Some people are naturally better travelers than others; so it is with pets. But whereas humans can temper their anxiety or irritation at the airport bar or by downing an Ambien, dogs don’t have that option (although, to be accurate, your vet will prescribe a travel sedative for your pet if need be).
Now, there’s a class available for canine air passengers that’s aimed to keep them calm when going through airport security and in-flight. According to MSN, Talaat Captain, the president and CEO of the world’s largest “aviation-themed film studio,” Air Hollywood, was inspired to create the Air Hollywood K9 Flight School. Given a dog’s acute sense of sight, hearing and smell, it’s no surprise that blaring announcements, crowds, hovering strangers in uniform and turbulence can make for a stressful experience.
For $349, Air Hollywood puts pets and owners through a real-time simulated airport and flight experience (using an airport set and fake fuselage) in order to prep and desensitize both parties to the process. The certification class is focused on in-cabin travel, rather than cargo: Depending upon the airline, dogs under 20 pounds may be allowed to fly stashed under the seat in carrier; service dogs fly free and lie at their owners feet.
If your pup is panicky when taking to the skies, perhaps the above video will help convince you that heading back to school is a good idea.
For those of us who consider pets members of the family, leaving them behind when we travel often isn’t an option, especially if they’re a certified companion or therapy animal. Sometimes, however, we just want to bring our furry friends along. Fortunately, the travel industry has cottoned on to this fact (we hate to give Paris Hilton credit for anything, but she probably did help to facilitate this one), and an increasing number of hotels, airlines, bars, and even restaurants are cool with guests bringing along an animal.
If you’re thinking of hitting the road (or skies) with your dog, cat, or even rabbit (don’t laugh; the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel has a lot of guests from Asia who travel with their bunny buddies), here’s some tips on making the journey easier for everyone involved:
Do your research
Don’t waste your precious holiday time trying to find a hotel last-minute that accepts pets. Book rooms beforehand, and be sure to ask about pet deposits. CNN posted an article today on the 12 of the world’s dog-friendliest hotels. Many properties go to great lengths to ensure your loved one (no, we’re not talking about your spouse or partner) is comfortable, well-fed, and walked regularly, even if you’re busy enjoying other activities. The same book-ahead/ask questions before, not after, approach should apply with regard to airlines and other forms of public transportation.
Assess your pet’s attitude
The cardinal sin of traveling with a pet is toting along an animal with behavioral issues. This is especially true if you’re flying or taking another form of public transit. No one is going to sympathize with you if your cat is yowling or your dog isn’t housebroken. Hotels also don’t appreciate pet damage. We get it, it’s your baby. But be honest with yourself (better yet, ask someone unbiased, like your vet) about your pet’s behavior, and whether or not they’ll make a good travel companion.
Get to the vet
You should always take your pet to the vet for a physical before a big trip, or if you know they’re an anxious traveler. Sedatives can reduce their stress, (and in the process, that of seatmates and guests in neighboring rooms), and you also want to rule out any health issues. Try to avoid traveling with baby animals, especially those that haven’t had all of their immunizations.
If you’re traveling overseas or even out-of-state, certain documents such as rabies certificates will likely be required. A pet passport will also be required for certain countries, and will make traveling with your animal easier. Quarantine is also required for certain species traveling to and from specific destinations, including Hawaii (which doesn’t have rabies, and they’d like to keep it that way, thanks).A clean bill of health from your veterinarian is also commonly required.
Flying the furry skies
Airline policies vary, so be prepared to make a lot of calls. Pet Airlines is a handy aggregate site that directs you to the pet policies of various airlines and hotels. If at all possible, have your pet travel with you in coach. Airline travel is stressful for pets regardless, but in cargo, the temperature can reach dangerous levels (be it heat or cold), and once in a blue moon, mistakes do occur with regard to transfers or baggage handling. It’s worth the extra dollars to keep an eye on your pet; you may also want to consider pet insurance.
Try to stick to a schedule
As previously mentioned, travel can be stressful for pets. It’s important that you stick to regular feeding times (if there’s a major time change, you’ll have to slowly adjust it) and your usual pet food; changing an animal’s diet suddenly can result in gastrointestinal upsets. Exercise and playtime are also critical. While you’re at it, suss out the nearest 24-hour emergency vet clinic.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is a not-for-profit motor club that has been helping travelers since 1902. Formed mainly in response to a lack of roads and highways suitable for automobiles, AAA membership has evolved to serve the changing needs of more than 50 million members. Tackling everything from emergency roadside assistance to road maps, travel guides and travel services along the way, AAA is relevant today too. Advice and discounts cover everything from saving money buying a car to caring for and traveling with pets.
“Owning a pet, whether it’s a dog, a cat, a hamster or a bird, can be pricey,” says AAA in its monthly newsletter. “In this sluggish economy, everyone is on the lookout for ways to shed unnecessary expenses, and spoiling our pets may not make the budget.”
AAA directs members looking to save on spay/neuter services, discount pet food and medication to partners such as Pets Warehouse, PetFoodDirect and large retailers like Costco, PETCO and PetSmart.
On the road, AAA’s hotel search engine will help travelers locate a AAA Diamond-Rated hotel fit for them and their pet. A copy of AAA’s “Traveling With Your Pet” ($9.99 digital edition available at the iTunes Store, Amazon.com and bn.com), details pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, attractions and more.The AAA website has free information on traveling with pets too, including:
AAA also offers discounts on vacation packages, cruise vacations and more. A lot has changed at AAA since 1902, including up-to-date mobile apps and a YouTube channel that can be a great help to the travelers of today.
AAA online guidebooks, launched last year, let members download free digital guides for their Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Reader or smartphones equipped with an e-reader application. Site visitors to AAA.com/ebooks can view the available eTourBook titles, but only AAA members can initiate a download. To complete the process, members login to download titles to their personal computer and then sync the files to their portable device.
This video about safe summer travel is typical of what AAA has for motorists.
I am not a pet owner – so I never thought about the challenges involved in letting Fifi or Mr. Bigglesworth relieve themselves during a trip.
Apparently, the Washington D.C. airports did consider these challenges, because they just opened several designated pet relief areas.
At Dulles, two of these areas are actually inside the airport. Each of these fenced in areas has a fake fire hydrant, artificial grass and bag dispensers. To keep things clean, these locations also have special ventilation and a flushing system. Three other locations at Dulles are pre-secruity, outside the main terminal building.
At Reagan National, all the relief areas are outside the terminal buildings. They are located at Terminal A, B and C. A map of the locations can be found here. The relief areas were originally intended for service animals, but traveling pets are also welcome.
I’ve traveled with my cats a few times while making some cross country moves. I hated cramming them into squat cages to fit them under my airplane seat and I really hated having to pay a few hundred dollars for their own “tickets” plus the vet checks and paperwork that certified them as healthy enough to fly. But never would I have considered trying to smuggle them on a flight inside my luggage. Yet that’s exactly what a man traveling from Madrid to Dublin did with a small Chihuahua dog.
Somehow the man was able to get the dog, which was in a cage inside his luggage, through security in Madrid. When he got off the plane in Dublin after a 2.5 hour flight, customs officials noticed a strange outline as they X-rayed his bag. They thought it was a stuffed animal until they opened the bag and found the live dog.
The man, who is originally from Bulgaria, has been arrested. The dog was reportedly in fine condition and is being held in quarantine after which, I hope he will be placed in the care of someone with a little more common sense.