I absolutely love to travel. When I first got my service dog, I was terrified that I’d be limited in my freedom to view the world. I thought that with a dog leashed to my hip, I’d be tied down. And at first, it’s true, when first dipping my toes into the world of service dogs, I was unable to charge straight off onto an airplane around the world, but by practicing diligently on basic and advanced obedience and public access skills, Rally and I became well versed at traveling via planes, trains and automobiles.
The first step towards planning a relaxing sightseeing trip with your service dog is planning and preparation. Know where you will be going, and know the laws, rules and regulations. I strongly suggest that you to print out the laws and carry them with you, either folded in your wallet or else in a folder in your suitcase when traveling.
The next step towards a relaxing trip is contacting all of the necessary authorities so that they are aware that you will be traveling with a service dog. Some folk like to just show up with their service dogs, but I prefer for people to be informed. It just cuts down on hassle and surprises. So, if I’m traveling by plane, when I book my tickets online, I search for an option “traveling with service animal”. I then give the airlines a day to process my request, then call their customer service line, repeat my request that I will be traveling with a service animal (stressing his size) and ask to be seated in bulkhead seating (more foot space). The day before I fly, I then call again and reconfirm that I am in fact listed as flying with a service dog. This way, the by time I actually arrive at the airport, I never ever have been greeted with raised eye brows or shocked expressions at the sight of Rally. I do the same for traveling aboard trains, and the same (although to a lesser extent) for staying at hotels or when using rental cars.
The third detail that’s important to ensure a relaxing trip is to pack everything that you’ll need. Think about how many days or weeks you’ll be gone. How much food will you need to bring? What will the weather be like where you are going? Will you need to bring a coat for your dog? It’s helpful to make a list and pack a head of time.
Another thing to keep in mind when sightseeing with a service dog is your company or fellow companions. Notify them that you will be traveling with a service dog, as they will have to become accustomed to your dog’s presence at restaurants, in cars, movie theaters, hotels and other public and private locations. Are allergies a problem among your companions?
The last thing that I do to ensure a great trip is to make sure that Rally is well rested and has ample bathroom breaks. An exhausted dog makes for a poor companion, and I give him breaks and chances to sniff at bushes and relax. After all, it’s his vacation too.
As a fun note, I’ve started collecting patches of the various locations that we’ve visited, and I sew them onto the hem of his winter coat. We just returned from a trip to San Diego, where we meandered around the Museum of Man, visited the majestic Midway, explored the International Houses and ate fresh crispy fish and chips overlooking the marina.
If you are traveling with your service dog and have any stories you’d like to share, feel free to send them to me or share them on my blog! I’d love to hear from you!