Pet travel tips
August is the second-most popular vacation month of the year and Labor Day marks the last big holiday weekend of the summer.
If you're among the millions of people in the United States planning an end-of-summer getaway and if you can't bear to leave your four-legged family members at home, the Travel Channel offers the following tips for traveling with pets.
FLY THE PET-FRIENDLY SKIES
Flying with your pet is actually a lot easier than it sounds, as most airlines are quite animal-friendly.
However, each airline has its own set of regulations. Be sure to check out a carrier's policy before you book your flight.
Most airlines extend two traveling options to furry friends — either carry-on or checked. You may already have a favorite pet carrier, but check with the airline in advance to ensure it meets specific regulations.
Guidelines for pet carriers vary depending on how your cat or dog will fly. Small pets may come aboard as carry-on luggage in a hard or soft carrier, which must be stored under the seat for the duration of the flight. Larger pets that travel in cargo must fly in a non-collapsible carrier with an ample supply of water. In most cases, the weight of the animal and the carrier must not exceed 100 pounds.
HIT THE ROAD
If you're looking to travel by train or bus, you're probably out of luck. Most national carriers do not permit pets, other than service animals. That limits you to your car if you're using the open road.
Car travel is more convenient, because you can set your own schedule and have your furry friend nearby for the duration of the trip. But there are some safety tips to consider.
Don't let your dog or cat ride in your lap in the front seat. You can let your pet find a comfortable and safe spot in the back seat, if you're not concerned about him or her roaming around the around the car and distracting you while driving. The safest way for your pet to travel is in a carrier that's buckled in by a seat belt.
Talk to your vet before you embark on your trip to determine the best way to handle your dog or cat's anxiety on the road. If your pet has car anxiety, your vet may recommend sedatives to ease nerves and car sickness. Pets can get sick on the road just like human passengers, but negotiating the barf bag is a bit trickier.
Plan for plenty of pit stops along the way for fresh air and bathroom breaks. When it's time for you to hit the rest stop, leave the window open a crack for ventilation. Of course, avoid leaving your pet in the car unattended for an extended amount of time. Hot cars kill many pets in America every summer.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
As more travelers now set off on adventures with their pets, the hotel industry has responded with many pet-friendly options. Currently offering pet-friendly properties are high-end hotel chains, including the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton; boutique hotels, like those in the Kimpton Group; and budget hotels, including Red Roof Inn and La Quinta.
Call individual hotels or visit their websites to learn about their pet policies. Be prepared to pay an additional fee to bed down with your pet at night.
Whether you're renting a beach house or a mountainside ski chalet, don't assume Fluffy is welcome without checking first. Some rentals have strict policies on pets, but many welcome animals for a fee. Websites such as pettravel.com and HomeAway.com provide listings for animal-friendly rentals around the world.
Finally, prepare for medical emergencies. Before you leave for your trip, research emergency vet clinics at your destination in case you require an unexpected trip to the animal doctor.
If you decide to leave your pet behind, get recommendations for a good kennel close to home — or, if Fluffy is a cat — a responsible pet sitter.