On the Fly™ - Editorial Commentary by Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams

May 26, 2003: Put Your Best Paw Forward when Traveling with Your Pet!

I love the idea of taking your four-legged furry family member along on a trip! What could be more fun than putting Fido or Fifi in the car and taking off for an adventure to the seashore, the mountains, or a city you've always dreamed of visiting? With a bit of careful planning, this could be a dream trip filled with a lifetime of wonderful memories. Without that planning, it could be your worst nightmare.

While you've probably planned a visit to the mechanic to be sure your car is ready for this trip, add a trip to the vet to be sure your pet's vaccinations are up to date. Tell your vet you are about to take a road trip and get copies of your pet's health report and certificates showing rabies and all other shots are up to date. Ask for your vet's suggestions for your pet's travel itinerary. As you leave the vet's office, put copies of these documents in the glove compartment of your car so you won't forget them.

Traveling with your pet in a specially designed pet crate or pet safety belt is safer for your pet and the passengers in your car. There is less chance of distracting the driver when your pet is properly controlled and less chance of your pet's injury if you need to stop quickly.

Be sure to take water, pet food and a bowl, your pet's grooming brush, and clean-up items and keep them in the car with you for those moments of immediate need. Buying the same brand of bottled water to use for you pet throughout the trip will help avoid upset to your pet's digestive system as you travel. And bring a leash even if you have a very disciplined dog.

You're first challenge will be what to do with your pet when you stop for a meal. In hot weather, even parked under a tree, your pet's life can be in danger. Never leave your pet in your car! You can remedy the situation by traveling with a picnic basket and stopping for "Food and Frisbee Alfresco!" Bring along a picnic blanket and use your leash for your pet for those populated roadside picnic areas.

Your next challenge will be to find lodging where your pet is welcomed. I've never understood why there are so many places that refuse travelers with pets. Most of the discrimination is aimed at dogs since they are generally harder to "smuggle" into a hotel. Frankly, I've never met a dog that fell asleep with a cigarette in his paw and burned the hotel down. I never met a dog that threw a wild party in the room next door and kept me up all night. And I've never met a dog that took the hotel's ashtrays and towels as "souvenirs." The traveling dogs I've met are well mannered and often more civilized than most people's children and that's why their owners are comfortable traveling with them!

Nonetheless, you'll need to plan your route so that you are assured of lodging at a place that takes your pet. . . and you, too! Websites like www.dogfriendly.com provide a wealth of information and hotel listings for the traveling pet. A unique animal-friendly places is the Applewood Farms Inn (www.visitmystic.com/applewoodfarmsinn) just outside of historic Mystic, CT, which will take you and ANY kind of animals, including horses! Yes, they have stables and 30 miles of trails on their property!

But what happens when you haven't planned well and you are at the intersection of, "We-are-very-tired," and "The-hotels-don't-take-pets!" ?
Try bribing them by offering a hefty security deposit to be charged to your credit card and refunded when you leave your unscathed room. Your confidence in your pet's good manners may get you in the door. You're more apt to be successful with this approach if your pet is well-groomed and well-behaved. And, if you travel with a pet crate, do show the manager the crate and explain that your pet sleeps in his "house" and stays there when you step out of the room.

One last tip: If you plan to do some extended sightseeing, check out a kennel where you can board your pet for a half-day or longer. You might also need to kennel your pet overnight in the event there is no room at the inn for Rover or you are planning an overnight excursion for people only. Remember: the next traveler with a pet will be judged by how the last pet visitor behaved so put your best paw forward!

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