More than 23 million American households — nearly one in five nationally — have adopted a pet during the pandemic. And now many of these Americans will try to spend 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 covered. 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 on vacation? Should you even bother? And if so, what should you know?
“Travelling with pets has become more difficult in the wake of the pandemic,” said Josh Snead, CEO of Rainwalk Pet Insurance.
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There’s a long list of challenges to traveling with pets, including new fees and stricter rules for traveling with pets. Summer is particularly harsh, with airlines placing restrictions on transporting animals during hot weather. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is an explosion of false rabies documentation from pet importers, making it difficult to transport animals across borders, says Snead.
“Often,” he adds, “the bureaucracy makes it so expensive that it’s no longer worth it.”
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What if all these pets travel this summer?
Traveling with pets isn’t always the best idea. If you’re moving across the country and need to take Rover with you, that’s fine. If you have a documented disability and have a trained and well behaved service animal, OK. But I’ve never seen a dog or cat “asked” to go on vacation. If they knew they were going to be crammed into a tote bag for hours or cooped up in a hotel room, they would probably prefer not to go on vacation with you.
But if even a small percentage of pet owners are traveling with an animal this summer, things could get interesting. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, nearly 39% of American households own dogs; another 25% own cats – or rather, are owned by cats. And those are pre-pandemic numbers. So imagine what happens when they hit the streets.
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Here’s what you can expect:
More pet fees. According to CanMyPetStay.com, a website that tracks pet policies, about half of US hotels allow pets. Of these, 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 pets are allowed. “And ask the hotel to add your pet to the reservation to avoid check-in complications,” he adds.
New rules. Janice Costa, owner of Canine Camp Getaway, says she’s seen all sorts of new pet rules lately. They range from higher cleaning fees to being billed per pet instead of per room. Also new at some hotels are dog size restrictions. “Other hotel chains now have policies that limit guests to one dog per room,” she says. “And more and more hotels seem to be implementing a policy where dogs can’t be left unattended in the room, even in a crate. That can be a problem if you want to go out to dinner or do something non-dog related when you travel.”
Inexperienced owners. Many Americans will be traveling with their pet for the first time. A new survey by Harvest Hosts, an RV membership program, found that only half of travelers (52%) base their travel plans on accommodating their pets. This means that some pet owners leave their dogs and cats in their hotel room or RV while they enjoy non-animal vacations. There is nothing you can do about inexperienced owners. But you can plan ahead when taking your pet with you.
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New pet programs. Hotels know this is going to be a big summer for pet travel. For example, Kimpton Hotels recently launched a new program called KimptonxWag. It’s a partnership with mobile platform Wag!, which brings pet owners together with professional groomers to board, sit and walk. If you’re staying at a Kimpton hotel, you can easily find someone to walk or keep your best friend company while you go out to dinner. “Once you’ve decided that your dog will be coming with you on the street, you need to carefully consider which hotel you’re staying at,” says Nick Gregory, senior vice president of hotel operation 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 of their own vacation needs before their pets. They travel to places where pets are not welcome or not comfortable.
Sasha Armstrong, creator of the Canine State of Mind educational program, says a successful trip with your pet requires more planning than a regular vacation.
“It’s a great idea to choose a spot in nature whenever possible, or try to choose a place to stay that meets your dogs’ needs as much as your own,” she says.
What if you can’t? Enlist a friend at home to look after your furry companion while you’re away and save your pet – and you – unnecessary stress.
Your summer travel checklist
Food and emergency contacts. “Plan ahead to ensure the things a pet would normally need at home are brought with them on the trip,” advises Darcia Kostiuk, a senior veterinarian for Orijen pet food. This includes not only the usual items such as food, harness, leashes and collars, carrier bags, litter boxes and bags, treats, toys, medication and blankets. Kostiuk also recommends having phone numbers for trusted veterinarians and local emergency vet clinics on hand.
Documentation. “It’s important to bring all papers with you,” says Jean Shafiroff, a spokeswoman for American Humane. This includes all necessary vaccination and health certificates. Shafiroff, who owns five rescue dogs, notes that airlines are particularly finicky when it comes to documentation. “Foreign dogs in particular have a harder time entering the United States,” she adds.
Travel insurance for pets. A new report by travel insurance company Battleface found that 44% of Americans want the ability to customize travel insurance policies to meet their specific needs, including a pet travel package. Some travel insurance policies offer coverage for pet-related expenses. For example, if your return trip is delayed by at least six hours and you are unable to 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 can also consider a cancel for any reason policy. “Maybe your pet is older or you’re afraid they’ll get sick while you’re away,” says Angela Borden, product specialist at Seven Corners.