15 Tips to Cut Costs When Traveling With Pets

By Kaitlyn Farley · May 04, 2023 · 8 minute read

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15 Tips to Cut Costs When Traveling With Pets

Traveling with a pet, whether by choice or necessity, can be a terrific bonding experience. You get more time with your furry companion, exploring new places, and (bonus!) don’t have to worry about lining up pet-sitting while you travel.

But traveling isn’t cheap, and when you add in taking along your furbaby, the price can go even higher. If you’re feeling the pinch, follow this advice for cutting costs without trimming any fun from your travels.

1. Be Savvy About Pre-Travel Vet Trips

If traveling by air or train, review what checkups and vaccinations your pet needs to travel well in advance. This will allow you to shop around for the most affordable vet vs. whichever one is available last minute, which can provide some major savings.

2. Make a Packing List for Your Pet

Just like you make a list for yourself and perhaps your kids, make sure you have a list for your pet, too. This can prevent you from having to waste money re-purchasing items at your destination because, oops, you forgot to pack them.

3. Pack Extra Food

Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, pack extra dog food and treats. If you end up being delayed because of traffic, layovers, canceled flights, or other inconveniences you may end up having to buy pet food you didn’t plan for. Worse still, depending on where you’re delayed, you may have trouble finding spare pet food to purchase at all. The last thing you need when traveling is to be calling an Uber to get you to a supermarket that’s open all night!

4. Don’t Forget Portable Water Bowls

At some point, be it while hiking or at a rest stop on a road trip, your pet is going to become thirsty. If you forget to bring a collapsible bowl, you may have to buy one on the road if you don’t have an empty cup large enough for them to drink from.

5. Check Your Carrier Dimensions

If you’re bringing Fido in a carrier for a train or airline, double-check ahead of time that your carrier fits their regulations. Just like luggage and carry-ons, airlines often have specifications for carrier sizes. When dogs travel in a temperature-controlled cargo hold, the bigger and heavier the carrier, the more you may pay. Making sure your carrier will be accepted ahead of time can help you save money on flights, not to mention time and frustration.

6. Invest in Pet Car Safety Items

If you’re driving, make sure you have everything you need to make sure your pet gets to your destination safely. Sure, this may cost you money upfront, but a proper pet seat belt or travel crate could save your pet’s life or prevent costly injuries in case of an accident.

7. Consider Skipping the Hotels

Hotels can charge some pretty hefty pet fees, especially if your pet weighs more than 10 or so pounds. You might even have to pay more than $100 extra for a short stay with a pet. One way to avoid those fees and be a frugal traveler can be to opt for an Airbnb or similar home-y accommodation. Not only can this be a cheaper option when traveling with a pet, but it could give your friend more space to run and play, especially if your host has a backyard.

Recommended: Guide to Saving Money on Hotels

8. Research Dog-Friendly Locations

Do you have flexibility when it comes to your destination? Pet fees in a major city like New York City are bound to be higher than those of a remote campground in, say, northern Michigan. So you may want to do your research before finalizing your destination to find cities and towns that are pet-friendly, both in terms of the average fees charged for pets at hotels and how many dog-friendly activities are around.

Whether you’re booking summer travel or perhaps planning a jaunt over the winter holidays, look for locations that offer hiking trails, parks and perhaps even restaurants where your furry pal can tag along. Many pet beaches and parks are free, so you and your pet can have a good time on a budget.

9. Determine if it’s Cheaper to Pack Pet Food for a Road Trip

Okay, it’s totally understandable that no one is going to pay to check a bag of kibble and canned food when flying to a dog-friendly getaway. But if you’re road tripping, it can be a money- and time-saver to bring Bailey’s favorite food with you. You don’t have to worry about shopping at your destination or discovering that prices are way higher for your pooch’s preferred eats. So whether you rent a car or drive your own wheels, it may be a budget-wise move when traveling.

10. Try Traveling by Train

If cars and airplanes aren’t going to work for your situation, then you may want to consider traveling by train. For instance, Amtrak allows you to travel with pets on many routes for a fee of $29 or $39. While not as fast as a plane obviously, it can make vacationing with your pet more affordable and a good option in some situations.

11. Pack a Pet Essentials Bag

Emergencies happen. Your pet could catch a cold playing in some mud at a rest stop or have an allergy flare up and need eye drops. To avoid paying for pricey medications on the road when you know you have them at home, pack a bag of essentials. It could include wipes, treats, an extra leash, pills, water or anything else you think your furry friend may need in a pinch. This might help you save money on your pet while you travel.

12. Check Your Pet Insurance Policy

If you have a pet insurance policy, check its terms before traveling. It is likely to cover a pet bill from a vet office that is out of town. Additionally, make sure the policy is up-to-date before leaving to avoid paying high fees if you do need a vet while you’re on vacation. You probably don’t want to find out your pet insurance expired during an emergency vet visit while traveling.

13. Ask About Public Transportation Policies

Do you plan on traveling by cab or bus when you get to your destination? Check ahead of time and see if your furry companion is allowed to ride with you on the modes of public transportation you plan to use. Most cities allow animals that can fit in a carrier under the subway or bus seat to ride for a small fee or even free.

14. Use Rewards Points

Rewards credit cards can help you save money while on vacation. If you’ve collected enough rewards points and awards you can use them toward your expenses when traveling with your pet to cut down on costs.

And even if you don’t have enough to use right now, you can still swipe and tap your cards to build up rewards points. That way, you’ll have a nice stash of them ready to use on your next trip.

Recommended: Choosing Between Credit Card Cash Back vs. Travel Rewards

15. Other Pet Travel Tips

Before hitting the road (or air) with your furry pal, you may want to help you and your pet prepare for what traveling will be like. Here are a few extra tips that can help you and your pet stay safe and happy while traveling, especially if your pet is new to long-distance travel. While they may not have a direct money-saving benefit, they will likely make your travels smoother and more enjoyable.

Practice Traveling

If your pet has never been on a long car ride before, take a few practice trips before a big trip. Jump on the expressway for an hour or so to see how your pet does. This can help your pet get used to traveling for a longer period of time than they’re used to.

Plan for Extra Potty & Play Time

You may be in a hurry to get to your destination, but your pet may need to take more breaks than you think, especially if you’re traveling by car. So when you’re planning your trip, take into account how often your pet usually needs to go to the bathroom or how long they can realistically be in a car without exercising and make room for a few more breaks in the day where possible.

Bring Comfort Items

Having a few comfort items can help make the journey easier for your pet. Bringing a favorite toy, blanket, or even a dog bed if you’re traveling by car can all go a long way in helping them keep calm and feel at ease while traveling somewhere new.

Stick to Scheduled Meal Times

If possible, feed your pet around the same times you usually would while you’re traveling. Plus, try to feed them the same food they’re used to getting. This can help keep their bellies from getting upset and help them have a sense of routine, which is especially important for pets when traveling, especially anxious ones.

The Takeaway

Traveling with a beloved pet can be fun, but it can get pricey. By being aware of and then working around some of the extra fees and expenses, you can have a terrific adventure with your critter without going into debt. That way, you can have a mega amount of fun memories, not bills.

If you need help budgeting for a vacation with a pet, consider opening a Sofi Checking and Savings account. The automatic savings feature can help you collect and organize your trip money, and you can earn a competitive annual percentage yield (APY) by setting up direct deposit. Here’s another perk: You can get up to 15% cash back at local establishments when you pay with your SoFi debit card.

Better banking is here with up to 4.20% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

Photo credit: iStock/Fenne
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