Thursday, July 16, 2009

Traveling Pets

Traveling with your pet this summer? Here are some things to think about...

Get a clean bill of health
Schedule a veterinary exam shortly before your trip. Most airlines require a health certificate and proof of vaccinations issued no more than 10 days before your flight, says Paul Mann, the founder of national pet service Fetch! Pet Care.

Pick up airline miles
JetBlue adds frequent-flier miles for pets traveling in the cabin to their human companion’s account, and Continental offers them for animals riding in the cargo hold.

Look for fee-free hotels
There’s no need to pay extra to keep your pet with you once you arrive, Mann says. Some properties charge a security deposit, but chains including Best Western and Marriott allow most pets to stay for free. Kimpton Hotels throws in freebies like fresh dog treats baked on site.

Leaving Your Pet at Home

The American Pet Supply Association projects that spending on pet-care services such as boarding and day care could climb 6% to $3.4 billion in 2009. Here’s how to get the most for your money:

Start with a sitter
Kennels and other boarding facilities can offer social dogs a great vacation, but most pets will be happier staying in familiar surroundings, most veterinarians say. Leaving pets at home with a sitter can put them more at ease in your absence and is more economical, too. For example, Petaholics, a New York-based pet-care firm, offers both sitter and kennel services. The company charges $40 a night to board a cat, but a 30-minute daily visit from a sitter costs half that, and includes feeding, litter box maintenance and cat playtime. (The sitter also picks up the mail, waters plants and takes out the trash.)

Check references
Choose a caregiver that’s insured and has a good reputation, Mann says. Ask other pet owners and your veterinarian for recommendations. Also schedule a visit -- in-home for sitters, on-site for boarders -- before traveling, so you can make sure your pet will be safe and comfortable.

Break down charges
Whether you opt for a kennel or a sitter, have the company spell out what’s included in the rate, Saunders says. You may be able to negotiate a lower rate if you forego extras like mail pickup or daily grooming. Negotiating can also clarify which option best suits your needs, she says. A kennel that includes a full day of activities might be a better deal for an active dog than a sitter who charges extra for taking hour-long walks and playtimes instead of half-hour ones.

Dig for discounts
Sitters and boarding facilities offer reduced rates. AAA members save 10% on the services at Fetch! Pet Care. Beverly’s Pet Campus outside Indianapolis offers a print-out coupon good for a discount of $4 per night (an 18% discount) when you book a stay of five nights or longer.

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