Thanksgiving travel fun? Take the dog ... or cat or bird

Thanksgiving travel with pets doesn't have to be a recipe for disaster. It's easier these days to take your furry friend – just be sure that they're invited.

Courtesy of Sheron Long/AP
Thanksgiving travel with a furry companion can complicate travel plans; but doesn't have to be a disaster. Here, Chula, a Shetland Sheepdog and veteran traveler, at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, Sept. 12, 2012.

Travel for humans during holidays is tough enough: Long lines, crowds everywhere, extra bags full of presents. Throw a pet in the mix, and it's a recipe for disaster.

But Sheron Long, a frequent traveler and author of "Dog Trots Globe — To Paris and Provence," says it's worth the trouble.

RELATED: Travel with toddlers – 6 tips for avoiding airplane meltdowns

 "Every trip was better when Chula could be with us," she said of her Shetland sheepdog. "She was so excited, I could imagine her dog's eye view of the world. It causes you to explore and go see different things and meet people."

The US Department of Transportation estimates more than 2 million pets and other animals are transported by air each year in America. Pets aren't allowed on Amtrak trains, Greyhound buses or cruise lines, but they can go on many regional train, bus, and boat lines.

The majority of four-legged carry-on passengers are dogs, but some airlines allow rabbits, birds, and other small animals. Experts say before including a pet in travel plans, consider whether it would enjoy the experience.

"Some dogs don't like to travel, some love it," said Kelly E. Carter, the pet travel expert for AOL's Paw Nation and a Chihuahua owner. "You have to know your pet."

Caroline Golon's two Persian cats "are not big fans of car travel" – the only way they can travel since their breed is banned by many airlines — so they don't go on trips. Ms. Golon said when they travel, the family stops at pet-friendly hotels rather than drive nonstop.

"Stopping overnight gives them a chance to use the litter box at their leisure and eat and drink comfortably," said Golon, the founder of High Paw Media.

Gwen Cooper, the author of "Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat," said animals pick up on their owners' moods, "which means if you're nervous, your cat or dog is going to be nervous too. The best way to avoid being nervous is to prepare you and your pet ahead of time and think through as many contingencies as possible."

For eligible cats, as well as dogs, airlines have size requirements for pets in the cabin, so a small pet must fit in a carrier that can be stowed under a seat and larger ones must be checked in. Ms. Long's dog weighs 30 pounds, (13 1/2 kilograms) so 9-year-old Chula has to fly in cargo.

During the holidays, though, when planes are fuller and lines are longer, some airlines ban pets in cargo, as well as times when the heat or cold is intense. Certain breeds can never fly on some airlines, including those considered to have bullying characteristics, like pit bulls, and snub-nosed animals like Shih Tzus or Persian cats because of potential breathing problems.

Animals that travel on Amtrak, Greyhound or cruises get a ticket to ride through their roles as service animals. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, trained helper animals such as guide dogs or signal dogs must be allowed.

Pet accommodations at airports differ, though every airport has animal-relief areas. Some are easy to find — San Francisco's has paw prints on the floor leading to them — and most or all areas are located outside of security checkpoints. Federal transportation guidelines require animals to be removed from carriers, so pets should be collared and leashed — especially cats. Pet carriers are not X-rayed, but owners' hands may be wiped for chemical testing.

The hassle of traveling is only half over once the plane lands. Carter, who once canceled a trip in which she and her dog were hoping to try a new hotel in Northern California, recounted how the hotel worded its pet policy online: "We are smoke-free and pet-free."

"[A]re pets being considered killers, like smoke? That's a sign people don't want to be around pets," she said.

Lisa Porter, CEO of a website that lists pet-friendly places to stay and activities around the country, said more businesses are catering to customers with a pet in tow than ever before. For example, vineyards and wineries have opened their tours to pets, and as many as 90 percent of hotels in some cities are pet-friendly, she said.

Most five-star hotels have accommodations and perks for well-behaved pets, and even most discount hotels, including Red Roof Inns, Motel 6 and Extended Stay America, are pet-friendly. Other hotels have weight limits on animals. Some charge a nightly fee for animals, some have cleaning deposits and some will charge only if there is damage.

In France, where Long and Chula spend four months every year, so many people take their dogs to restaurants that there is an "under-table culture going on," she said. The French hospitality for dogs stops at museums, though: "The French prize their dogs, but they prize their art work even more," she said.

Top 5 parenting tips for media literacy in preschoolers

Chula has been such a good travel buddy that she inspired Long's book, which is a travelogue written from a dog's point of view. Long said having Chula around means never being lonely – partly because of all the people who stop to admire the dog.

"If you want to be a hermit, go [traveling] alone," Long said.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Thanksgiving travel fun? Take the dog ... or cat or bird
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/2012/1119/Thanksgiving-travel-fun-Take-the-dog-or-cat-or-bird
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe