First, remember that the early bird - or dog, cat or ferret - gets the worm. Book your flight as soon as you know you'll be traveling with your pet. "For your pet's comfort - and for cost effectiveness - you really want to book a direct, non-stop flight," says Grant. "But, most airlines are going to limit the number of pets they have on a plane, which is why you want to book in advance." For example, if you're flying in coach on Delta, the airline only allows two pets in the cargo hold at a time. If those spots are already taken, you'll either have to purchase a first-class ticket or find another flight.
Major airlines will also charge a fee for bringing your pet onboard, but the fees can range anywhere from $69 on AirTran to bring your pet in the cabin with you, to almost $300 on Delta and United to have your pet travel in the cargo hold. "Do shop around," says Grant. "That's actually where Pet Airways comes in - they can be a more economical choice with fares starting at $149 each way." Pet Airways is a new carrier that caters only to animals. To learn more about Pet Airways, you can visit their website by clicking here.
Before you arrive at your destination, check into your hotel's pet policy. "Not every pet-friendly hotel is actually going to let your pet stay for free," says Grant. You may be charged a fee just to bring your pet along. Some hotels also cater to a traveler's furry friends more than others. "Chains like Hampton Hotels will add in little extras like house-made dog biscuits," adds Grant.
If traveling with your pet isn't an option and they must stay at home, weigh the cost of hiring a pet-sitter versus putting your dog or cat in a kennel. "Pet-sitting is usually the best way to go. Your pet is going to be more comfortable and you can save as much as 50%," says Grant. However, be sure to ask what's included in pet-sitter rates. "You might be able to negotiate a better price if you're forgoing extras like them collecting your mail or watering your plants," says Grant.
Finally, hunt for discounts. "AAA members... get 10% off at this national sitter service called Fetch Pet Care," says Grant. Also, Grant recently found coupons for a local pet campus outside Indianapolis on their website. When in doubt, call the sitter or kennel you're considering. You may be able to negotiate a lower rate.
For more information on traveling with your pet, as well as additional personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Petrun