Do you always tell the airlines when your dog or cat is traveling with you? Have you ever smuggled your pet into a non-pet-friendly hotel? If you, like me, answered “no” and “yes,” respectively, you’re hardly an anomaly. A whopping 11% of us pet parents confessed to doing the same, according to DogVacay.com, which released its inaugural State of U.S. Pet Travel study today.
I don’t condone sneaking pets on airplanes anymore. I admit I used to do it before the pet-friendly skies became so congested with pawsengers. Now you’re risking getting booted off the plane if you’re caught and an airline is at its pet capacity. Families with kids are 17% as likely to sneak their fur baby on a flight or into a hotel. So says DogVacay.com, a website that connects dog parents with providers who offer home dog boarding, pet sitting and doggie daycare. The survey provides a comprehensive look at the challenges pet parents face when traveling. This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of DogVacay.com from May 20th – 22nd, 2013 among 2,341 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,423 are pet owners. Whether people travel with their pets in tow, or they leave them behind, the survey reveals several surprising results—and some not so surprising.
DogVacay’s survey shows that 75% of pet parents don’t trust airlines to safety care for our animals when traveling in cargo or as checked baggage. I would have thought the number would be higher. I’ve talked to pet parents who do it. While they don’t feel comfortable, there are few alternatives, outside of chartering an aircraft. While the costs for flying private are decreasing, it’s still out of reach for most. So, pet parents do it and roll the dice. In April, two dogs died during flights, an English bulldog on Alaska Airlines and a pug on Hawaiian Airlines, according to the latest Air Travel Consumer Report released by the Department of Transportation. An airline is required to submit a report for any month in which it experienced a loss, injury or death of a pet during air transportation. DOT publishes these reports monthly and you should bookmark this site so you can easily view the reports.
The redacted animal incident reports don’t show Alaska or Hawaiian airlines as being at fault. Some airlines, like American Airlines would never have agreed to transport a bulldog and pug because they will not accept brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs and cats as checked luggage. And coincidentally, in both instances, a second dog belonging to the same family was flying and arrived safely. But no word on the breed of those dogs. Regardless, treating our pets like baggage is a dangerous way to transport family members, which is why I, and more importantly, The Humane Society of the United States, am against it unless absolutely necessary. I’ll be glad when another Pet Airways, the now-defunct pet-only airlines, emerges. Certainly the market is ripe with pet travel being up as it is.
DogVacay’s inaugural survey reveals that people aren’t fully enjoying the benefits of their travel because they are worrying about their pets, even if their pets are traveling with them. While the travel industry did not witness a slump due to these concerns, it is worrisome as vacation is a critical part of preventing work burnout and gives families much needed time together; it shouldn’t be overshadowed by worrying about what’s happening with your pet back at home or back at the hotel.
Nearly three quarters (72%) of those who travel without pets worry about their pet during at least some of the trip, and 64% cite having challenges when making travel accommodations for their pets. When it comes to satisfaction with aspects of pet travel, there is clear room for improvement. An overwhelming 75% of pet owners do not trust airlines to safely care for pets when traveling in cargo/checked.
The DogVacay survey also found that the majority (82%) of pet parents rely largely on their own personal network of family members, friends and neighbors to watch their pets. And 50% of pet parents whose friends and family watch their pets when they travel feel bad asking their friends and family to watch their pets.
“We’re thrilled to share the results of our inaugural State of Pet Travel in the U.S. survey to shed light on the challenges pet parents face when traveling,” said Aaron Hirschhorn, co-founder and “Top Dog” of DogVacay.com. “DogVacay was founded to create an alternative for traveling dog parents to board their pet in a loving local home. We hope this survey will inspire more innovation in pet travel so that next year’s survey results will show even more improvement in the options available to those traveling both with and without their pets.”
Read on to find out the key findings, or view the results in an infographic.
Key findings of DogVacay.com survey
Despite having a pet, guardians aren’t letting their furry friends get in the way of their travel with 79% of pet parents reporting that they take at least one trip that includes an overnight stay per year. Where their pet stays does, however, affect the length of pet owner travel.
- Traveling pet parents who use kennels/pet boarding/vet/pet sitting (79%) are more likely to travel for 5 or more nights away from home than those that use family/friends/neighbors to watch their pets (71%).
- Pet parents on average take 3.5* overnight trips per year spending an average of 15.6 nights away from home.
Although most people associate travel with vacation and relaxation, that isn’t quite the case with pet parents. Whether they’re traveling with or without their pets, the feeling of anxiety is more common than one might think. A whopping 72% of pet parents who travel without their pets worry about their pet during at least some of their trip, and 64% of pet parents traveling overnight would be more anxious traveling with their pets than without them. But the worrying doesn’t stop there:
- 24% of pet parents who travel without their pets worry about their pets during all or most of their trip.
- 73% of pet parents who leave their pets at the kennel when traveling feel guilty about it.
- Surprisingly, male pet guardians worry less than female counterparts about their pets when traveling without their pets.
Biggest Challenges in Pet Travel
Those with pets are in agreement that there are limitations/challenges when making travel accommodations for their pets (64%). While only 48% of pet parents who travel overnight say that being a pet parent makes them travel less, other factors weigh heavy on traveling decisions. So what are the biggest limitations in making travel accommodations for traveling pet parents?
- 21% point to the difficulty in finding pet-friendly travel options when making travel accommodations.
- 50% of pet guardians whose friends and family watch their pets when they travel feel bad asking them to watch their pets when traveling.
- 32% say they have anxiety leaving their pet behind.
- 23% say finding a trusted pet boarding/pet sitting option is a challenge when traveling.
- 22% say the cost of pet boarding/pet sitting is a limitation when making travel accommodations.
Cost of Travel
Traveling involves ponying up the cash, but which method of travel is easiest on your pockets? On average, pet parents spend $247* annually when traveling with their pets. When leaving their pets to be cared for by someone else, pet parents spend on average $486* annually traveling without their pets. *including 0
Who Watches the Pets?
It’s crystal clear when it comes to whom pet parents would prefer to care for their pet, with the majority of pet parents citing the use of family members or friends to watch their pet when they travel. But what about when those trusty friends and family aren’t available?
- 44% of pet parents who travel use pet boarding/pet sitting services 1 or more times per year on average.
- Of those who use pet boarding/pet sitting services, they do so on average 4 times per year.
Pet-Friendly Airline and Hotel Accommodations
As for satisfaction with aspects of pet travel, specifically pet-friendly airlines and hotels, pet parents appear to be satisfied overall; however, there is clear room for improvement. A majority of pet parents are “at least” satisfied (top 3 on a 5 point scale) with pet-friendly airline and hotel accommodations, prices and availability. However, it appears that not all believe that airline accommodations and pet-friendly prices are up to par, with nearly a quarter of pet parents being “not at all” satisfied (23% and 24%, respectively).
- 75% of pet parents do not trust airlines to safely care for pets when traveling in cargo/checked.
- More than two-in-five (45%) pet parents report being not at all or somewhat satisfied (bottom 2 on a 5 point scale) with pet-friendly airline accommodations (in cargo/checked).
- In terms of hotels, a majority of pet parents are at least satisfied (top 3 on a 5 point scale) with pet-friendly hotel accommodations, prices and availability.
Sometimes skirting the rules and costs involved with bringing your pet along seems tempting. Does anyone fess up to this pet owner faux pas?
- Interestingly enough, pet parents with children in their household are twice as likely as those without children in the household to say they are guilty of “pet smuggling” while traveling (17% vs. 8%).
- 11% of pet parents admit to having smuggled a pet either into a non-pet friendly hotel room (9%) or onto an airplane (3%).
Dog Owners vs. Cat Owners
Since the dawn of time, dog and cat guardians have been at odds. Those with dogs are more likely to travel overnight, and cats may be the more spoiled animal.
- In terms of spending habit, those with cats dole out a bit more dough spending on average $304 when traveling with their cat versus dog guardians spending $273.
- When it comes to overnight travel, those with dogs (81%) are more likely than those with cats (76%) to travel overnight.
- Dog guardians (53%) are more likely to feel bad asking friends and family to watch their pets compared to cat guardians (48%).
- Dog guardians (46%) are more likely than cat guardians (37%) who travel overnight to say it’s difficult to relax because they’re worried about them.
I know that’s a lot of information to digest. Now that you made it this far, I’d like to hear from you.
Have you ever sneaked your furry friend onto a plane or into a hotel that doesn’t accept pets? Were you successful? Scared? Thrown out?
I also want to know would you use a website to find pet-care services, such as home dog boarding, pet sitting, doggie daycare? If you’ve used DogVacay.com, Rover.com or a similar site, what was your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below with The Jet Set Pets community. Safe travels!