Should you travel with your pet? The PROS and CONS you didn't know
Because I have zero kids to tote, I travel frequently with my pup, Ruby, who took her first flight when she was three-weeks old and has been on 50+ journeys since. When I roll out my suitcase, her tail wags furiously because a) she knows she's going on a trip and b) she knows she’ll be spoiled shitzu-less. I wrote about Ruby in my pet travel story for New York Post here, and she even has her own Twitter, Pup In Paradise, where she’ll Tweet/Woof! her adventures.
Traveling with a pet is awesome, and I truly believe they enjoy it. I know it can sound really strange personifying pets, but Ruby loves NYC and Mexico. Seriously, weird to write that, but it's true. Ruby loves Central Park, the bike lane in Lower East Side and the sprawling beaches of Cabo, and she basically gets bitchface when we leave.
All dog owners should know know pet travel is famously on the rise. According to Market Research, 32 percent of pet owners take their "furry friends" on a trip (two nights or more). That's almost half of the 80 million American families who own pets, and travel businesses are making it easier to bring Fido. Bottom line: Pets are welcome more now than ever before.
Despite the incredible joy that comes with pet travel companions, it can often be stressful for the owner—so I wrote out PROS and CONS for those who are still on the fence. Obviously, considering how often I travel with Ruby, the pros trump the cons, but if you're considering traveling with your pooch for the first time, you should know what you're in for below.
1. Pet travel is widely accepted now. More hotels, airlines and restaurants are recognizing pets as "family." As I outlined in my NY Post story, about 95 percent of US airlines now allow pets on board. You might not even question this, but jump to 2007 when most airlines did not allow on-board pets. Same with hotels. A hotel declining pets is rare in 2017. There needs to be a sound reason to turn away pets (i.e.: the hotel is in an area with wild coyote, a 200-year-old boutique is chockfull of antiques). Even Vegas resorts, un-pet-friendly for decades, recently begun allowing pets (like Bellagio, Four Seasons, Cosmopolitan, etc).
2. Peace of mind. All pet owners endure the inevitable anxiety when they're separated from their pet for a few days. When you bring them on your trip, it takes off the edge. Many hotels offer pet services, there are apps like Wag! for walking/sitting and even local pet shops that sit, which are convenient when you know you'll be out all day in conferences or whatever.
3. Pets can help you explore areas you’d never think about. I can’t tell you how many times I went to a beautiful park, a random, lively street or a great restaurant with a pet-friendly patio if I didn't have Ruby.
4. Pets make flights less of a drag. Ruby brings tons of joy on a flight, and not just for me. Passengers and flight attendants give her considerable attention and they love seeing cute little dogs on their flight.
5. Pets will be totally spoiled. Depending on the hotel, staff will spoil the hell out of your pet. From toys and treats to pet dining menus and massages (see photo!), pets really do get a vacation out of your vacation.
6. Pets make great social media, and people love this. Ruby has made a lot of friends on her journeys, and they stay in touch on Twitter.
1. Some "pet friendly" hotels are misleading. I mentioned that many hotels are not pet friendly but, ironically, many pet-friendly hotels are in fact not pet friendly. While a hotel may allow pets, they don't truly cater to them, whether they lack pet amenities, staff are difficult with them and/or green areas/parks are miles away by foot, which becomes an inconvenience for you and your pet. Definitely read all the fine print at a hotel before booking. There was one hotel in San Francisco that "welcomed" pets but it had a strict pet policy. You had to carry your pet through the lobby, the pet was not allowed in public spaces, and it must be in a cage in the room when you were not there. SERIOUSLY. It was basically a pet prison.
2. Pet travel can be expensive. Most airlines charge at least $125 one way with an in-cabin pet. This can cost as much as your own plane ticket for a round-trip flight. When I drive long distances, Ruby is fine, but make sure your pet can handle being in a car for several hours. The way I can often justify Ruby's travels is that it would cost me the same to hire a dog sitter. Hotels are also known to charge insane fees so definitely look into their rates. Kimpton, the most pet-friendly hotel chain, has a "pets stay for free" policy at all their hotels, which can you save you hundreds.
3. Not all airports have pet facilities. There’s some airports with great pet facilities, not only outdoors (like the dog park at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport) but also indoors like "relief" stations at LAX and Atlanta again. For the most part, not all airports are equipped with these amenities, but they're always in the works.
4. It can be bad for your back. Ruby is only 10 lbs, but carrying her in her soft carrier bag that hangs from my shoulder (for a good majority of the transit) puts a lot of strain on my back. Many travelers keep small dogs in these soft-sided crates, which can weigh you down. The advantage: my shoulders look great!
5. Your pet might freak out from a room they don't recognize. Dogs love routine, so a new hotel room might be confusing to them. Considering Ruby is very accustomed to this, I’m grateful that I don’t get drama from her. She gets it. But other dogs may freak out from unfamiliar territory, which could cause them to bark or act strange. Even though Ruby is OK with it, out of habit, I still spend the first hour with her, letting her get familiar with the room, taking her out so she can explore the surroundings and just understand where she is.
6. You might start a pet travel addiction. I definitely recommend bringing your pet at least once on your vacation, but be careful. You might get addicted. That's the biggest Con!