Ask almost anyone who has a dog or cat:  Their pet is truly member of the family. It can be an emotional and logistical challenge to ensure that they are well cared for when away on vacation. So, here’s what to do with your pet when on vacation.

Our pets are not just balls of fur that live in the back yard watching birds or chasing squirrels. They often sleep in our beds; have their own clothing and sometimes go everywhere we go. We love them, and the last thing we would want is for something bad to happen to them while we were off relaxing on a beach.

The travel industry is well aware of the challenge, yet there are some very good options available: with a little planning and expert advice.

Five-Star Treatment… At Home

Pet hotelThere are now dozens of pet hotels and even pet spas that make old-fashioned kennels seem almost medieval. Top-rated facilities like The Royal Pets Hotel and Spa located just north of Barrie. They offer one-on-one care and attention, combined with plenty of outdoor playtime and grooming.

Parker Pet Care, with locations in North York and West Hill is one of the oldest, yet highest rated pet hotels in the area.  They’ve been keeping dogs and cats happy and safe since 1945. They even offer a pet taxi service to transport your pet to and from their facility.

If unfamiliar environments stress your pet you might opt for the luxury of a pet-sitter that comes to your home. As a dog owner myself, this is my preferred option. It’s often a better choice for cats or other pets like birds, rabbits, guinea pigs or fish. The Flying Duchess serves the greater Toronto area. They care for all sorts of pets, and even provide audio-recorded reports you’ll receive every day while you’re away (samples available on their website).

Taking Your Pet Along

D-Pet-HotelsTaking your pet along on vacation used to be limited to car trips and staying with family. Not anymore! Many fine hotels and resorts in some of the most desirable locations around the world now allow pets. There are however some common limitations. Generally, the pet must weight less than 60 pounds and most resorts that take pets will require that you sign a waiver. This normally states that you assume all responsibility for your pet during your stay. They may also charge an additional fee on top of the regular daily rate.

dog at RitzBoth Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton have several properties that are pet-friendly. For example, the Ritz Carlton Central Park has a “Pet Pouch Package” that includes carefully selected amenities like a plush bone shaped pillow, home baked dog treats, a dog menu and even a doggie raincoat in case of bad weather.

Luxurious Spa Paws HotelThe packages will be customized for each pet that stays at the hotel. They can also arrange for a full day of grooming and pampering for your pets, long walks through Central Park, and professional dog sitting – all according to your individual needs and desires.

Pets At Sea

cunard-kennel-qm2-bulldog-770The options for taking a pet along on a cruise are quite limited, but not lacking in luxury. To date, the only cruise line that allows pets (other than service dogs) is Cunard Cruise Lines. On transatlantic voyages aboard the beautiful Queen Mary II, both cats and dogs are allowed to travel with their owners. There is a fee for this service, which includes housing your pet in a special kennel area with outdoor space, a full-time kennel master, and ample visiting hours.

International Travel

Some countries have very strict regulations regarding pets. Most require certificates or printed statements of health and vaccinations from a veterinarian.  Some will require that your pet be quarantined and some even have a form of “pet passport” and “pet immigration”.  In all cases, to prevent a lost pet, it is recommended that your dog or cat have a harmless identification chip inserted by a professional vet. The regulations vary significantly by country, but a professional travel consultant can help you research and clarify the requirements.

Taking To The Skies

dog flying in an airplaneWhile some airlines are very pet-friendly, there are others that make it quite expensive or unnecessarily complicated. Small pets may be able to accompany you in the cabin, but larger pets are usually transported in the cargo hold. Every airline limits the number of pets allowed on each flight, so planning ahead is very important. The procedures, allowances and fees change frequently, so be sure to work with a travel consultant that knows how to navigate the confusion for you. Whether you are taking your pet with you or leaving your furry little loved one behind, there are now plenty of options to choose from.

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