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For some of us, our pets are not just animals; they are our “babies”. When upcoming travel is around the corner, we have to make a decision about what to do with our beloved furry pals.

There are a few things to consider before deciding if we take them with us or leave them at home. If they stay, you can opt for a boarding facility, a pet sitter or family and friends. If taking your pet with you, consider some points in regards to transportation and lodging rules. Here are the pros and cons along with some helpful tips.

The first step is to evaluate your pet’s health and temper meaning sick, old, pregnant, or with certain behavioral or bad habits. A boarding facility may go through a first interview to understand your pet’s behavior. They will require a copy of vaccines. Boarding facilities and hotels for pets can have cool amenities such as private suites with TV monitors, music, a live camera for you to monitor your “kid” while you are away, swimming pool, playgrounds and grooming. Make sure they offer maximum security, clean facilities, and a veterinary emergency contact to protect your pet. Prices will depend on the city, the amenities and the length of stay (they can offer a discount for extended stays). The average price goes from $20 – $45 per night (dollars). My personal recommendation is that if they have to stay for more than a week, consider other options. Pets can get depressed or even sick despite how clean the boarding place is, especially if exposed to other animals during long stays.

What about a Pet Sitter? Some people are hesitant to give their home keys to a stranger who can visit your pet daily, but this can be cheaper than boarding, and your pet will stay at his/her place, stress-free. Make sure they are fed and walked a few times a day. Check www.fetchpetcare.com and see how it works.

If you are able to drive and take your dog in your own vehicle, then great! Make sure that their overall health is fine and that they do not get carsick. Feed your pet a couple of hours before departing, buy proper safety pet gear to install in your vehicle such as a special harness that can be attached to buckle them up, or put them in a big kennel where they can move around. Give them water frequently, walk them out of the car every 3-4 hours, make sure they are not too cold or hot, and never leave them unattended inside the vehicle. Do not let them stick their heads outside the window. Yes, they will love some fresh air and will look cute, but they can get hit by debris or jump outside the vehicle. Their favorite toys and blankets will be welcomed! And please, make sure they have an updated tag with your phone number or that they have a microchip.

Now, from my personal experience, after traveling with my pets for years including to different countries, taking your pet with you, especially by plane, is the last resource. Remember that they will totally depend on you if going on a business or leisure trip. Sometimes there is no other choice if you are moving to another city or country. If you will be out for a while, the airline fee for your pet can be cheaper than a prolonged stay at a Pet hotel, so just do the math. When doing this, consider pet transportation fees per leg, buy the proper kennel or bag approved by the transportation company, consider veterinary fees for issuing a health travel permit, country airport entry fee, and pet friendly hotel daily fees and restrictions, if applicable.

Let’s begin with the carrier. You can opt to take a plane, a train or a boat. Most transportation companies will take them on board, in the cabin with you or in the luggage compartment. Here are as few things before going ahead with this option.

Visit or call the company to verify if they accept pets and what types, and if they are travelling on the same plane or via a cargo airline. Some airlines do not allow specific breeds. Some carriers will charge a fix fee for your pet transportation per leg or by total weight including the kennel. The last option will incur very high fees, almost like a ticket for a human. If weather is too cold or hot on the day of travel, restrictions apply. Check the minimum pet age restriction. A puppy might not be taken on board if too young. When you enter a different country, your pet may remain in quarantine depending on the local restrictions. They will remain at the airport special facility until the period is over. Some countries have high standards to protect their land from diseases, such as Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom. Therefore, leave your pet home if you are not moving to the location.

The transportation company will require a proper kennel with specific dimensions (make sure that the pet carrier is properly labeled with your contact information), and a health certificate issued by your veterinary doctor. The traveling fee is usually higher if your pet stays in the cabin with you and it is small enough and well mannered, or if he or she is a service dog or an emotional support pet. Your veterinary doctor will provide some drops to calm and reduce stress in your dog.

If traveling abroad, once you have landed, the receiving country will require you to pay for an entry fee and they will check all the documentation.

Last but not least, we have seen on the news that some renowned airlines have lost pets, either leaving them behind at the airport, putting them in a different plane, and leaving the kennel door open resulting on a dog running on the ramps. Some died during the trip due to the temperature in the plane. The airline will not take responsability in most of the cases where unexpected things happen. There are also some private jet companies that offer high class VIP pet air transportation.

Now, let’s talk about hotels that are pet friendly. In the hospitality industry most of the facilities, or should I say all of them, accept service dogs but there are quite a few hotel chains, such as Aloft or Hilton, that have a Pet Friendly program and even their own ambassador (usually a dog). Pet daily fees vary from $25-$50 per night that will be added to your room stay, and they may also charge a non-refundable fee to cover cleaning or incidents (they can go up to $250 if it is a 5 star or luxury hotel). The downside of this is that most of the hotels require to lock your pet inside a kennel when you leave the room to avoid accidents, to protect the hotel employees while cleaning the room or to avoid great escape artists! If your dog is quiet and can handle being alone, good; if he or she will bark and cry and someone complains, you might be requested to take your pet somewhere else outside the facility. Some hotels offer a comfy bed for your pet, a welcome doggy bag and dog walking services. Nice, huh? Please visit the section “amenities” of your hotel website. See what types of animals are allowed, and check fees and terms.

Here is a very good website that can provide more specific information for pet travel requirements. Visit www.pettravel.com

As you can see, there are quite a few things to consider before traveling with your pooch. Take enough time to plan ahead before booking your trip.

Alejandra McBride

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