Want to roam the world with Fido? (Kitty may be tougher; find a good sitter or cattery, as most cats don't enjoy moving around unless it's to a familiar second home, or such.). The Travel Industry Association (TIA) reports that about 15 percent of us travel with pets - around 40 million households.
- Size matters
On the road a small pet can be more fun, with less effort. I place my cat Sweetie in front of my seat on a plane in a special soft carrier bag, twice a year. Most airlines allow several pets in a cabin for each flight, but they must remain in their bags, and you'll need to reserve and pay a fee of at least $50, one-way. Check rules, too.
Many lodgings only allow pets less than 20 pounds. So if you travel lots and have a Yorkie or Maltese, you're in luck. If Hamlet, the Great Dane, is already a member of your family, to be is probably not to be--unless you're staying on the road. (You could go the RV or camping route with a big dog--but hey, this is your vacation. Is that what you really want to do?)
- One Fido is enough
Many lodgings won't allow more than one pet, and can you blame them? And having to deal with eight-legs and two black noses can be a bit much even for seasoned travelers.
- Know your puppy's personality
Retrievers are gentle but rambunctious; chihuahuas are tiny but trembly. If your dog tends to act out, run away, shiver or bark a lot, think twice before booking a ticket. You expect a "time-out" from a terrier who's wired to run and yap.
- Learn transport info
I once lost my poodle, Apricot, when Delta airlines said he had never been placed in cargo on a flight from Miami to New York. Seems they overlooked him de-planing, and Apricot flew on to Hawaii! He was returned a day later, dazed, and seemed to have had enough of tropical paradises, thank you very much.
To avoid my predicament, check the pet travel guidelines posted online by the Air
Transport Association, www.airtransport.org.
As for cars, use the same sorts of caution as you would with a child--lots of breaks, no
leaving the pet in a closed car, water available. You know. Buses, trains and cruise ships
don't encourage pets, although the Queen Mary 2 has luxury kennels.
- Choose pet-friendly accommodations
Some of the world's ritziest lodgings cater to travelers with pets. Pet-friendly chains include Four Seasons, Starwood, Hilton, Loews, Sheraton, Marriott, Holiday Inn and Ramada. Many other hotels and B&Bs and inns will also welcome Fido, knowing how many of us bring pets along. Even if you find accommodations on a pet-friendly list, be sure to double check. And be prepared to stay on a pet floor or in a pet-designated room.
Nowadays many places go all out to provide VIP doggy delights. Many offer bowls,
treats and walking areas, and some go all out. The St. Regis hotel in LA offers Fido a
customized mahogany bed with down pillows, and special poolside lounges. Las
Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos, Mexico offer special patios and doggy massages, a dog
cabana and full-time chef for custom meals. Go know.
- Dine with doggy
At cafes and restaurants with open-air dining areas, Fido may be a welcome guest, under the table. So if you want to dine with your pet, sit al fresco and enjoy. (Think Lincoln Road, where there seem to be as many dogs as humans.) Room service and picnicking are other options. Overseas, dining rules are sometimes more lax. Do bring your dog's favorite food and bowl, and consider bottled water, wherever you eat. Doggie tummies can get turista too. And on that note, prepare for pooper-scooping at all times, and think ahead for doggy relief areas.
- One Fido is enough
- Prepare for pitfalls Dogs can be great travel companions, who don't hog the sheets and insist on pay-per view, but they sometimes slobber, sniff, chew, and pass gas at the wrong place and time. (Then again, so do two-legged companions.) You do have to walk them, get someone to do it, or cross your fingers with newspaper spread on the floor. You may have to pay a lodging deposit for damages -- and you may lose it. Your entertainment, or lack thereof, may be subject to Fido's needs.
Download info on pet quarantine, and health requirements: www.aphis.gov;
www.customs.gov; and www.state.gov. All offer info about traveling with pets, when
requested. And you can always google "pets/travel."
In fact, depending on the type of vacation you choose, and how much you adore your pet, you may decide a good kennel isn't all that bad. Or, a staycation with Fido.