According to a new ASPCA survey, close to one in five households acquired a cat or dog since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of those surveyed are also looking to incorporate pets into their lifestyles — including while travelling. To learn more about the growing niche, Travel Courier caught up with Cynthia Connell, a pet travel specialist with Personal Travel Management.
Sure, I’ve been in the travel industry for over 20 years and my background is in adventure travel. I’m a backpacker at heart. I started travelling on my own which lead to work as a tour leader, taking small groups of international travellers on two-three week trips around Mexico and Central America. I worked for the same tour operator until the industry fell apart in 2020. Travel has been my life so I decided to stick with it and became an independent agent shortly after losing my job. My interest in pet travel started when I booked a flight for a client and her Chihuahua to Brazil. The airline cancelled their return flight and when I was re-booking her I was really surprised to find the lack of availability for the dog on the flight because so many pets were travelling. Three flights a week from Sao Paolo to Toronto and they were full for months! After getting them home, I started researching options for travelling with pets around North America. It isn’t always easy to find someone to look after my dog when I travel so I thought it would be nice to have options to bring him with me.
Allowing pets in hotel rooms is just the first step. Pet travel is more about including them in the experience. Dogs are the best companions and you want to get out and have fun together. It’s a vacation of both of you. There are the traditional activities like hiking and swimming but I have also found a growing number of walking tours and other activities like stand up paddle boarding or outdoor painting classes, even pet friendly shopping centres and restaurants.
The best thing I have found are the bars and restaurants that cater to both humans and dogs. Like Bar K in Kansas City and St Louis, they host regular event nights with live music or trivia. They have a staff of “Dogtenders” who supervise the off-leash park while you grab a drink or some food or customers can opt to have their dog with them while they eat and visit the park later. It is definitely not the only one of its kind, a great road trip iin the US could be planned around these stops. There is also a great hotel, Acre Baja, in San Jose del Cabo Mexico where you can bring your pet. They have donkeys, peacocks and other creatures roaming around the grounds too. It is a direct flight and all that is required for entry is a certificate of good health.
I think it is in the beginning stages with great potential for growth. I know transportation services for pets have been very busy over the last couple of years. This could be people relocating or having to get back to their country of origin quickly and not being able to take the pet right away. So many people got pets during the pandemic and many people are hesitant to travel internationally yet so what could be better than making plans including the pets in travel plans. Taking the dog or cat might be a bit more expensive but if you look at the cost of boarding it is pretty good in comparison.
Before someone decides to take their pet on holidays with them there are a few things to consider. The first and most important is will your pet enjoy the experience? My dog loves car rides but some don’t. As much as you like the idea of travelling with your pet, he or she may be more comfortable staying home. The last thing you want during you vacation is a stressed out, carsick dog. The breed needs to be considered as well, if you are flying. There are some breeds like the snub nosed dogs that don’t travel well or are banned from airlines. A trip with your dog or cat is fun but takes some planning and it is good to have a back up plan, for example, I look for local dog walkers or day camp in the area, just in case.