The holidays mean different things to different people. Every family seems to have its own set of traditions, but one thing seems to be common among Americans during this time of year, and that's traveling.
Like "Santa Claus" making that long journey from the North Pole, it's estimated that more than 90 million Americans (36 percent) will travel this holiday season, according to a recent survey conducted by Extended Stay America hotels and Kelton Global. Santa and his reindeer will hit the road during the 2017 holiday season - and he's not alone, as nearly three-quarters of Americans (69 percent) will do the same with their pets.
"Pet parents are increasingly including their furry family members in their travel plans, especially during the holidays," says pet expert Andrea Arden, who has over 20 years of experience in the industry. "In fact, our companion animals can be such a great source of comfort while we're away from home, that some people can't even conceive of a vacation without their dog or cat by their side."
To ensure you and your animal companion bring cheer wherever you go, Arden has provided three essential tips for traveling with a pet this holiday season.
1. Prepare your pet
Like finding the perfect gift for your loved ones, the earlier you start to plan and prepare, the easier it will be. A great holiday vacation begins with a trip to the veterinarian to make sure your animal is in good health, has all the medications they might need (and perhaps some extras) and is up-to-date on vaccines. Along with their physical health, you want to make sure your dog or cat is mentally prepared for a journey that may involve new places, new smells and new people.
To get your four-legged friends ready for the adventure, bring your pet to unfamiliar places like a local park and have them interact with new faces. When you do this, be sure to bring plenty of treats to praise your pet and reinforce that these new experiences are positive and fun.
2. Avoid guilty faux paws
Forty percent of traveling pet parents feel guilty about leaving their pets home during the holidays. That's because pets are considered part of the family, and nearly one-third of Americans (27 percent) say pets should be included in all holiday festivities. Places like Extended Stay America can help alleviate some of the stress (and guilt) pet parents might feel during this time of year; the hotel's more than 600 properties nationwide welcome pets year-round, so families don't need to make the difficult decision of leaving their animal companion behind. To make things even easier this season, if you book before Dec. 31 at esa.com/holiday, your pets stay free. Consider it a retreat from the holiday madness for you and your four-legged friend.
In addition to helping pet owners stay connected with their animals, Extended Stay America offers all the comforts of home for guests. That's important, since nearly half (47 percent) of travelers this holiday season plan to be away from home for five days or more. With fully equipped kitchens in each room so guests can still contribute a dish to their family gathering; on-site laundry facilities to keep guests looking their holiday best; and free, in-room Wi-Fi, it's easy to feel at home at Extended Stay America.
3. Practice good petiquette
We know, sometimes it's hard to believe that your lovable, furry friend could misbehave. When traveling to unfamiliar places, a calm, happy animal makes everyone else calm and happy, too.
Here are some pointers to ensure your pets stay on the nice list this holiday:
By Angela J. Willard (Richards)
When Hazel Smith decided to bring a friendly special needs Chihuahua into her home, she never imagined how he would change her life.
A retired police officer, Hazel suffered from agoraphobia where even going outside to cut her grass was challenging. She was on several medications to help manage the symptoms of agoraphobia. She was a prisoner in her own home.
During this season of her life, her elderly Dalmatian "Binky” crossed over the rainbow bridge. The loss sent Hazel in search for a new companion. Hazel checked ads, visited humane societies and SPCAs in search for a new dog.
“One day when my husband and I were out looking we came across ‘Gunny’ a Dogue de Bordeaux. and we adopted him for my husband.”
Then finally Hazel came across an ad on Craigslist. A military family was being relocated and needed to rehome their 1½ year-old Chihuahua, “Hercules”.
“I called immediately,” explained Hazel. “I told the lady I would be out to get him when my husband got home from work. She said if he was still there I could come get him. Worried someone else might get him I told her to hold him for me and that I was on the way. I called my best friend and told her I needed her to take me to get him. When we arrived I fell in love with him right off.”
Hazel claimed the five-pound Chihuahua as her own and renamed him “Hooch”. “I thought it would be funny since we had a Dogue De Bordeaux”.
Hazel soon learned the meaning of the term “Velcro dog” but Hooch had very good reason to not want to leave Hazel’s side. Hooch is deaf.
Because Hooch wanted to be carried all the time, this made it difficult for Hazel to get things done around the house. “I tried carriers on the market for pets and babies, nothing worked for both of us.”
In her desperation to be able to be hands-free and still care for Hooch with his special needs, she decided to create a solution to her problem. “One day I picked up a canvas [remnant] that I had left over, and the Dog-On Bag hands-free pet carrier was born.”
With her new invention, Hazel and Hooch were able to not only get things done around the house, but leave the house as well. “When I had Hooch with me I discovered I could venture outside, away from home and even on short trips to a friend’s beach cottage, ALONE.”
This was a huge accomplishment for Hazel who could barely be in her own yard without anxiety setting in.
Every day Hooch and Hazel would go out for a bike rides and people would ask about her homemade Hooch carrier. She decided to venture out even more and make more carriers in different designs and then set up a table at a local Bark in the Park event. By the end of the day she had nearly sold out of her Dog-On Bags. A business was born.
Now, Hazel and Hooch have an in-home business, a website, and several retailers carry the Dog-On Bag. She has even expanded the reach of the Dog-On Bag as far as Italy. Her new-found strength and courage even set her on stage to audition for Shark Tank in seeking help for her business.
“Because of Hooch, I went from being medicated and scared to leave home, to no more medication for agoraphobia and panic attacks, and standing up at pet expos in crowds, and even auditioning for Shark Tank. Hooch saved me, gave me my life back, and more.”
Paradise Pets Magazine