By Candyce H. Stapen
People like to travel with their pets. Some 53% of respondents in a TripAdvisor survey said they take their pets with them on journeys. Partly that’s because most owners consider their furry critters part of the family and partly because taking along a dog or cat adds to the fun. In general, dogs travel more easily than cats.
However, if your kitty happily curls up in her carrier and if your pooch jumps, tail-wagging, into your car, then look forward to savoring the therapeutic benefits of traveling with your animals. The bonuses of bringing your pet include:
Creating a feeling of joy. Watching my urban dogs romp along a forest trail and swim in a river—their first time doing the dog paddle—gave me a sense of joy and reminded me of how important it is to play.
Calming an anxious child. “If you have an anxious child who isn’t used to being away from home, having a pet along can be calming,” says Dr. Jeff Bauman, a child and family psychologist in Weston, Florida. “A pet brings along a sense of the familiar and also maintains some of the family’s routines.”
Providing children time to learn values. Caring for and cuddling with a dog or cat teaches children—and adults—about love, loyalty and responsibility. “There is tremendous psychological value to inviting pets into a household as they teach children many important lessons and elicit many important virtues,” says Dr. Brad Sachs, a child and family psychologist in Columbia, Maryland. “Bringing pets along on vacation when time slows down provides children with the space and opportunity to become better acquainted with these meaningful members of their family and to fully appreciate them.”
Adding a sense of physical security. Nighttime somewhere other than home may feel scary to children. Snuggling with a pet when parents turn the lights off can comfort a child, and knowing that a dog will bark an alert if there’s a problem reassures parents. A pet-friendly vacation rental provides more space than a hotel for your family to interact comfortably with your pet. Stretch out on the living room couch with your four-footed companion to watch television, throw your Labrador a tennis ball in the backyard and sit in the porch rocker with your cat purring on your lap as you watch the sunset.
Long-time family travel guru Candyce H. Stapen writes for many publications and outlets. She has written 30 travel guidebooks, including two for National Geographic.