Traveling as a Single: Fido Can Be Your Perfect Traveling Companion
Dogs are our faithful companions. They provide unconditional love and affection, loyalty, and often an added sense of security in our daily lives. They’re grateful for everything we do for them, sad when we leave home without them, but can always be counted on to provide a joyful greeting when we return. (You’re probably thinking that if only your former spouse possessed these qualities, you probably wouldn’t have gotten divorced, but that’s a different topic altogether.)
Once a dog becomes a member of the family, it’s often hard to leave them behind when it becomes necessary to travel for leisure or business. For many, the thought of leaving their dog in the care of even the most professionally run kennel or boarding facility is catamount to leaving a child in an orphanage while the parent goes on a fun-filled vacation. Some dog owners are even hesitant to leave their pets in the care of relatives or close friends, or with an experienced dog sitter “ all of which are usually viable and safe options.
If you plan to take a road trip or fly on a commercial airline, traveling with your pet is usually possible. However, train services (including Amtrak), along with commercial bus companies (including Greyhound) do not allow pets, unless it’s a service animal traveling with someone with a disability.
According to the Travel Industry Association of America, an estimated 29.1 million Americans say they have traveled with a pet in the past three years. Vehicular travel is the primary mode of transportation topping the list at 76 percent. Other popular modes of transport include expeditions via recreational vehicles (10 percent) and airline travel (6 percent).
FLYING WITH YOUR SMALL DOG
An alternative to leaving your pet behind is to take him along on your trip. If you plan to fly to your destination, this is relatively easy (although it can get a bit pricy), as long as your dog weighs less than 15 pounds, is more than eight weeks old, and can be transported in a carrier. Unfortunately, pets can’t earn airline frequent flier miles, however.
For a fee (usually between $65 and $95 each way), most airlines allow small dogs to be brought onto an aircraft and kept within a carrier, under the seat in front of where the passenger is sitting. This applies to domestic flights only.
Unfortunately, if your dog weighs more than 15 pounds, he’ll need to travel in the cargo hold aboard an aircraft, which for them can be a stressful and uncomfortable experience. For the well-being of your larger dog, you’re probably better off finding a pet sitter or a boarding facility near your home, where your dog will be safe and comfortable, unless accompanying you on your travels is absolutely necessary.
Depending on the season, many airlines don’t accept pets as cargo during the summer months for the safety of the animals. If you have a large dog and opt to check him as cargo on a commercial aircraft, be sure to visit the Third Amendment’s Airline Animal Incident Report website first, to learn about the potential downside of this.
Traveling with a small dog that will accompany you in the airplane’s cabin is safer for the dog. Check with the airline you plan to fly with before making your travel reservations, however, to learn about the airline’s pet policy. Also, to make the travel easier and faster for you and your dog, try to book non-stop flights to and from your destination. Airline specific guidelines can be found on each airline’s website or by calling the airline’s toll-free phone number. (The fees quoted are for pets traveling in the cabin with their owner.) The following is contact information for several of the major airlines, along with links relating to each airline’s pet policy. (Be sure to visit each airline’s website for the most up-to-date and accurate information.)
American Airlines (800) 433-7300 / Pet fee: $80 each way.
Delta Airlines (800) 221-1212 / Pet fee: $75 each way.
JetBlue (800) JET-BLUE / Pet fee: $75 each way.
Southwest Airlines (800) 435-9792 / According to the airline, Southwest Airlines does not accept live animals in the aircraft cabin or cargo compartment other than fully trained assistance animals accompanying a person with a disability or being delivered to a person with a disability.”
United Airlines (800) 864-8331 / Pet fee: $85 each way.
US Airways (800) 428-4322 / Pet fee: $80 each way.
Assuming the airline you plan to travel with allows dogs (which most do), they typically limit the number of pets that can travel on any given flight within the cabin to three (usually one pet in first class and two in the coach cabin). These slots fill up quickly, so it’s important to make your reservations early, especially during peak travel times.
When you make your reservations and explain that your dog will be traveling in the cabin with you, most airlines will provide you with a separate reservation number for your pet, plus charge you a fee. If you’ve made your regular travel reservations online, either through an airline’s website or through a travel-related website, such as Hotwire.com, Travelocity.com, or Orbitz.com, you’ll need to call the airline’s toll-free number directly to make a corresponding reservation for your pet.
PURCHASE THE RIGHT CARRIER FOR DOG
When you opt to take your small dog along on a flight, you’ll need to purchase an FAA-approved pet carrier that will fit under the airplane seat. The carrier must be large enough, however, so your dog can sit up and turn around while inside, plus be properly ventilated, crush-proof, have a leak-proof bottom, and be comfortable for the pet. Sherpa Pet Group (800-743-7723) offers a complete line of well-designed, durable and comfortable pet carriers, including the Original Bag Deluxe and On Wheels Carrier, both of which come in several sizes and range in price from $85 to $135.
GETTING READY FOR THE FLIGHT
On the day of your flight, check in with the airline in-person (accompanied by your dog). You won’t be able to use an automated check-in kiosk or curbside check-in. This might take a bit longer due to long lines at the ticket counter, so plan accordingly. Once in the airport, your pet must remain within the carrier at all times, except when passing through the security checkpoint, at which time you’ll carry your dog through the metal detector, while the carrier goes through the x-ray machine, just like any other carry-on bag would. Be sure to give your dog a long walk outside of the airport, plus refrain from giving him too much to eat or drink before a long flight. Some veterinarians recommend giving your dog a mild sedative prior to a flight. This is something you’ll want to discuss with your own vet, based on the temperament of your dog. Most dogs travel well without a sedative, even on long flights.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, Pets are just like people who sometimes become anxious when they don’t travel frequently. This leads some owners and veterinarians to question whether administering sedatives or tranquilizers to dogs prior to a flight is a good idea. According to national and international air transport organizations, as well as the American Humane Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association, in most cases the answer is no! “An animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation,” notes Dr. Patricia Olson, DVM, Ph.D., director of veterinary affairs and studies for the American Humane Association. “When the kennel is moved, a sedated animal may not be able to brace and prevent injury.” The American Humane Association cautions veterinarians to carefully consider the use of tranquilizers or sedatives for their clients who are considering air transportation for their family pet. The following are six additional tips for traveling with your dog:
“An animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium is altered under sedation,” notes Dr. Patricia Olson, DVM, Ph.D., director of veterinary affairs and studies for the American Humane Association. “When the kennel is moved, a sedated animal may not be able to brace and prevent injury.” The American Humane Association cautions veterinarians to carefully consider the use of tranquilizers or sedatives for their clients who are considering air transportation for their family pet. The following are six additional tips for traveling with your dog:
1. During a long flight, it’s a good idea to give your dog a bit of water to avoid dehydration. You can bring the dog into the airplane’s lavatory to do this and give them a chance to stretch outside of their carrier. They’re supposed to remain in the carrier for the duration of the flight.
2. Just as you would for a child, within your regular carry-on bag, bring anything your dog might need immediately before, during or after the flight, such as a leash, food, medication, water, wee-wee pads, doggy waste bags, paper towels (for clean up) and their favorite toy. Keep in mind, flights often get delayed and/or checked luggage can get lost or delayed, so you want to have everything your dog will need with you in order to keep him comfortable and safe.
3. Bring a copy of your pet’s medical and vaccination records with you when you travel, plus ensure his ID tag(s) display your cell phone number (in addition to your home phone number). If the ID tags are hard to read, have new ones made before your trip.
4. Prior to your travels, consider having your dog micro-chipped. This can assist in his identification and return if he gets lost. More information about micro-chipping your dog can be found at the Home Again website (888-466-3242) or by speaking with your veterinarian.
5. Within your checked luggage, pack enough of your dog’s regular food, treats, and toys to last for the duration of your trip. Don’t count on being able to purchase your dog’s favorite brand of food, for example, where you’ll be traveling. Because water quality varies between geographic areas even within the United States, it’s best to provide your dog with bottled water when traveling. This will reduce the risk of him getting an upset stomach.
6. If you’ve purchased a new pet carrier, get your dog acquainted and comfortable traveling within it before you embark on an airplane trip.
STAYING AT A HOTEL OR MOTEL WITH YOUR DOG
To meet the growing demand of travelers who choose to vacation with their canine friends, many hotels, motels and B&Bs now allow dogs. In fact, some upscale hotels and resorts, including many Four Seasons, Ritz-Carltons, Loews Hotels, W Hotels and Mandarin Oriental Hotels, for example, go out of their way to welcome dogs by offering special dog beds, treats and dog walking services.
InterContinental Hotel Group operates more than 1,600 mid-priced, pet-friendly hotels and resorts in the U.S., under the InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Hotel Indigo, and Candlewood Suites brand names. The company has established an informative website dedicated to people traveling with pets. The site includes a listing of pet-friendly hotels, motels, resorts and B&Bs. Visit www.petswelcome.com.
For additional help finding pet-friendly accommodations, visit the Take Your Pet website. For a low annual membership fee, Help-4-Pets (800-HELP-4-PETS) provides a variety of services for people traveling with their dogs. In addition to maintaining a national database of pet-friendly hotels, Help-4-Pets can also provide travelers with local referrals for groomers, doggy daycare, dog walkers or emergency veterinary services while you’re traveling.
Before you leave your pet anywhere, for any reason during your travels, ask yourself one questions, “Would I leave my wallet here?’ If you wouldn’t leave your wallet alone in a car or tied to a parking meter while you go on a quick errand, then don’t leave your pet there either,” stated Liz Blackman, founder of Help-4-Pets.
Most pet-friendly hotels will require you, the pet owner, to take full responsibility for your dog. You may be required to sign a document upon check-in stating you’ll pay for any damage the dog may cause during their stay. An added pet cleaning fee may also be applied to your hotel bill.
Upon check in, be sure to inform the front desk that your dog is with you, and provide your cell phone number in case when you leave the dog unaccompanied in your guest room, the hotel needs to reach you due to excessive barking or another problem.
Whenever you leave your dog unaccompanied in a hotel guest room, be sure to leave the “Do Not Disturb’ sign on the front door. In addition, it’s a good idea to use your luggage, for example, to block off the guest room’s foyer area, in case housekeeping or the hotel’s management attempts to enter the guest room. This will keep your dog from getting loose.
Also, consider leaving the television on or music playing for your dog, and provide him with plenty of food and water. Ideally, when you check into the hotel, spend time with your dog in the guest room until he’s comfortable in his new surroundings. Having his favorite blanket or toys around will help calm him.
If you’ll be leaving your dog unattended for more than a few hours at a time, consider hiring a professional dog walking service to visit your dog in the hotel. This is something the hotel’s concierge can help you coordinate. Another option is to find a doggy daycare facility near the hotel where you can leave the dog during the day while you’re off sightseeing or conducting your business.
Bringing your dog along on a trip can provide comfort and companionship for you and your dog. However, the experience is very much like traveling with an infant, and often adds a bit of extra stress to the actual travel process. At least initially (until he becomes a seasoned traveler), your dog will probably be nervous when traveling through an airport, while aboard an aircraft, and when visiting strange hotels, so it’s essential that you take steps to keep your dog as calm and comfortable as possible.