Human’s Best Friend: The Why, How and Where of Traveling with Your Pet

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If you've ever pondered packing your pets along with your bags for your next getaway, you're not alone. More and more people—about 37% these days—choose to bring Fido, Fluffy and FiFi along for the ride.

Why? The reasons are myriad.

For some, pets are simply part of the family; the idea of leaving them at home is as unthinkable as leaving a child. For others, being without the calming and mood-lifting effects of pet companionship is hard to imagine, even for a few days. Lack of boarding options and concerns for pets' emotional or physical well-being also influence decisions.

Whatever your motivation, these ideas will help you and your pets travel with greater ease.

Barking Up the Right Tree
Whether you're driving, riding, boating, or flying, there are cautions and considerations to be made before putting your animal companions on board.

First, think of your pets. It may bring you comfort to have your darlings with you, but it may be more stressful—and potentially risky—for them. Are they relaxed in and around unfamiliar surroundings and people? If they need to be stowed on a plane, will that isolation cause fear or anxiety? Do they have any health concerns? It's wise to take these questions into account and talk with your vet before moving forward.

Make sure your pets are wearing identification collars and are microchipped. It's upsetting enough to lose a pet at home; it's exceedingly more distressing if it occurs in a strange city. Investing in sturdy, secure, correctly sized carriers or crates will further help safeguard them. Don't forget water receptacles, extra food and a first-aid kit as you pack for your fuzzy friends.

When booking, call to confirm. Just because a web listing says "pet friendly" doesn't necessarily mean it's friendly to your pets. Some places have size restrictions; others may limit to dogs or cats only. As well, you'll want to ensure accommodations in the surrounding area are open to pets. You don't want to go through the effort of having your pets with you, only to have to leave them in your hotel room all day.

These are a few recommendations. Sites such as petfriendlytravel.com, smatertravel.com and travelandleisure.com offer more comprehensive information.

Something to Squawk About
Now that you know how to plan, let's look at where to go. There are pet-welcoming destinations all across the United States, offering everything from rustic camping to luxury rentals.

If you're thinking of staying closer to home, the Lake Michigan shoreline is ideal—especially for your canine comrades. Spanning the frisky sands of Sawyer to pup-pleasing Petoskey, there are waters for splashing, trails for hiking, and patios for basking. Popular beaches that allow pets include Warren Dunes State Park, Kirk Park, Nordhouse Dunes and Bayfront Park. Some require leashes, while others have off-leash areas. The number of restaurants in Michigan where pets can chill outdoors with their keepers is increasing as well.

Speaking of beaches: Florida and California also get two paws up for their pet friendliness.

Fort De Soto Park—also known as Paw Playground—south of St. Petersburg, Panama City Dog Beach at Pier Park and Key West in its entirety are Sunshine State go-to pet venues.

San Diego and San Francisco are a couple of the Golden State's oases for pet lovers. Check out the aptly named Dog Beach and Fiesta Beach in the former and, in the latter, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which hosts countless beaches, trails, and open spaces for dog frolicking.

Progressive cities such as Portland, Seattle, Asheville, and Austin aren't just forward thinking in their arts, culture, food, and music scenes; they're also known for embracing the pet parenting lifestyle. Parks, parades, festivals, shops, bakeries, daycares and restaurants abound in these hot spots.

Thinking of someplace else? Sites such as gopetfriendly.com, bringfido.com, and dogfriendly.com are additional resources loaded with locations, lodging, ideas, and helpful hints.

Go Ahead, Right Meow
Grab your leashes, prepare your carriers, gather your chew toys, and fill your suitcase with plenty of treats—and make your next vacation as fun for your best friends as it is for you!

Allison Kay Bannister, a West Michigan resident since 1987, professional writer since 2002 and GVSU alumna, recently launched her own freelance writing business. Allison enjoys travel, art, dance, food and exploring world cultures—and, of course, writing about all these and more.

This article originally appeared in West Michigan Woman.


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