Travel plans can get a little complicated when you’re leaving someone at home—especially if it’s a beloved pet. Pet owners making holiday plans often have an important decision to make: whether to take their pets along or leave them behind at home.

If you are facing this decision, think about these pet-friendly tips before planning your travel budget and itinerary.

Put your pet’s needs first

It may be tempting to bring your pet on holiday if you feel a strong attachment to them, but it’s important to consider your pet’s wants and needs over your own. Many animals aren’t suited to travel due to temperament, illness or physical ailment. Bringing pets along only to put them in stressful situations (like leaving them in crates at the airport or locked in your hotel room) isn’t always the most humane solution.

Talk to your veterinarian

Your veterinarian may be more in tune with what’s best for your pets health than you are, and they can offer an unbiased opinion. A veterinary examination is usually a pre-requisite to travel with a pet, so bring them in regardless of what you plan to do while away and get their advice. If your veterinarian thinks your pet is suited for travel, they may be able to prescribe a sedative or tranquilizer to help the trip go smoother.

Consider the options at home

If you choose to leave your pet at home while travelling, know the different options for keeping them happy and healthy, and to relieve your worries.

Friends or relatives

Arranging for a responsible friend or relative to look after your pet is often the preferred method. You can negotiate compensation and trust that your pet will be in familiar surroundings and well taken care of. Pet sitters who can stay overnight often give your pets a greater sense of security while you are away, especially if they are nervous in the dark.

If you leave a pet at home, be sure to check the security of your house before you leave. Check all windows and doors and ensure you have ample food supply. If you are leaving for more than a month, be sure to set up provisions with your gas company so the pet does not get too hot or too cold. Stock up on food so your pet sitter does not have to finance this themselves and leave detailed instructions for any medications.

Private pet sitters

If your pet is timid, elderly, or afraid of strangers, think about hiring a private pet sitter. There are many different agencies, but be sure to check their references first, as these people will most likely be coming into your home.

Kennels

If you wish to board your pet, get references and personally inspect the kennel before you travel (coming unannounced is best). Your veterinarian or local shelter are good resources to direct you to a good facility—and veterinarians sometimes offer on-site kennels. There are many variations of kennels for all budgets so shop around before you commit.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Benjamin Choi; cropped from original