Love them like family. Feed them like family.

Vacationing with Furry Family Members

Everyone needs to get away from it all once in a while, but that might not mean getting away from your four-legged friends. More and more, pet parents are taking canines and felines along for the ride and even letting the fur fly on continental flights.  

The Automobile Association of America (AAA) has found that more than half of U.S. families take their pets on vacation.1 Fortunately, more hotels, resorts, restaurants, and national parks have embraced fur-friendly practices to accommodate them.

 Here are a few ways to get in on the pet travel trend, too.

Take a hike

What dog doesn’t love a walk? Most states have public land use permits so you can enjoy our country’s wild side on a hiking adventure with leashed loved ones.

If your four-legged pals are healthy and sure-footed, you can even tackle the Appalachian Trail. With 2,170 miles of back woods bliss from Maine to Georgia, you and your companion can get plenty of exercise.

You’ll need to check each state’s department of natural resources (DNR) for specific rules and restrictions because some limit the number of pets allowed on the trail.

Gear tip: Planning a walkabout? Larger breed dogs can carry custom backpacks for their own supplies. Hey, you may be a terrific pet parent but you didn’t sign up to be Spot’s Sherpa.

National bark restrictions

Local state parks make great “day-cation” destinations, especially when you don’t relish long drives with pets.

Most U.S. national parks allow furry friends to camp with you but never leave them unattended at the site. Keep in mind, pets usually won’t have free-range privileges on beaches and certain trails, and many historic sites restrict them altogether.

Most importantly, obey every rule, keep your pets on leash or within earshot of your commands, and always clean up after them.

Gear tip: Unless you like listening to your pet snore, a separate pup tent with his/her own bedding is wise. Remember to pack their leash, food, water and bowl, treats, toys, and medicine. Bring a copy of vaccination records, a first-aid kit, plus flea and tick repellent. 

Play ball

Most dogs love playing catch so what could be better than celebrating our national pastime with your favorite friend? Many major league baseball teams sponsor “Bark in the Park” events where you can bring your pooch to a live game. Check out www.mlb.com for dog-friendly happenings to plan your visit.

Also, many cities and towns throughout the country feature canine “play days” with Frisbee tournaments, agility courses and other pet happenings.

Some pet parents even plan their travels around the dog and cat shows where pets can compete in breed shows, obedience trials, hunting tests and other AKC-affiliated programs.

Amusement hound

Many theme parks have pet-sitting amenities for a fee; you just supply Spot’s food. So now you can enjoy the rollercoaster without worrying whether Spot tore apart the hotel room or not.

Well-behaved, leash-controlled pets are usually welcome at RV parks, too, where recreation areas and pet-sitters are often available.

Dive in

You don’t have to have a water dog to know that many canines love the sea, even if it’s just riding a boat. Nature Cruises Aboard the Acadian in Maine, BayWatch Dolphin Tours of Galveston, TX, and Canine Cruises on the Mercury Skyline in Chicago all offer pet-friendly sightseeing tours for good boys and girls.

Numerous beach parks permit pets to jump right in. At the Coronado Dog Beach in California, dogs can wade and wander off leash and at The Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin, they can even learn new swimming skills.

When it comes to teaching old dogs new tricks, you and your best friend can learn to paddle board and surf at Del Mar Dog Beach in San Diego, CA. through the Helen Woodward Animal Center.

Then join in the dog- and kid-friendly fun at the annual Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon rescue event in September. Get details about this year’s free competition at www.animalcenter.org/events/Surfdog

Luxe retreats

If you and your pet are more pampered than outdoorsy, some lavish hotels in Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Nashville and New York have hosted pet/parent massages complete with canine cocktail hours.

Urban bark parks are often plentiful, and many fur-friendly accommodations have fenced areas for off-leash antics. Hotels can often give you local listings for pet-friendly restaurants, attractions and emergency vet contacts.

And, even though the majority of pet-traveling parents vacation with dogs, hotels can cater to cats, too; you might just want to confirm before booking.

4 Legs, 35,000 Feet

Flying with your beloved pet? Whether you’re carrying them on board or in cargo, call the airline first for their specific rules. Some require health certificates no more than ten days old, so be ready to plan a vet visit before your trip.

Also, book your pet's flight when you book your own because you don’t want to arrive at the airport to find there’s no cargo room left if you’re not taking them on board.

Pack along your pet’s favorite blanket, toys and treats but not leashes that can tangle around their necks en route. Be sure to feed and water pets prior to take off, but their stomachs and bladders shouldn’t be too full, especially for longer flights.

Try to feed dogs six to eight hours before departure and take them for a pit stop as close to final boarding as feasible. Be sure cats and dogs drink some water pre-flight for proper hydration.

To help curb any pre-flight anxiety (yours and your pet’s) crate them before you enter a hectic terminal. You can buy appropriate carriers through the airlines or at pet stores.

Remember, cats can squeeze through narrow openings so be sure containers are in lock-down mode.

As with any precious cargo, ensure your furry kid is wearing an I.D. tag, and carry pictures of them along with a copy of their vaccination and medical records.  

Bon Voyage!

Rules for the road when vacationing with pets
  • Always clean up after furry family
  • Keep dogs on leash
  • Travel with pets who’ve had obedience training
  • Warn other travelers if your pet’s aggressive
  • Take your dog for a long walk, pre-trip
  • Don’t feed your pet in the car; stop for bathroom & food breaks
    • Crate or harness dogs when driving
    • Never leave your pet in the car during hot months, even with open windows
    • Pack your pet’s favorite toys along for familiarity and fun
Questions to ask for worry-free boarding

If your furry family can’t vacation with you, interview boarding facilities on site to help ensure your pets get the best care.

Is the kennel spiffy?  Look for top-notch litter/pooper scoopers who clean up after every boarder
Bed bugs? Check that there’s zero tolerance for fleas & ticks on the premises
Security breach? Be sure there aren’t easy escape routes so Spot stays!
H2O plentiful? You supply the food but the kennel should keep all pets properlywatered
Plenty of paw-room? The kennel should allow 75 sq. feet per dog, depending on their size and activity level
Trained humans? Check for experienced, knowledgeable, compassionate personnel who always supervise playtime