Holiday travel and pets

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image courtesy of flickr user michaelwhays

I recently came across a list of tips for traveling with your pet – timely, considering many of us are starting to plan for the holidays. The top tip – calculating expenses – got me thinking. How much does it really cost to travel with your companion animal nowadays? And is it really worth it?

Wildly varying in-cabin costs

We’ve all experienced the nickel and diming increasingly common among airlines. Baggage fees, booking fees, and the like make it nearly impossible to accurately compare fares. Once you add the wide variety in pet-related fees, the cheapest ticket may not turn out to be such a great deal.

According to the aptly-named AirfareWatchDog.com, fees for bringing your pet in the cabin range anywhere from $69 to $125 – double that for round-trip flights. 

Getting the right pet carrier

If you’re bringing your pet in the cabin with you in a carrier, it will be required to fit in the space under the seat in front of you, so it’s best to reserve a seat that isn’t in the bulkhead row. Airlines can enforce different restrictions on how big a carrier you’re allowed to use for your in-cabin pet. BringFido.com has collected the various airlines’ pet policies, with links to the airlines’ own pet travel pages.

If you don’t already own a carrier that conforms to your airline’s dimensions, buying a new one can cost anywhere from $30 to $100. Remember that your pet carrier will usually count as your one carry-on or personal item, so plan your packing accordingly.

Alternatives

If you have a long trip ahead of you, or just don’t want to submit your pet to the stress of travel, there are alternatives. Are they cheaper than traveling with your pet, though?

The boarding kennel I’ve taken my dog to here in Portland charges $25 per night for boarding with brief daily exercise included. Adding on walks and a bath (it’s always nice to come back to a clean dog!) costs extra. Portland pet sitters can cost anywhere from $20 per night for a cat who only needs looked in on once a day to over $50 per night to have someone stay overnight in your house and walk your dog several times a day.

Conclusions

Assuming an average pet carry-on fee of $100 each way and $50 to buy a carry-on approved carrier, it can cost $250 to bring your pet with you! For a four day trip (common for those of us visiting family at Thanksgiving), a pet sitter or boarding kennel will only cost between $100 and $200 – and you’ll avoid stressing yourself and your pet with the hassle of air travel.

All other things being equal, it may make more sense to find a reliable pet sitter or kennel to care for your pets if you’re traveling by air, especially for trips less than a week long. 

 

Stayhound and Portland pet sitters, sitting in a tree…

I’ll be honest – reactions to Stayhound have been mixed when I talk to Portland pet sitters. While many are excited about having a new way to find and retain clients, some are skeptical or even downright hostile. Usually, the objection is that they don’t want to be lumped in with amateurs – regular schlubs who have no liability insurance or professional standing.

They’re right. And I totally get that.

Stayhound isn’t looking to supplant Portland pet sitters – or pet sitters anywhere – who are professionals with existing client bases. We couldn’t if we tried.

Talking to enthusiastic and engaged pet parents here in Portland, I was struck with the dedication many of them have to their dog walkers, pet sitters, and kennels. But the problem that kept being mentioned was the need for a “backup” – someone you could call if you have a last-minute trip, or your regular pet sitter is booked, or you just plain forgot to get a pet sitter. That’s the problem – well, one of the problems – we’re trying to solve.

That said, I’ve also had great conversations with Portland pet sitters, dog walkers, and other pet professionals who see how Stayhound can help them grow their business and delight their existing clients. Every week, I talk with professional pet sitters here in Portland as well as other cities who are thrilled to tell me what features we can develop to help them not only promote their businesses through social accountability and discovery, but also to differentiate themselves.

I’m always excited to talk to Portland pet sitters about your business, so please feel free to email me at alexis@stayhound.com – whether you love Stayhound or hate it. At the very least, I’ll buy you a coffee and we can swap stories about crazy dogs.

Jakeandbandit