Talking travel with the expert on traveling with pets

I’m here with Doug Poindexter, president of the World Wide Pet Industry Association, the oldest nonprofit within the field dedicated to pet care. He’s here to talk about the tricks of the trade when it comes to traveling with pets, or what to do if you have to leave them behind.

What types of trips are feasible to do with pets, and which ones are not?

More pet owners are traveling with their pets, which means that an abundance of hotels and businesses are looking to host you and your four-legged companion. However, you must do your research before your trip begins. Below are some tips for booking the perfect hotel for you and your pet.

  • Don’t book online – You should call the hotel and ask for a rundown of the rules associated with booking a pet-friendly room. Explain the size and weight of your pet to ensure he/she falls within the requirements.
  • Ask for a list of restrictions – Pet friendly hotels often have rules surrounding the types of pets they allow in the room. Confirm the size and weight restrictions, breed policies, and supervision stipulations prior to reserving a room (ie. You can not leave your pet unattended in the room).
  • Don’t assume all rules are universal – Hotel chains can vary in policy surrounding pet friendly programs due to differences in state and local laws. It’s important to always request a list of rules surrounding pet lodging at every new hotel location.
  • Inquire about pet programs – Many pet friendly hotels offer perks such as dog beds, treats, water bowls, etc. for no additional charge. An increasing number also partner with local dog walkers and groomers to offer discounts to residents traveling with their pet. Be sure to request a list of programs for you and your pet to check out while you are in town.

How about traveling overseas? Is that doable?

It can be done, but again, pet owners must do their research. Both airlines and countries have different rules regarding animals. For example, you will need to purchase an airline create to check your pet for travel. Be sure to confirm the size requirements with your airline.

The U.S. Department of State has a whole section on their website dedicated to pet travel. This site includes a useful list of International Animal Export Regulations compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

What are the top mistakes travelers make when going on vacation with pets?

They don’t do their research to prepare for the trip. Pets need the same basic items as their human counterparts – food, shelter, and exercise. Pet owners often think of their pet as an afterthought in the preparation stage for a trip. Pets should have their own overnight bags, blankets, and bedding. They should have proper travel gear, such as crates, bowls, and chew toys.

How does the process of “checking in” pets at the airport work?

Cargo space fills quickly for animals. Be sure to book your pet’s flight at the same time you book yours. Rates vary among airlines from $50 to $300, depending on the size of the animal. Many airlines request follow-up calls three days before the flight and the day of the flight to confirm that your pet is coming. Arrive at the airport an hour and a half before your flight.

  • Be sure to familiarize your pet with his travel crate. Prior to your trip, set up the crate in your home and keep the door open on the crate. Be sure to put blankets, toys and treats inside. This will allow your pet to freely explore the space and familiarize himself with the crate without feeling trapped. Reward with treats when they voluntarily go in the crate in order to reinforce a positive association. Crates must be airline-approved and should have stickers stating name, address and phone information.
  • Airlines require a bill of health issued by a veterinarian within 10 days of the flight, which will state that your animal is healthy and able to fly.
  • If your pet weighs over 22 pounds or cannot stand and turn around in a crate that can be stored under the seat, they cannot fly with you in the cabin.
  • Use an absorbent material such as shredded newspaper to line your pet’s crate. Hang a list of feeding times on the front of your pet’s crate to ensure he is fed at the proper times. To help ensure your pet stays hydrated without spilling water all over the crate, freeze water in a bowl and put it in the crate.

What are some must-have pet accessories for safe travel?

Crates – this ensures safe travel outside of the home. You should also have a bag prepared with feeding bowls, treats, blankets, toys, and extra leashes.

Top three pet-friendly vacation destinations? Least friendly?

Every year, Dog Fancy magazine releases their top 10 list of the most pet friendly cities in America based upon judging criteria such as dog-centered activities, how many hotels are dog-friendly and how many restaurants allow dogs to eat on their patios. Last year’s winner was San Diego, followed by Long Beach, Calif., and Carmel, Calif.

What about leaving pets behind? What are some options?

Kennels are also experiencing an extreme makeover. Pet owners can now board their pets in state of the art kennels that include bottled water, LCD flat panel TV screens, and luxury bedding. Many of these luxury boarding programs offer add-on incentives, such as dog massages or water therapy.

What do you make of the new “rent-a-pet” trend?

We are planning to survey our members regarding their thoughts on this trend, so we will have more data for you soon regarding this topic!

Finally, as a New Yorker (for the summer), I just came across a “dog bar”. Have you heard of any similar zany outlets for pets in your travels (dog amusement parks for instance)?

The pet industry is one of the most entrepreneurial industries within the business world. Pet retail shops now offer “Yappy Hours” for pets and their owners, when all can socialize over cocktails and canine wine for the pooches. Day care and boarding programs offer extensive grooming and wellness programs for pets, including massage, reiki, water therapy, weight management, health management, and organic salon treatments. Basically anything that you can imagine a human enjoying, someone within the pet industry is modifying the business plan for pet owners. And consumers are buying into – there’s a reason why there’s no stopping this $42 billion a year industry.