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Have Pet. Will Travel? (Part 2)

Jennifer Mcguiggan
Jan. 20, 2009

Plane, train, car and hotel considerations when bringing a pet.

They say that "getting there is half the fun," but sometimes it feels like more of a hassle, especially with high fuel costs and long airport security lines. But traveling with pets can be even trickier.

Planes

Some people love to fly and some people hate it. But the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommends not forcing your pets to fly unless absolutely necessary. Consider driving -- or getting a pet sitter -- instead. But if a flight is unavoidable, find out where your pet will be "seated" on the airplane.

Some airlines allow pets in the passenger cabin, while others require animals to be placed in the cargo compartment. Others, like Southwest Airlines, don't allow animals onboard at all unless they are trained to assist passengers with disabilities. HSUS's website contains a partial list of airlines and their pet policies. But before booking your seat, get the full details on an airline's policies regarding prices, approved pet carriers, health and immunization requirements, and air temperature restrictions for animals that will be placed in the cargo compartment.

If your pet rides in the cabin with you, be considerate of other passengers. People with asthma and allergies may experience discomfort or even serious health issues if seated too close to animals. Work with the airline staff to make sure everyone -- including you and your pet -- are safe and happy during the flight.

Whether your pet is riding up front with you or is playing the part of stowaway with the cargo, he'll need a good carrier. Choose one that meets airline and Transportation Security Administration requirements. The carrier should be large enough to be comfortable, but not so big that your pet will be knocked around inside if the ride gets a little rough. Pad the inside of the carrier with a small blanket or towel. Also consult your vet about when and how much to feed your pet before flying.

Read our article about holiday pet travel to find specific airline requirements.

Trains and automobiles

If you're planning to take a train or bus, make arrangements for your pet to stay home. Neither Amtrak nor Greyhound allows animals on board. (Guide animals for people with disabilities are the exception.)

If you're traveling by car, use a carrier for cats and other small animals. Dogs don't necessarily need one, but should be kept safe with a harness that buckles into a seat belt. Make frequent stops to give your pet some exercise and time to do his business outside of the car -- always on a leash or harness, of course! (Cats should be given safe access to a litter box, perhaps in the backseat of the car.)

Hotel sweet hotel

A quick online search shows a number of websites that list pet-friendly hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals. Always call a property before booking to ensure that it really does accept pets. And of course, find out the logistics, including extras fees or security deposits, restrictions on types of animals allowed, and services provided. Some high-end properties, like W Hotels Worldwide, cater to pet owners with luxuries like toys, treats, and pet beds complete with turndown service. (Your pet may never want to leave!)

Pets Just Wanna Have Fun

If you take your pet on vacation with you, make sure he has some fun, too. You wouldn't be happy sitting in a hotel room by yourself all day, would you? Chances are, your pet won't be either.

Keep your pet active and alert by providing daily activities, just like you do at home. If you're traveling with a dog, take a walk or find the nearest dog park. Cats might be content to curl up on a soft hotel bed for most of the day, but don't neglect things like grooming, play time, and cuddling. After all, a new environment can be stressful for animals. By being consistent in your interactions with your pet, you can help to minimize their anxiety.

Being with our pets brings us comfort, but remember that your pet's needs are different than your own. In the end, your pet might be more comfortable staying at home. To help you think through that decision, read Part 1 of "Have pet. Will travel?".

Jennifer McGuiggan is a freelance writer and editor in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. She writes for a wide variety of clients and publications, and sometimes writes about her cats Gatwick and Cheska on her blog: thewordcellar.blogspot.com.

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