My five pit bulls are seasoned travelers. Every weekend, they log 400 miles to and from their country retreat, in a Volvo station wagon fully loaded with essentials: safety restraints, blankets for shock and liquid absorption, a dog thermos, a first-aid kit called Bow-Ow Me-Ow, and a vial of Travel Tummy, an herbal remedy that soothes growling motion-sick stomachs. You might say we put the wag in station wagon. And we're not the only ones—according to the Travel Industry Association of America, 29.1 million Americans have traveled with their pets in the past three years.
John Steinbeck didn't know he was starting a trend with legs when he and his standard poodle took a cross-country road trip, chronicled in Travels with Charley, published in 1962. In the last 30 years, the number of Americans discovering their country and the world with their poodles and pugs and Persian cats by their side has swelled. Just 10 years ago, mentioning travel and animals in the same sentence meant one thing: safari. Today, migrating in a Land Rover with one's own herd is anything but exotic.
HITTING THE ROAD WITH PETS GETS TO THE HEART of what travel is about: seeing the world through new eyes. What bespeaks wanderlust more than a dog with its head out the car window, ears and jowls flapping?More and more, we're arranging our travel schedules for maximum pet-friendliness. Leave Rover and Fluffy behind?Not on your nine lives.
A new breed of car is making it easier to bring four-legged travelers along. In 1999, Saab became the first automotive company to offer a full line of vehicle accessories designed specifically for dogs, including a restraining system and animal-friendly harness (Saab consulted with the Humane Society, which frowns on attaching restraints to collars). Last fall, Ford introduced the similarly equipped "Have Spot, Will Travel" edition of its Focus sedan.
There's also a healthy growth industry geared to stylish animals on the go. In 1973, Louis Vuitton introduced the Sac Chat, a logo-smothered cat carrier with mesh panels for ventilation. It remains one of the company's top sellers (now joined by the Sac Chien as well). Fans of vintage design love Fifi & Romeo's Kelly bag-style doggie purse, which combines leather and antique fabrics, while Helmut Lang-leaning Modernists gravitate to K-9 Sport's En Route travel case, in NASA-worthy orange or silver microfiber.
They may not be able to speak for themselves, but animals have credit card-carrying humans who cater to their creature comforts—and fully expect hotel staffers to do the same. No wonder hospitality powerhouses are learning new tricks to get furry guests to sit and stay. All 50 properties in the Four Seasons chain welcome dogs, while "Loews Loves Pets" is the mantra at that chain's hotels, where the animals' room-service menu includes vet-approved meals to "help pets deal with jet lag and altitude adjustments" (filet mignon for dogs, salmon for cats).