Traveling with Pets: Trains and Buses
In this three-part series on traveling with pets, we’re giving you a lot of valuable and time-saving information that is bound to help you have a successful trip—no matter how you choose to travel.
Travel by Train
Amtrak is the only national passenger train service in America. Up until 2015, they didn’t allow companion animals on board. However, many changes have occurred since we first penned this article in 2011. But as of 2015, pet service is available on most Amtrak routes coast-to-coast.
As of 2015, Amtrak “welcomes cats and dogs 20 pounds or less for only $25”. In most cases, they are only allowed to travel on trips of up to 7 hours, and other restrictions apply. You’ll need to do some advance planning if you’re planning to take your pets along.
- Call 1-800-USA-RAIL or visit any staffed station to make reservations for you and your pet(s).
- A total of five pets are allowed per train, one pet per customer, and pet reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Make your pet reservations in advance as they may sell out.
- Pets may travel in Coach Class, but are not allowed in food service cars and other areas such as Business Class.
- Service animals are always welcome on Amtrak and do not count toward the five pet limit per train.
- The pet fare is $25.00 for each travel segment.
- If you plan to travel with a service animal, you’ll have to make your reservations by calling Amtrak or booking online at their portal.
Checking In at Station
While animals are welcomed on trains, it’s important to follow these guidelines:
- Before your trip, find your station and check to see if it is staffed.
- At staffed stations, pet owners should check in at the ticket office 30 minutes before departure to allow sufficient time to confirm pet eligibility and sign pet waiver.
- At unstaffed stations, the conductor will confirm pet eligibility and provide customers with the waiver.
- You’ll need to sign a waiver for EACH leg of travel.
- Pets should be at least eight weeks old and be odorless, harmless and require no attention
- Customers will be required to certify that the pet is up-to-date on all vaccinations and accept
liability for the animal.
Approved Pet Carriers
Pet owners must provide their own pet carrier, which counts as one piece of carry-on baggage. Pay close attention to the pet carriers that are required by Amtrak:
- The maximum size for pet carriers is 19″ long x 14″ wide x 10.5″ high. Maximum weight of
- pet with carrier is 20 pounds.
- Carrier may be hard- or soft-sided but should be leak-proof and well ventilated.
- For your pet’s safety, all pets should be able to comfortably sit and lie down without touching
the sides of the carrier
Guidelines for Traveling with Pets on Trains:
- Carry on pets must remain inside carriers while in stations and on board trains.
- Place your pet carrier under your seat (not under the seat in front of you), except on Amtrak Cascades trains where you can put your pet carrier on the floor in front of the seat next to you.
- Some routes designate a specific Coach car for pets: Amtrak Cascades, Carl Sandburg,
Illinois Zephyr, Illini, Saluki, Pere Marquette, Wolverine, Blue Water, Hiawatha and
Missouri River Runner. On other pet friendly routes, you and your pet may ride in any Coach car.
- Must remain on the floor at all times. They aren’t allowed to sit in the aisles or seats.
- Service animals must be leashed at all times, unless the handler is unable to control the service animal with a leash due to disability or handicap.
- Owners may walk their service dogs at stops, as long as they stay close enough to get back on board in a timely manner when the conductor gives the call. Be sure to let the conductor know you plan on walking your service dog when you first board the train.
- As far as walking is concerned, check with Amtrak when you call as some routes may have limited or no stops.
For more information on traveling with service animals on Amtrak, read their Service Animals and Pet Policy.
Be sure you check Amtrak’s website for the most current information. Verify the latest information and guidelines by visiting Amtrak’s Carry On Pet Policy
You can get in touch with Amtrak by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) or using their contact form.
Additionally, if your trip could be serviced by a more region-specific company, visit this site to look at some other options in your area.
Travel by Bus
All of our research has shown us that most bus lines have similar policies when it comes to bringing pets on board—service dogs only.
All bus lines are required to accept service dogs, but there are policies in place to ensure the animal is required for a disability. Greyhound and Peter Pan both allow service animals (view their policies here: Greyhound – Peter Pan). To be considered a service dog, the owner has to suffer from a disability recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the dog has to perform a specific task, such as leading you across a busy intersection if you’re visually impaired
If you’re planning to bring your pet along as a companion, you may want to explore other options as neither bus line accepts companion pets.
Years ago, Trailways allowed one pet under 25 lbs as long as it was secured in a pet carrier by the passenger. As of 2015, these policies have changed and only service animals are allowed on buses. However, since Trailways is a line of independently-owned bus lines (you can find a local Trailways affiliate by clicking here), it’s worth a phone call to their affiliate offices to see if their policy is different.
Now that we’ve given you the scoop on traveling with your pets via train or bus, print out this checklist so you won’t forget anything!
- Contact the railway/bus line to confirm pet policy and get details on where (or even if) you’ll be able to store items like a pet carrier or travel bag.
- Travel bag
- Food and water (don’t forget the collapsible bowls)
- Waste disposal bags
- Vet records (including immunization records)
- Booties to protect their feet (always a good idea when facing unknown terrain and environments)
- Service Dog jacket/vest (if yours is a service dog)
With some advance planning, you can take your pets along with you on your next trip!