What to bring on the road when you're packing your pet
You could say that luxury travel has gone to the dogs.
As leisure travel surges toward the end of summer, vacationers are increasingly packing the pooches, fetching the felines and taking flight with the birds - literally.
Pet travel soared 33 percent last year to a record 20 million, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, and 80 percent of them were dogs. And a full 14 percent or 29 million Americans travel with their pets, according to a recent Travel Industry Association study.
"People love their pets, and love being with their pets, and that means hitting the road with them," said Leslie Downey, director of communication, TravelersAdvantage.com. "The surging trend of pet travel has put more bark in luxury vacations, and the airlines and resorts are listening."
Indeed, airlines, resorts and destinations are doing their part for pet mobility, happily rolling out the litter box, er red carpet, to meet the increasing demand of this emerging pet travel craze. It has prompted hotels to offer pet-friendly perks like menus, day-care and playgrounds, much the way resorts became kid-friendly decades ago.
Airlines are enticing customers with frequent flier pet programs that allow animals to earn miles toward free flights. Midwest Airlines introduced a frequent flier pet program, and since then pet travel has clawed its way up 25 percent. United Airlines also offers pet miles through its PetClass program, where Mileage Plus members can earn 1,200 bonus miles when traveling with pets. American Airlines, Delta, and US Air all cater to pet travel, too. Proper carry-on or checked carriers are required, and boarding rates range from $50 to $100. Delta allows the most pet diversity in the friendly skies, welcoming not only popular pooches, cats and birds, but also ferrets, rabbits, hamsters, Guinea pigs -- and even reptiles, amphibians and fish (air cargo only, please).
At the Caliente Tropics Resort in California, pet-friendly rooms feature pet beds, throws, dishes and private label, custom Tiki Treats. Tiled vanities also feature swinging gates. And Wyndam Hotels and Resorts even offer a doggie spa service, where your pooch can luxuriate with "paw-dicures," teeth cleaning and massages. Cunard Cruise Line's Queen Mary 2 launched a "Pets on Deck" program offering such luxurious amenities as fresh-baked biscuits at turn-down in plush pet bets that boast fleece blankets.
Pet travel has also spawned an industry dedicated to pampering pets on the road. Fido, Fifi and Fluffy, demanding travelers that they are, have a growing selection of amenities that will help them arrive in style and make the most of their vacation. From portable potty turf to disposable kitty litter boxes and pet passports, they have it made. Large pet stores such as PETCO Animal Supplies Inc. and PetSmart Inc. are also sniffing the trend, and expanding their offering of travel related products. The Outward Hound pet booster seat and pet ramps for sport utility vehicles are popular items featured on their sites.
The experts at Travelers Advantage are on the trail, and have fetched a list of Top 10 pet-friendly vacation amenities:
Portable turf patches ... PETaPOTTY sells portable turf patches featuring drainage space underneath. These have been so popular, that the company is rolling out an odor-free version, called Smell-U-Lator.
Disposable Kitty Litter boxes ... keeps Fifi purring on vacay.
Doggie Car Seats ... offer pooches a comfortable ride while keeping cars free of hair and dirt.
Airline Travel Kit ... features everything required by airlines to transport your pet in a kennel -- safety stickers, plastic food and water bowls and a disposable floor liner.
Pet Wheel Away ... traveling pet carrier features a telescopic pull handle, three mesh panels for ventilation and padded shoulder straps for pets up to 15 pounds.
Tailwagger Pet First Aid Kit ... a compact kit for bumps and bruises on the road.
Doggles ... the ultimate eye protection for dogs who dig poking their nose out of car windows. These sport goggles feature an interchangeable UV-protected lens system with an array of colors to match your dog's wardrobe. Includes adjustable head and chin strap to keep them secure while exploring the open road.
Pup Tent ... the Pack-a-Pup tent is the dog's version of the popular domed tents found in outdoor stores, with sturdy mesh panels. It's perfect for trips and can keep the dog days of summer at bay.
Weekender Pet Bed ... Everyone loves a weekend away, even the dog. These beds are made of rugged blue denim and fleece. Features four outside pockets, and the bed folds into a convenient carrying case with ties and handles.
Pet Relaxers ... Seren-UM is a blend of all-natural ingredients that offers nutritional support to pets during the stressful parts of travel. It helps calm and soothe nervous or over-active pets. For best results, begin using Seren-UM three days before your trip.