As you plan holiday travels, you can scan websites to compare airfares, study traffic patterns, and monitor weather and delays. But when it comes to where your pet will be spending your vacation, there's a good chance that you're flying blind.
You have several choices: Take your pet along. Ask a friend to host your critter or house-sit. Hire a pet sitter. Or book a stay at a kennel. If you go with the kennel option, nonprofit consumer group Delaware Valley Consumers' Checkbook has identified several places that will do just fine by Fido, along with detailed advice on how to evaluate kennels and how to eliminate common pet peeves.
Checkbook surveyed its members and Consumer Reports subscribers about their experiences with area boarding spots. (It's still working on methods to survey pets.) For the next month, Checkbook is offering free access to its ratings of kennels to Inquirer readers at www.checkbook.org/inquirer/kennels.
If you decide a kennel is the best option, get recommendations from other pet owners, which Checkbook did on a very wide scale. Several of the kennels rated by consumers in its surveys received "superior" ratings overall from almost all their surveyed customers. But some kennels didn't exactly wow clients with stellar service.
Checkbook also found big price differences among local kennels. To board a medium-size dog for one week, for example, its undercover shoppers were quoted prices ranging from $154 to $315. That's just for the basic boarding. At some kennels, the extras can add up fast: Additional exercise can cost an extra $10 or more a day; administering a pill might cost $3 or more a day. Also, some kennels' extremely limited drop-off and pickup periods make it difficult to avoid paying for an extra day.
It can all add up to a substantial chunk of your vacation budget. Fortunately, some of the higher-rated kennels charge below-average prices.
Carefully check out any kennel you are considering:
Another option is to hire a pet-sitting service to come to your home two or three times a day. Pet sitters' daily fees are usually more expensive than stays for a single pet at a kennel — they generally charge $50 to $60 a day for one pet. But most services offer discounts for additional pets, and some charge by the visit, regardless of the number of pets they care for. So if you have more than one pet, a pet-sitting service might cost less than a kennel.