There are those who absolutely swear by traveling with their pet, and wouldn’t dream of doing things any other way! Then there are those who believe that leaving their pet behind is the best and safest option for them and their furbaby. The thing is, they’re both right! Traveling with your pet can be an incredible experience, but can also be nerve-wracking. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, or even just less-than-smoothly, when a furbaby is in tow. In saying that, there are some pretty great benefits in having your pet along for the ride. I’ve put together some points from both sides of the story, detailing the pros and cons of traveling with a pet, so you can make your mind up for yourself and your little (or not-so-little) loved one!
Here are the benefits of traveling with a pet:
No more separation anxiety! And I’m talking about you here! If you take your beloved cat or dog (or rabbit or hamster) along with you, then you need not be worried about them pining for you at home. By the same token, you won’t spend your trip missing them and wishing you could show them all the new sights and smells - especially the smells - of the local spots.
No costs for sitters or worry about pet
If you leave your pet behind, you’ll need to fork out a fair bit of money. This will go either to a pet-sitter, who is then in your house while you’re away, or to a boarding kennel. While getting a sitter might make you feel like your house is safer, you’ll still be spending your trip wondering if your pet is okay, whether the sitter is treating him or her nicely, when your pet was last fed, and so on. Kennels, too, are known for their cost as well as being home to the dreaded ‘kennel cough’ which can see healthy pets pick up a bit of a lurgy in such constant close confines with others. Keeping your pet with you takes away any of the worry about how well they’re being looked after in your absence.
Social - lets you meet people
Pets are the great equalizer. You know this. Taking your dog or cat for a walk guarantees you approximately 325% more smiles from strangers *made-up statistic* and is the perfect ice-breaker. People love animals and you’re likely to meet a bunch of locals naturally this way. If your pet, and particularly dogs, is the friendly type (loves pats, scritches and giving out licks), then you’ll definitely lock down some new friends in the new place.
Socialization for the animal
As much as your pet tagging along can improve your social life, so it is for them. Being exposed to completely new places, new scents, new people and new environments is good for your pet. Make sure you introduce these things in a way your pet will cope with - you’re the expert on your pet, so you’ll know how to approach this - and you’ll have a happier, more chilled pet in the long run.
New shared experiences
Traveling with your pet allows you to experience things together and create shared memories. Especially for solo travelers who crave that independence but still enjoy company, having your pet with you allows you to share in the experiences while not having to seek a second opinion on the day’s plans. And years later you’ll be able to look through the photos and smile at the fun you had together!
Force you out and about
When you travel with a pet, it can make you go to areas or places you mightn’t otherwise. The walkies requirement means that you’ll pound more of the pavement and could find yourself somewhere interesting. It’ll get you away from the tourist traps and into the more authentically local parts of town. You could also just stumble across a really nice park or two, where you can chill and unwind from the rigors of the travel.
Look like a local
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of travel that tourists can get picked on by nefarious characters. Being out and about with your pup, especially, marks you as more of a local and will have you looking like less of a target. Of course, if your pup happens to be big enough, you could be the most touristy tourist whoever touristed and you’d still find people giving you a respectful berth. All this personal space, for me? Oh, you shouldn’t have!
It’s gotten easier
While traveling with pets was a headache, once upon a time, it has undoubtedly gotten easier over the past few decades. A lot more airlines, trainlines, bus lines, hotels and areas are accepting of animals than used to be. This means that some of the old horror tales of pet travel simply don’t ring true anymore!
Despite the chirpy nature of my last sentences above, there are a few… let’s say minor speed bumps… that can mar an otherwise smooth trip.
Costs for tickets and carriers
If you’re doing anything other than driving yourself or checking your animal as aircraft carry-on luggage, you’ll need to pay to transport your pet. Tickets can add up, since they need to be purchased for every leg of the trip that you’re on. You’ll need a carrier to transport your pet safely, too, either a soft case for in-cabin, or a hard, made-to-specifications carrier for cargo hold or to go behind the seat in the car.
Organization - paperwork, food
Whereas you can just grab your passport and go, your pet will need a bit more organizing to get ready for travel. If you’re going international, or even interstate, you’ll need to get a pet passport made up. These indicate that your pet is up-to-date with rabies vaccinations and micro-chipped, and that you’ve jumped through any of the hoops your destination country or state requires. Rabies vaccines take 28 days to be completely effective, so you’ll need to plan this out well in advance. Getting your animal flea and tick treated before travel is not just a requirement for lots of places, but it’s also polite. You don’t want to be responsible for infestations all the way along your travel route!
Stress on animal
While you might think that being left at home is more stressful, going through the processes of traveling can be rough on your pet’s state of mind. If flying and coming as carry-on, your pet will have its movement restricted among a whole lot of strangers, sights, sounds and smells. This can be overstimulating and cause anxiety for pets. If being checked, there is the possibility of rough handling and very high or low temperatures while waiting on the tarmac. If your pet is a nervous type, particularly for cats, the constant changes and lack of a secure home environment can be stressful and anxiety-inducing.
The above mentioned stress could lead to an escape incident. This is a time of enough worry at home, where you know the lay of the land and who to call and where to look. In an unfamiliar place, and when you’re under time pressure, this can be incredibly difficult. It’s not to say it will happen, but it’s best to consider the possibilities.
This covers all manner of sins. A lot of hotels are now pet-friendly, but this can be more in word than in deed, so call or email for a policy, and check their reviews. You will also find that there are some that flat-out refuse to take animals, no matter how well behaved. This means you’ll need to plan ahead so as to not face being turned away at the end of a long and exhausting day of travel. Restaurants are the same, and you don’t want to have to leave your pet at the hotel alone for too long, in case they do something to make the hotel a little less pet-friendly in future! Also, you brought your pet along to hang out with, so you don’t want to keep them cooped up while you go out too much, or what was the point of bringing them?
No dogs allowed
Having a pet with you can curtail the places that you can go to. We’ve all seen those ubiquitous ‘No Dogs Allowed’ signs in cities and on beaches and at parks. If you haven’t planned out your trip properly, you might find that you are simply unable to go to some of the spots you had planned on, or visit certain parts of countries you’d wanted to.
Wrapping it up
I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Traveling with a pet requires a bit more thinking and planning on your part, for sure. But it also sounds pretty great. Again, there’s no right or wrong. You can use this cheat-sheet to help you weigh up the alternatives, as they apply to your pet, your pet’s temperament, breed and social skills. Whichever way you go about it, happy travels!