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Trip tips: Lodging, pocket money, traveling with pets


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    The first step in planning a trip with your animal is considering what's in it for him or her. Oftentimes, it's more practical to hire a sitter or board your pet, so you want to be certain that he or she is going to get just as much enjoyment out of the journey as you will.

    - smartertravel.com

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    Once you've decided to bring your pet along, you need to think about safety. While packing extra food, water (ice cubes work wonders), and favorite toys, it's wise to take a minute to locate the closest veterinarian to where you'll be staying. Healthy pet is an excellent resource, and is part of the American Animal Hospital Association. In just a few clicks, you can print a list of doctors and directions to have handy in case of an emergency. It's also a good idea to pack a basic first-aid kit for any journey.

    - smartertravel.com

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    Make sure you have a current ID tag with your pet at all times. Microchips are also a safe and secure way of keeping track of your pet, especially for those traveling to a foreign country. Pack a few extra color photos in the event that you get separated. - smartertravel.com

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    Before any big trip, by flight or car, it's important to familiarize your pet with its kennel, carrying case, or car seat. Start by introducing the animal to it for short periods, and then slowly increase the amount of time for each session. If flying, make sure your pet's kennel is up to standard, is accepted by the airline, and fits your pet comfortably. - smartertravel.com

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    Most pets rely on routine, so it's important to keep things as normal as possible. Robert D. "Jake" Tedaldi, D.V.M., winner of Boston Magazine's 2006 "Best of Boston" award for veterinarian, suggests that you, "Try to make the arrangements and transitions as stress-free as possible by attempting to reproduce the living experience your animal is already accustomed to." For instance, keeping a regular feeding and walking schedule wherever you go will help your pet feel more secure. It's also comforting for the animal to have familiar items such as a favorite toy or blanket.

    - smartertravel.com

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    A doctor's visit is imperative before any big trip. Make sure your pet is up-to-date with vaccinations, especially rabies, as they are legally required everywhere you go. Let your doctor know your destination, duration, and means of transportation to help them know the best way to keep your pet healthy.

    - smartertravel.com

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    A veterinarian may recommend sedation for a longer trip, especially for an animal that's anxious or aggressive. Before your trip, you may want to try the sedative well in advance when you have the time to observe your pet's full response to the medication. In addition to a veterinarian's recommendations, it's wise to do your own research before making any final decisions.

    - smartertravel.com

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    If you're traveling by plane, the first step toward ensuring a comfortable flight is in the booking process, especially since many airlines have special requirements, and some don't even accept pets. Several airlines have also implemented a pet embargo that restricts animals from flying in cargo during extreme temperatures (over 85 degrees or under 35 degrees). Before booking any flights, be certain the airline has no special restrictions that will prevent your pet from flying. Also, consider booking a nonstop flight versus one with several layovers. This may be more expensive, but it's safer and less stressful for you and your pet.

    - smartertravel.com

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    Reservations are required for both cargo and carry-on passengers. Smaller pets (weight varies by airline) are allowed as carry-on, and are required to remain in their airline-approved cases under the seat in front of you for the duration of the flight. Many airlines only allow a certain number of animals in the cabin, so be certain your pet has a guaranteed place with you before you fly. Larger pets are required to fly in the cargo hold. If you're traveling with an animal in cargo, alert flight attendants, so they'll know who to grab first in case of an emergency. Be prepared to pay extra when flying with your pet, as many airlines charge a fee for each way, which can be as much as $250. Check with your airline for its specific rates and procedures.

    - smartertravel.com

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    Depending on the duration of the flight, many vets recommend withholding food six hours before departure and water two hours prior to take-off. It's also wise to exercise pets before putting them in their crates. Place a visible tag with your pet's name and emergency contact information on the side of its carrying case.

    - smartertravel.com

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    For domestic flights, some airlines require a health certificate acquired within the previous 10 days. For international flights, it's wise to make an appointment with a doctor six months in advance, as different countries have different restrictions and requirements. Keep copies of your pet's records and an extra photo of your pet with you in a safe place while traveling. - smartertravel.com

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    When taking a trip to Canada or Mexico, it's always important to familiarize yourself with the most current requirements for pet transport. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the procedures, contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency before hitting the road.

    It's a good idea to bring extra unopened cans or bags of food. It's not uncommon for opened food to be discarded upon entrance, and it may not be so easy to replace immediately.

    - smartertravel.com

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    Finding pet-friendly accommodations is becoming easier, but it still requires a little prior planning. Make sure your chosen hotel accepts the size and type of pet you're bringing. Be aware that some hotels may charge an additional fee for your pet, so be sure to speak to the hotel directly to avoid any extra charges. Find pet-positive lodging through one of these helpful websites: Pets Welcome, Pet Friendly Travel, and Trips with Pets. On each site, you can search by exact location, and many offer lodging discounts.

    - smartertravel.com

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    For a place to stay on short notice, stop at one of these hotels known for welcoming pets: Red Roof Inn, Motel 6, or Days Inn. For a more luxurious experience, stay at one of the many Kimpton Hotels located across the country. Each hotel welcomes your pet as if he or she is a VIP guest, and many have special programs tailored for the two of you.

    - smartertravel.com

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    Another option for lodging along the road is staying at a KOA Campground. For a little less than a hotel, the campgrounds offer a fun retreat for you and your pet. If you decide to camp, be sure to talk to your vet about fleas, ticks, and other creepy crawlies you might want to vaccinate against. Also, be considerate of other campers by keeping your pet with you at all times. - smartertravel.com

Hotels offer all sorts of loyalty points, but are they great deals? And how do you keep track of them? Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com has some thoughts on this and many other travel tips.

"If you're thinking about joining a loyalty program and you're comparing maybe an airline program to a hotel program, I would say these days hotel programs definitely have more value in general. With the airlines, you might be able earn a lot of miles, but you can't necessarily redeem them very effectively. Hotel points tend to add up quickly. No one's going to tell you that you can't use that for your room. They also can be beneficial in getting you things like upgrades, a little bit more VIP service. So that's definitely something to keep in mind," says Banas.

Melinda from Madison, Wis., wrote in to ask us this question: "Lodging is always the most expensive part of travel for us; we prefer to rent condos and or apartments giving us access to a kitchen, but with small children, we've found places that are not child proofed or kid friendly. Can you recommend any websites that allow for searches to meet our needs?"

Banas recommends travelers check out websites like: Airbnb, HomeAway, FlipKey (a sister website of SmarterTravel.com), and VRBO. For lodging, she also recommends downloading the app for Hotel Tonight.

"What I would recommend if you see a property you like and you can't tell if it's child-friendly, contact the owner directly. Most are really great about getting back to you in an email and that will allow you to ask specific questions," says Banas.

Listeners also weighed in on several other questions:

  • Erin in Richmond, Va., asked us about the best way to book hotels.
  • Will from Wilson, N.Y., wants advice on how to deal with pocket money for kids when they are heading off to travel abroad.
  • And several of our listeners asked questions about traveling with pets.

Click play on the audio player above to hear Banas' advice -- and scroll through our slideshow above for tips on traveling with pets from SmarterTravel.com. Plus, SmarterTravel wants your pet picture -- check out their website to submit your picture of your pet on vacation. And check out their photo gallery of how pets help you pack.


Anne Banas answered a few more of your travel questions. Check out what advice she has on lodging, frugal stops, and booking flights.

About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.

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