Traveling is good for the soul. It gives you a chance to refresh and renew your soul, meet new people, widen your perspective, and experience things you will never get to experience at home.
But if you have a guinea pig and want to take a trip, you have to get someone you trust to watch your guinea pig while you’re gone. And that’s not always an easy task.
Why not take your guinea pig with you?
Here are some tips for traveling with guinea pigs.
Ask Some Questions Before You Go
Guinea pigs are small and no trouble, so you might just take him with you and not mention it to your hotel (or wherever you intend to stay), but you probably should check, anyway. Honesty is always the best policy. So, call ahead and make sure that your guinea pig is allowed to come along.
Are your cage and accessories portable? You certainly don’t want to be lugging a huge, heavy cage around with you. For your trip, consider investing in a smaller, lightweight, portable cage. You can put your guinea pig in this small mobile cage, then when you arrive where you’re going, set him up in a portable pen or cage.
For example, here is a portable guinea pig cage that costs under $20. It’s lightweight, and it’s easy to get your guinea pig in and out of it. (You can click on these pictures to read the reviews on Amazon).
Then, after you arrive, you can use something like one these mobile pens so that your guinea pig can be in a comfortable place where he has room to move around.
Better yet, instead of carrying two things with you, you can get one item that serves as both mobile carrier and then expands into a pen, like this awesome one:
When you choose a mobile carrier, you can choose a soft-sided carrier or a hard-sided one. The hard-sided ones have advantages, however:
Hard-sided carriers usually offer ventilation on all four sides, so even if a couple sides get covered up, he will still have adequate ventilation.
If you have an accident (God forbid!), emergency personnel will notice a hard-sided carrier and tend to your pet. Soft-sided carriers aren’t really noticeable as “pet carriers”, as they look like luggage or lunch bags. So your pet could be ignored and lonely until you recover and come back to tend to him.
Hard-sided carriers will protect your guinea pig better if you have to slam on the brakes, and objects inside the car fly or move around suddenly.
You might consider adding some padding inside the carrier around the sides just to protect him from being slammed into the sides should you stop suddenly, travel over bumpy terrain, or just if the car jostles a lot.
It’s a good idea to put a label on the outside of the carrier that includes some basic information about your guinea pig. Write his name, list his feeding instructions and emergency contact information. That way, emergency personnel will know what to do, or if the guinea pig gets separated from you, he’ll likely be taken care of.
Another question to consider is, “Can you provide the right temperature for your guinea pig while traveling?”. You do not want your guinea pig to be somewhere where he’ll get too hot or too cold.
If you’re flying, call the airlines and check on your chosen airline’s policies when you bring a pet. Ask about where he will be and what kind of care will be available to him throughout the journey. Get online and do some research. Read stories of others who have traveled with pets on that airline and see whether it was a positive or negative experience for them. They can also give you some tips and tricks that you might not have considered.
Ask your airline what the requirements are when traveling with pets; some airlines want you to bring your pet an hour earlier and have extra food attached on the top of the carrier.
Since guinea pigs are sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, it’s better if you can take the guinea pig in the cabin with you as opposed to housing him in the cargo section. United Airlines and Frontier Airlines are two airlines which allow guinea pigs in the cabin. Of course, there’s an extra fee for allowing an animal in the cabin, and that fee can be as low as $50 or as high as a couple hundred dollars.
Make sure you find out the requirements that your airline has for the travel carrier. Your carrier must be airline-approved.
Some airlines want you to provide a letter from a vet or a certificate saying the guinea pig is in good health, so ask about that when making your preparations.
It is important that you keep a hand warmer (wrapped in a sock or fabric to avoid direct contact) in your guinea pig’s cage if he’ll be staying in the cargo area since the cargo area can get quite a bit colder.
Things to Keep with You in the Car
Food & Water: If you keep food and water in the cage while traveling, it will definitely spill. A wet guinea pig could easily get the chills. Keep the food and water with you and give it to your guinea pig during your rest stops.
Extra Bedding: Guinea pigs can get car sick, and they’ll pee or poop in their carrier. Bring extra bedding to avoid having your guinea pig getting dirty. You should also bring a bag to throw the dirty bedding in. Use a fleece cover instead of wood shavings to make this easy and quick.
A Few Heating Supplies: This isn’t necessary for the summer, but in the winter, you’ll want to have a hand warmer in the carrier and carry some extras with you.
Remember You Have a Guinea Pig In The Car and:
Avoid sudden stops or sharp turns.
Keep the radio volume down. Some guinea pigs are used to loud noises around the house, however, others prefer quietness.
Estimate where the sun will be the most and avoid putting your guinea pig there. Also remember to never set him on the floor of the car.
NEVER leave your guinea pig in front of an air vent. Drafts – cold or hot – can be problematic later on.
Although many guinea pigs have no problem with travel, some can get travel sickness. Try going on a few short drives to get your guinea pig used to being in the car. Add layers of padding to the bottom of the carrier, too. If your guinea pig gets travel sick and makes a mess in his carrier, change his bedding.
If s/he has diarrhea or vomiting, give him some extra water since vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration.
Traveling During Winter
Add layers of cage liner or fleece to your cage; your guinea pig will be able to snuggle under it and stay warm.
Keep your car heaters on.
Bring a digital thermometer to keep track of your guinea-pig carrier’s temperature. Keep it at the temperature your guinea pig is used to.
Wrap the carrier in a blanket or towel. Just make sure there’s enough ventilation for your guinea pig to breathe.
Have an external heating system. If your car breaks down, your guinea pig could freeze. A non-electrical heating pad that can stay hot for many hours is a good choice.
To make your trip stress-free for your guinea pig, you should keep the same routine you had at home, if possible. Use the same schedule for feeding time, play time, etc.
You will have to clean your guinea pig’s pen or cage at some point of your trip, so bring clean bedding with you. If your host isn’t OK with you cleaning a poopy toy in their bathtub or sink, you can simply spray it with a mixture of water and vinegar (1:1 ratio), leave it sit for 5-10 minutes, and then wipe it clean with paper towels.
Staying with Friends or Family
Be sure to pay attention to your guinea pig’s safety when staying with friends or family. If your family/friend has pets, try to keep them out of the room where your guinea pig will be. Dogs or cats can hurt your guinea pig or knock down their cage. They can also stress out your guinea pig.
Children and guinea pigs should not be left together unattended. Keep your guinea pig out of the reach of children or lock your room whenever you leave.
Adults can also harm your guinea pig. They might try feeding it something it shouldn’t eat or open its cage. You should politely inform your family/friend not to do anything with your guinea pig or feed it without your permission. You can also lock your guinea pig’s cage if the people you are staying with are not very understanding.
Staying at Hotels
Some hotels are pet-friendly, and some are not. It’s a good idea to call ahead and check whether the hotel you’re staying at will permit you to bring your guinea pig.
Many pet-friendly hotels ask for an extra deposit for a pet, so factor that in when computing your expenses before you go.
You should add a sign on your guinea pig’s cage informing the housekeeping staff what to do or not to do. You could also ask that no housekeeping service enters your room.
Some people simply sneak their guinea pig into the room. If you choose to do this and get caught, however, you may be asked to leave the hotel. Consider what would happen if they discovered your guinea pig while you were out.
A Trip to Costa Rica
Last year, my best friend took a trip to Costa Rica. She didn’t have anyone to care for her guinea pig while she was gone, and she wanted to take him with her.
A lot of Americans and expats live in Costa Rica because it’s beautiful, has modern amenities, it’s inexpensive (especially the healthcare), and it offers lush tropical forests, exotic wildlife, and miles of miles of tropical beaches.
If you want to find out more about visiting Costa Rica, you should check out welovecostarica.com because there is a whole treasure trove of useful information about anything you might want to know there.
There are plenty of pet-friendly places to stay in Costa Rica, and my friend found a wonderful place that allowed her to stay with her guinea pig for no extra fee. She had a great time, and she knew that her guinea pig was well-taken care of.
If you travel internationally with your pet, it’s imperative that you check the country’s immigration office for pet requirements. Some countries want to quarantine your pet for a specified period of time, while others require vet reports or a license or permit, etc. For Costa Rica, she had to get a permit and a vet letter stating her guinea pig was in good health.
Traveling with your pet is a little extra work, as there are many things to consider and plan for, but having your beloved pet with you makes your trip more enjoyable. Also, it gives you peace of mind because you know for certain he will be well taken care of.