More than 23 million American households — nearly 1 in 5 nationwide — adopted a pet during the pandemic. And now, many of those Americans will try to take their first vacation with a cat, dog or bird.
Are you ready?
Traveling with pets is one of the most controversial topics I’ve ever tackled. From fake emotional support animals to annoying owners, fur always flies when I write about animals and travel.
But it’s a fair question: What happens when you try to take all those pandemic pets with you on vacation? Should you be worried? And if you do, what should you know?
“Traveling with pets has become more difficult after the pandemic,” says Josh Snead, CEO of Rainwalk Pet Insurance.
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There is a long list of challenges to traveling with pets, including new fees and stricter rules for traveling with pets. Summer is especially difficult because airlines have restrictions on transporting animals during hot weather. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is an explosion of fake rabies documents from pet importers, making it more difficult to transport any animal across borders, Snead says.
“Often,” he adds, “bureaucracy makes it so expensive that it’s not worth it anymore.”
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What happens when all these pets travel this summer?
Traveling with pets is not always the best idea. If you’re moving across the country and need to take the Rover with you, great. If you have a documented disability and have a trained and well-behaved service animal, OK. But I have never seen a dog or cat “ask” to go on vacation. In fact, if they knew they’d be crammed into a carry-on bag for hours or holed up in a hotel room, they’d probably prefer not to go on vacation with you.
But if even a small percentage of the pet-owning population travels with an animal this summer, things could get interesting. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, almost 39% of American households have a dog; Another 25% own cats – or perhaps it’s more accurate to say they are owned by cats. And these are figures before the pandemic. So imagine what happens when they hit the road.
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Here’s what they’ll face:
More pet fees. About half of U.S. hotels allow pets, according to CanMyPetStay.com, a site that tracks pet policies. Of those, 95% charge a pet fee, which averages $43 per night or $94 per stay. Randy Greencorn, who publishes the site, advises pet owners to call the hotel in advance to confirm whether pets are allowed. “And ask the hotel to add your pet to the reservation to avoid complications at check-in,” he adds.
New rules. Janice Costa, owner of Canine Camp Getaway, says she’s seen all kinds of new pet rules lately. They range from higher cleaning fees to charging for pets instead of the room. Also new at some hotels are size limits for dogs. “Other hotel chains now have policies limiting guests to one dog per room,” she says. “And more hotels seem to be putting a policy in place where dogs can’t be left in the room unattended, even in a crate. This can be problematic if you want to go out to dinner or do something non-dog related during travel. .”
Inexperienced owners. Many Americans will be traveling with their pet for the first time. A new study by Harvest Hosts, an RV membership program, found that only half of travelers (52%) base their travel plans on pet accommodations. This means that some pet owners will leave their dogs and cats in their hotel room or RV while they enjoy their vacation, which is not a vacation for the pet. You can do nothing for inexperienced owners. But you can plan ahead if you’re taking your pet.
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New programs for pets. Hotels know this will be a big summer for pet travel. For example, Kimpton Hotels recently introduced a new program called KimptonxWag. It’s a partnership with mobile platform Wag!, which brings pet owners together with professional pet sitters for boarding, boarding and walking. If you’re staying at a Kimpton property, you can easily find someone to take your best friend for a walk or keep them company while you’re out to dinner. “Once you’ve decided that your dog will be hitting the road with you, you need to make sure you’re carefully considering the hotel you’re staying at,” says Nick Gregory, senior vice president of hotel operations at Kimpton.
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That’s a lot to consider before traveling with a pet this summer. And yet many pet owners think about their vacation needs before their pets. They travel to places where pets are not welcome or will not be comfortable.
Sasha Armstrong, creator of the Canine State of Mind educational program, says that a successful trip with your pet requires more planning than a regular vacation.
“It’s a great idea to choose an outdoor location if possible or try to choose a place to stay that serves your dogs’ needs as much as it serves yours,” she says.
And if you can’t? Ask a housemate to look after your furry companion while you’re gone and save your pet – and you – unnecessary stress.
Summer Pet Travel Checklist
Food and emergency contacts. “Plan ahead to ensure that items that a pet typically needs at home will be brought along on the trip,” advises Darcia Kostiuk, a senior veterinarian for Orijen pet food. This doesn’t just include the usual items, such as food, dishes, leashes and collars, carriers, pans and litter bags, treats, toys, medications and blankets. Kostiuk also recommends having the phone numbers of trusted veterinarians and local emergency clinics available.
Documentation. “It’s important to bring all the papers,” says Jean Shafiroff, a spokeswoman for American Humane. This includes any required vaccinations and health certificates. Shafiroff, who owns five rescue dogs, notes that airlines are particular about paperwork. “Foreign dogs in particular have a harder time getting into the US,” she adds.
Travel insurance for pets. A new report from travel insurance company Battleface found that 44% of Americans want the ability to customize travel insurance policies to fit their specific needs, including a pet travel package. Some travel insurance plans offer coverage for pet-related expenses. For example, if your return trip is delayed by at least six hours and you cannot pick up your dog or cat on the scheduled day, Seven Corners RoundTrip Choice will cover up to $500 in kennel fees or expenses. You might also consider a “cancel for any reason” policy. “Maybe your pet is older, or you’re worried about them getting sick while you’re away,” says Angela Borden, a product specialist at Seven Corners.