How to Make Traveling With Your Pet Affordable

Not every hotel that claims to be pet-friendly is truly pet-friendly once you add in all the fees.
Reyna Gobel
By Reyna Gobel 
Updated
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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When you’re traveling with your pet, there are several costs you need to consider beyond airline fees: doggy day care or pet-sitting services, hotel pet fees and transit costs.

But sometimes travel rewards can help keep traveling with your animal affordable.

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Here are a few things to consider when planning pet travel, and tips on how to keep the costs down.

How much are the hotel pet fees?

Hotel pet fees can range from $0 to $100 per stay, or nightly rates of up to $50. Even chains that may have a stated price could vary by location.

NerdWallet analyzed hotel policies as part of its annual Best Of's awards to find the best hotels that allow pets. While the rankings encompassed factors beyond cost (other factors were considered such as percent of hotels within that brand where pets are allowed), cost of pet fees was naturally a huge factor.

Hotel brand

% of hotels where pets are allowed

Average pet fee

Average pet fee as a percent of room rate

Best Western

35.29%.

$67.50.

46.42%.

Hilton

79.44%.

$81.25.

29.57%.

Hyatt

88.24%.

$106.67.

37.39%.

IHG

64.70%.

$67.27.

32.97%.

Marriott

63.10%.

$98.18.

28.83%.

Wyndham

27.27%.

$68.75.

25.81%.

The average pet fee across all hotels in NerdWallet's analysis is $81.60, representing, on average, a 33.50% fee as a percent of the overall room rate. You'll find lower average pet fees at brands like Best Western, IHG and Wyndham, whereas Marriott and Hyatt typically charge more.

Alternatively, Airbnb pet fees are set by individuals, so they could be a nominal $5 (or even $0) night, but they might also be well over $50. Unlike a hotel, Airbnb pet fees can often be negotiated. NerdWallet staff has had success with fees listed at $40 per stay. Staff sent the host a message that their dog was well-behaved and the host dropped the fee to $20.

What is the hotel’s or Airbnb’s policy for leaving your dog in the room?

The Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Marriott).

If the hotel or Airbnb you’re staying in has a policy of never leaving your dog in the room by itself, you’ll need to also budget for local pet-sitting services or day care.

If you’re gone for a few hours, services such as Rover will help you find an experienced dog walker, and the first two walks are free. Pet-sitting services are priced similarly to babysitting services. Expect to pay at least $10 per hour, though pet day care services may cheaper. enerally, expect to hire a pet sitter if you need to leave your pet at night.

Does the hotel have amenities for your dog?

The Le Merigot Santa Monica. (Photo courtesy of Marriott).

Some do. Kimpton Hotels, which is considered NerdWallet's top hotel brand for pets, offer toys, treats, clean-up bags and water bowls for your pet.

At the Le Merigot Santa Monica, a Marriott property in Southern California, pet perks include a welcome amenity and plush pet bed. There's also an on-site dog park, and you can ask hotel staff for dog treats, too.

You should generally plan on bringing or buying your dog’s food from a local pet store. Some boutique hotels will have doggy menus to treat your pooch as you dine at the hotel restaurant, although the pet food may be comparable in price to the human food.

How much are the airline pet fees?

Alongside its hotel rankings, NerdWallet also analyzed the most pet-friendly airlines for its annual Best Of awards. Again, pet fees weren't the only factor (NerdWallet also considered criteria like types of animals allowed and rate of pet deaths or injuries), but they played a big factor.

Here's a snapshot of some of the data we collected to help you plan for flying with dogs, cats and other pets.

Cost for main cabin pet transportation

Number of pets allowed per passenger

Types of animals allowed in main cabin

Alaska Airlines

$100 (per carrier, with up to 2 per carrier).

4 (if you purchase an adjacent seat, otherwise two).

Dogs, cats, rabbits and household birds.

American Airlines

$150.

2.

Cat or dog.

Delta Air Lines

$95.

1 (Two if between the age of 10 weeks and 6 months and they can fit in a single carrier).

Dogs, cats and household birds.

Frontier Airlines

$99.

1.

Domesticated dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters or small household birds.

Hawaiian Airlines

$125 between Hawaii and North America. $60 within Hawaii.

1 (Two puppies or kittens of the same breed or litter between 8 weeks and 6 months old, weighing 25 pounds or less).

Cat or dog.

JetBlue Airways

$125.

2 (Only one pet per carrier. You can travel with two pets, but you must book and pay for the second seat and pet fee).

Cat or dog (maximum of six pets per flight; not available in Mint).

Southwest Airlines

$125 (refundable).

2 (if in the same carrier).

Cat or dog (maximum of six pets per flight).

Spirit Airlines

$125 each way, plus an additional $125 charge for each stopover of more than four hours within the U.S.

2 (if in the same carrier).

Dogs, cats, rabbits and household birds.

United Airlines

$125 each way, plus an additional $125 charge for each stopover of more than four hours within the U.S.

2 (with purchase of a second ticket).

Cat or dog.

NerdWallet rated Alaska Airlines as the best airline for traveling with a pet, as it had among the lowest fees and the most flexible pet policy in terms of what types of pets you can bring.

You might also consider smaller air services, like semi-private jet service JSX, which is one of the best air carriers for pets. JSX doesn't charge pet fees for small pets that fit in a cabin carrier. Though its airfares are typically far higher than traditional airlines, it might even out once you account for the pet fee you'd otherwise pay.

Other money-saving tips for traveling with a pet

Plan your ground transportation: If the local shuttle services don’t accept pets, you could end up paying a much higher price to get to the hotel. It helps to call the hotel concierge and ask about transportation options both to the hotel and around town. Many ride share services will accept pets in some capacity. For example, Uber Pet is available in most cities, which explicitly allows you to jump in an Uber alongside your furry friend (though Uber pet rides are typically more expensive than standard UberX rides).

(Photo courtesy of Uber)

Don't count on your emotional support animal to fly for free: In past years, you may have traveled with your emotional support animal for free. That’s no longer the case. These days, all pets are subject to pet policies and fees on all of the major airlines we reviewed.

That’s due to a December 2020 ruling from the U.S. Department of Transportation that eliminated a requirement that airlines allow emotional support animals free of charge. By early 2021, all of the major airlines announced that they would no longer recognize emotional support animal air travel.

Certified service animals are still permitted at no additional cost under the Air Carrier Access Act.

Hold the right credit card: Because pet policies can differ within a chain, having a travel rewards credit card with multiple hotel options can be better than limiting yourself to just one brand.

Research pet-friendly activities and attractions: Additionally, find local attractions or outdoor restaurants that allow pets. Quite a few hotels will even serve your pet indoors in seating areas placed just outside of the restaurant.


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