The prospect of overseas travel is almost always exciting. You’re headed on a really great vacation. Or your family is moving overseas to start a new life chapter. You’ll be making memories either way, but first you have to get there. Preparing for overseas travel can be a bit more complex when you have kids, and considerably more complex when you have pets. If you have both, well . . .
At least you can explain to your children – in an age-appropriate way – what’s happening and why. Not only the reason for travel, but the process of making it happen. You can’t do that with your cat or dog, no matter how smart they are. But their innate intuitive powers will immediately alert them that something is up. And, like your kids, their first response could be concern.
Help your kids to understand the situation
Not only will dogs and cats start to worry – will they be left behind? Children often start to worry, too, once they learn their beloved sidekick will be traveling separately. Or, at least, in a different part of the plane. You’re the parent, of kids and pets, so it’s up to you to anticipate their concerns and put a positive spin on preparing to travel overseas.
And, let’s be honest here. You will feel separation anxiety while your pet is traveling, too. It’s perfectly natural, but you don’t have to let it overwhelm you. Helping your kids make the best of the situation will help you as well.
Again, you can explain why separation is necessary and that it will be temporary. Emphasize that their furry BFF will be in the best of hands – pet travel experts who will look out for them with love and care until you are all reunited. Then explain that their kitty or pup will naturally feel anxious, too. Good news, though -- there are things you can do ahead of time to help them accept air travel as OK.
Enlist the kids in preparing their pet for travel
This is a great way to teach or reinforce responsibility. It helps children see the similarities as well as differences in how they and their pet will get ready for the Big Move. It keeps kids occupied and focused on the positive, so they worry less about what will happen. What can they do?
Help their pup or cat become familiar with their pet travel crate
If your pet is a dog, let your child help measure the pooch so you can order the correct size carrier. Crate size is crucial. As soon as you have the carrier, your child can help by playing with their pet in and around the crate, feeding them treats in it, etc. Explain that this is super-important because if their pet feels comfortable inside the carrier, he will be far less anxious during his journey. It will be his home away from home.
Playtime and cuddles
The best way to keep pets from worrying about moving preparations is to keep their daily routine as normal as possible. This is a perfect assignment for kids – making sure feeding times remain the same and that there is an abundance of one-on-one play and relaxation togetherness. Pet time will help calm and reassure your kids, too.
Homework (the fun kind)
If your children are old enough, have them research what things will be like for their dog or cat in their new country. What are the laws about licensing, etc.? What are the local rules of petiquette? Where are the best places to play with pets and shop for their necessities? They could even start the search for a new vet. You’ll need this information, anyway, so might as well let the kids help.
Don't let them get the pets all excited and amped up before travel
Pets travel best when they are as relaxed as possible beginning their journey. The day before departure is a great time to extra exercise, to work off adrenaline, but the day of departure is a time to model calm. This may not be easy, because the kids will be wound up themselves, but they will dial it back when they understand how important their actions are for their beloved pet.
Explain how important it is to welcome their pet in the new country
The smooches and hugs will come naturally the second your kids are reunited with their pets. (You’ll want to get in on that, too, we’re sure.) But the kids can also be ready to make their dog or cat feel comfortably at home in their new home. So let the children help decide where to put the food and water dishes, and their pet’s favorite cushy bed. Get some rest, and then get ready for new adventures in your new country