How Seniors Can Travel with Pets
Airlines, Destinations and Hotels Become Pet-Friendly
Sep 14, 2006 Maryan Pelland
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It's no longer difficult to travel with your dogs, cats or guinea pigs, especially if you keep some common sense rules in mind.
Traveling with pets, particularly dogs, is becoming all the rage. In Europe, people have always taken their dogs with them to restaurants, shopping, or to the park. Here in North America the trend has been to practically restrict dogs out of public existence. I suppose it's an attempt to avoid viewing or stepping in or around what dogs produce.
For ages, many municipalities have prohibited dog walking in parks. In my state, Florida, you can't take your pooch for a run on most beaches. No dogs in public buildings nor in many rental residences.
But times are a changin'. Dog parks are sprouting everywhere. Some open air restaurants permit well-mannered canines to accompany owners. Hundreds of kicky dog accoutrements are marketed for travel - like sun glasses, car restraints and sunscreen.
And every year, more hotels and resorts become pet-friendly. I'll bet you didn't know many airlines, like American, Delta, US Air, Midwest and United, have programs ranging from frequent pet flying miles to pet-class travel.
Make no mistake, though. You'll pay a premium for the privilege. Airlines charge at least $50 to $100 for carry-on or checked-through doggies. Hotels and resorts - the sky's the limit at posh places, but you can find mid-class properties who charge $5 or $10 per night. Some even offer no-charge pet rooms. You may find you're stuck in a smoking room, though. The theory being, a smell is a smell.
I travel frequently with two dogs. Ernie is a 5 year-old black Yorkie/Poodle mix with silver fringes. He's a well-behaved, middle-aged gent with courtly manners. Rudy, a year old, black and tan Yorkie/Silkie mix, is a juvenile delinquent. If he weren't adorable, I would send him down river or where ever one sends dogs who simply don't get it. They My dogs each weigh less than ten pounds.
Really, travel-wise, I have little choice. Not only is doggie boarding pretty costly, you can't count on outcomes. At-home dog sitters (their home) charge between $15 and $25 per day. Personally, because my dogs are so small, I won't send them to a kennel.
There's one little old lady (that means she's older than I am) in our town who does a fantastic job. In fact, when she sat with one of my dogs and he had a little stomach trouble, she cooked him boiled chicken and rice. Real. Not dog food.
On the other hand, I left Ernie with a sitter that worked for a groomer I thought I trusted. When I returned from my weekend trip, Ernie was covered with fleas. She had put him out in an unfenced yard for the entire weekend. The weather here can go very hot in an instant. Fleas are everywhere. I questioned this woman thoroughly before I left and asked her at least half a dozen times if she put the dogs outside alone. She had adamantly insisted she didn't. So there you have it.
Now, I travel with the guys. At various hotels, I've seen dog owners with zero manners. Their dogs are left alone in the room - a no-no. Barking constantly. Any notion of a specified dog-walking area is ignored and they allow pooch to poop anywhere - including in an elevator! Some owners seem not to know what a leash is. You can't blame the dog for these issues - it's human arrogance. There are, of course, many well-behaved pet owners as well.
It boils down to, if you're going to travel with your pets, and some 20 million Americans do, you need to plan ahead, do your homework, and practice consideration for others. Here are 7 quick tips: Make sure your pet is healthy and has all her shots up to date. A pet with tummy troubles or any temporary or permanent health issues won't travel well. If the pet is traveling in a crate put a small favorite toy and something with your scent in the crate. Withhold food for the last three or four hours before you leave. Especially true if you travel by car. You'll minimize the possibility of motion sickness. A little water is ok. When you arrive at your destination, take the dog for a walk first thing. Brisk, no-nonsense walking to the place where you want him to eliminate. Make absolutely sure you know the rules of the house on this matter. Make no changes in diet during the trip. That can cause diarrhea all by itself. Add travel stress and you're asking for a real situation. Not a bad idea to query your vet about take-along anti-diarrhea meds before you leave. Be sure you know where the nearest emergency vet is in every location. Call ahead to check on pet-friendly rules. Don't rely on the Internet - I've found frequently that those listings can be out-of-date. It's miserable to arrive where you think you'll be welcomed, and find yourself booted to the door.
Common sense and owner-responsibility will always save the day. If your vacation plans include tons of sight seeing or frequent outings where your animal will not be welcomed, you'll want to find a local day-care, or leave the dog at home. Be up-front about having an animal with you. Many hotels charge huge penalties if you sneak a pet in and they find out. We can't compel anyone to love or accept the pets we adore, but as pet owners, our actions can prove a business doesn't have to go to the dogs just because they offer pet-friendly accommodations.