One of the hardest things a pet parent has to do is leave his or her pet behind. Sure pet friendly travel is the best, but it’s not always possible. Unfortunately for many it is a necessary evil when traveling for business or pleasure especially when traveling abroad. It can be stressful for both pets and people and difficult to find a reliable and trusted person or business who can look after your furry family member.

The past few weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time visiting various places in Scotland and Dublin with my boyfriend and his family. It’s been amazing to see other parts of the world, but I sure miss Ralph and Luna! While I have been away, I knew they were safe and in good hands with my parents and a doggy day care facility that we have well vetted.

Though I thought about my two pups and missed them very much, I wasn’t worried about how they were doing too much because I prepared for their time away from home weeks in advance. Below I share the steps I took to ensure that the time was a success for the dogs and everyone involved.

11 Tips for Preparing to Leave Your Pet Behind During a Vacation

Tips for Preparing to Leave Your Pet in Boarding

A Month in Advance

Run a trial stay and inspect the facility or pet sitter’s home.
Pick a weekend about a month before your big trip and do a one or two night stay at the dog boarding location or pet sitter’s home. Stay nearby in case of emergency and pay close attention to how your dog or cat acts following the visit. This will help you feel comfortable with the business or pet sitter you have chosen and confident that your pet will be okay while you are gone.

Check your pet’s medical records.
If your pet will be due for any vaccine, check up, or other treatment while you are out of town, you may want to get it done before you leave. Some boarding facilities may require extra vaccines such as Bordetella, so be sure to check with them in advance. Also, keep in mind some vaccines need a few days before they are considered fully functional, so schedule any appointments wisely.

11 Tips for Preparing to Leave Your Pet Behind During a Vacation

A Week in Advance

Verify and update your pet’s identification and microchip.
You should always update this information after any changes, but stays like this are a good reason to verify that you did it. Ensure there is a way to contact you in case your pet becomes lost while you are on vacation. If you’re dog or cat is inexperienced in being away from you, they may be frightened or skittish, so it’s even more important!

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be an emergency contact.
It can be a burden to ask a friend or family member to watch your pet during your entire vacation, but you’ll want to make sure you have someone you trust locally who can make decisions on your behalf in case of emergency. This is especially true if you’ll be further than an hour or two away.

The Day Before

Pack your dog a suitcase with items that will help them feel at home.
Include a comfortable bed, a toy they love, and even an article of clothing that smells like you or home. Be sure to explain each items importance to your pet sitter or boarding facility and stress if any of the items are sentimental or irreplaceable.

Portion out your dog’s meals and medications.
This task is a bit tedious and may seem wasteful, but it makes the life of your pet sitter significantly easier. Portioned out meals also help guarantee that your dog or cat is fed correctly while you are gone, so you don’t return to a pet a little heavier or skinnier than when you left them. I use Ziploc bags for portioned meals. I make sure our sitters know what the portion sizes are in case there are any mix ups or issues. If there are any differences, I label the bags with a permanent marker.

11 Tips for Preparing to Leave Your Pet Behind During a Vacation

Write up any necessary instructions about medication or safety.
If your pet has any special needs, make sure they are clearly written down. You should go over them verbally, but always have a written copy because people don’t always remember anything. Make it as simple as possible and include easy to follow steps if you can.

Also, include your safety expectations. We all make special efforts to keep our pets safe, so your pet sitter or dog boarding facility should too, especially if you are paying them! We always bring along our Sleepypod Clickit Sport Harness (read a review here) and specify how and when to use it. If my pets are to travel in the car for any reason, I expect that they are safe while doing it. If need be, I’ll do a demonstration of how to put on the Clickit Sport harness and how to strap the pets into the car safely.

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Print out two copies of your pet’s records. One for you and one for them.
It’s always good practice for your dog boarding or pet sitter to have a copy of your pet’s records in case they need to visit the vet for any reason. In most cases, they require it! Just make sure it’s the most recent version.

You may also want to have a copy with you, so you can easily refer to it if you need to make any medical decision from a far. A digital copy should work, but keep in mind that you may have limited mobile data or WiFi access especially if you are traveling outside of the country.

Verify your sitter or doggy day care facility has updated contact information.
It never hurts to write down your current phone number and email address, so your pet sitter has it easily accessible. If your pets are at a boarding facility make sure they have the most up to date information and a local emergency contact in case you cannot be reached. If you are traveling outside of your native country, you may not have access to your phone, so be sure to specify that!

11 Tips for Preparing to Leave Your Pet Behind During a Vacation

The Day Of

Be specific about your expectations for emergency medical care.
Most boarding facilities have waivers that you have to sign about what they are expected to do in the event of a medical emergency and how much they may be allotted to spend. Think about it carefully and honestly. If your pets are staying with a pet sitter instead, make sure they are aware. You probably want to even write it down and have both parties sign it.

Give your pup an extra hug and relax.
You have picked a competent, trusted pet sitter or boarding business and they are prepared to keep your pets safe and happy. They are in good hands, so enjoy your vacation! And yes, it’s okay if you check in from time to time, but don’t go crazy.

How do you cope with going on vacation without your dog?

Disclaimer: I am being compensated to help spread the word about the Sleepypod Clickit Sport. I received no other compensation or additional benefits for mentioning the brands or products in this post. The opinions and ideas in this post are my own and are uninfluenced by any other person or business.

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11 Tips for Preparing to Leave Your Pet Behind During a Vacation

Jessica Shipman

Jessica Shipman

Jessica Shipman is a bargain hunter, food lover, and software engineer figuring out how to be a pet parent for the first time. Jessica has been a long time lover of all animals (especially llamas and manatees) and is happy that she can finally combine that love with technology.
Jessica Shipman

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  • Linda Szymoniak

    In addition to needing a Bordetella vaccine, some boarding facilities are also requiring the canine flu vaccine – that will take two shots (the initial shot and a booster), so make sure you give yourself enough time to get those. We really don’t go on “family” vacations. Haven’t for years. I’m married, but he goes his way, and the girls and I have always gone ours. Of course, that also means that most likely, someone will be home with the furbabies. When I first adopted my deaf hound girl, Ran, I did take her to boarding (the husband didn’t want the extra responsibility). Then came Kenji, about six months later, and Kyoko two months after that. While my daughter(s) and I typically only take weekend trips, it got costly to take three to boarding. By then, luckily, the husband was okay with them staying home. On the one occasion when nobody would be home (my youngest daughter’s wedding – we were gone for five days), I was able to find a great boarding facility that was along our route (I knew them because of my work in rescue – a rescue I work with uses them). We had one of the girls’ friends come by 1-2 times daily to feed the cats and give them some attention. That was the only time all dogs were in boarding at the same time. I don’t think I could be away from them for more than a weekend anyway.

    • beaglesbargains

      It’s definitely tough being away. I’ve been lucky to visit very dog friendly cities in Europe, so I’ve been able to get my “dog-fix” but it’s definitely not the same. I’m very glad I had the opportunity to travel, but I can’t wait to see them!

  • sandy weinstein

    i dont do Bordetella, my oldest had severe reactions to it. had to go to er and was hospitalized for it 1 time. i have someone house sit, i dont or will not board my dogs. anyway, i would never go away and leave them at home for vacation, if they cant go, i dont go. they are family. i have someone come in and house sit for my girls if i have to go out of town for business.

    • beaglesbargains

      I definitely understand. We try to balance pet friendly vacations and outings with those that are not. I view my dogs as family as well, but I don’t think having pets should prevent you from traveling and seeing the world. I know my dogs would be much more stressed out traveling on a plane and staying in weird hotels than staying with a trusted friend or family member. Often times they even get the benefit of a fenced in yard, so it’s a vacation for them too!

  • Jackie Lochridge

    I may be leaving for a couple days for work in August. A few weeks ago I had someone stay in my apartment, but apparently Galen was absolutely panicked when she left (he has separation anxiety but is about 85% normal when I leave now). I’m thinking boarding may be easier on him now that his anxiety about other dogs is much less. Guess I should start visiting some facilities and taking him for trial runs.

    • beaglesbargains

      Yes, definitely do a trial run. Tell the facility you choose that’s what your doing upfront and ask for a detailed “report card” of how Galen did. The good ones will definitely oblige since they want your pup to be a happy camper. Also, keep a look out for ones that personalize the experience to your dog, so maybe they get more or less playtime/quiet time depending on their personality.

  • Tammy Woodall

    I think doing a trial stay and tour of the facilities a month in advance is an excellent idea. Thanks for the great tips.

  • Lisa F.

    Very good post about being thoughtful when having to board your pet. Even the best boarding facility will be somewhat stressful for your pet because you aren’t there.

  • Christine Aiello

    These are great tips to know. I have never had to leave coco in boarding and I hope I never do but these are great tips to have if in case I need to!

  • Kayla Lussier

    These tips are great but leaving my dog in boarding has always made me feel uncomfortable so I probably never will.

  • Helga

    Great information. I worked for a pet boarding service so I know its important for the owner to prepare accordingly when boarding their pet.

  • Helga

    I’m about to leave my pets with a sitter for a week so this info is very helpful!

  • AnnaZed

    I have never had to board my dogs but I am going to have to when I get surgery. I’m a mess already and it’s in February! You would think that my partner could handle them, but no he can’t.