Caring for Your Pets When on Vacation
Finding the right kind of care for your pets when on vacation often depends on your travel plans and financial situation. Additionally, you should also consider your pets' personality, age, and daily requirements — like food, water, and medication.
Once you have those figured out, the first step is to budget; almost any vacation requires pet-related costs. The next step is to weigh your options to find the best fit.
Taking Them with You
Depending on your plans at your destination, you may decide that your pet can tag along. Domestic trips to a national park, for example, could be a perfect fit for the family dog, while a visit to a Paris museum won't be. International pet travel comes with a slew of extra paperwork and fees, plus destination-specific regulations and even quarantines.
Search for pet-friendly hotels, but be aware: you'll likely pay some sort of cleaning fee. When I moved across the country (twice) with my cat, I found that most of the time "pet-friendly" meant "dog-friendly." It's best to call the hotel ahead of time to confirm the pet policy, as well as any fees, so that you're not surprised during check-in. Kimpton Hotels have earned a reputation for being truly pet-friendly, allowing you to bring your cat, dog, bird, or other family pet no matter the size or breed — at no extra charge.
Finding a pet-friendly Airbnb or other vacation rental is a good option for owners who want a yard or don't want to worry about housekeeping walking in on their pet.
- Pros: If your pet requires special food or medication, you know the pet is receiving it. Plus, you're there to handle any emergencies.
- Cons: Prepare for extra costs, including for flights and hotels. Some pets don't travel well — getting car sick or stressed in the new environment. If you've never traveled with your pet(s), take a short trial trip to gauge how they might do.
In-Home Pet Sitter
A pet sitter can be someone who stays in your home for the duration of your vacation or stops by once or twice a day, depending on the level of attention your pet needs.
Finding a family member or friend is a cost-effective option, but if the person has no experience with animals, it may not be worth the risks. No matter what, pet-proof your house and include detailed instructions, pet records, and emergency numbers, even if you've hired a professional. Every pet — and pet owner — is different. You never know when your pet may need emergency care, so consider pet insurance, too.
- Pros: If you have multiple pets, a pet sitter may be more affordable than boarding. Pets would stay in a familiar place, without the noise and stress of being around other animals. You also get the added perk of having someone watch your house.
- Cons: Finding a reputable pet sitter that you trust isn't always easy. Start the process of finding your sitter early to ensure your schedules match up. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters allows you to search for certified sitters. You can also ask your veterinarian for referrals.
Not all boarding facilities are equal. Visit a few options ahead of time to see the accommodations and ask the caretakers questions — how often they exercise the pets, if you need to supply food, and how they care for and clean their facility.
Veterinarians that include boarding services offer peace of mind because you know your pet will be in good hands should an emergency arise.
- Pros: Boarding is like a vacation for social pets that love making new friends.
- Cons: If your pet needs a safe and predictable environment, boarding may cause stress.
Compare costs between leaving your pets at home versus taking them with you. You may find the cheaper option varies depending on where you're going and for how long. You also may find that spending a little extra is worth the peace of mind.