If you’re like me, you want your pet to travel with you everywhere. But that isn’t always a good idea — for you or your furry companion. So how do you decide when to take your pup or cat along? And when is it better to leave them behind?

To decide, you’ll need to ask a few key questions.

Golden Retriever dog in a red life vets laying on a pillow

Deciding Whether Your Pet Should Travel With You

As a responsible pet owner, there are a few things to consider when deciding whether your pet should go with you. Answering these questions will help you decide if the situation will be enjoyable and safe for you and your pet.

1. Are pets allowed?

The first question to ask is whether pets are allowed where you’re going. There’s nothing more irritating than finding out I can’t bring my dog, Honey, somewhere for no logical reason. For example, the outdoor pedestrian mall in our former town of Ithaca, New York does not allow dogs. Ever. Outdoor malls all over the country allow pups, so why Ithaca insists on prohibiting dogs makes no sense!

But it’s the law.

Not only could we get a ticket for taking Honey with us, we’d set a bad example. And we absolutely don’t want to do anything that would make it more likely dogs will get or continue to be banned from a place.

Honey the golden retriever wonders if she should try her paw at improv.
Comedy clubs are definitely not pet friendly. No comic in the world could hold a crowd if Honey was in the room.

Sometimes there are good reasons dogs aren’t allowed — even if they’re not immediately obvious. For example, the state park officials at Cape May Point Lighthouse only started banning dogs after they were found to be harassing nesting birds. Cape May is located on a major flyway where birds feast on horseshoe crabs and hatch their young. While it’s disappointing that we’re not allowed to bring Honey to one of our favorite beaches, it’s worth finding another place to play it to protect the birds.

And pet policies can change, so it’s always a good idea to call or check a site’s website be sure pets are still allowed before you go. After all, we had been visiting Cape May Point Beach for years with our dogs before they enacted the ban.

2. Is it safe?

I love attending big, outdoor events like festivals and concerts, but a few I’ve been to were simply not safe for my dog. Honey is exactly the right height to take someone out at the knees. In a large crowd where the average person won’t notice her, it’s not safe for Honey to be there.

I’ve seen people walking tiny dogs on-leash in crushing crowds and it was all I could do to restrain myself from scooping them up before someone stepped on them!

I’ve also seen pets waiting alone in cars for their people on days when the temperatures could be dangerous. If it’s too hot or cold outside, and you’ll need to leave your pet while you run an errand, it’s probably better to leave him home.

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3. Will my pet enjoy it?

Honey is relaxed and comfortable around other dogs and in crowds, so she’s perfectly happy going most places with us. But not all pets are.

Pet travel means knowing your pet and respecting her limitations, even when you wish things were different. If going along will cause your dog discomfort, fear, anxiety, or boredom, she might be happier at home.

Honey the golden retriever checks out the storefront mural in Georgetown, South Carolina | GoPetFriendly.com
You’ll find dog water bowls in front of many shops in lovely Georgetown, South Carolina. It causes Honey to wonder if she’s also invited inside.


4. Can my pet behave appropriately?

Once we taught Honey to “go to bed” on cue, eating at pet friendly restaurants became much easier. While it’s not necessary for her to lie down the entire time we’re eating, it is the best and safest behavior when a server approaches the table with delicious-smelling food. And when we get up to leave, nothing makes me happier than to hear other diners murmuring, “Oh, there’s a dog. I didn’t even know she was there!”

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Honey the golden retriever at Yellow Dog Eats in New Smyrna Beach.
Eating early meant we even had time to take a few quick pictures.

If your dog gets exceptionally aroused by food smells, perhaps he should wait for you at home. Or consider packing a picnic, where you’re the only one affected if he decides to snatch something off the table.

5. Will bringing our pet cause upset to others?

Though it is hard to believe, not everyone likes pets. Some people have allergies. Others are afraid of dogs. So we try to keep the comfort of others in mind when deciding whether to bring Honey along.

That means dining at pet friendly restaurants at off hours, making it easier for servers to accommodate us and give other diners some space. We also keep Honey on a leash around others, even when she’s allowed off-leash. Sometimes you might simply need to ask if including your pet in the travel plans is alright.

6. Can we change plans if things don’t go well?

When we took Honey for her first kayak trip with a group of friends we formulated a back-up plan before we left, just in case she hated it. Packing a lawn chair, something to read, and a few of Honey’s favorite toys ensured we could entertain ourselves on the beach if needed.

When you decide your pet should travel with you, it’s always helpful to have a Plan B. Then if things don’t go as you planned, you can salvage what’s left of your outing.

Honey the golden retriever and Pam wait on the beach at Fort Matanzas.
We’re always prepared when plans change. While waiting for husband Mike to run an errand, I had my book and Honey had her stick.


7. Will I be able to focus on my pet?

My first responsibility is to Honey. If she’s uncomfortable or tired, it’s my responsibility to take care of her.

At the beach, that means shifting the umbrella to give her shade, making sure she has plenty of water, and taking a dip in the water to cool her down. But if the activity I’ve chosen means I’m too busy to take care of her, Honey is probably better off staying home on the boat.

And speaking of the boat … when you’re on vacation or living a nomadic lifestyle like we are, there is one more questions you need to ask yourself when deciding to take your pet with you …

8. Will my pet be safe if I leave her behind?

When we lived in a house, I only had to consider if taking Honey with me was a good idea. She would certainly be safe and comfortable sleeping on the bed at home if we needed to leave her behind.

Now that we’re full time nomads living on a sailboat, I also have to ask myself whether it’s safe to leave her on the boat without us.

Honey the golden retriever stays home on the boat.
When your home is an airy cockpit on a boat in a beautiful anchorage, staying there doesn’t feel so bad. Especially if you have a friend.

Our boat does not have air conditioning, which means it can get very hot in the summer. So, when the temperatures soar, leaving Honey behind is not an option.

If we need to do grocery shopping or laundry and we can’t bring Honey along, we either complete our errands before it gets hot, or one of us stays behind to make sure Honey is okay. If neither of those options work, Honey comes along and one of us waits in the shade while the other hustles to get the things we need.

Honey the golden retriever waits outside the grocery store in Charleston.
A hot shopping day means Honey waits outside with Mike under a tree while Pamela shops as quickly as she can.

What To Do When Taking Your Pet Is Not An Option

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to accommodate your pet, you just can’t bring her with you.

In those situations, we’ve found a pet sitter to be the best option. Honey gets to stay safe in her familiar environment. And there are pet sitters who will come to your boat, RV, or hotel room if you’re headed out to some attraction that doesn’t allow pets.


Travel with pets is a joy, and it will take you places you would never have discovered on your own. So ask the question: “Should my pet travel with me?” And then work out the answers to the questions above until the conclusion is a definite and happy YES! You’ll have a great time exploring all kinds of wonderful places together.

Honey the golden retriever poses with the cat on the College of Charleston campus.
Taking a walking tour of the beautiful College of Charleston campus was fun for all of us. Honey even made a new feline friend.
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  • Category: Travel Tips / Tagged with: Health and Safety