Pet Travel: Summer Vacation Tips for Your Dog, Cat

Pet-friendly motels, airline pet carriers and driving with dogs.

July 7, 2010, 11:18 AM

July 9, 2010— -- Does your dog get car sick?

Well, if you don't know the answer, it's best to find out now instead of 100 miles into your summer road trip.

Traveling can be a great experience, despite the long lines, traffic and other hassles. With a pet, the logistical nuisances can sometimes turn into a nightmare. But they don't have to.

As families across American hit the road this summer vacation, many plan to take their dogs or cats with them. The hospitality industry knows this and has become more pet friendly in recent years.

Many roadside motels now have special pet-walk areas while some of the fanciest hotels in big cities have special water bowls and in-house groomers for the four-legged friends.

"We make pets feel just as welcome as humans," said Tori McLaughlin of the FireSky Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz., part of the pet-friendly Kimpton Hotels chain. "We love pets, that's for sure. One of our biggest goals is to offer our guests the care that they normally feel at home. We want to provide an experience that makes them feel comfortable and that's often traveling with the pets."

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The pets at the hotel have their own custom welcome, get a treat upon check-in and even have their names up on a board in the lobby. Special beds, leashes, water bowls and other pet amenities are offered.

Employees will often bring pets to work and all pets are invited to the hotel's evening wine reception. FireSky is open to any kind of pet and hosted last year a pot-bellied pig named Hamlet.

It's surprising what some hotels will do for pets, and not run-of-the-mill pets. The Hidden Meadow Ranch in the mountains of northeastern Arizona allows dogs but also has a "Bring Your Own Horse" program.

For an extra $30 a night, the ranch will put up your horse in one of its four guest horse stalls in the barn, feed and water it, provide the horse with daily exercise and even find parking for your trailer. Wrangler-guided rides through the neighboring national forest can be added for $50 an hour.

OK, but what about driving or flying with your dog or cat?

Pet-Friendly Road Trips

When driving with your pet, make sure to plan ahead. Look into places to stop, the right hotels and even what supplies you need to bring with you on the journey.

Progressive Insurance has put together a list of suggestions to make that trip better. They include:

While most dogs love to hang their heads out of the car window and feel the wind in their fur, it's best not to indulge them. They can easily be injured by debris flying into their eyes. Secure your pet in a crate or with a harness to keep it safe. If you plan to keep your pet in a travel crate while riding in the car, it's important that you familiarize your pet with its crate by having it rest inside the crate around the house. The more familiar pets are with their surroundings, the more comfortable and secure they'll be once inside the car.

Flying With Pets

Bringing your dog or cat on the plane isn't as easy as just walking up to the gate and boarding.

Airlines have lengthy lists of rules and regulations meant to ensure your pet's safety. But they can be somewhat daunting.

The size of your pet, the number of other animals on the plane and the kind of aircraft are all limitations that can be imposed.

American Airlines, for instance, says animals brought inside the airplane must fit in carriers that are 19 inches long, by 13 inches wide and 9 inches high. Animals must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down in a natural position in the kennel.

Passengers can only bring on kennel with them, although two dogs or two cats of the same species can be in the same kennel as long they with no more than a combined 20 pounds.

Sounds easy enough? Well, American and other airlines limit the number of pets allowed in the cabin. You wouldn't want 110 dogs on your flight, would you?

So pets must have their own reservation. (It's also a chance for the airline to collect it's $100, one-way fee for bringing a pet into the cabin.) American only allows up to seven pets per flight (a maximum of five in coach) on most flights but limits them to two pets on regional jet flights run by American Eagle.

Then there is the question of your destination. Carry-on pets are not allowed to or from Hawaii or on trips across the oceans.

The other option is checking your pet. Your kennel goes under the plane, as with your suitcase, but is placed in a special pressurized and temperature-controlled section of the plane. But that doesn't mean it is necessarily comfortable. In winter, airlines may require documentation certifying that your pet is acclimated to temperatures lower than 45 degrees.

There are also a whole set of regulations about carrier size and, of course, fees; $150 on American. Unlike carry-on pets, those that are checked don't require reservations on American. Vut the airline warns that sometimes capacity is reached and pets are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. That warning is mostly for dog show participants, but you never know when such a show is in town.

Rules vary by airlines, so make sure to check them out in advance. For instance, Delta limits its flights to only four pets in the main cabin and charges $125. Checking a pet on Delta will cost you $200 each way.

Sounds miserable and confusing?

Well, there's one other option: a pet-only airline.

Pet Airways flies to Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Los Angles, New York, Omaha, Neb., and Phoenix. Each plane holds about 50 average-sized pets. There are two pilots and a special pet attendant.

One-way trips start at $99, and the airline provides a pre-boarding walk and bathroom break. That's right, walks and breaks. If only we could all travel in such style. (Larger pets and larger distances can rack up much higher airfares. Hey, it's an airline; of course they hook you with the introductory fare.)

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