ESA Holiday Travel – US Readers Only.
Holidays, those precious, magical things that only come a few times year and then are gone again in the mysterious blink of an eye. Making memories with family, eating all the food and ugly sweatshirts – it’s a magical time.
Clearly, you’ve got to make the most of your holidays, before they disappear for yet another year!
But for those with emotional support animals (emotional support dogs or emotional support cats), traveling during this time can also bring on a lot of stress. A huge amount of factors come into play when traveling with an ESA in the frantic holiday period – a time when it feels like the entire population is going somewhere. This means that things don’t always go as planned. Add to the mix the often inclement Winter weather, and it’s understandable that your anxiety about taking your pet across the country might be topping out.
But of course, taking your pet home for the holidays is a non-negotiable. They need your care, and you might need their care if your family is a little, well, intense.
This is a simple, stress-free guide to traveling with your ESA during the holidays so you can eat, drink and be merry.
Choose Your Transportation Mode
Depending on how far you need to travel, there’s a few options to get yourself from A to B for the holiday season. The mode that you choose is totally up to the distance logistics, and your preference.
Traveling by car with your ESA is a comfortable and low-key option for getting where you need to be on the holidays. By traveling in your car, you can bring a whole swag of stuff to keep you and your pet happy which can help you to arrive in a stress-free state at your destination. Remember if you choose to travel by car and it’s a long distance, find some pet-friendly motels and hotels on the route to your destination to give yourself and your pet a break. The downsides of traveling by car to see your family is that gas can be expensive, weather can be dangerous in parts of the country and if your family is located far from where you live it can be a long ride.
Travelling by plane is a quick way to arrive at your destination for the holidays. However, it’s not always the easiest route. ESAs can travel on planes under the Aircraft Carrier Access Act, however for most airlines, only dogs and cats are allowed to travel in the cabin. Another thing to take into consideration is that if your pet is not used to flying, you may not want to make a holiday flight their first! Air travel is at its peak period during holiday periods, which means many more people are travelling than usual.
During this time the airport may be extremely crowded and busy, which can upset some pets. Try to get a practice flight or two in before traveling by plane with your pet during the holiday season. It’s also an excellent plan to train your ESA before stepping foot in the airport or on a plane – a handy guide to doing that can be found here (link this text to my article preparing your ESA to fly).
Book Way in Advance – and Get Organizing
The holidays are a crazy busy time to travel, so trying to organize travel or accommodation a week in advance? It ain’t gonna happen. Okay it might, but do you really want to spend all your savings on a flight from Minneapolis to El Paso and a few nights at the Days Inn? Nope, didn’t think so. Try to get your bookings locked in as soon as you can, and be aware that you’ll need to submit some documents in order to fly with your ESA on most airlines.
Things Can (And Will) Go Wrong
Holiday season is pretty nuts. People traveling all over the place, trying to arrive by a certain time, with not much room for error – it’s a high pressure situation! It really helps to know that especially during this season, things can, and will go wrong. Flights get canceled, people get stranded, weather makes it impossible to travel…these are all real possibilities that can occur during your holiday travel. Remember, while it can be really frustrating at the time, screaming at the airport check-in desk is not going to help anyone’s situation and is just nasty. Be prepared for anything with your ESA by packing an emergency kit should you happen to get stranded somewhere. It’s not hard to do and it can make a lot of difference for you and your pet’s comfort level.
Arriving Home for the Holidays
All good ESAs should be well-socialized animals, so your pet is probably used to encountering new sights, sounds, smells and other pets and people. However, no matter how well-adjusted they are, the holidays can be a lot for your emotional support animal to take in. Plus, what kind of cat or dog could resist eating a whole turkey which is conveniently in reach?
To avoid your ESA getting in the bad books with family members, ensure that everyone knows your pet will be there and its purpose. Your ESA should have their own space to retreat from the noise and crowds of your holiday celebrations, but they definitely shouldn’t be excluded either.
Talking About Mental Health
If you have an ESA to assist with your mental health, it’s a really great opportunity to talk with your family about your mental health, and mental health in general. Barriers are being broken down in terms of mental health every day and we’re in a much better place to have constructive, informative discussions about a once hidden problem. So taking your ESA home for the holidays is the perfect chance to have a frank, open discussion about these problems that affect so many.
Having an emotional support animal when travelling during the holidays requires some extra planning on your part, but having a supportive buddy to spend the holidays with makes it worth it! Plus you get to introduce your fam to your furry little cheerleader too. Yay, holidays!
You can find out more about ESA Dogs here.