By Heather Syverson
(This is the full version of the article that ran in the spring 2014 newsletter)
Many dog and cat owners say their vacations would be more enjoyable if their beloved pets could come along with the family
. It’s important to consider your pet’s personality before taking him out of his comfort zone. If he is nervous in unfamiliar situations, he may be better off staying home with a sitter while you go on your vacation. However, if he is easygoing, a trip could be a fun way for you to bond. The most important thing to consider before planning a trip with your furbaby is whether the majority of your vacation will be spent doing animal-friendly activities. If your buddy will spend most of the trip stuck in a hotel anxiously waiting for you, it would probably be better to send him to a kennel while you’re away.
Once you’ve determined that a getaway is the way to go, there are some obvious things to remember when packing for your pet, such as a collar with an ID tag that includes your cell phone number, leash, food and water bowls, and his regular food. It’s also a good idea to bring the bed or blanket your pet usually sleeps with because the familiar scent will comfort him in a strange place. A kennel is a must-have because most pet-friendly hotels require our four-legged friends to be safely contained even if they’re briefly left alone. Some not-so-obvious tips include bringing water from home to avoid an upset stomach caused by H2O that your pet isn’t used to drinking, packing vaccination records in case your lodging or activities require proof that Fido is up to date, and anti-nausea medication in case of motion sickness. It’s also a good idea to print out a list of emergency veterinary clinics at your destination in case of injury or illness.
On the Road
Driving is probably the easiest and least expensive way to travel with an animal. Unlike traveling by plane or train, there are no additional fees and they don’t have to be confined to a kennel while en route to the destination. It’s also the least stressful mode of transportation. When you take your pet on a road trip, remember to stop every couple hours to let your buddy stretch his legs and relieve himself. And be sure to pack plenty of baggies to pick up your pet’s waste.
There are several dog-friendly getaways within easy driving distance of Fargo-Moorhead. The north shore of Lake Superior has several lovely hotels, condos and cabins that welcome four-legged friends. My husband and I have stayed with our two dogs at the Caribou Highlands Resort near Lutsen, Minn. We had a very nice loft-style condo on the second floor. However, if we went back I would request a room on the first floor with a patio door to make it easier to take the dogs in and out. Caribou Highlands is located on a large wooded property fun for dogs to explore. It’s not far from Gooseberry Falls State Park where there are miles and miles of walking trails. Duluth, Tofte and Grand Marais also have pet-friendly options at various price points. Most charge pet fees in addition to their nightly rates. Caribou Highlands charges $30 per night or $60 per stay for two or more nights.
If camping is more your style, most campgrounds in ND, MN and SD allow non-aggressive animals as long as owners keep them reasonably quiet and pick up their waste. Some charge a pet fee that ranges from about $5 to $15. Crow Wing Lake Campground, south of Brainerd, Minn., appears to cater specifically to people who want to bring their dogs. The resort includes an off-leash park and a dog washing and drying station in case your buddy gets dirty. Crow Wing also has free WiFi, a heated outdoor pool and other recreation options for the human members of your family. Rates range from $41 to $55 dollars per night depending on whether you will be camping in a tent or camper. A word of warning: This campground books up weeks in advance, so call for reservations well in advance of your trip.
There are also plenty of pet-friendly lodging options and activities in the Twin Cities. One of the best dog-friendly events is the annual Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee. The event even has a Pet Fest themed weekend that includes a doggy costume contest. If you want to bring your pup, you must submit a registration form that includes a photo, proof of vaccination and $10 fee. The 2014 festival will be open every weekend from Aug. 16 through Sept. 28.
On the Rails
Amtrak does not currently allow companion animals on its trains. However, there is hope for pet lovers who would like to hop on the Empire Builder line in Fargo and ride the rails East to Minneapolis and Chicago, or West to Spokane, Portland and Seattle. The “Pets on Trains Act of 2013” was introduced in the U.S. House in May 2013. If passed, the law would designate at least one pet-friendly car on each passenger train. Dogs and cats would be required to remain inside a carrier that meets size requirements with a fee. The law would also limit the distance of the trip to less than 750 miles, which would allow a rider to get from Fargo to Chicago.
In the Air
All of the airlines that fly out of Fargo’s airport have policies for companion animals and service animals. The following information is specifically for companion animals that will ride in the cabin, not in the cargo hold. Although many airlines allow animals to be checked like luggage, it is not ideal because of the extreme temperature fluctuations and noise. At best, it can be scary and uncomfortable for them; at worst it can be deadly if they become overheated.
The FAA requires pets flying in the cabin to remain inside of their approved carriers for the entire flight. The carriers must be able to fit underneath the seat, but unfortunately that requirement limits riding in the cabin to smaller pets. They must be able to stand and turn around completely inside the carrier. Soft-sided is a preferable option because they’re easier to fit underneath a seat and they may give a pet slightly more room to move. The dimension of the carriers allowed on each flight is determined individually by each airline, depending on the plane and the amount of space underneath the seats. The pet fees for the airlines that fly out of Fargo are as follows:
-Allegiant: $100 per carrier per one-way flight, with no more than two pets in a carrier.
-American Airlines: $125 per carrier for dogs and cats with breed restrictions for flights within the U.S.
-Delta: $125 per one-way for dogs, cats, and birds for flights in the U.S.
-Frontier: $75-$125 per one-way for dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, or birds for flights within the U.S.
-United: $125 per one-way for cats, dogs, rabbits, and birds for flights within the U.S. Additional $125 fee for layovers longer than four hours.
Direct flights that last no more than a couple hours will be easier to tolerate for your furry friend. Allegiant offers direct flights from Fargo to Orlando, which Animal Planet ranked fifth in its top five pet-friendly cities for travelers. The city boasts lots of pet-friendly accommodations and attractions. Even though Disney World’s parks do not allow companion animals, there are five Disney kennels that offer doggie daycare for about $15 a day. The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort offers VIP treatment for pups with special bedding, toys, treats, doggy room service, and a walking service. They even offer a “Puppy Pager” service that will alert you if Fido gets into trouble while you’re away from the hotel. Orlando and many other Florida cities have enacted “doggy dining laws” that permit pets to sit with their owners at outdoor dining areas.
BringFido.com is a great resource for locating pet-friendly restaurants, events and lodging in cities all over the U.S. No matter where you go or how you get there, a little time spent planning ahead will make the trip more enjoyable for you and for them.