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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

It’s that time of year again: the sun sets at 4:30 p.m., the air is cold and dry, and the holidays are right around the corner. Whether your celebrations will take you just outside the city or several states away, there is an important factor that everyone must consider: their pets!

Well, I suppose you only have to consider that factor if you have a pet. But since so many people — college students included — have some sort of furry (or scaly? feathery?) friend, we should discuss the nuances of traveling with a fur-baby in tow. In this article, I’ll give you some helpful tips for how to incorporate your pet into your winter vacation plans.

To Transport, or Not to Transport?

The first question you should ask when making travel plans with a pet is whether you should actually take them with you. Some people may balk at the idea of leaving their precious pet behind, but according to the Humane Society of the United States, it can actually be better for the animal in some cases. Traveling can be a confusing, frightening, and stressful experience for pets. Sometimes, the healthiest and safest option is to leave your pet at home. 

So when deciding whether to transport your pet, consider some of the following questions: how comfortable is your pet in crates and carriers? Do you have a travel-size crate or carrier that will fit in a car or other form of transportation? How dependent is your pet on you? Does your pet require specialized care that only you can provide? Is there someone who will be available to pet-sit if you leave your pet behind?

If you decide that your pet must travel with you, then make sure to prepare it in advance. Acclimate it to its crate or carrier so it will be comfortable on its trip. If you plan on driving to your destination, it may also be a good idea to familiarize your pet with cars.

Planes, trains, or automobiles?

So you’ve decided the best option for you and your furry friend is to travel together. The next thing to consider is how you will be traveling. Each form of transportation has its pros and cons, but if your pet is tagging along, the best choice is likely a car, according to the Humane Society. This is because planes and trains often have exceptions to what pets, if any, can be brought on board. 

When it comes to planes specifically, the American Kennel Club lists several additional factors that must be kept in mind. For example, your pet may be too big to travel with you in the cabin. In that case, it would have to travel in the cargo hold, which can be dangerous and isn’t always an option. You would also need a direct flight to prevent your pet from getting lost.

If a plane is the only form of transportation available to you, it may be a better idea to leave your pet at home.

What About Pet Sitters?

If you decide to leave your pet home alone, it’s vital that you don’t leave them unattended. That’s where pet sitters come in! Choosing a pet sitter may seem like a daunting task, and you’ll no doubt have high standards when it comes to whose hands you’ll be leaving your beloved fur-baby in. But luckily, there are many professional pet-sitting services nowadays that can ensure your pet is safe and happy while you’re away.

Nearby friends and family can make great pet sitters if they have open availability and experience with your pet, but they aren’t the best choice for everybody. If you’re looking for a brand-new pet sitter, you can check pet-sitting websites or get advice from other pet owners and veterinarians, according to the Humane Society

Once you’ve found a pet sitter you think will fit your needs, you should get to know them. According to the American Kennel Club, you should interview the potential pet sitter and ask them questions about their experiences. These interviews are best done in person so the pet sitter can also be introduced to your pet. The Humane Society even suggests that if the pet sitter is to watch a dog, you should have them take a test walk to see how compatible they are with your pup.

Everyone is unique, and so are their pets! What works for a dog may not work for a cat, or a rabbit, or a bird, or a lizard — you get the idea. So when you’re preparing for the coming holidays, don’t forget to account for the special needs of your particular pet! Keep these tips in mind and always consider what’s best for your four-legged friend.

Everyone should be happy and comfortable during the holiday season, even animals!

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Devan Colby is the senior editor and writing director at the Her Campus at BU chapter. She oversees all articles that the chapter publishes on the site, and occasionally writes some of her own. Outside of Her Campus, Devan is also a feature writer for The Daily Free Press, the independent student newspaper at Boston University. She has also interned with her local Nexstar-owned TV news station as a member of their digital team, where she helped produce content for the station's corresponding website. She is currently a junior at Boston University majoring in both journalism and political science. Writing is Devan's main pastime, and even when not working for a publication, she loves to write creatively. She is also a hobbyist visual artist with an interest in photojournalism. When she's not creating, she can be found going for runs around the city with friends or fawning over her quartet of houseplants.