Traveling with Pets

Pet-Friendly Airlines and Hotels

Some travelers are hesitant to leave their beloved four-legged family members behind when they go on vacation; now, it’s increasingly possible to bring them along to share in the fun. This is great news for many travelers; it  eliminates worry about leaving pets behind so trips can be free of this added stress.

Airports, airlines and hotels have made it easier to take your dog or cat on a trip; it will require some advance planning, a careful reading of regulations to make sure your pet can travel safely and an additional expenditure. When comparing to the cost of boarding your pets or hiring a pet-sitter to care for your pets in your absence, travel expenditures may be considerably less.

You’ll often find the welcome mat rolled out even before boarding.

Under federal regulations designed to make them accessible to passengers traveling with service dogs, airports are required to have animal relief areas; those areas are open to all travelers. Atlanta’s airport, for example, offers a fenced-in dog park landscaped with flowers, grass, rocks and benches and biodegradable bags for waste collection. New York’s JFK Airport is building a state-of-the-art terminal for animals that’s scheduled to open next year.

Airlines will accept pets on board for a fee; the rules regarding how your pet can travel will vary. There are different regulations depending on the size and breed of the animal, the type of plane, the destination and even the time of year. For example, Delta Airlines does not accept pets as “checked baggage” from May 15 to September 15.

Delta’s Pet First service allows small dogs, cats and household birds to travel in the cabin if they’re at least 10 weeks old and fit in a kennel stored underneath a seat. Other animals, including larger dogs and cats, guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, can fly as checked baggage.  For some international destinations, pets, with the exception of service animals, must travel as cargo. United Airlines allows cats, small dogs, rabbits and birds in the aircraft cabin on most domestic flights for a service charge of $125 each way. Restrictions apply based on the aircraft, cabin and seat. Passengers with pets cannot be seated in the bulkhead or emergency exit row and only a certain number of pets are permitted on each flight, so it’s important to reserve a spot early.

Once you’ve booked a flight for you and your pet, the next step is finding a hotel. Like airlines, major hotel chains have varying policies.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts leaves it up to individual brands or properties to decide whether pets can be accommodated. Generally, hotels that accept pets allow cats and smaller dogs–those under 50 pounds–although hotel managers have some discretion. Hotels will charge either a daily fee or a cleaning fee to have a pet in a room. Some require guests to sign a waiver agreeing to pay for the cleanup or repair of any damage caused by their pet.

Usually, pets cannot be left in a room unattended; some chains, including Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, offer pet daycare. Hotels that allow pets will often make an effort to pamper your pooch. Some Hyatt properties provide a dog bed and bowl as well as a dog-walk area with clean-up stations.

For help planning a vacation with your pet, contact your travel agent; your agent will be knowledgeable on the various pet policies and point you in the right pet-friendly direction. With a little extra planning, your vacation can truly be one for the whole family to enjoy–even the furry family members.