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How to Travel Without Your Dog

Some of my dog loving friends won’t travel unless they can bring their dog. I’m a” dog person”, so I totally understand how they feel about dog boarding. However, I also have a serious case of wanderlust and our dog, Dino, is not one of those little fluff balls who can fly in a carrier under an airplane seat.

Dog boarding tips

I’m a dog person.

Dino is a 28-pound cockapoo we adopted from the SPCA  (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) 12 years ago when my son and I went there “just to look”. (Note to self: Do not go to the SPCA “just to look” unless you’re prepared to add a fur child to your home.)

I’ve read too many horror stories about dogs transported in airplane cargo holds. So, if we’re flying somewhere, other arrangements have to be made for Dino.

You can find many web resources with helpful information about how to travel with your dog. However, there are times when that is not possible. If you find yourself with a “love my dog, love to travel” conundrum, here is how to travel without your dog:

Trade Pet Care with a Friend

“You take care of our dog. We’ll take care of yours.” 

If your dog is well socialized with other people and other dogs, this is a great option. After we adopted Dino, our neighbors also adopted a dog, Annabelle. First Dino and Annabelle had some successful play dates. After that we were able to take care of  each other’s dogs when they couldn’t travel with us.

I have to admit we had the better end of this deal. We’re empty-nesters, but their travel time is dictated and limited by school vacations.

House Sitters

Have someone stay in your home with your dog while you’re away.

If you know people with dogs, chances are someone can recommend someone they hire to stay at their home and care for their dog when they’re away.

This is the optimal, but probably the most expensive arrangement. It’s a good choice if your dog is most happy at home and doesn’t get along with other dogs.

There are also websites to connect with animal lovers looking to house sit and pet sit. Participants on both sides of these arrangements have usually been vetted (pun most definitely intended). This can be a win-win financially for everyone.

For our last month long trip, we used (affiliate link). We had 30 people apply to stay in our condo and care for Dino. We chose a mother and daughter from Spain and returned home to a happy dog and a spotless home.

Home-Based Kennels

Have your dog stay with someone who boards dogs at their home. 

When we first had to leave Dino, this was the arrangement we used. Another dog owner referred us to a dog loving family who took in a few dogs to stay at their house. Dino loved going there. He was treated like a member of the family and they had a big fenced in back yard.

This was a fairly expensive option, but I’d rather stay in a less fancy hotel on a trip and spend the money to know our dog was well taken care of and content. I actually felt a little badly because although Dino would be happy to see me when I picked him up, he would also whine a little as we drove off.

I have never used them, but there are some websites that can match you with people in a particular geographical area who provide this service:

Professional Kennel

Board your dog at a kennel or “doggie hotel”.

This would not be my first choice because boarded dogs aren’t living in a very homey situation. Although some higher end boarding facilities have fancy dog beds in pet-sized apartments that can include a television. Usually, you pay additional fees for extra walks, play time with other dogs, or extra time with a caretaker.

If you board your dog at a facility where they will be exposed to other dogs, a bortadella vaccine for “kennel cough” is vital and is probably required along with proof of rabies inoculation.

If your dog goes to a doggie day care, some also offer boarding services and this is probably the arrangement that would give you the most peace of mind because you know the staff and your dog is familiar with them and the surroundings.

Ask Family

Totally luck out and have dog loving relatives who also have a dog and who are willing to take care of and love your dog for four months while you’re away!

Dino and his dog cousin, Izzy.

During the winter of 2014, my husband did a 3 month sabbatical in Honolulu, Hawaii. I tacked a month long trip in southeast Asia onto that. My sisters-in-law were willing to add Dino to their pack which included their dog, Izzy.

Notwithstanding their age and size differences, Dino and Izzy figured out how to coexist and I received some very cute photos of them while we were away. When we showed up to retrieve him, Dino’s greeting can best be described as “Ho hum, so you’re back.”

What has been your experience traveling with or without your dog?

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Suzanne Fluhr, Midlife Boulevard's travel editor, is a recovering Philadelphia lawyer, empty nester, wanderer, dog person and Zentangle® enthusiast. She also writes about Baby Boomer travels for the body and mind on her personal blog, Boomeresque. Instagram: Boomeresque2

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Wednesday 24th of May 2017

Interesting read. Although pretty popular nowadays, I still can't entrust my dog to a doggy hotel. Stories about dogs that died in such places keep prevent me from using their services. To be honest, besides my sister and two other close friends, there no other human I'd entrust my dog to. I do admit that makes my travel planning much more difficult, but after all, I consider my dog as a child, so I want to be sure that my child is safe and sound 24/7.

Suzanne Fluhr

Wednesday 24th of May 2017

I totally get where you're coming from. We have never left our dog in a boarding kennel. I want to know the people he is with and that they are dog lovers. The good news is that every time we return home, it's clear that Dino has bonded with the people who took care of him.

Donna Janke

Tuesday 23rd of May 2017

For years, we used a home-based kennel when we traveled. The family who took them in had twin girls the same age as our daughter and the dogs felt at home. When that family stopped taking in dogs, we were fortunate to have friends (aunt and uncle to the dogs) take care of them or family come and stay. I didn't know about housesitting groups at the time, but if our dogs were still alive, it is certainly something I'd look into now.

Suzanne Fluhr

Wednesday 24th of May 2017

I was happy to find out that I could both love (and do right by) our dog and indulge in my wanderlust. It takes some mindful planning and research, but it's doable. I still miss our dog when we travel, and fawn over dogs we meet all over the world. I can pantomine, "May I pet your dog?" in many languages.

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