School is out and that means it's time for family vacations. And many pet lovers will be faced with the dilemma of what to do with their pets while they travel.
A 2009 Travel Industry Association survey indicated that 14 percent, or more than 29 million people, said they have taken a pet on a trip that was more than 50 miles away from home. Traveling animals included cats (15 percent), birds (2 percent) and either a ferret, rabbit or fish (3 percent). But 78 percent of the respondents listed the family dog as the most common traveling pet.
Planning for a trip that includes your pet is essential, said Janet Fullwood, senior editor of DogTrekker who was travel editor for the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee for 22 years. She provided these tips to help make your travel plans a vacation for every member of the family.
• Always speak with a live person before booking a hotel or vacation rental that claims to be dog-friendly. Many properties won't accept certain breeds, some have weight restrictions and some allow pets only in their most undesirable rooms. Pet fees can be per day or per stay, so be sure to clarify.
• Don't take off on a camping or hiking trip assuming that your dog can accompany you on trails. At many state and national parks, canines are restricted to campgrounds. Rules in national forests tend to be more relaxed.
• To minimize canine-caused distractions on the road, make sure your dog is safely secured in a crate or with a seat belt leash or harness.
• Familiar food, toys, bedding and other comforts from home will help the animal be more relaxed in new environments. Bring a gallon or so of water from home to minimize stomach upsets, and pack cleanup supplies and old towels for muddy feet. If you allow dogs on furniture at home, bring a sheet to cover beds and couches in hotel rooms.
• Make sure your dog is microchipped and has an ID tag that includes your cellphone number. Tuck a copy of shot records in your canine travel kit and carry photos, just in case.
• "Leave no trace" principles are not just for camping. Always, always pick up after your dog.