When it comes time to think of holiday travel, we all know how important it is to scope out the best deals for ourselves and our family to get a great deal on airfare, hotels and car rentals.
But what about our furry friends? Figuring out what to do with Spot or Fluffy may be an afterthought when booking travel arrangements.
Here are some options to save money on pet care while you're away.
Keeping your pet at home
Kenneling or day care (with or without overnight stays): This can cost upward of $40 a day. Be on the lookout for money-saving options such as Groupon or LivingSocial. Check expiration dates and whether the facility is booked during the window your coupon is valid.
Home visits to walk and feed your pet: This can cost $15 to $20 or more per visit. If your pet is uncomfortable in new places or with crowds, home visits might be your best bet instead of a kennel. Ask a friend or neighbor to watch your animal in exchange for a small compensation or a decent favor.
If you don't know anyone who can watch your pets, try pet-care swapping with a fellow dog lover. Websites such as Meetup.com help you make these connections, or you can ask your vet or groomer for leads.
Taking pets with you
Flying with pets: This can cost about $150 to $400 round trip. However, extreme temperatures, lack of fresh air and rough handling on an airplane's cargo hold could harm or kill your animal, and the airline may not be held liable. Some airlines allow your pet in the cabin if it's small enough to fit in a standard carrier. On one major airline, pet rates are $75 each way.
Bus or train travel: This option isn't always possible unless you have a service animal. Most buses and trains don't allow animals at all unless they're trained assistance animals.
Hotels: This option may cost an additional $10 to $40 plus a nonrefundable deposit depending on location (if available). Plan ahead to ensure your accommodations allow pets and that you aren’t being overcharged. Many hotels will allow small dogs or cats for a $10 to $20 nonrefundable deposit, but call ahead.
However, if your pet is easily distressed by unfamiliar situations or you're traveling during extreme temperatures, it's a safer bet to avoid taking the pet. And if your vacation means the pet would be largely ignored, do not take it with you -- even if it's cheaper overall. Boarding can be very expensive, but leaving your companion in a hotel room while you have fun outdoors isn't ideal for the pet or your family.
Shannyn Allan is a frequent frugal traveler, pug momma and blogger at FrugalBeautiful.com. You can find her on Twitter @FrugalBeautiful.