Here's How to Make Traveling With Pets Less Stressful—on You and on Them
Shortly after Amy Burkert and her husband adopted their German shepherd, Buster, 10 years ago, they decided to take a trip. They'd already traveled with their Shar-Pei, Ty, but Burkert quickly found traveling with two dogs was challenging. "It took me two days to find hotel rooms where we could stay with them," she recalls. So she launched the website gopetfriendly.com in 2009 to help travelers find pet-friendly hotels, campgrounds, beaches, wineries, restaurants, and attractions.
It's easier than ever to travel with animals. Amtrak now allows small pets on board, and "more hotels are allowing pets," says Erin Ballinger, editor for bringfido.com. "Almost all the Las Vegas casino hotels accept pets." Chains from La Quinta Inns & Suites to Starwood's Aloft have generous pet policies.
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants was among the first to roll out the red carpet for pets. Since its founding in 1981, the chain has welcomed animals with special beds, bowls, toys, treats, and other amenities—for no additional fee. "Our pet policy is simple: If they can fit through the hotel doors, they're welcome," says Nick Gregory, Kimpton's senior vice president of hotel operations. "Dogs are the most popular pets to travel with their owners, but we're seeing cats, birds, rabbits, and everything in between." That includes penguins, potbellied pigs, and even a baby elephant.
Plan Smart for Better Travel
Hitting the road with pets is good for them—and you. "They really get you out and help you make new friends," says Ballinger. Some tips for smooth travel:
"Plan your itinerary, and then cross half the things out," says Burkert, who likens traveling with pets to traveling with small children. Animals need time to acclimate to new places, which also helps their people slow down and savor the moment.
Consider your pet's personality
Choose destinations and activities your animal will enjoy. Burkert's dogs aren't comfortable in crowds, but they love wide-open spaces. Other pups might enjoy the hustle of a busy city.
Make sure that your pet's tags and microchip reflect your current contact information.
Bring health records
Having current vaccination records, flea and tick control, and prescriptions printed out or on a flash drive can help facilitate an unplanned visit with an unfamiliar vet. Plus, some hotels and airlines require proof that your pet's vaccinations and flea control are up to date.
Double-check hotel and vacation rental pet policies when making reservations. And, of course, never sneak animals where they're not welcome. "Rules are there for a reason," says Ballinger, and most of the time it's to keep your pet safe.