Pet boarding for family travellers

Guest post: How to go away but leave your pet in good care

We’re getting a dog this year. The kids have been campaigning for this to happen for years and I think the time is right. We did a trial run over the Christmas holidays when we babysat a gorgeous Labradoodle called Lucy for three weeks. We loved having her in our life and can’t wait to have our own puppy. However as the saying goes, a dog is for life not just for Christmas (even though Lucy actually was just for Christmas) and pet care is a serious consideration when you are planning to travel with your family.

So I turned to my friend, passionate pet parent Gareth Brock, founder of on-line pet boarding booking system Pet Check-In (, for some sage advice. Here are his eight top things to consider.

1. Book your travel and pet care at the same time

Many pet owners leave it until the last minute when deciding who will care for their pet. This limits your choices especially if you’re looking at professional care such as pet sitters or boarding facilities as they often book out months in advance especially during peak periods like Christmas, Easter and school holidays. Additionally for family and friends it’s just common courtesy to give them sufficient notice.

2. Do your research

If you’re choosing a professional ask your network of friends and family about their experiences to help narrow down the search. Always ask to inspect the premises so you can see first hand where your pet will be staying and help you make a more informed choice. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, it will help put your mind at rest when you’re poolside with a cocktail.

3. Your pet’s health

Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date as while most pets may be used to their local strains of disease, if friends or family have put their hand up to look after your pet they may live in a different area experiencing adverse conditions, such as parvovirus that you (or they) may not be aware of. If you’ve decided on professional care reputable pet sitters and boarding establishments will stipulate that your pet’s vaccinations must be up to date and require proof upon check-in – this is non-negotiable. If they don’t ask I’d consider leaving your pet elsewhere as being in a confined environment, they are more prone to picking things up from other guests like kennel cough, much like children are more prone to the common cold in day care.

4. Your pet’s personality

Much like a child, your pet’s personality will depend on their experiences, adaptability and confidence. Is your pet social or a bit of a loner and appreciates their alone time? If your pet appreciates their own time and space you may consider a pet sitter that can come in once or twice a day to check on them, replenish their food/water and take them on their daily walk. If your pet craves human attention they’ll be better suited and adjust with somewhere that offers an environment where they’ll have lots of company and playtime such as a pet boarding facility that offers outdoor runs and cuddle time.

5. Family or Friends – are they the right choice?

If family and friends are the preferred choice due to budget constraints consider their routine – is it similar to yours? Are they time poor and likely to be distracted with their own life? Do they have experience looking after a pet? Although many have the best intentions I’ve heard too many stories about pets escaping and being hit by cars as a gate or a door has been left open as the carers have not been used to keeping an animal contained. Educate them on your pet’s routine e.g. Feed times so they can settle in quickly. 

6. Your pet’s diet

Some pets don’t cope well with a sudden change in diet so try to keep your pet on their regular food. Be sure to over cater as you may get held up from a delayed flight (it does happen!) so having more food on hand will ensure these unexpected situations won’t cause additional stress to your pet.

7. Pack creature comforts

You have to be comfortable on your holiday. Your pet is no exception. There are a few ways to help your pet settle into their new home by packing some creature comforts like their bedding (unwashed) so they can have familiar smells which will help them keep calm. Also include a few of their favourite toys as long as they aren’t possessive around around other pets or children.

8. Your pet’s age

Some pet boarding facilities may not take puppies as they can require a lot of one-on-one time so you may need to consider alternatives. However try and find someone that knows how much attention puppies need and can maintain the training routine you have in place. Puppies can often be destructive so be prepared to pay for any damage they may cause. If your dog is older it may be best to use professionals like a vet who can administer any medication or monitor them throughout the day and night.

Gareth Brock is the author of Have Pet Will Travel and the founder of Pet Check-In. Follow Gareth Brock and Pet Check-In on Facebook @petcheck-in or Instagram @petcheckin.