American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Leaving Your Pets Behind While on Vacation
When my parents separated, I was just shy of three years old. In an unusual turn, my mother relinquished any rights to alimony, the house, and other assets. All she wanted was me, which is why it was she and I who moved into a new place, not Dad. Though too young to understand what was happening, I was definitely saddened to be leaving my father behind – not to mention Bogie, my beloved beagle.
In fact, the only other pet that I had while growing up was a little goldfish named Daisy Duke – yes, it's true, I was a shameless fan of The Dukes of Hazzard – so needless to say, Mom and I never had to worry about taking pets with us on our many road trips around the United States. We usually just had someone feed Daisy while we were gone – until, that is, she sadly passed away during one of our vacations. When we arrived home from yet another memorable trip, I went directly to her fishbowl in the den, where I found her floating on her side.
The sting of finding Daisy like that resonated with me – especially since I didn't have another pet until meeting my husband, Dan, who was living with a kitty when we met – so it's no wonder, then, that, as an adult, I've taken a lot more care when deciding what to do with my pets before hitting the road. Since meeting Dan in early 1999, I've been the proud mama of two beloved felines: sweet-tempered Pawws, who died in 2006, and feisty Ruby Azazel, our current bundle of fur. Over the years, we've logged a lot of miles with both of our girls – in fact, more often than not, we've found a way to travel with our kitties, setting aside space for them in the car, seeking out pet-friendly hotels, and making sure to pack all their favorite treats, toys, and other paraphernalia. Pawws was a wonderful traveler; she was often content just to curl up in her blanket-covered beanbag and pass the time (and miles) by napping. Luckily, Ruby has turned out to be just as comfortable on the road; given her tendency to roam, she often has to stay inside her carrier while traveling, but she doesn't seem to mind.
Given our propensity for traveling with our beloved pets, it's no surprise that I've dedicated a few posts to the subject, alternately expressing gratitude for our furry traveling companions (including my in-laws' former dog, Gypsy, who's pictured above), offering advice on hiking safely with pets, and providing tips for taking pets on road trips. I realize, though, that I've never broached the reality of having to leave our beloved pets behind. Not every trip, after all, is suitable for pets, who unfortunately aren't allowed in Amtrak trains and many hotels, restaurants, shops, attractions, and park facilities across America.
When it's necessary to travel without your pets, you should consider your options carefully. What you decide to do will, after all, depend on the type and temperament of your pets, the length of your trip, and the extent of your budget, among other considerations. Here are just a few suggestions:
Book space at a kennel.
Only a few weeks after adopting Ruby in November of 2008, Dan and I took a road trip to Florida to celebrate Christmas with his parents. Unfortunately, due to my father-in-law's pet-related allergies, we were forced to leave our beloved kitty, who was only three months old at the time, in a New Orleans kennel. Although I completely understood the need to keep her out of my in-laws' house, I missed her terribly while we were gone – and yes, I admit to calling the kennel every day to check on her. When we returned home less than a week later, we made a beeline for the kennel, where Ruby clearly indicated her pleasure at seeing us again. In fact, as soon as she heard Dan's voice drifting down the hallway, she hurled herself at the front of her cage, meowing loudly and staring directly at the open doorway. As it turned out, she had been a terrible guest; most of her toys were ruined, and she'd apparently made a habit of hurling her litter everywhere. So, needless to say, we've never let her stay in a kennel again; your pets, however, might be perfectly happy in the right one.
Trust your pets to reliable friends or neighbors.
If you're going to be gone awhile, you might want to let your pets stay with dependable friends, relatives, or neighbors. When Dan and I went to England for a few months, we did just that with Pawws. While we were out of the country, she lived with my brother-in-law's family – and with two adults, three kids, and a friendly golden retriever in the house, she was certainly not lacking in company – or stimuli – during our absence. Naturally, I fretted that she'd forget who we were by the time we returned, but luckily, she greeted us as if we'd never left. In retrospect, I only wish that our well-traveled kitty had been able to add London Bridge, Oxford University, and Stratford-upon-Avon to her sightseeing experiences.
Let your pets stay at home.
For pets that are happiest in their own house, the best option might be simply to leave them there, especially for shorter trips. Whenever, for instance, we've taken a weekend getaway to a place that doesn't permit pets, both Pawws and Ruby have handily survived two to three days on their own. Generally speaking, as long as they have enough food, water, and litter, cats can usually handle the time alone; birds, rabbits, and many other pets are equally self-sufficient. In the case of dogs, however – or trips that last longer than a few days – you'll need someone to visit your home on a regular basis. Whenever we're in Michigan during the summer, for example, we've usually been able to rely on my mother-in-law for the proper care and feeding of our beloved kitties – and no matter where we're headed, we've always been grateful for her help.
Set up a security system.
Of course, even when a trusted friend, relative, or neighbor is willing to take care of your furry (or scaly) children, you might need constant reassurance that everyone's okay. If that's the case, you can always set up a security system, which can be remotely accessed via your laptop. Once, while taking a 12-day trip to Park City, Utah, for the annual Sundance Film Festival, Dan and I did just that. Although our neighbor had promised to make regular visits to our house, in order to ensure that Pawws' food and water bowls were never empty, we knew we'd feel better knowing that we could keep a periodic eye on her. So, we set up a camera near her food, allowing us to check in on her every now and again. At some point, though, our camera feed malfunctioned, leaving us literally in the dark. So, the next year, we made sure to attend the festival with our beloved kitty in tow.
I hope that you'll find my experiences helpful when deciding what to do while you're away. Whatever you choose, however, just remember to keep your pets' well-being uppermost on your mind. After all, if you're anything like me, you probably consider your pets part of the family, and as with any relative, you likely hope that they'll be happy to see you upon your return. So, choosing the right situation for them is crucial – and bringing home a few pet-friendly souvenirs certainly won't hurt either.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo / Text © 2012 Laura Martone