Traveling can already be costly, but add a pet and your prices could be even more anxiety-inducing. But sometimes traveling with a pet is unavoidable, be it because you’re planning on being gone for a while or you simply want to bring your best friend with you. Fortunately, if you’re looking for the cheapest way to travel with a dog or another pet, we have some tips to help. Beyond making sure you have all the budgeting tips you need to create a travel fund, here are some more pet-specific ways to save on travel.
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 cheapest vet, which can provide some major savings. This tip can really help you if you own a pet on a budget, even when you’re not traveling, as comparing local vet prices can help you save money on your pet’s next check-up!
2. Make a Packing List for Your Pet
Just like you make a list for yourself, a partner or even 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 you didn’t pack them.
3. Bring a Leash & Harness
This may sound obvious, but it can be overlooked if you’re planning a trip to the country or somewhere else your pet may have free-reign. However, in an emergency situation, already having these items packed and readily available can save you both time and money. Plus, many cities and towns have laws that require dogs to wear leashes. Check out the laws in your travel destinations ahead of time to avoid potentially getting hit with a fine if you’re caught with a dog off-leash in an area with leash laws.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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. Making sure your carrier will be accepted ahead of time can save you a lot of time and money.
7. 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.
8. Compare Airline Pet Fees
An airplane isn’t exactly the cheapest way to travel with a dog or any other pet. Why make it more expensive by just going with the first airline that pops up on your search engine? You can save money by doing some comparison shopping sans pet, and given how expensive pet fees can be, it’s even more important to do so when traveling with your furry companion!
9. Consider Skipping the Hotels
Hotels can charge some pretty hefty pet fees, especially if your pet weighs more than 10 or so pounds. You can avoid the fees by opting for an Airbnb instead. 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.
10. Research Dog-Friendly Cities
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.
11. Look for Free Dog-Friendly Activities
Look for cities that offer beaches, 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!
12. Determine if it’s Cheaper to Pack Pet Food
If you’re not traveling by airplane or a train with bag limits, then the odds are that it’ll be cheaper to bring your pet’s food than it will be to buy a bag at your destination. However, if your pet food weight is going to drive up the prices of your luggage, you may actually be better off just buying food from a local pet store when you land.
13. Don’t Forget the Toys!
Your pet will still want to play fetch, snuggle with her favorite stuffed squeaker and chew on his favorite bone. Not bringing toys could mean you have to buy toys at your destination to stave off having a grumpy (and even destructive) pet.
14. 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 overpriced medications on the road, pack a bag of essentials you can keep handy whenever you’re out with your pet. Your bag could include wipes, treats, an extra leash, pills, water or anything else you think your furry friend may need in a pinch.
15. Reconsider Rental Cars
Many rental car companies charge exuberant fees for bringing along a pet. And if you don’t disclose you’re bringing a pet to avoid the fees, you could end up getting charged even more if they find dog hair or any accidents when you return the car. The cheapest way to travel with a dog is often to bring your own car, if possible. And if it isn’t, you may want to ask a close friend or family member if you could borrow theirs for the trip. Just be sure to offer to pay them and return it clean … or at least bring them back some great souvenirs!
16. 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 under 20 pounds if you keep them in a carrier for just $26 or 800 rewards points.
17. Collect Your Membership Cards
Are you a part of any membership programs with any chain pet stores? Be sure to bring those cards with you as you travel with your pet. These loyalty programs often offer benefits such as discounted products & services, and even rewards points that can benefit you and your budget if you end up needing to buy something at your destination.
18. Research Local Vets & Emergency Clinics
No one wants to think about a pet getting sick or injured on a trip. However, knowing your options and having a plan if an emergency happens while you’re out of town can save time and money.
19. Check Your Pet Insurance Policy
Check if your pet insurance policy 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.
20. Ask About Public Transportation Policies
Do you plan on traveling by cab or bus when you get to your destination? Call 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.
21. Don’t Forget About Non-Pet Savings
Have a few tried-and-true travel hacks? Be sure to use them even if you’re traveling with a pet! You can save on human and pet-related grooming products by using hotel soaps and shampoos, if your pet doesn’t have an allergy to them. Other popular hacks, like having flexible travel dates and using credit card points can also still save you money when you travel.
22. Try to Get Direct Flights Only
If you have to take an airplane, try to only take direct flights. While layovers could mean savings if you’re traveling alone, it actually could end up costing you more time and money with your pet. A direct flight can be less stressful for your pet and prevent you from spending on food and amenities to pass the time.
23. Travel During ‘Off’ Season
Airplanes, rideshares and other means of transportation with a pet will all be cheaper if you travel during odd times. The cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesday or Wednesday, for instance, and prices for Uber and Lyft are lowest outside of commuter hours. By traveling during less busy times and seasons, you’ll most likely have lower costs for services like UberPets, too.
24. Use Rewards Points
Pet or no pet, 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 to cut down on costs. And even if your rewards bank is empty, you can still use your cards to build up points so you’ll have a nice stack of bonus rewards ready to use on your next trip.
25. Skip Indoor Activities
Operas, theaters, museums, and other touristy activities may be fun for you, but not so much for your pet. Plus, if your pet can’t really be trusted alone, the costs of finding an animal daycare or a pet sitter while you’re gone for a few hours may be pretty expensive. Even if your pet is usually fine alone, the anxiety from being somewhere new without their owner could trigger stress and anxiety, and cause them to have an accident or destroy something while you’re gone that you’ll be charged for. Instead, try finding free or inexpensive things you could do with your pet, like hiking or swimming in a lake.
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 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Talk To Your Vet about Pet Anxiety
If your pet is anxiety-prone, talk to your vet about safe ways to help your pet calm down, which may include prescription or drug store calming supplements. If your pet is especially anxious, you may want to consider asking a close friend or family member to pet sit and leave the pet behind, if possible.
4. 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.
5. Keep 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 anxious pets.
Traveling with a beloved pet can be fun if you’ve got the budgeting basics and tips you need to make sure the trip is successful. While it can be more costly, with proper planning, bringing your furry friend along doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive.
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 APY by setting up direct deposit. Plus, using your SoFi debit card locally can earn you up to 15% cash back that you can also put toward your travel fund.
Photo credit: iStock/Fenne
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