Quick tips for traveling with pets

Lifestyle

Tara Ross has always loved dogs, and has always had one or two fur babies by her side. But her eight-year-old Russel terrier mix, Sadie, has earned a special place in Ross’ heart since her four daughters grew up and left home.

“Empty nesting was really hard on me,” Ross says. “After more than 20 years of having my girls around every day, not having them here was really rough. I know this is a common occurrence, but Sadie has really helped me get through it. When I get home from work, the last thing I want to do is leave Sadie. So that really flavors how my husband and I live and where we go, even travel.”

So unless they’re going on a cruise or traveling by plane, Ross and her husband build their vacations around what Sadie can and can’t do. If you’re like Ross and can’t bear to part with your furry best friend when you travel, here are a few tips for successful travel with pets — or successfully leaving them at home:

  1. Don’t forget ID.
    Make sure your pet has a microchip for identification, and wears a collar and tag labeled with your name, cellphone number and other relevant contact information. Consider a temporary tag with contact info specific to your travel, and bring along vaccination records.
  2. Be mindful of air travel rules.
    Although rules vary by airline, most airlines allow dogs, cats or household birds of up to 17 pounds to ride in a carrier under your seat for an extra charge of around $100 each way. Again, rules vary, but many airlines allow pets over 17 pounds to travel in a crate in the cargo hold for a wide range of fees of anywhere from $50 to $800. If you want to fly with your pet, call the airline to learn their rules and book the flight for you and your pet.
  3. Prepare for road trips.
    Ross’ dog travels in the car’s back seat either in a special dog car seat or wearing a harness attached to a seat buckle. In addition to keeping Sadie safe, the dog seat gives her a boost to enjoy the view out the window. Her car kit includes food, water, a collapsible water bowl, a leash (never let your dog off leash when traveling), waste bags, a couple of her favorite toys and treats.

    As it’s generally not safe to leave pets alone in a parked car, it’s best to have at least two humans along for the ride, so one can stay with your pet while the other uses the restroom or gets food to go. Be sure to take frequent breaks to allow pets to stretch their legs and do their business, and always offer water.  
  4. Seek out pet-friendly lodging.
    About 75 percent of American hotel chains allow dogs. A smaller percentage also allow cats. When hotels do allow pets, there’s often a weight limit, a limit of either one or two pets and an extra fee.

    For vacation rentals, you can generally narrow your search results for pet-friendliness on websites like AirBnB. Ross prefers vacation rentals over hotels when traveling with Sadie.

    “There are fewer mystery noises so she can better relax, we have a refrigerator to store her food and we don’t have to worry about her occasional bark,” she says. “It’s usually easier to take her out if she needs to go in the middle of the night and I don’t have to take an elevator downstairs and return through a secured door.”
  5. Search for pet-friendly restaurants.
    Ross doesn’t like to leave Sadie alone in a hotel or vacation rental. Since pets aren’t allowed in restaurants, Ross and her husband either switch off picking up meals to-go to eat in the room or else they seek out dog-friendly restaurant patios — and they find that dogs are more welcome on patios in some areas of the country than others.
  6. Know your pet.
    “Sadie loves to travel, and really just loves being with me wherever I go,” Ross says. “I believe her life has been deeply enriched by travel, the new experiences and smells bond her more to us, make her happy and stimulate her brain. But our other dog, Benny, is more anxious in the car and not a good traveler so we leave him home with a dog sitter.”
  7. When leaving your pet at home, get creative.
    While some dogs enjoy the stimulation of staying with other dogs at a kennel, for other dogs the experience is stressful. Consider hiring a friend who your pet knows to come 3-4 times per day to walk or play and feed. Perhaps a family member can stay with your pet. Just remember to leave detailed instructions to keep your pet’s routine consistent and include your contact information if something comes up and they have questions.

Keep these tips in mind to help alleviate some of the stress from traveling with or without your pet. Also, be sure to speak with your financial professional to make sure the traveling you want to do is part of your retirement savings strategy.

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