A Practical Guide for Moving with Pets

Caring for pets during a long-distance move

If you’re a pet owner and you’re moving long distance, there’s no doubt you’ll be bringing your furry, feathery or scaly friends with you. Your new home just wouldn’t be the same without them. Before you hit the road, though, it’s important to plan ahead and prep your pet for travel — this way you can both relax and enjoy the trip. 

Big tan dog sitting in a new house, waiting to move in.


How to move with pets in 10 easy steps

Don’t let worry about your animals cause additional stress. You can help make sure everyone is ready for the drive by following these tips: 

Choose the right moving service

When pets are involved, it’s important to think about the moving service you use. Keep in mind that not all rental truck companies allow animals in the cab and no moving company will permit them to travel with your belongings. You can, however, ensure you get to ride together by using a moving service like U-Pack® — we where we move your belongings, and you travel in your own vehicle, with all the people and animals moving with you.   

Check laws and regulations 

Before you hit the road, be sure you understand all rules and regulations related to animals for your new state, city, homeowner’s association, apartment complex, etc., and follow them accordingly. Several states require a health certificate from a veterinarian and up-to-date vaccinations, and some areas have specific breed bans you’ll need to be aware of. Rodents, reptiles and other exotic pets may have additional requirements. 

Visit the state’s Department of Agriculture website (access all state resources here) to check state laws, and check with the city hall for any local laws. And, don’t forget to ask your landlord or realtor about any rules/requirements specific to your new home. 

It’s also important to note that moves out of the contiguous United States have a few more regulations. For more information, take a look at these guides on importing pets to Hawaii and crossing into Canada with pets

Schedule a vet visit

Take your pets to the veterinarian for a general health checkup and to get documentation, vaccinations or medication they need. This is also a good time to talk through any concerns you have about keeping pets safe and healthy during travel. If your pet gets motion sickness or extreme anxiety in the car, your vet should have recommendations for more calm and peaceful travel.   

Prepare for the trip

The best way to make a long-distance trip with pets easier is to plan ahead for any potential scenario. Before you hit the road, take some time to figure out these details:

  • What pet supplies to take. Food, water, bowls, medication, treats, a carrier/leash and waste pickup and disposal items are most common, but be sure to include anything your pet will need during the trip and overnight. 
  • Where you’ll stay the night. Since some hotels won’t allow pets, it’s best to schedule hotel stops ahead of time. Keep in mind that “pet-friendly” doesn’t always apply to all animals, so call ahead to check specific rules.
  • Where you’ll stop for food and bathroom breaks. Leaving pets in the car alone is unsafe (and illegal in some states). Avoid this by planning to eat in the car or in parks or other areas that will allow your pet to join you. Pet stores are a great place to stop for breaks since most let animals inside! 

Know what works for your pet’s unique needs

Whether you own a large, fluffy dog that’s scared of loud noises, an energetic cat that doesn’t like new environments, or a social bird that’s never been on a long trip, every animal can present unique challenges during a move. Use the resources below for tips specific to each animal type and take extra precautions for anything you know your pet may struggle with. 

Find a safe place for moving day

Depending on your pet, it may be easier on both of you to send them somewhere else while you’re loading the moving equipment. Open doors, extra people and the general hustle and bustle that happens on moving day can cause stress and confusion — which could lead to escape. Consider keeping them in an unoccupied room, a fenced back yard, with a friend or family member or at a boarding facility. 

Make the drive comfortable 

Traveling with pets can be fun if they’re kept safe and are cared for properly. You can secure them in the back seat or rear cargo area using a crate, harness and pet seatbelt or other appropriate restraint. If keeping them in a crate, be careful not to pack items in a way that blocks air flow.  

If you’re concerned about motion sickness, consider having them travel on a mostly empty stomach — just be sure to provide plenty of water. Keeping the vehicle cool with fresh air can help, too.  

Help them settle into the new home

Just like kids, pets need time to adjust to a new environment. Help them settle in by:

  • Pet-proofing the house and yard. Inspect for dangerous items or places they could escape before letting them explore. 
  • Setting up their spot. Put their cage, bed, food, water, etc. out so they have familiar items around them. 
  • Letting them sniff around. If they aren’t restricted to a cage or other container, let them wander around so they can get to know their new space. 
  • Sticking to regular routines. If they’re used to being fed, walked or played with at a certain time, try to stick to that schedule.

Find what your pet needs in your new town

As soon as you’re able, locate the shops, services and recreational areas you’ll need. Get set up with a new veterinarian, find a local dog park or walking trail and locate any stores that carry the items you usually buy. It’s also smart to get a list of emergency care centers, boarding facilities and training classes in the area.    

Update their information

Don’t forget to update pet ID tags, microchip registrations and other identification methods with your new address and phone number. This will help ensure they can get back to you safely if they happen to get out.   

Have other tips for moving with pets?

If you’ve moved to another state with a pet before, let us know in the comments below the things that have worked best for your family!

Looking for other move planning resources? Check out our moving checklist to get help with every step.