Do your holiday travel plans include Fido or Miss Kitty? According to a US Travel Association survey, 18 percent of vacation travelers have taken their pets with them on a trip in the last year. If your pet is part of the traveling public, here are some tips to make it a comfortable experience for both of you.
Advance planning and packing the right supplies is essential to a successful trip with your pet.
- Comfort – Be sure to have the proper size kennel or carrier for your pet. If they are not accustomed to travel you might consider a few trial runs in the car to get them used to the carrier and the motion. Put some favorite toys or blanket in the carrier for security.
- Medical – Insure that all vaccinations and rabies certificate is up to date. Use a flea and heartworm (for dogs) preventative. If traveling by air, some airlines require a health certificate signed within 10 days. If traveling internationally, be sure to verify the specific entry requirements and any quarantine period, as it varies by country.
- Supplies – Whether traveling by air, train, or car, be sure to pack a leash and the all-important plastic bags for cleaning up after your pet. Take travel spill-proof bowls, and enough food for the travel period. Many pet owners carry bottled water because different water can upset an animal’s stomach. Don’t forget any necessary medication, a brush, and a towel for dirty paws.
- Safety – Keep your pet’s collar on so you can quickly clip a leash or hold a skittish pet that may try to dash from an unfamiliar environment. Attach an ID tag that has your name and preferably cell phone number. A basic animal first aid kit can be invaluable and if traveling by car, consider a harness that can attach to the existing seat belts to keep Lassie from getting thrown to the floor in a quick stop.
The number of pet-friendly hotels, villas, bed & breakfasts, campgrounds continues to grow. Always be sure to verify pet acceptance before you arrive with Benji in tow because policies differ. Some hotels will accept small pets, but not dogs over 80 pounds. Others may have resident birds, so do not accept cats.
Some pet-friendly hotel chains include:
- La Quinta Inns & Suites
- Holiday Inn
- Best Western
- Choice Hotels (Comfort, Quality, Sleep Inns and more)
- Hilton Hotels
- Motel 6 & Studio 6
A popular trend for upscale pet-friendly hotels is to actually have pets on staff to welcome you. Pets in residence are great ambassadors for guest relations and are enjoyed by guest traveling with and without their own four-legged friends.
Traveling with Pets by Airline
Most airlines accept pets both in the cabin as carry-ons and as checked baggage, although they limit the number of pets that are accepted on any given plane. They do charge a fee for the transportation, which varies by airline, mileage, and cabin versus cargo travel. Generally, in-cabin pets must be less than 20 pounds and must always be in an approved carrier that will fit under the seat. Pets traveling in cargo travel in a pressurized baggage section. They must also be in an approved kennel or carrier that is large enough for the animal to stand, turn and lie down comfortably. The kennel must have a solid, leak-proof bottom, adequate ventilation, and a secure latch.
Airlines require a health certificate signed within the previous 10 days, so if your trip is longer than that, arrange to have a veterinarian at your destination give your pet a check up and sign a new health certificate before your return flight. By law, they are unable to accept animals on flights unless they can prevent exposure to temperatures of less than 45°F or more than 85°F for more than 45 minutes during transfer. Because of this, it is best to plan hot weather airline travel with pets in the early morning and cold weather travel mid-day.
It is recommended that sedatives not be used on animals during air travel because it can increase the risk of heart or respiratory problems. There are breed restrictions on airline travel for the same reasons. Short-nosed dogs and cats, such as bulldogs and pugs, are prone to potentially lethal respiratory problems in pressurized environments.
If Felix is a frequent flyer, several airlines actually offer a mileage program for pets. JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, Continental, and Pet Airways each have programs.
Once you arrive at your destination, there are many famous tourist attractions throughout the US where your pet is welcome.
- Pet-friendly landmarks that welcome pet owners to sightsee and their four-legged friends to sniff around
- Dog-friendly beaches
- US and Canada dog-friendly park guide
Responsible pet owners should practice good pet manners to insure the safety of the animal and the comfort of those nearby.
- Always clean up after your dog in public places. Keep a pooper scooper or plastic bags handy.
- Always keep your dog leashed where there is a leash law.
- Only go off-leash in acceptable areas and only if your pet is well-behaved and responds to your commands.
- Be mindful that not everyone wants to interact with your four-legged pal. Keep your pet from sniffing, licking and jumping on people unless welcomed.
- If you absolutely must leave your pet alone in a hotel room, put the do not disturb sign up and advise the front desk so housekeeping personnel will not be surprised by your pet.
Please share your pet travel experiences in comments or if you have pet travel pictures you’d like to share here, email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post them for all to see!