Traveling. One of the most exciting, and potentially stressful things I do.
I love to travel. I love seeing new places and meeting new people. I especially love seeing places I’ve only seen in movies and on TV before. The first time I went to New York City, I just had to get to the diner from Seinfeld; it felt so crazy walking around and arriving all of the big landmarks that I’d only ever known on a screen.
As it turns out, traveling gets more complicated as you get older. If you’re a wheelchair user, you understand the need to pack light; if you can’t carry it on your lap or strap it to your back or chair, you can’t take it. When I was in college, I’d visit my boyfriend, who lived halfway across the country, and I’d pack for two weeks in a 20 liter backpack. I never checked a bag, and I was very proud of my low-maintenance status.
When I got a job at a non-profit last year, I traveled for business. That meant I had to pack work clothes (dressy…yuck) and casual. I packed in that same backpack, but it was totally stuffed for a four day trip. Growing up stinks.
Since last November, Bright has gone everywhere I have. That means that when I travel, I pack for two. Granted, she’s not a person, so I don’t have to pack clothes for her, but what she lacks in wardrobe she makes up in food and grooming supplies. The first time I packed for her, I think I went overboard. It’s not necessary to take every toy she owns.
That picture is of Bright, the famous backpack, and an entire bag full of her stuff at the airport headed to Minnesota for Christmas last year. We’ve learned a thing or two since then.
Since that trip, I’ve reduced the Bright related luggage considerably. So what are the must-haves?
- Food, which is easily, the heaviest item. I always consider how long I’ll be gone and where I’m going before I load my bag up with five pounds’ worth of kibble. Whenever I can, I just pack a few meals in case there are airline delays and buy a small bag when I arrive. I also stopped packing her stainless steel bowls. Bright would eat her dinner out of an old boot without thinking twice, so I don’t think she minds tupperware.
- Grooming supplies are my weakness. Really, three brushes? Since she’s always on stage, I try to keep Bright looking pretty (see my article about grooming), but one brush will do. I love the Furminator, so that’s the one I take. I’m kind of surprised TSA allows it on the plane, though – it has a lethal look to it. I also take Quick Stop, toothbrush & toothpaste, and cotton balls (ear cleaner isn’t allowed on the plane, so I improvise).
- Comfort items. To ease my guilt about taking Bright away from her bed, I pack a little plush crate pad. It rolls up and I just strap it to my backpack, and that way she’s got something to lay on when we’re on the plane. It also helps create a little home base for her when we’re in a new place, along with one toy.
It’s always a good idea to carry documentation, too. If you’re a CCI grad, you have an ID card. Legally, it means nothing, but when nosy TSA soldiers ask for “some ID for the dog”, they don’t even know what they’re asking for. Flash that card, and you’re good to go. (It hurts my heart to not always have time to explain my rights and demand respect, but sometimes, that’s life.) I also always carry a copy of her rabies certificate, just in case. The Department of Transportation also has a hotline you can call if you run into any disability-related service issues, such as access denial, when traveling by plane.
For any of you who have yet to experience air travel with your dog, I hope I was able to provide some helpful tips, and please feel free to ask if you have other questions or concerns. Anyone who’s an old pro, feel free to contribute!