May 6, 2013

Editor’s letter as published in the May 2013 issue of Pet Age.

When I was growing up, my family would go on vacation every August, and during that time our dog would take a little vacation of her own at a boarding facility. She really only traveled with us when we went to my great-grandparent’s house in upstate New York.

Fast forward to now, and my dog, Toby, comes almost everywhere he can with me. He took his first road trip to Lake George at 5 months old, traveled all over the state of Maine for a week at 7 months old and went on a kayaking trip to Lake Placid at 8 months old.

He’s been to a conference in Ohio, visited family in Virginia, business meetings in Connecticut, walked across the Canadian border at Niagara Falls and took a trip to Montreal.

As owners begin to treat their pets as a core part of their family, traveling with them, whether it be to a relative’s house for the holiday or family vacation to Florida, is becoming more common.

People are even traveling internationally with their pets. For example, my friend Diane has traveled twice from Atlanta to Italy with her dog, Cosmo.

These days there are no limits to where a pet might be jetting to, and hotels, restaurants, attractions and airlines are catering to this demographic. In fact, JetBlue Airways has an exclusive program designed for those traveling with their pets, called JetPaws.

The pet industry is no different.

Many companies are creating products solely designed to be used for pet travel. These items include everything from car safety restraints and portable kennels to backpacks and collapsible water dishes.

According to a AAA/Kurgo survey, 56 percent of the respondents had driven with their dog at least once a month over the past year. I would bet that number is much higher. Just after a quick scroll through my contact list, I could rattle off two dozen names of people who travel in the car with their pet one or two times a week.

Industry experts told us that in the past retailers were concerned that travel products wouldn’t sell. But now, retailers who are well versed in this area can be very profitable, without overstocking their store.

Retailers should stock practical solutions for the average pet owner who is taking Fido or Fluffy with them. Car seat restraints, airline-approved travel carriers, portable water dishes and first aid kits are a good way to start out. Merchandised together, they create a small little travel section when the weather starts to get warm and family vacations start, but at the same time, they are items that can be displayed in other sections the rest of the year.

They also meet the needs of customers who may not be traveling with their pet, but need those items for other reasons, like a car restraint when they have to take their dog to the vet.

– Michelle Maskaly

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