Have pet, will definitely, unapologetically, travel. Rather than a mundane walk around the local block, jet-setting pets are increasingly finding themselves chasing sticks in parks far from home. The hospitality industry has also done an about-face in recent years and is now giving our furry companions the (stain-resistant) red-carpet treatment, with blankets, treats and perhaps even the services of pet concierges.
For AMA Travel director of sales Nikola Berube, the benefits of travelling with her family’s black Lab, Lucy, are clear: “We like to travel with her because she’s part of the family, plus we save money on kennels and don’t have to worry about her catching something at a kennel.”
The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association suggests owners pack up-to-date health and vaccination certificates and reserves of medication, while also warning that travel can be stressful for anxious, diabetic or older animals. ID tags are also a must.
Other pre-trip business to consider: will the friends and family you plan to visit be excited or daunted to see your extra passenger? Are you able to pre-book pet-friendly stays? Advance planning is essential, as most hotels have a limited stock of pet-accessible rooms. When heading overseas, check with the consulate of the destination country about requirements and quarantine regulations.
Flying to your destination? Pets were once shipped exclusively via the cargo hold. Now, cats and lap dogs can travel in the passenger cabin on some major airlines, in airline-approved carriers that slip under the seat in front of you. Larger breeds ship as cargo in approved kennels (bring your own or rent one from the airline).
Air Canada and WestJet detail their pet policies and procedures on their websites. Some highlights: it costs about $100 to fly a small pet in the cabin round-trip within North America, and double that for Air Canada’s international flights. Pets travelling as baggage cost $100 and up, depending on the distance and the carrier.
If you’re road tripping with pets, put them in a carrier, or harness them in the back seat. If you have to leave them inside the vehicle alone, make sure they have proper ventilation and water, and check on them often. As to where you can travel with pets, Dogs in Canada magazine recently cited Montreal, Vancouver, New York and Houston as being among the dog-friendliest cities on the continent based on green space, amenities and civic attitudes. The AAA’s annually updated guide Travelling with Your Pet lists thousands of pet-friendly accommodations across North America, including more than 40 Alberta cities and towns, plus U.S. getaway favourites such as Great Falls, Montana and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
At pet-friendly hotels, expect to be asked not to leave your pet untended in the room. Nothing disturbs other guests like the croon of the lonely dog blues. “Also, keep your dog on a short leash when you’re walking in and out of the hotel, so you don’t disturb other guests, and ask the concierge if there is a pre-ferred entrance for dogs,” suggests Berube. And remember: there may be charges for damage caused by pets.
If you’re going to be camping, investigate pet rules before you book. Many campsites levy a daily charge for pets, and others prohibit leaving your pet alone outside your RV or tent.
Some towns have proudly gone to the dogs, especially here in the friendly West. Jasper is a case in point: the doggie set enjoys snuggling down at pet-friendly lodgings such as the Sawridge Inn. At the south end of the Icefields Parkway, the Fairmont Banff Springs and the Lake Louise Inn, among other establishments, welcome pets. When out and about, the usual on-leash and poop-and-scoop rules apply as much to visitors as to any resident dog owner.
No matter where or how one travels with a pet, one thing is certain: the trip is sure to produce as many fond memories as smudged nose prints on the rear window.