My girlfriend and I just got pet rats this last weekend, however we found out that we have to go away for the upcoming long weekend. What would be better for not freaking them out/messing with them getting used to us: leaving them alone in our apartment for the weekend, or bringing them on the ~1 hour car trip and having them stay with us over the weekend?
With the information given in the question and comments, I'd say take them on a ride around the neighborhood in their current set up. Place them in the car in the shadiest spot possible (where you'll want to also have them on your 1 hr ride or cover them if shady spot isn't an option) and see how they handle a trip around the neighborhood. If their behavior seems normal (not anxious shaking, or running around their cage in circles or trying to free themselves), I'd say their good to go! A "test drive", if you will.
But, since you're not introducing them to a new cage, separating them from each other (comfort), and will give them the same amount of attention, AND the drive isn't hours long or in an uncomfortable environment (AC/heat) taking them along will benefit them. The first few weeks you have a pet are some of the most important times to bond, especially ones who are social creatures, as rats are. They will get more attention than if left at home, and you'll be able to spot clean their cage and give fresh food and water daily, otherwise unable to if left at home. And since they're already used to human hands, you won't want that learned comfort to disappear, or revert backwards.
Bring with you all of their comforts (same bedding, food, nibble sticks and toys etc..), and make sure when you put them in the car their water bottle is positioned in a manner that it's not knocked over or leaking. Keep a lock lid on their enclosure so they can't get out, (unless their cage is already enclosed, of course), and check on them a few times throughout the drive, without taking them out of the cage.
They will be perfectly fine alone for the long weekend, I would be sympathetic if it were a lone-rat however by having multiples they will have each other for company. They are intelligent creatures, they will remember you, being gone for a few days will not mess anything up.
Travelling to another new location is a stressful alternative to staying at home however if you need to bring them with you they will be OK.
Tips for the long weekend:
- Supply minimum of 2 full water bottles, this ensures if one leaks or runs out there will be a backup.
- Stock enough food for the weekend.
- Clean the cage the night before or day of leaving to prolong it's freshness.
- Give them an old worn shirt of yours for scent. Smells of owners can be therapeutic for animals who are stressed, this can also help with them getting use to you by being familiar with your smell.
When leaving rats alone for a few days I only think about 2 big things. Will they get bored? Will they get sick? Personally, I do not worry about foodstuff, it would be just an easy task to leave food or water in their cages.
Rats actually are intelligent animals that need exercise and also stimulation, by giving a new toy they will get not bored if they bored so many things could happen. They could chew through the wall, ingest something harmful, fighting with each other, or anything could happen.
You just need to rearrange their cages setting, build mazes or fort, change new toy, or anything that you could think not to make the rat bored.
If it is just for the weekend, I mean 2 or 3 days, then it is just good, but if you are going for a week, you just need to make a plan ahead, not just leaving like that. The best thing you could do is to have a sitter to look after.
About the rat is getting sick while you are away, nothing much you can do, but you can give the best dry food for overall well being and also nutritionally balanced. It totally depends on your rat age, whether it is adult pet rat or young-active have different dietary needs and certain nutrients. Check out more info here.