Have Pet, Will Travel

Families don’t have to travel without their dogs. Use these tips to ensure you can bring your canine family member along. 

Kathy and Mark Wille of Hamilton, New Jersey, dreaded vacation because they had to leave their two golden retrievers behind. They resigned themselves to dogless travel until they discovered a pet-friendly inn in Cape May, New Jersey. "Vacations are true family vacations now," says Kathy, who appreciates not worrying about how her dogs are faring back home with the pet sitter.

Traveling with Tails

More than 15 million Americans travel with a pet on a trip away from home each year, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. "We noticed a trend of more single people and more couples with pets and no kids," says Emily Goldfischer of Loews Hotels, which offer a broad range of services for Fido and Fluffy.

Many hotels and motels not only permit pets to stay as overnight guests, but offer elaborate programs, which may include food bowls, toys, special menus and information on local attractions. Visit www.petswelcome.com for detailed listings of hotel chains, vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts, for example, that allow pets.

When making reservations, remind the hotel you're bringing a pet. "Places say they are pet-friendly, but it is always best to double-check," warns Kathy Wille. There may also be additional nightly charges, weight limits (and a surcharge if the dog exceeds it) and a refundable security deposit.

The Pet Jet Set

Most pet parents travel by car. Special seat belts and harnesses are available to keep canines comfortably safe. For smaller dogs and cats, the ASPCA recommends a well-ventilated crate. Avoid feeding your pet three to four hours prior to your trip to avoid motion sickness, and stop every few hours so your pup can stretch his legs. Remember: Never leave a pet unattended in your car.

Many airlines require that pets be transported in a crate approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the cargo hold separate from human passengers. It should be well labeled with your contact info at home and at your destination. Some shuttle airlines let smaller pets travel in the main cabin with their owners in an approved carrier, and most carriers will permit therapy animals. Check with your airline for specific rules and regulations. Most will require vaccination certificates from a vet. Your pet should wear up-to-date ID tags. It's best to book direct flights.

Vacation Spots for Spot

Special packages for dogs and owners are becoming more popular, says Tara Kain, president of dogfriendly.com. To enjoy the great outdoors, visit www.hikewithyourdog.com or Canada's www.dogpaddlingadventures.com. More of a city slicker? Many fine stores and restaurants are Fido-friendly. Chicago's Cucina Bella Trattoria treats dogs to free pasta in its outdoor dining area.

The San Francisco Giants baseball team even invites pooches for a special game in the dog days of summer.

"Going on vacation is the most fun in the whole world," says Robyn Peters, publisher of the DogGone Newsletter, who attends dog camp each year with pup Heidi. "You do things together you wouldn't do at home." If you don't have a pet, don't worry. On occasion, Loews has been known to lend goldfish to petless guests so they don't feel left out.

And don't forget to bring...

Here are some must-haves for those who treasure days off with their pets:

  • Up-to-date info on vaccinations
  • Vet contact info
  • First-aid kit with any prescription medications, gauze, bandages, tape, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, etc.
  • Antiflea and tick collars or products
  • Dishes, food, bottled water and treats
  • Favorite toys, blanket and bedding
  • Crate or carrier
  • Lint brush or furniture covers (keep your room clean and improve the chances you'll get back your security deposit!)
  • Photo of your pet and you together (just in case he gets lost)
  • Information on hotels, restaurants and attractions, from AAA and: