Vacationing With Your Pet? You’re Not Alone
Americans aren’t leaving their animals at home when they travel; here’s how to keep them safe
Cleaner airplanes and hotels, renewed interest in national parks, the revival of the road trip: All are post-pandemic travel trends, to be sure. But there’s one trend that wasn’t so predictable: the surge in vacationers who bring their pets along for the ride.
It’s estimated that a record 70 percent, of U.S. households have pets, according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association. And from March 2020 to May 2021, dogs or cats were added to the family in approximately 23 million homes, says Matt Bershadker, ASPCA president and CEO.
Pet travel resources
A number of websites provide detailed information about hotels, restaurants and other attractions that welcome pets. Some also allow you to book travel from the site. Here are several to consider:
There has also been a rise in pet travel. “People fell in love with their new pets, and when it came time to start traveling again, they didn’t want to leave their best buddy behind,” says Amy Burkert, founder of GoPetFriendly.com.
Bookings through another website, BringFido.com, grew by 140 percent for vacation rentals and 55 percent for hotels during the second quarter of 2021, compared with the same period in 2019, says destinations editor Erin Ballinger. “Some of our largest sectors are millennials and seniors,” she says. “They’re both active groups of mostly childless travelers.”
Boston-based writer Peter Zheutlin, 68, is one of those travelers. He even wrote about a cross-country trip with his dog Albie in his 2019 book, The Dog Went Over the Mountain. He and his wife, Judy, discovered that the joy of being with their current dogs, Salina and Tot, is similar to being with kids. “We get a great deal of pleasure just watching them run on the beach,” Zheutlin says.
An industry reacts
The hotel industry has embraced this trend with tail-wagging enthusiasm. “They see a growing market because more people have pets,” says Kim Salerno, CEO and founder of TripsWithPets.com. “And they think of their pets differently now.”
One example is Hilton Hotels. Some of its chains — including Homewood Suites, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton by Hilton — have changed policies this year to allow pets at all locations (although surcharges and weight limits may apply). Plus, these days there are more pet-friendly things to do while traveling.
On the road
Here’s some advice for taking your dog, or another pet, on a car trip.
- Acclimate your pet in advance. Bring it along on shorter car rides and gradually increase the distance.
- Don’t leave your pet alone in the car! This may seem obvious, but in 2021, there were 59 reports of pets dying in cars or from other heat-related causes, according to PETA. A vehicle can quickly heat up in warmer months, even with the windows open.
- Manage their food. Feed your pet three to four hours before starting a journey.
- Keep your pet safely restrained. Put it in a carrier or harness while driving.
- Identify your pet. Use a collar with ID tag that includes your cellphone number, and consider having your pet microchipped to help find it if lost.
- Don’t forget the vaccination records. If for some reason you need to board your pet while on vacation, or you just want to take it to a groomer, the provider likely will require this document.
Sources: Tips are compiled from Pets.WebMD.com, Pet Food Institute and TripsWithPets.com.
“There’s been a huge growth in activities,” Salerno says. “You can bring your dog on Jeep tours in Sedona, Arizona, and to a growing number of restaurants with outdoor seating — from high-end dining to burger joints.” Some restaurants even cater to dogs with their own menus and on-site dog parks, Ballinger says.
Sheila Goss, 67, of Stowe, Vermont, and her husband, Duncan, take their two dogs, Gryphon and Edgar, on camping trips, hikes and even canoe rides. “After our kids left home, the dogs became our traveling companions,” Goss says. “It is so much fun to share that with them.”
- Book early. Airlines limit the number of pets per flight, both in cargo and cabin.
- Visit the vet. Ensure that your pet is healthy enough to fly, and update its vaccinations. Do not give your pet sedatives; many airlines will not transport sedated animals because they are at greater risk of respiratory or cardiovascular problems at high altitudes.
- Fly nonstop, if possible, to minimize stress on the animal.
- Consider the weather. In summer, fly in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures aren’t so high. In winter, travel at midday.
- Use a proper carrier. Check the airline’s size restrictions for cargo or under the seat, and label the carrier with your contact info.
- Acclimate your pet to the carrier. Make sure the animal gets used to being inside it, and add treats and a chew toy for the flight.
- Offer your pet food and water four hours before the flight.
Sources: American Kennel Club, BringFido.com and GoPetFriendly.com
Award-winning travel writer Veronica Stoddart is the former travel editor of USA Today. She has written for dozens of travel publications and websites.