Written by: Heather Mikesell
Two out of every three American homes include a pet. While dogs remain man’s (and woman’s) best friend, cats run a close second. It’s really no surprise when you consider the love, laugher, and companionship a pet can bring. In fact, 95 percent of pet owners consider their pets to be part of the family. These furry four-legged family members bring much more than just joy and unconditional love, they can also help boost your health and wellness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), owning a pet provides multiple life-enhancing benefits, such as decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels, and decreased triglyceride levels. Pets also help minimize feelings of loneliness, increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, and increase socialization. The same can be said for traveling with your pet.
Expanding Your Horizons
According to Jimmy Im, founder of Travelbinger, bringing along a pet can positively impact mental health in ways you don’t expect. For example, Im found himself shifting his destination planning after adopting Ruby, a travel-loving shi tzu. “With her, I started traveling to fewer cities and more outdoor places, places where she could run on a sprawling beach, or hike in the woods, or sit by a pool in the canyons,” says Im. “Ruby was a magnet to nature, and I found myself in these beautiful, calming places because of her.”
Anna Haddad, founder of OneYogaHouse, also knew her travel priorities were going to change. “When we welcomed our Portuguese Water Dog, Franklin, into our family, my husband and I knew we would need to spend more time considering the types of trips we should take to fit him into our upcoming travel plans,” says Haddad. “Traveling with Franklin encourages us to really take time away from all of our devices and focus on present-moment mindfulness. Puppies are like children—they require you to be fully present with them, in the here and now. It has become part of my yoga practice to live in the present moment with Franklin. He is a constant and beautiful reminder to take breaks and self-nourish with healthy food, get plenty of rest, and schedule plenty of time for play.”
Boosting Physical Activity
Traveling with your pet can also provide physical benefits in addition to enhancing any travel experience. Dogs, for example, encourage people to get outdoors and move. Daily walks are a necessity, which makes exploring a new destination with a furry friend a fun adventure. The boost in physical activity can yield significant health benefits while also helping to prevent various chronic conditions.
Improving Heart Health
While bringing along your pup will certainly ensure a more active getaway, it also does a heart good. Studies show that pets help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Although it may seem that dogs have the advantage in that department, they aren’t the only ones that can help improve heart health. Research suggests that cat owners are also less likely to have a heart attack or suffer from other cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke.
Making Meaningful Connections
One of the highlights of traveling with a pet is the social connections they inspire. Not only are they great conversation starters but they are also magnets to other friendly, pet-loving people. Traveling with a pet can make you much more approachable to others, as few people can resist a cute four-legged companion. This has the added benefit of making any travel experience more fulfilling, be it from having more interesting interactions with locals or other travelers.
For some, travel can be somewhat stressful. Animals have a long history of providing emotional support. Beyond that, they have the ability to lighten the mood and put people at ease. For Kevin Dailey, a frequent traveler and senior manager, Strategic Partnerships at Booking.com, traveling with his new terrier mix pup, Scout, has been a joyful experience. “It definitely relieves some of the anxieties of travel when you have your faithful furry friend with you at all times.”
Because Scout is still a puppy, Dailey felt it was important to have her with him on a recent trip to Florida. “Not only do I want her to be with me, I also feel a sense of responsibility,” he says. “This doesn’t mean I plan to bring her on every trip, but it’s nice to know that it is possible as I plan to travel often with her.”
Resorts Roll Out Welcome Mat for Pets
Fortunately, in recent years, the hospitality industry has embraced guests traveling with their pets and welcomed their furry friends with a host of pet-friendly amenities, such as pet treats, dog beds, and more. At Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, AZ, pets stay for free and are treated to a host of goodies, including a “Pet in Room” sign. Pets and their owners are encouraged to take advantage of the hotel’s lush grounds and courtyards, as well as the trails on the nearby Arizona Canal. At Snow King Resort in Jackson Hole, WY, pets can experience their own getaway at Dogjax for a day of play while their owners are hitting the slopes or are exploring Yellowstone. It’s never been easier to travel with a pet.
Recognizing that pets bring immeasurable joy, some hotels and resorts even have a pup-in-residence, such as The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa in Manchester Village, VT. In fact, the historic resort recently promoted its five-year-old golden retriever, Cooper, to chief happiness officer in the fall of 2020. Sharing his love of the outdoors, Cooper leads guests on weekly Golden Hikes on Saturday mornings. From April 17 to Nov. 20, 2021, guests can join Cooper for a two-hour hike through the resort’s surrounding 914-acre Equinox Preserve. They’re also free to bring their own furry companions, as well.
While Ruby has accumulated more mileage than most intrepid travelers, having stayed at more than 100 luxury hotels, flown on three private jets, and even having her own Instagram account (@jetsetruby), the health and wellness benefits she brings to her human are incalculable. “Ironically, I got Ruby because I wanted to pull the brakes on traveling,” says Im. “I was typically on the road one to two weeks out of a month. I thought having a dog would help me stay put at home. The problem is that she loves traveling as much as I do.”