Traveling With Animals

If you’ve been paying attention to the Easy Street newsletter lately then you know that I am currently on vacation in New York. It’s not a big vacation; it’s more of quick trip up north to visit with my husband’s family. His cousin is graduating from college and we are here to attend his graduation party.

As with any trip, long or short, there are certain things that need to be done in preparation. The laundry needs done so we have stuff to wear on the trip, refrigerator needs to be cleared, trash needs taken out, lights need to be put on timers, and the pets need to have arrangements made for them.

I am the reluctant owner of a cat. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. I would just have preferred to own a dog, rather than a cat. When my family moved in to our current house three years ago we got an unexpected bonus, a stray kitty came with the house.

Kitty must have seen the word SUCKER printed on my forehead as soon as she saw me because she curled up on my lap the very first day. I was a goner from the word GO. I purchased dry food for her that night and she hasn’t left my yard since.

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Over the last three years she has weaseled herself even more into our lives. At first all we did was feed her and pet her outside. Then the first night it dropped down to 50 degrees and I saw her cuddled up on my backyard patio furniture with her face buried into her fur, I couldn’t sleep knowing she was so cold out there. So I began letting her sleep in the house on cold nights. Then it became a couple times a week. Then I started letting her in the house during the day time and then…well you get the idea. I now consider myself the owner of a cat.

So now when my family takes vacations I have to make arrangements for someone to feed Chairman Meow (she meows until we let her inside the house thus her name). I either convince a neighbor to put food out for her (she’s a stray so I haven’t had much community support on this one) or I have to pay for her to go to boarded. Not a cheap alternative.

I’ve never considered taking her with me on vacations. It just seems like too much of a hassle. But I know a lot of Americans do vacation with their pets.

Aside from the hassle of traveling with a pet, there is also the expense. Everything about a vacation gets more expensive when you bring your pet along for the trip.

Transportation

There are four prevalent modes of transportation Americans use; planes, trains, automobiles and buses. Unfortunately for pet owners, Greyhound Buses and Amtrak have a strict no pet policy so your options are immediately narrowed down to two.

Car trips are by far the cheapest way to travel with a pet. They won’t cost you anymore in gas money to get to your destination, although they will cause your road trip to last longer. Dogs and cats will need frequent stops to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom and eat. All that starting and stopping very well may cause you to need another day on the road, causing you to spend more money on a hotel room. Then there’s the whole problem of finding a hotel that allows pets, more on that in a minute.

If you want to get somewhere fast now-a-days, you take a plane to get there. This mode of transportation is far from ideal though. Mostly because it’s so darn expensive.

The cheapest way to fly with your pet is to bring them on board with you as opposed to checking them as baggage or cargo. You’ll still have to pay a service fee to the airline ($50-$100), but it is less than what you’ll pay if they fly as baggage or cargo. In most cases, a pet ticket is a flat fee, though a few airlines do have a sliding scale based on the animal’s weight for pets traveling in the cargo section. The airlines change their policies often but here is a rough estimate of what you can expect to pay per carrier to bring Fido along for the ride.

Airline    Pet in cabin (per leg of trip)

Airtran    $69

American    $100

Delta    $150

JetBlue    $100

Spirit    $100

United    $175

US Airways    $125

Virgin    $100

Pretty much all airlines allow pets on board. It’s big business for them. It’s estimated that the major airlines accommodate about 500 pets a day. At roughly $150 round trip that adds up to a lot of extra revenue for the airlines, $27 million a year.

To ensure your dog is allowed on board there are a few things you must do first. One you must supply the airline with a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian that was issued no more than 10 days prior to your flight. Two, your pet must be no more than thirty pounds and fit into a travel container that meets the minimum standard size, ventilation, strength, sanitation and design for safe handling. To see if your container meets the minimum standards click here.

Some airlines are more pet friendly than others. Look out for airlines that run promotions designed for people to bring along their pet. United Airlines offers frequent flier miles for pets.  Virgin Atlantic boasts they have the most pet pampering airline promotions that not only save you money, but also can gain travelers points towards pet bowls, food and toys.

You should also check out pet transportation specialists. These businesses often have special connections with airlines so they can get reduced rates for flying pets to certain destinations. If you don’t intend on flying to a location, but you know there’s someone at the destination to pick up your pet, then these services are one of the better ways to get your pet on to a cheap flight.

Hotels

While the airlines appear to be accommodating pets only grudgingly, hotels are another story. More and more hotels are opening their doors to allow pets. Over the past decade, even as the economy tanked and pet-ownership rates flat-lined, spending on pets rose 73 percent, to $51 billion. The hospitality industry has figured out that pet owners are great consumers, they usually stay longer and they’re repeat customers. Caesars Palace in Las Vegas boasts it books 1,200 reservations a month for customers with pets out of its 23,000 rooms.

Not every hotel allows pets though. Be sure to check the box that says “pet friendly” when looking online for a hotel that will allow Muffy or Fido to stay with you. It’s best to call the hotel to find out their pet policy because many hotels are owned by franchises. That means that each location might have a separate owner and separate set of rules. You may find one location that takes pets and another does not. Deposits and fees are not a for sure bet, but they are common. Make sure you know what they are upfront to avoid sticker shock when the bill comes. I like pettravels.com and allstays.com because they make finding a pet friendly hotel easier and quicker.

Traveling with pets gets easier and easier every year that goes by. More hotels, restaurants, and airports have become pet friendly in the past decade. The caveat is that this acceptance has not made it cheaper to travel with pets. Vacationers traveling with pets should expect fees and regulations at every turn. They are a lot like children that way! ?

Safe travels everyone!

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Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson

One Response

  1. Richard Buri Ram

    Nancy,

    I grew up in the streets of Boston (a long time ago). I had cats that I loved. These cats where quite capable of taking care of themselves when left alone, confined there was dodo–left out , no problem. Food they could find. I had one cat that could climb up and down 3 stories plus jump it. Your affection and love for this cat is misplaced.This cat, looks so nice in that getup. It can take care of itself without you. They where born with this survival ability. I do not want offend you, but grow- up. If you want to take your pet with you then deal with it.

    P.S.
    Nancy, all of your articles are good . So is this one.

    -Richard


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