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Across the U.S., staying in pet-friendly La Quinta and Drury hotels

Chloe and I had some experience with La Quinta and Drury hotels when we began our cross-country road trip (here’s my post about the La Quinta near O’Hare, and here’s one about the Drury Hotel near the Nashville airport), but we had a lot more when we ended, and it was all good.

The big road trip of February/March 2015

The big road trip of February/March 2015, in pink Post-It notes

As you know from previous posts, we recently drove from Tampa to Seattle along the southern and western edges of the United States. We sought out La Quinta and Drury hotels, and stayed elsewhere when we had to. The Drury chain is fancier than La Quinta, but still affordable. Its properties are, loosely speaking, in the Southeast, the Midwest and Upper Midwest, Texas, and a chunk of the Southwest. La Quinta hotels are very affordable, but every one I’ve been to has been clean and pleasant. La Quinta’s hotel network stretches across the country, but falters a bit along Highway 10 between San Antonio and Tucson (there are properties, but they weren’t located where we wanted to end our days — happily, we found a couple of great alternatives in Marfa and Van Horn, Texas). For much of our trip, the La Quinta hotels were twinned with Cracker Barrel restaurants, which make me happy.

Both chains are dog-friendly (as always, be sure to let the reservation agent know that you’ll be arriving with your pet). Drury hotels charge a $10 per night fee (here’s a link where you can find the full Drury pet policy); La Quinta does not have a pet fee (here’s its full pet policy).

We stayed in Drury hotels in New Orleans and San Antonio. To keep costs down, Chloe and I shared a room with the friend we were traveling with, and in both cities the cost of a Double Queen was well under $150 (your mileage may vary — prices change, and we were traveling at a quiet time of year). The New Orleans hotel was only a short walk from the French Quarter, and the room was downright plush. The San Antonio hotel was right on the Riverwalk, only a couple of blocks from the Alamo, and it too was attractive (in a slightly sterner, more businesslike way).

Chloe milling around in front of Big Red, her suitcase, at the entrance to our Drury hotel room in New Orleans

Chloe milling around in front of Big Red, her suitcase, at the entrance to our Drury hotel room in New Orleans

A better view of our New Orleans room

A better view of our New Orleans room

I failed to take a picture of our Drury hotel room in San Antonio, but you can walk directly out of it onto the beautiful Riverwalk, shown here in one of my beloved panoramas — pets welcome to amble alongside you, and Chloe had a blast

I failed to take a picture of our Drury hotel room in San Antonio, but you can walk directly out of it onto the beautiful Riverwalk, shown here in one of my beloved panoramas — pets welcome to amble alongside you, and Chloe had a blast

We stayed in La Quinta hotels in Tallahassee, FL; in Galveston, TX (Seawall West); and in Tucson, AZ (Reid Park). All I can remember about the Tallahassee property is being profoundly grateful we made it there just before a torrential downfall (and that it was just across the street from a Cracker Barrel), but the Galveston property earned itself a photograph.

Another moody day, another crazy panorama shot — but the point is that there is a whole lot of gorgeous, peaceful Gulf of Mexico action RIGHT OUT THE FRONT DOOR of the Galveston (Seawall West) La Quinta.

Another moody day, another crazy panorama shot — but the point is that there is a whole lot of gorgeous Gulf of Mexico action RIGHT OUT THE FRONT DOORS of both of the Galveston seawall La Quinta hotels (this one was Seawall West).

Be very careful crossing Seawall Boulevard, a highway in all but name that runs in front of the hotel — but it’s worth doing, because there’s a long promenade along the seawall on the other side, and Chloe gamboled in the gusty sea breezes. On the far right of the picture you can see a structure heading out into the water; we had a fine dinner there, at Jimmy’s on the Pier (not pet-friendly, though pets can walk with you on the pier itself).

I’ve also forgotten the details about the Tucson La Quinta, aside from the fact that we chose the Reid Park property — but that’s not surprising. La Quinta hotels are a basic, clean, affordable home base from which you do other things, not destinations in themselves. None of the staff turned cartwheels over Chloe, but there are times when a matter-of-fact attitude is just as welcome as enthusiasm — and when it comes to pet fees, you can’t beat free.

Arizona’s Saguaro National Park with a dog: Workable and gorgeous

Left to my own devices, I would have skipped Tucson’s Saguaro National Park. “Saguaros,” I would have said to myself, “I’ve seen ‘em” — and I have, on the drive from Phoenix to Sedona, and lovely they are. Also, I would have added, with Chloe along a national park will be largely off limits. How wrong I would have been! And how lucky I am, in so many ways, that illustrator Chandler O’Leary was guiding the Good Ship Dodge-Chrysler Minivan across the country, and that she is a devoted fan of national parks.

The fact is, there is plenty for a dog of any size to do at the Saguaro National Park, despite the park service’s restrictions, and the place (well, two places, since it’s divided into two districts flanking Tucson) is unbelievably gorgeous. Sure, I’d seen saguaros. I just hadn’t seen as many, nor had I seen them in a terrain that highlights their beauty to advantage — and whizzing by a landscape at highway speeds is a whole different experience than ambling past and through a saguaro forest. I’m a girl who really prefers an urban getaway, and I was dumbfounded.

This is the view from the visitor's center for the western district. I mean…the park hasn't even really STARTED yet, at this point, and it's already just…wow.

This is the view from the visitor’s center for the western district. I mean…the park hasn’t even really STARTED yet, at this point, and it’s already just…wow.

We started with the eastern Rincon Mountain District, since we arrived in Tucson from the east. The entrance fee (and it covered the other district, too) was $10, since we had the car (and you’d want one — it’s a big place and even the nearest picnic area is over a mile from the main parking lot). We were advised by the park rangers (who greeted Chloe with joy and treats) that Chloe could walk on the pavement, at the picnic areas, in the pull-outs along the road, and along the Desert Ecology Trail (a paved, relatively short loop of a trail).

That might sound, at first glance, like limited access, but it’s really all an average visitor like me needs, with or without a dog. The Ecology Trail sends you in among the saguaros, but you can also choose, as we did, to drive very slowly around the one-way circuit, pulling over from time to time to let faster sightseers go by. There are enough pull-outs that you can easily stop to take pictures, and take your dog for a walk down the road and back before continuing.  The park’s website makes even that easier, suggesting, for example: “On the paved scenic road, try the stretch from North Cactus Forest trailhead to Loma Verde trailhead. This route is less strenuous and has good sight distances for the safety of you and cyclist / motorists.”

The entrance to the eastern district of the park on a moody (okay, rainy) March day

The entrance to the eastern district of the park on a moody March day (we visited the eastern district on moody Day 1, and the western district on sunny Day 2, just to give you complete coverage)

But gorgeous nevertheless, right? And this was a photo taken on my phone, from the driver's seat. Chandler was creating ART from her seat, with her camera.

But gorgeous nevertheless, right? And this was a photo taken on my phone, from the driver’s seat. Chandler was creating ART from her seat, with her camera.

The site has similar suggestions for the western Tucson Mountain District, which also has a small dog-friendly trail taking you in among the saguaros (this one is called the Desert Discovery Trail). There too, dogs are allowed on the pavement, in three of the four picnic areas, and in the pull-outs. Both districts are well worth visiting, and the drive between the two along Speedway (which turns into Gates Pass Road) is very beautiful.

Some important considerations: Bring water bottles, wear sunscreen, and consider a Chilly Buddy jacket for your dog. On a sunny day in early March I found myself attempting to tuck my entire body under my wide-brimmed hat, and it will only get hotter as the year progresses. Also consider booties for your dog: Even on the paved surfaces Chloe was restricted to, she picked up and suffered from various burrs/prickles. Which leads me directly to one of the park’s rules: Dogs are to be leashed, and on short (no more than 6′) leads. That may sound unsporting, but you’ll soon agree it’s a good idea. The local wildlife includes rattlesnakes, scorpions, and, I kid you not, Gila monsters, and off the paved paths, the burrs/prickles proliferate. In fact, one of the rangers demonstrated that some of the flora is actively dangerous to dogs — in this picture, she’s showing how segments of some of the cholla plants (in this case, Jumping Cholla or Chainfruit Cholla) break off when you brush against them and embed themselves in your leather boot, or your dog:

I cannot emphasize enough that that's a solid leather boot she's wearing, and she really had to scrape to get that churro segment off of it (she didn't happen to have a comb in her pocket).

Please note that she is wearing a really serious pair of leather boots, and yet the cholla thorns dug deep — she had to scrape hard on the sidewalk to get the cholla segment off (she didn’t happen to have a comb in her pocket).

The solution, she told me, is not to grab the segment with your hand but rather to comb it off your dog with a regular hair comb. So pack a comb, and keep your pup on a short leash. That cholla is everywhere. And, of course, bag your dog’s poop and pack it out of the park. There are trash cans in the picnic areas and the main parking lot.

Chloe, looking noble at the western district visitor's center

Chloe, looking noble at the western district visitor’s center

And looking for squirrels (or, heck, scorpions) at the Signal Hill picnic area

And looking for squirrels at the Signal Hill picnic area

In total, we spent about four hours at the park, and could easily have stayed longer (we should, for example, have brought in lunch). Chloe was interested in and enthused with what she saw, and then ready to snooze through the rest.

Reader’s report: Dog-friendly cruise on the Rhine and Mosel Rivers

Last July, I wrote a post about a company offering dog-friendly river cruises in Europe. Reader Jenna had brought the cruises to my attention, and last fall she and Tara, her French Bulldog, went on one. I met Jenna and Tara in person in October 2013, when they hosted me and Chloe for breakfast in Paris — which was just as elegant as it sounds. Jenna writes a wonderful Facebook page about their travels, and kindly agreed to contribute this post to Dog Jaunt.

I love this collage Jenna posted on Tour de Tara

I love this collage Jenna posted on Tour de Tara

Four Paws on Deck: Dog-Friendly European River Cruises

“I’ve just returned from an amazing trip around Europe with my 14 year-old French Bulldog, Tara. The first stop on our 6-week ‘Grand Tour’ was Cologne, Germany. This city serves as the base of operations for 1AVista Reisen, a unique company that offers several river cruises for dogs and their people.

Tara and I were booked on their 8-day journey down the Rhine and Mosel. I didn’t actually care where we were going. I was just excited that Tara and I would be able to experience it together. Dogs are allowed in the cabins and all public areas of the ship.

The MV Normandie, leaving Cologne

The MV Normandie, leaving Cologne (Jenna’s picture, as are all of the pictures in this post)

Our home for the week was the MS Normandie, a 100-passenger vessel registered in the Netherlands. All of the cabins contain twin beds and a private bathroom. I selected one on the upper deck because it had larger, operational windows.

The cabin had a small TV and telephone but there is no Internet access onboard. Regardless of which deck you stay on, entering the dining room requires you to go down a steep flight of stairs. If you have a dog with mobility issues you may need to carry them.

An additional flight of stairs will take you up to the Sundeck. I came to think of this as the ‘poop deck’ because there was an area covered with sod where the dogs could relieve themselves. It was rarely necessary for Tara to use these facilities as the itinerary was designed to allow frequent stops along the riverbank.

The "poop deck"

The Normandie’s “poop deck”

The main destinations on this journey were Koblenz, Cochem, Bernkastel, Alken & Rudesheim. It was never very far from the dock to the center of town, making organized tours unnecessary. Some information on the ports was provided in German but the cruise director was also available to answer questions in English.

Cochem, one of the cruise's stops, from the river

Cochem, one of the cruise’s stops, from the river…

And from land….

…and from land. A tiny, ancient town on the Mosel River, Cochem is just ridiculously charming. [Dog Jaunt editorial]

I was the only non-German speaking passenger on this cruise. All of the announcements, activities and booking materials are presented in German. I never found this to be a problem as most of the crew and passengers spoke some English. They even printed special dinner menus for me in English.

Speaking of menus, I found the food on the MS Normandie to be fantastic. Breakfast is a hearty hot and cold buffet. You generally have a choice between 2 salads, soups, main courses and deserts at lunch and dinner. The ‘all inclusive’ price also included house wines, beer and soft drinks.

I think that no matter where you are from or what language you speak, dog lovers share a special bond. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the passengers on our river cruise. Tara also seemed to relish the extra belly rubs and treats.

I had hoped to take Tara back to Cologne next year for 1A Vista’s Netherlands dog cruise. Unfortunately, several weeks after we returned home she was diagnosed with cancer. I’m afraid her jet setting days are over but I’m so grateful that we were able to have this amazing experience together!

For more information on 1AVista’s cruises please visit www.1avista.de. Photos and stories from Tara’s travels can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/TourdeTara/

I am happy to report that Tara remains symptom-free as of today (nearly 3 months after Jenna sent this guest post to me). She is a dignified dog, and I’m grateful that loving, careful Jenna is her person. I’m also grateful that Jenna took the time to share this adventure with Dog Jaunt, and I, for one, am ready right now to cruise Germany and Holland’s rivers with Chloe.

Two dog-friendly hotels with vintage charm in the Texas hinterland

Actually, “hinterland” might be an understatement. Chloe and I and our friend Chandler recently drove from Tampa to Seattle the long way, via Palm Springs, a route that includes the entire width of Texas. Day 14 in Texas (I exaggerate, but not by much) took us from San Antonio nearly to El Paso, and for most of that day we were so far behind the back of beyond that our phones just gave up. The situation (please note that I don’t call it a “problem,” because heavens, that part of Texas is really lovely) was compounded by the fact that we chose to detour to Marfa, a tiny town that gets an inordinate amount of press in the art & design world.

We depended heavily on La Quinta hotels for most of the trip, but they, like cell phone coverage, don’t exist that deep in the heart of Texas (well, looking at the map, it’s more like the kidney of Texas). I was delighted, therefore, to learn that the Hotel Paisano, on Marfa’s main street, is not only charming but dog-friendly — and that one of its original sister hotels, also dog-friendly, is still operating in the town of Van Horn. I recommend both for anyone visiting Marfa, the Guadalupe Mountains, or Carlsbad Caverns. They are both significantly more appealing than any other lodging we saw as we started the next day driving through El Paso, Las Cruces, and Lordsburg.

I have pictures from both Marfa’s Hotel Paisano, where I bought postcards, and from Van Horn’s  Hotel El Capitan, where we stayed. I might have saved myself some effort, because the two hotels are copies of each other, designed by the same  architect and completed in almost the same month of 1930. Each went through good times (the Hotel Paisano hosted Elizabeth Taylor and the rest of the cast of Giant in 1955, for example) and bad times, and both have now been returned to beauty by the same developer. (There were three other hotels originally in the “Gateway” family, but the Hotel La Caverna in Carlsbad and the Hotel El Hidalgo in Lordsburg have vanished; the fifth, El Paso’s Gateway Hotel, exists but only barely.)

Here are daytime shots from the Hotel Paisano. Even if you don’t stay there, you’ll want to visit its excellent shop, and have a drink in its extremely pleasant courtyard. The pet fee is $20 per night, per pet.

The Hotel Paisano from across the street, on an overcast day. The courtyard is on the left side of this shot; the corner facing you is occupied by an unusually good hotel boutique.

The Hotel Paisano from across the street, on an overcast day. The courtyard is on the left side of this shot; the corner facing you is occupied by an unusually good hotel boutique.

The cheery courtyard

The cheery courtyard

This is the smile of a woman who isn't quite sure that she, her dog, AND the hotel sign are all in the same picture.

This is the smile of a woman who isn’t quite sure that she, her dog, AND the hotel sign are all in the same selfie.

By the time we reached the Hotel El Capitan, it was pitch dark outside. The neon sign on the roof has been restored, and is once again a beacon of hope for weary travelers. The pet fee is $15 per night, per pet.

Both hotels were staffed by really friendly people, who fell over themselves to pat Chloe. My room at the El Capitan was modest but scrupulously clean, and overlooked the courtyard. Because the hotel was completely restored after the previous major tenant, a bank, had ripped out all the bathrooms, my room’s bathroom was absolutely up-to-date (despite its vintage appearance).

A vintage postcard of El Capitan, hanging in one of the hallways. That sign on top has been restored, and welcomed us as at the end of a long, dark road.

A vintage postcard of El Capitan, hanging in one of the hallways. That sign on top has been restored, and welcomed us as at the end of a long, dark road.

The tiled lobby. Just behind me is a small room with a working fireplace, leading into the dining room.

The tiled lobby. Just behind me is a cozy lounge with a working fireplace, leading into the dining room.

My room, looking a little stark. I kind of wish they'd repaint with the warmer colors of the foyer tile decorations. (Chloe's in the foreground,  yearning to be on the bed, but I haven't yet put down the drop sheet we travel with.)

My room, looking a little stark with just the overhead light on. (Chloe’s in the foreground, yearning to be on the bed, but I haven’t yet put down the drop sheet we travel with.)

One of my beloved panorama shots of the bathroom — here, despite distortions, to show you how clean and well-appointed it was. Also, thumbs-up for the water pressure.

One of my beloved panorama shots of the bathroom — here, despite distortions, to show you how clean and well-appointed it was. Also, thumbs-up for the water pressure.

An early-morning departure shot of the courtyard, last seen through my bedroom window. I can't tell you what an oasis the El Capitan was.

An early-morning departure shot of the courtyard.

I didn’t have dinner at the El Capitan, because I have a serious nut allergy and the hotel’s signature dish is a chicken cutlet in a pistachio crust, but Chandler reported that it was a tasty meal. If I had to complain about something (and I did, in the hotel’s comment form), it’d be the mixed drinks, but that’s easily solved: When you visit, have a beer instead, and toast your good fortune in finding two such beautiful, comfortable, and dog-friendly places to stay in remotest Texas.

Which seat works best with an in-cabin dog? [Virgin America A-319]

We fly on Virgin America several times a year, but always, to date, on one of their Airbus 320 planes, never on an A-319. In fact, I’d concluded they only had A-320s, so my tape measure was well of out reach when I saw the A-319 emergency card. Here’s what I used as an alternative, which proves that where there’s a will, there’s a way:

That middle hieroglyphic, for example, means that the middle seat space was 2 card-widths wide PLUS up to that bold line (nope, x-ed out, actually the bold line NEXT to it). I've had resourceful readers tell me how many of their feet lengths a space was. You work with the materials at hand.

That middle hieroglyphic, for example, means that the middle seat space was 2 card-widths wide PLUS up to that bold line (nope, x-ed out, actually the bold line NEXT to it). I’ve had resourceful readers tell me how many of their foot lengths a space was. You work with the materials at hand.

As with the A-320, there are three seats on each side of the aisle (here’s a seat chart from SeatGuru so you can follow along). On this particular flight, at least, the extra legroom of the Main Cabin Select seats wasn’t available to me, since those seats (the emergency row and the bulkhead row behind First Class) can’t accommodate an under-seat pet. I was in a normal Economy seat (I’d reserved 9D for these pictures, but ended up in a middle seat; on the return trip, we were in aisle seat 14D). Both worked just fine, even though I was giving a whole new carrier (the Teafco Argo Petagon, slightly larger than Chloe’s usual SturdiBag) its shakedown cruise.

The width of the aisle seat space is 18 1/4″. The middle seat space is wider — just shy of 19.5″ wide — but it has a 2″ box attached to one of its sidewalls. The window seat space is narrower, at a hair over 17″ wide. All three spaces are 9 1/4″ tall, and all three have a hard plastic box on their “ceilings” for life jackets. Normally, I’m leery of aisle seats, but this time it was the best of the available choices.

Here’s Chloe in her Teafco Argo Petagon carrier, which I’ll review in a separate post. For the purposes of this post, it’s enough to say that the carrier is 21″ long, and about 13″ tall (though that’s a bit misleading — its top is not rigidly supported, and squashes downwards).

IMG_3855

I keep looking from this picture to Chloe, currently asleep on my hotel bed, and back, trying to pattern-match the fur bits visible through the mesh. Could that be her forehead?

A close-up shot, so you can see the relationship of the end of the carrier to the seat support — like I say, the Petagon is a long carrier, but it fit surprisingly well.

A close-up shot, so you can see the relationship of the end of the carrier to the seat support — like I say, the Petagon is a long carrier, but it fit surprisingly well.

I’m adding this post to Dog Jaunt’s ongoing series of posts recording airplane under-seat measurements, and tagging it so it appears in Dog Jaunt’s ever-growing collection of pictures of carriers deployed under plane seats.

Flip, flop, and fly: Alaska Airlines again requires health certificate for in-cabin pets

I’m losing patience with Alaska Airlines, so I’ll say up front that this is the airline’s policy as of today’s date; given their track record, check their page about pet travel carefully. Heaven only knows what their policy will be when you’re making your plans.

Back on November 4, I reported that Alaska Airlines had started requiring health certificates for in-cabin pets and expressed a fervent hope that the other major U.S. airlines would not follow suit. Two weeks later, I reported (with relief) that Alaska had reversed itself, and once again only required health certificates for pets traveling in the belly of the plane. That, I thought, was that — but on December 31st I got word that Alaska’s pet travel page had changed yet again, and now looks like this:

In relevant part, the page now says "A health certificate is also required for pets traveling in the cabin, and many states have specific importation health and vaccination requirements. It is recommended to contact the State Veterinarian at your destination prior to travel to determine necessary documentation (such as health and cold weather acclimation certificates) and vaccination requirements."

In relevant part, the page now says “A health certificate is also required for pets traveling in the cabin, and many states have specific importation health and vaccination requirements. It is recommended to contact the State Veterinarian at your destination prior to travel to determine necessary documentation (such as health and cold weather acclimation certificates) and vaccination requirements.”

That’s bad news, for all the reasons I laid out in my first post and on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page.  Please also note that the policy is “Effective December 4,” which is a little rough on the folks who were making plans between November 21 (when Alaska dropped the policy) and December 31 (when they reinstated it).

I don’t know if and when Alaska will change its mind and steer itself back into line with the other major U.S. airlines (except Hawaiian, which, given the islands’ concerns about remaining rabies-free, is a special case). I am amending Dog Jaunt’s chart about health certificates and U.S. airlines to indicate that Alaska’s policy is up in the air and should be checked and double-checked as you make your plans.

For those of you wondering what the heck a domestic U.S. health certificate is, here’s a blog post showing you what it looks like, and how it’s different from other bits of pet travel documentation.

Reader’s report: Under-seat space on a Delta A-319 (First Class)

This is a quick post courtesy of reader Danielle, who sent a report via Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page about her recent trip with new pup Addison on a Delta A-319. She kindly agreed that I could repost the info and her picture here, so it wouldn’t scroll away into the Facebook ether.

I have traveled with Chloe on a Delta A-319 in the past, and reported about the under-seat spaces I encountered, but I was in the Coach section — and it looks like Delta has changed its A-319 configuration a bit since I wrote that post (nowadays there’s also an Economy Comfort section, and the bulkhead is in front of Row 4, not Row 5). Here’s the current seat map for Delta’s A-319s, courtesy of SeatGuru. Please note that Danielle and Addison were in Row 2 on both flights, first on the port window (2A) and then on the starboard window (2D):

“I recently adopted a mini schnauzer, and wanted to take her home for the holidays with me to meet her loving family, including a fellow mini schnauzer (just a quick flight from ATL to New Hampshire). It was with your blog that I was able to choose the right carrier (Large SturdiBag), picked up tips to make her comfortable when in it, and educate myself on what to expect while both in the airport and on the plane. Addison was an incredible traveller — breezed through security and silently snoozed in her carrier the whole time. We were lucky and upgraded to first class both flights — window seats 2A and 2D on Delta’s A319. I was a bit nervous when reading that first class can be hit or miss, but it was definitely a hit on this plane. Plenty of space for Addi, and plenty of space (and free wine :) ) for Mom. To add to your collection of carrier photos, I took one of Addi snug under the seat.”

Here’s that picture of Addison, peeping out through the SturdiBag’s top hatch:

I believe this picture is from the starboard side of the plane, since it looks like the seat pocket ends at the right, and there's a hint of a right wall at the bottom. This, therefore, is a large SturdiBag (and adorable pup) in the under-seat space for window seat 2D on a Delta A-319.

I believe this picture is from the starboard side of the plane, since it looks like the seat pocket ends at the right, and there’s a hint of a right wall at the bottom. This, therefore, is a large SturdiBag (and adorable pup) in the under-seat space for window seat 2D on a Delta A-319.

Thank you so much, Danielle, for sending word back to Dog Jaunt Nation about your trip, and congratulations to you and Addi! I trust it’s just the first trip of many you’ll take together. I’m adding this post to Dog Jaunt’s ongoing series recording under-seat measurements of the various planes we fly on, and I’m tagging it to join the blog’s collection of pictures of carriers in action under airplane seats — to inspire other travelers, and to serve as a resource in case they need to convince an airline rep that there’s room on a particular kind of plane for their pet’s carrier.

Which seat works best with an in-cabin dog? [United 737-800/900]

Traveling from Seattle to Tampa recently, Chloe and I occupied the same seat (8F) on two different Boeing 737-800/900 series planes. Please note that that’s an Economy Plus seat — while the under-seat spaces are the same throughout the Coach section, Economy Plus gives you a few more inches of pitch, so you can reach down to your pet more easily. If your budget allows it, it makes a world of difference.

Here’s a seat map from SeatGuru so you can follow along (there are several configurations for the kind of plane I was on, but only this one has a bathroom right across from Aisle 7). On this plane, all three Coach section seats will work for folks with a pet carrier (assuming you orient it front-to-back, not left-to-right), but I think the window seat is most desirable.

The space under the aisle seat is 13″ wide; the space under the middle seat is 17″ wide (there is a hard grey box containing electronics on the left side of the space); and the space under the window seat is 18″ wide at the floor, sloping up to 21″ wide just below the seat pocket. All three spaces are about 19″ deep (measuring from the rail just behind the heels of the person in front of you to the plane of the seat pocket).

All three spaces are about 9″ high at their lowest, where the life jacket packet is. There is a little give there (say a half inch to an inch), because the life vest container is soft. It’s located about 8″ forward of the plane of the seat pocket, so Chloe’s large SturdiBag, with its rounded top, would have missed it altogether had I oriented her left-to-right (I don’t, these days, though I used to — nowadays, I orient her front-to-back, so she can see me out the front “door” of her carrier, and I can reach down to her through the SturdiBag’s top hatch). Where the life jacket container isn’t, the under-seat space is about 11″ high.

Here’s Chloe, waiting to take off on our flight from Seattle to Houston:

Chloe in her large SturdiBag, in a window seat on a United 737-800/900 plane — what you see is mostly ear and paw (her nose is off to the left)

Chloe in her large SturdiBag, in a window seat on a United 737-800/900 plane — what you see is mostly ear and paw (her nose is off to the left)

This post is part of an ongoing series recording under-seat measurements of the various planes we fly on. Keep in mind that most domestic and international airlines have rules about the maximum size of in-cabin pet carriers they allow on board (see Dog Jaunt’s handy charts under the “Taking your pet on a plane” tab above).

Alaska Airlines reverses direction: Health certificate no longer required for in-cabin dogs

On November 4, I reported that Alaska Airlines had started requiring health certificates for in-cabin pets and expressed a fervent hope that the other major U.S. airlines would not follow suit. Imagine my surprise to learn today that Alaska has reversed itself, and returned to its previous hands-off policy (“A health certificate will not be required for pets traveling in the cabin, however, many states have specific importation health and vaccination requirements”). You can see in my November 4 post what the relevant portion of Alaska Air’s pet travel page looked like at that point, and here’s what it looks like now:

The crucial bit follows the exclamation-point-in-the- triangle

The crucial bit follows the exclamation-point-in-the- triangle

I don’t know why Alaska has done this Forward/Backward Dance (one reader suggested that the original policy shift was prompted by fears that pets might transmit Ebola, and the timing is certainly suggestive), but I’m grateful that Alaska has returned to the baseline occupied by all of the other major U.S. airlines except Hawaiian.

Interstate health certificate, shot record, international health certificate, pet passport: Sorting out the documents

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about how Alaska Airlines has changed its pet travel policy to require a health certificate for travelers with in-cabin pets. That was newsworthy because for the past several years, no major U.S. airline other than Hawaiian had that policy. Health certificates are, and (essentially) always have been, required for crated pets traveling as baggage/cargo, but for in-cabin pets they were a thing of the past — so much so that there was confusion in Dog Jaunt Nation over what I meant by a “health certificate.” A flurry of posts on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page later, it struck me that it’d be helpful to see what an interstate health certificate looks like, and make it clear that it’s a different beast than a shot record or the documentation you need to take your pet abroad.

Interstate health certificate

This post, though much edited, will tell you nearly all you need to know about interstate health certificates. What’s missing is a picture of the certificate (sometimes formally known as a “Certificate of Veterinary Inspection”). Washington state’s certificate is a half-page document that looks like this:

The different states' forms vary in appearance, but they cover the same info

The different states’ forms vary in appearance, but they cover the same info

It’s signed by your veterinarian after she conducts a brief but thorough physical exam of your pet, and consults your pet’s vaccination records. Getting one requires making an appointment with your vet and, because it involves both tech and vet attention and time, a fairly substantial payment (typically around $50).

Once signed, an interstate health certificate lasts for 30 days; it’s typically required to be signed within 10 days of travel; and those two time periods are normally not a problem except when there’s an unexpected delay on the front end (consider getting your certificate shortly before you’re scheduled to depart) or you’ve planned a very long vacation (keep an eye on your certificate’s expiration date, and be prepared to get a new one, from a vet at your destination, for your return trip).

Shot record

Another document you can get from your vet is your pet’s shot record:

I'm not winning any awards for this picture, and the document got drenched in today's rain, but you get the idea

I’m not winning any awards for this picture, and the paper got drenched in today’s rain, but you get the idea

You’ll note that this document is labeled a “vaccine certificate,” and if your vet has a similar form, you might be misled by that word “certificate.” But as you can see, this is just a list of Chloe’s vaccinations and their current status.

It does not cost anything. Your vet’s front desk staff will print one for you on request (if you discover a need for one while you’re on the road, your vet will likely fax you a copy, but please note that that will only happen during your vet’s business hours).

A shot record is a useful object, and I always travel with the current version of Chloe’s, because you never know when it might be needed. Infrequently, a hotel will ask for it, and pet daycare facilities always do. It is not, however, an acceptable substitute for a health certificate, because it is not a statement signed by your veterinarian vouching for your pet’s health at a particular point in time. (And please note that an interstate health certificate would not address the needs of a daycare facility, since it focuses on rabies and doesn’t mention bordatella/kennel cough.)

International health certificate

When you’re preparing to travel abroad with your pet, you assemble a packet of documents required by the country you’re visiting. In this post, I included photos of the documents we gathered to take Chloe on our last trip to France (please note that the packet included a “Rabies Vaccination Certificate for the State of Washington,” which also includes the word “certificate” in its title and also does not qualify as an interstate health certificate!). This packet will look much the same for all EU countries, but other countries’ forms will vary a bit. [4/6/15 The form for a health certificate for pets traveling from the U.S. to the E.U. changed a few months ago — be sure to download and fill out the current form.]

I’ve given you advice on how to find the correct, current forms for the country you want to visit, and I won’t repeat that here. This post is just to show you that an international health certificate (ours was called a “Veterinary certificate to EU”) is a different creature than the interstate health certificate Alaska Airlines now requires. The EU certificate is bilingual (French & English) and five pages long, and here’s one [PDF] from a randomly-chosen non-EU country (Brazil) — as you’ll see, it’s also bilingual (Portuguese & English) and it’s three pages long.

International health certificates require an examination by your vet, and depending on your destination, your vet may also have to perform and record the results of additional procedures, like a rabies titration or a treatment against Echinococcus multilocularis. You’ll pay significantly more for your international paperwork than for an interstate health certificate.

Once signed, your international paperwork typically needs to be presented at your destination country within 10 days (but please do not take my word for it — that’s a crucial detail you’ll want to nail down for yourself). How long it lasts varies by country — our EU paperwork for Chloe was “valid for 10 days from the date of issue by the official veterinarian until the date of the checks at the EU travellers’ point of entry and for the purpose of further movements within the Union, for a total of 4 months from the date of issue of this certificate or until the date of expiry of the anti-rabies vaccination, whichever date is earlier,” while the Brazilian form states that it’s “valid for 60 (sixty) days from the date of issuance.”

What about those pet passports you’ve heard about? They are also for international travel, but, officially, they’re only meant for residents of the E.U. That said, we got one for Chloe when we were last in Paris, and several Dog Jaunt readers have done the same thing. The tech who handles our Seattle veterinarian’s international paperwork recently told me about a client of theirs who  frequently travels to France, and uses an E.U. pet passport to do it [but see Audra’s very helpful cautionary comment, below]. Here’s what it looks like; as you’ll see, it covers the same info as the international paperwork you’d typically assemble. On our next trip to Europe, I plan to have our normal international paperwork in my back pocket, so to speak, and attempt using just Chloe’s E.U. pet passport (appropriately updated and signed by her U.S. vet) to get there, around, and back.

As you contemplate upcoming travel, think carefully about what documents you’ll need and their “good for” dates (you’ll want to keep a sharp eye on your dog’s rabies vaccination expiration date too). As an example, my frequent flyer miles are on United, so I could return to the U.S. using the same documents that accompanied Chloe into France (assuming that her rabies vaccination falls into the proper time window), and continue on my merry way to Seattle. But after December 4, travelers who arrive in the U.S. and transfer to an Alaska Airlines flight will need to provide an interstate-style health certificate signed and dated by a vet no more than 10 days earlier, if that’s the first Alaska flight in their itinerary — and what if they were on a two-week vacation? (You’d find a vet at your destination, and get them to examine your pup and fill out a form of certificate that would satisfy the local U.S. authorities, as personified by the Alaska Airlines ticketing or gate agent you encounter. Do-able, never fear, but you’ll need to think ahead.)

How I hope that Alaska Air remains a voice crying in the wilderness on this one — well, except for Hawaiian, but if I was a rabies-free island I’d be careful too. Let me know if I’ve left your questions unanswered. These documents are a tricky business!