sometimes, medication is needed to prevent anxiety or motion sickness,” he said. “We have Cerenia, for motion sickness, which is similar to the Dramamine people take. We also have Composure to ease anxiety. This medication is more of a supplement than a tranquilizer, and can ease the stress of travel or thunderstorms.”
When traveling by car, Rozell said, it’s important to make sure dogs and cats are secured.
“This is not only for the pet’s safety, but for the humans’ safety,” he said. “Pet carriers are wonderful for cats and dogs. And there are also harnesses for dogs that latch into the vehicle’s safety-belt systems.
According to a recent AAA/Best Western survey, 51 percent of travelers who own pets indicated they would always take their pets on vacation if they could, but they often run into restrictions preventing pet travel.
The survey revealed top considerations for pet travel included finding appropriate accommodations that accept pets, 95 percent; learning about pet policies, such as size limits and fees, 49 percent; and getting details about available pet services, 22 percent.
Rozell recommends calling well in advance to make sure hotels and/or campgrounds allow pets.
“Also, we recommend owners be considerate, and have a kennel or crate available,” said Rozell.
“There are many sites online that can you find lodging that allows pets, including www.petswelcome.com. For owners who will be camping with their dogs, I recommend the application of a topical flea and tick preventative, to help avoid bringing home unwanted guests.
Just like humans, pets need rest stops along the way, which gives them a change to stretch their legs, get a drink and relieve themselves. Also, Rozell pointed out it’s important to acclimate an animal to travel.
“The more frequent exposure to car travel, the better,” he said. “It’s best to start with short, in town trips, then expand the length of travel from there.”
Jessie McBride, registered veterinary technician, takes Skittles, her female red heeler, to work with her daily.
“Skittles loves to travel,” she said. “In the past month, we’ve been to San Antonio and Houston, and she makes the daily drive to work with me from Sallisaw.”
Family travel can be taxing for parents and children, but Heather Winn, family and consumer sciences educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension service, said having a travel activity game plan in place can save many a road-trip headache.
“We travel a lot with our boys, and I’ve learned it’s best to pack plenty of things to keep them busy,” said Winn. “I fill backpacks with crayons, books, toys, activity sets and stickers, and try to include special surprises I know they’ll like.”
Winn said smart snacks are also an important part of any road trip.
“I like taking easy-to-hand items, like crackers, juice boxes and fruit snacks,” said Winn. “Apples are easy to transport, and you can section oranges and put them in plastic bags; just remember the napkins.”
If a long car trip is planned, Winn recommends pacing the vacation accordingly.
“It’s important to take breaks, bathroom and otherwise,” said Winn. “Families with small children may want to drive a couple of hours, then stop to rest. It’s been my experience that it makes for a good pattern, and reduces the ‘are we there yet?’ or ‘how much longer?’ questions that come from the back seat.”
Winn also understand vacations can be expensive, but said cutting a few corners doesn’t mean cutting down on the fun.
“We like to stop for roadside picnics,” said Winn. “You save money by not eating in restaurants, and if you plan well, you can take in historical sites and other recreational activities while enjoying sandwiches and family time.”
Winn also includes her children in the planning of a family vacation, and uses travel as a teaching tool.
“One year, we decided to take a trip to Disney World, and knew in advance we’d have to budget for the vacation,” said Winn. “Instead of making our usual trip to the doughnut shop each morning, we put the money away as part of a savings plan for the trip. We ended up saving $300 in a relatively short period of time, which took some of the pressure off of planning the vacation.”
In this age of technological advances, many cars are equipped with DVD players, and many family have hand-held devices like iPads, Kindles and Nooks. Kid-friendly, educational apps are among the most popular selections at both the Apple app store and Amazon. For the cost of a cup of coffee, parents can download a game, thereby entertaining a child for the afternoon, at the very least.
“And the old standby games like ‘I Spy,’ and the alphabet game are still popular, too,” said Winn.
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