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The 8 Best Amazon Top Sellers Under $11 (Plus, the Most-Wished-for Item)

Travel inspiration comes in many forms , including the ever-updating list of Amazon top sellers. From stay-at-home games to travel-friendly wallets, these gifts under $11 offer plenty of inspiration and fun at an affordable price. Here are some of our favorite top-selling Amazon items for 2020.

Amazon Top Seller in Calendars

An Amazon best seller in calendars, the 2020 National Geographic Parks & Monuments Wall Calendar is a page-turning source for travel inspo month after month. Continue your journey, each month visiting a new United States national park or monument.

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Amazon Best Seller in Toys and Games

jenga-game

Among the best-selling products on Amazon’s toys and games list is the perennial favorite block-stacking (and toppling) game, Jenga. Unplug and gather the fam around this wholesome classic.

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Amazon Best Seller in Cell Phones and Accessories

screen-protector

Keeping your phone’s screen scratch-free is so simple it’s silly not to protect it. Yeah, it’s a sound investment to stick an $7 screen protector on your $1,200 phone, and as the second most popular item on Amazon’s cell phones and accessories list, it’s a tried, true, and affordable option.

Amazon Top Seller in Clothing, Shoes, and Jewelry

hanes-sweatshirt

Scandinavians have a saying: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Perfect for layering—one secret to surviving icy winters—is the Hanes Men’s Ecosmart Fleece Sweatshirt. This best-selling item on Amazon’s clothing, shoes, and jewelry list comes in 28 colors and up to 5XL in size.

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Amazon Best Seller in Accessories

rfid-wallet

Minimize the bulk—and the chance of falling victim to identity theft—with the help of this slimmed-down RFID-blocking wallet. Another item on Amazon’s clothing, shoes, and jewelry list, it comes in dozens of colors and styles.

Amazon Best Seller in Books

An Amazon best seller in books, Where the Crawdads Sing is a New York Times-best-selling title that’s also under-$10 right now. The book has frequented the best-seller charts since it debuted in 2018.

“A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature….Owens here surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child. And in her isolation that child makes us open our own eyes to the secret wonders—and dangers—of her private world.”—The New York Times Book Review

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Amazon Top Seller in Video Games

PS-gift-card

The top-selling Amazon gift in the video games department is the $10 PlayStation gift card. Your recipient knows the game they want, so why not make it easy on everyone with a gift card?

Amazon Best Seller in Pet Supplies

squeaky-pet-toys

You may regret the purchase when the incessant squeaking starts, but one of the former best-selling items Amazon for pets is this squeaky plush toy. At $9 and without stuffing, it’s at least affordable and mess-free.

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Plus, the Amazon Most-Wished-for Item

Not under $11: The most-wished-for item in Amazon’s home and kitchen category is currently the Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, which moisturizes the air for as long as 16 hours so you can sleep rested and wake up feeling refreshed rather than with a dry, scratchy throat this allergy season.

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Senior Editor Patricia Magaña Figueroa writes about travel. Follow her @PatiTravels.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Editor’s note: All prices were correct at time of publication and are subject to change.

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Fall Scenic Drives for Each U.S. Region


Fall is perhaps the best season to pack up the car and head out on a scenic drive to enjoy the season’s colors and flavors. Here are the best fall road trips, one for each U.S. quadrant. Be sure to peruse the listing at the story’s end for resources on finding peak-season foliage throughout the nation.

Northeast: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

cape-cod-bridge-fall

New England is a foliage seeker’s paradise, and a drive down any local roadway from late September through early November is a sight to behold. Focus on specific parts of the Northeast, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best fall road trips, with a broad range of leaf colors.

The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism’s fall page lists nine seasonal drives, each chosen for its historic significance and natural beauty. The  Cape Cod route from Bourne to Brewster is an easy drive filled with working cranberry bogs, the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum—dedicated to the 35th president’s life in the Cape—and a stop at Scargo Hill Observation Tower (located on the Cape’s “inner elbow”) for sweeping panoramas of the area’s foliage scenery with views as far as Provincetown, the Cape’s “fist.”

Before your next weekend getaway, get a peek at what awaits you up the road with this live foliage map.

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Midwest: Southwest Michigan

red-lighthouse-holland-michigan

The state of Michigan has put together a comprehensive list of driving tours perfect for the road trip aficionado. Choose from various themes, including food, wine, heritage, fall, and others.

The one-tank trip around Michigan’s southwest region starts at Battle Creek, winds through wine country in Paw Paw, continues past roller coasters in St. Joseph, and offers side trips to South Haven and New Buffalo.

Make time for various unique experiences along Michigan Great Lakes roadways: seasonal swills at the state’s oldest microbrewery at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo; a car-friendly flick at Capri Drive-In Theater; and Dutch heritage a la Americana at the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory in Holland (Michigan, that is), with its very own authentic windmill, brought here from the Netherlands and reassembled bit by bit. End the voyage at the artsy area of Saugutauk-Douglas, a town awarded the 2016 Best Small Town Weekend Escape by USA Today.

The people behind the Michigan Tourism Offices make organizing a road trip through their state a breeze with the ever-useful interactive trip-planning map. Leaf peepers will appreciate the site’s Fall Colors Tours page, dedicated to roadways that best highlight the season’s vibrant foliage offerings.

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South: Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia

blue-ridge-parkway

Known for striking vistas as far as the eye can see, the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches out over 469 miles between the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah national parks, zigzagging along the Appalachian Highlands. With a maximum speed capped at a a leisurely 45 miles per hour, cruising along the road is encouraged.

Along the way, make a point to stop at Humpback Rocks at milepost 5.8 in the Shenandoah Valley for gravity-defying rock formations, plus a small museum highlighting Appalachian life within the visitor center. Take a break from the manmade roadway to feel the force of Mother Nature at Linville Falls, located at mile marker 316. This is a popular stop along the Parkway, but you can skip the crowds by visiting the falls during the week. Fun fact: The Linville Gorge was the nation’s first designated wilderness area. For those who wish to break up their drive with a trail walk, there are some 370 hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of which is the revered Appalachian Trail.

Driving the parkway is always free of charge, but check for Blue Ridge Parkway road closures (mostly due to inclement weather) before packing up the car.

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West: Tioga Road, Yosemite National Park, California

yosemite-half-dome-fall

You can’t go wrong with any fall scenic drives through Yosemite National Park, and perhaps the most spectacular is Tioga Road.

It’s easy to see why Tioga Road is so attractive, too. Not only is it in the Sierra Nevadas, but it’s California’s highest roadway. And at a brief 47 miles, it cuts across the heart of Yosemite for one of the most picturesque drives imaginable. (It’s sure to yield the most double-clicks on your Instagram account. #travelenvy, anyone?)

Head to the lesser-known, yet just as amazing Tuoloumne Grove off Tioga Road for one of the best fall road trips in the West. As with most other trees, these giant sequoias put on quite the colorful show in autumn. On Tioga Road you’ll have access to Olmsted Point and Tenaya Lake, plus a close-up view of Clouds Rest, and beyond that, Half Dome. Hikers rejoice, as this is the roadway connected to the most hiking trails.

You’ll have to time this voyage carefully because Tioga Road closes when the snow starts in October or November. See the Yosemite National Park road conditions page before heading off for this adventure.

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Fall Foliage Forecast Resources

blue-ridge-parkway-fall

What to Wear on Your Scenic Drive

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Patricia Magaña looks forward to eating her weight in apple cider donuts this fall. Follow her on Instagram @PatiTravels.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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The Essential Pre-Trip Checklist


For a stress-free, tranquil trip, preparation is key. If you’re getting ready to go on vacation, download our pre-trip checklist to help you take care of the essential tasks before embarking on your getaway. This customizable and editable chart includes everything you’ll likely need to do before heading out the door, from arranging pet care to taking care of finances. Download the list and add in any extra preparations you might need to complete—and you’ll be well on your way to a worry-free adventure. NEW: Download a mobile-friendly version of the pre-trip checklist.

Pre-Trip Checklist for Home/Pets

  • Turn off AC/fans
  • Take out trash
  • Clean out fridge/throw out food
  • Return due library books
  • Close/lock windows
  • Unplug electronics
  • Turn off lights/set timer for lights
  • Notify home-security system co.
  • Arrange house sitter
  • Place stop order on newspaper
  • Place stop order on mail
  • Stock up on pet food and litter
  • Arrange pet sitter or kennel stay
  • Obtain documentation for required pet vaccinations

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Pre-Trip Checklist for Finances/Health

  • Visit a travel clinic if traveling to a foreign country
  • Program ICE (“in case of emergency”) number into your phone
  • Check overseas medical coverage
  • Refill prescriptions
  • Get necessary immunizations
  • Make copies of passport/ID
  • Notify CC co./bank of travel
  • Pay necessary bills in advance
  • Research entrance fee costs
  • Create trip budget
  • Take out cash at ATM
  • Obtain foreign currency
  • Get small bills for tipping

Pre-Trip Checklist for Itinerary/Flight

  • Look up baggage fees for airline
  • Add new luggage tags to your suitcase
  • Download travel apps/e-books
  • Set up away message
  • Set up flight alerts via text
  • Weigh packed luggage
  • Set up a travel plan for cell phone
  • Charge all electronics
  • Remove previous airline luggage tags
  • Check in online/print boarding passes
  • Confirm rental car reservations
  • Confirm flight, train, bus reservations
  • Confirm hotel reservations
  • Create/print itinerary
  • Check weather
  • Pack
  • Notify friends/family of travel
  • Check your passport expiration date
  • Program phone numbers into cellphone
  • Arrange transportation to the airport

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Flying with a Dog? Here’s What You Need to Know

Flying with a dog used to be fairly straightforward: Get a travel crate, don’t feed your dog too much, administer a sedative from your vet, treat the dog in its crate as checked luggage, and cross your fingers.

Today the process is more complicated, and for good reason; the old approach was not only challenging and a bit scary, but also frequently unsafe. Further, service and emotional support pets are now far more common on airplanes, introducing another layer of complexity to the rules surrounding pet air travel. Airline policies vary considerably by dog size, breed, temperament, and cabin vs. cargo rules, so there is a lot to know before you attempt to bring your dog on a plane with you.

General Considerations for Flying with a Dog

The choice to take your dog in the cabin with you versus traveling in the cargo hold will often be decided for you by the size of the animal and the airline’s policy; see the next section for airline policies in this regard. In general, carrying your pet into the cabin with you is safer than putting it into the cargo hold.

Some airlines restrict the total number of pets allowed on any given flight, and these spots are usually parceled out on a first-come, first-served basis—so you will want to book early.

Expect to pay a fee to fly with your dog. Current standard fees range from around $75 to $200 each way, and can go up to several hundred dollars for larger dogs that must be transported on cargo planes.

If at all possible, choose a direct flight. As tough as flying is on a dog, especially in the cargo hold, submitting them to even longer travel times plus multiple encounters with baggage handling can easily go sideways. My family flew cross-country with our dog several years ago, and had purchased direct flights, but due to aircraft problems on the way home had to switch to a connecting itinerary. During our connection in St. Louis, we watched helplessly through the airport windows as a baggage hander in St. Louis let our dog’s travel crate nearly free-fall onto the tarmac. When we picked her up at our home airport, the crate was shattered and the dog significantly traumatized.

Most airlines do not allow pets to travel in the exit row.

Consider the weather. In winter, fly during the day to ensure the warmest possible temperatures for your dog in the cargo hold. In summer, fly early or late to avoid the midday heat.

Get to the airport early enough to exercise your dog without creating a lot of time pressure.

Federal regulations require pets to be at least eight weeks old to fly.

If you have a young, senior, or fragile pet, consult with your vet as to whether they are up for the rigors of air travel.

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Airline Policies for Flying with a Dog

Airline policies are all over the place; some carriers do not accept dogs for travel in the cargo hold, while others do not allow dogs in the cabin. Some have weight restrictions for travel in the cabin, others for the cabin and/or cargo hold, and they can vary tremendously; Air France currently allows dogs up to 75 kilograms/165 pounds(!), while others top out at 32 kilograms/70 pounds.

Other restrictions include the length of the flight, destination, and even whether a codeshare is involved. Still others will only transport dogs as official cargo—that is, on an actual cargo plane. Expect to be charged an additional fee for transporting pets.

You can see comprehensive lists of airline policies at PetFriendlyTravel.com and BringFido.com. As useful as these lists are, however, you should always double-check your specific airline’s website for the most up-to-date information.

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Breeds

The breed and/or physiognomy of your dog may determine whether they can fly with you; in particular, short-nosed breeds are not allowed by many airlines, and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation recommends that they not fly. Over half of the dog fatalities on planes over a recent five-year period involved short-nosed breeds.

Contrary to some assumptions, it is not only smaller dogs that are of concern. The AVMA mentions the following dogs among those at risk: pugs, Boston terriers, boxers, some mastiffs, Pekingese, Lhasa Apsos, shih tzus, and bulldogs. Restricted dogs will often include mixed breeds, according to Tracey Thompson of PetFriendlyTravel.com.

“Most airlines include dogs that a mix of any of these ‘short-nosed’ breeds,” Thompson says. “The airlines are very strict about not allowing any of these dog breeds, so I would be surprised if there is any leeway. There is simply too much risk for the airlines to transport these breeds of dogs.”

Even with airlines that do allow short-nosed breeds, there can be certain limitations. Japan Airlines does not allow certain types of bulldogs due to their inability to regulate body temperature, while Lufthansa will only transport short-nosed breeds if the temperature at the departure and destination airports does not exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Destination Considerations

If you are traveling outside the Continental U.S., you will want to make sure dogs are allowed to be brought along at all, and be prepared for surprises. For example, pets traveling to Hawaii are subject to quarantine because it’s the only rabies-free state. For foreign countries, you can usually find information on embassy websites.

Preparing Your Dog to Fly

A checkup from your vet is usually a good idea before flying with your dog. You might need a certificate of veterinary inspection to fly, in most cases signed within 10 days of travel.

On feeding, Nicole Ellis, a trainer with the pet-walking site Rover.com, advises the following: “Feed your pet lightly the day of travel and no sooner than four hours ahead of time. You don’t want to have any potty mishaps in the car, train, or airport! Dogs can go anywhere from 6 to 10 hours without food. Don’t change your pet’s food prior to a flight or give any treats he or she may not have had before, as it can cause an upset tummy on the flight.”

Exercise your dog as best you can on the day of travel, and then, as close to flight time as possible, find a place for your dog to take a walk, relieve itself, and get some fresh air. Options might include a walk around the hotel parking lot, finding a park on the way to the airport, or using dog-friendly facilities at many airports. PetFriendlyTravel.com also maintains a list of these by airport for both the U.S. and Canada.

Ellis notes that the once-common practice of sedating your dog is no longer advised: “The Humane Society does not recommend giving sedatives to pets to travel, but check with your vet if you have questions.” There can be a number of problems with sedation, including breathing issues, the dog’s inability to react if the crate is moved around, and a reduced ability to regulate body temperature. In fact, some airlines may ask you to sign a statement that your dog has not been sedated before flight.

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Inside the Airport

Consider checking in on the later side to shorten the time your pet has no access to the outdoors.

Understand that busy airports are not naturally calming environments for many dogs, and do what you can to comfort your dog and help them avoid overstimulation.

Try to reserve a seat near the front of the plane if your dog is flying in the cargo hold, as this can get you off the plane a little more quickly.

At Your Destination

Upon arrival, the first thing you’ll want to do is find a place to get your dog outside. If you are traveling with a companion, consider having one person care for the dog immediately while the other collects luggage and arranges for a ride from the airport.

Speaking of arranging for a ride, make sure your car rental company, taxi, or rideshare driver allows dogs. Both Lyft and Uber leave the decision to allow non-service animals up to the individual driver.

If you are going to be busy at your destination, consider setting up a dog walker to make sure your pet is getting enough exercise while you are out and about in places that don’t allow animals. Rover.com can work really well for this, as well as general caregiver sites like Care.com.

Ellis advises pet owners to check whether they can get their dog’s regular food at their destination: “Make sure your pet food is available at a pet store in your destination city, and if not, be sure to pack [some] or order some online and ship to your destination prior to arriving.”

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Tools for Flying with a Dog

A comfortable and reliable carrier or crate is absolutely essential, and these have greatly improved since the old “plastic box” days; many come with wheels, backpack straps, and purse designs. Note that crates and carriers should be in good condition upon arrival at the airport. Airlines can reject your carrier if it has cracks or shows other signs of wear that might allow the dog to escape or be injured.

Make sure that your carrier is “airline approved.” Some of the best-reviewed carriers for the main cabin include the following:

And the following are well-reviewed larger crates/kennels for when your dog needs to go in the cargo hold. Again, make sure to double-check your airline’s requirements before traveling.

What tips would you add for safely bringing dogs on planes? Post them in the comments below.

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Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.

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11 Reasons to Follow Us on Instagram


If you’re not already following us on Instagram, maybe it’s time to start. Each day, we bring gorgeous travel inspiration to daydreamers, storytellers, and photographers. Here are 11 reasons to follow us on Instagram and let us help you find your travel bliss.

 

To see the most incredible sights in the world

New zealand mountains

You’ll see breathtaking photos of everything from National Parks and European cities to secret islands and serene beach destinations.

To discover the best places to eat and drink

Wine glasses new zealand

You’ll get a taste of the local cuisine in other cities by seeing pictures of beautiful, culturally-inspired dishes.

To watch us share our travel experiences 

With IGTV, you get an inside look at our travel experiences with our series, Trip Report.

To follow our journeys around the world

Biking in new zealand

See real-time photos captured by our team of writers as they explore amazing destinations around the world.

To share your travel experiences

Icelandic horses

Tell your best travel stories by sharing your photos with us. We love seeing your tagged photos and travels around the world.

To discover new destinations

Rock formations in malta

Learn about places you never considered visiting, or even knew existed.

To get inspired

Myanmar temples

You’ll get daily inspiration to excite your wanderlust.

To be featured on our Instagram account

Great wall of china_

Take the opportunity to have your travel photos featured on our Instagram account. Just tag your posts with #smartertravel so we can see and share them!

To put your photography skills to the test

Boats in boston

Flex your photography skills by entering into our monthly travel-themed photo contests.

For the chance to win giveaways

Travel giveaways_

You’ll get the chance to win awesome travel swag during our travel-swag giveaways

To find your next dream vacation

Barbados at night

Discover bucket list destinations to inspire your next trip, and the one after that.

Follow us on instagram

Ready for your daily dose of inspiration? Follow us on Instagram!

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

To see more by Olivia Briggs, follow her adventures on Twitter @Olileibri and Instagram @Olileibri.

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Wildlife Vacations: The 10 Ultimate Trips for Animal Lovers

From tracking polar bears across the Arctic tundra to swimming with sea lions in the Sea of Cortez, the world is full of incredible wildlife adventures to experience. If you’re an animal lover, you won’t want to miss these unforgettable wildlife vacations.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

This remote archipelago off the coast of Ecuador just might be the ultimate wildlife vacation destination. You don’t need special photo equipment or giant zoom lenses to get close-up wildlife shots; because there are no natural predators here, the animals are unafraid of people, and you’ll often find yourself within a few yards of sea lions, giant tortoises, waved albatrosses, and iguanas. Keep an eye out for the world’s only tropical penguins.

How to get there: There are a few dozen hotels and inns in the Galapagos, including the cozy Semilla Verde Boutique Hotel on Santa Cruz Island, but to see as many animals as possible you’ll want to hop on a boat. Vessels here can carry no more than 100 passengers by law, and many are much smaller, creating an intimate experience. Popular operators include International Expeditions, Celebrity Cruises, and Metropolitan Touring.

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India

There are few sights more magnificent than a 400-pound Bengal tiger stalking across the grass, muscles rippling under its sleek striped coat. Tigers are most easily spotted in a string of parks across India, including Corbett and Bandhavgarh National Parks. The most appealing, though, may be Ranthambore National Park; once the hunting grounds of Jaipur’s maharajas, the park features not only plenty of tigers but also temple ruins and other wildlife such as leopards and sloth bears.

How to get there: Tiger Safari India offers a variety of tiger-spotting packages ranging from four nights to three weeks. The ultra-luxe Oberoi Vanyavilas is located right outside Ranthambore National Park and can help you arrange excursions.

Antarctica

For many travelers, Antarctica is the wildlife trip of a lifetime. The climate is hostile and the journey to get there is long, but the rewards are many: Picture elephant and fur seals, humpback and orca whales, and thousands of penguins, all set against a backdrop of ice in every possible shade of white and blue. If you have the time and budget, consider booking a trip that includes a stop in South Georgia to see its massive penguin population (including king penguins, which are more difficult to find on the Antarctic Peninsula).

How to get there: Quark Expeditions specializes in polar journeys and even offers fly-in options for travelers who want to skip the notoriously rough Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica. For luxury cabins and food, consider a cruise with Silversea.

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Best Vacations for Wildlife Lovers

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Rwanda and Uganda

baby gorilla in rwanda

Imagine crouching in a dense green forest just a few yards away from a mother gorilla cradling her baby or a 400-pound silverback foraging for food. There are only about 880 mountain gorillas left on the planet, and Rwanda and Uganda are the best and safest places to view them. Uganda is a better option for travelers on a budget, as permits and accommodations tend to be cheaper; it’s also easy to add other adventures onto your wildlife trip such as spotting lions and elephants in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Meanwhile, Rwanda has better infrastructure, shorter driving distances, and the chance to see playful golden monkeys.

How to get there: In Rwanda, consider basing yourself at the high-end Virunga Lodge, which boasts lake and volcano views and will arrange treks in search of gorillas and golden monkeys. In Uganda, the recently renovated Bwindi Lodge features butler service for all guests and grounds where gorillas often roam. Both lodges are operated by Volcanoes Safaris, which offers four- to seven-day tour packages in Uganda and Rwanda.

Svalbard, Norway

Located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, this cluster of icy islands is one of the few places on the planet where you can see polar bears stalking across the ice in their natural habitat—along with reindeer, Arctic foxes, puffins, walruses, and seals. Most people visit in the summer, when the midnight sun shines all night long.

How to get there: You can base yourself at a hotel such as Funken Lodge, which can arrange wildlife excursions, but the most convenient and far-reaching way to discover Svalbard is on a cruise ship. Quark Expeditions, Lindblad Expeditions, and G Adventures are among the operators that can take you there.

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The Pantanal, South America

Sprawling across parts of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, the Pantanal is the planet’s largest system of freshwater wetlands. The Pananal has an even denser concentration of wildlife than the Amazon; visitors can spot jaguars, caimans, macaws, river otters, monkeys, egrets, anteaters, and many more in the region’s broad floodplains.

How to get there: Pantanal Nature runs wildlife tours, including jaguar-focused excursions, in the northern part of the region. Ecolodges such as Araras Pantanal Ecolodge and SouthWild Pantanal Lodge also arrange wildlife trips around the region.

Alaska, U.S.A.

With bald eagles soaring overhead, humpback whales flashing their flukes in the water, and hungry bears stalking rivers in search of salmon, Alaska offers a feast of wildlife travel adventures. Denali National Park is a good place to spot Alaska’s version of the African Big Five: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly bears. Many visitors come on cruise ships through the Inside Passage, where you can often see marine animals such as sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and various types of whales.

How to get there: This list of bear-viewing tours is a good place to start your research if viewing black, grizzly, or polar bears is a must-do for you. Numerous cruise lines offer Alaska voyages, including big-ship lines like Princess and Holland America, and smaller expedition companies like Alaskan Dream Cruises and UnCruise Adventures. For stays in Denali National Park, consider booking a lodge or cabin room at McKinley Creekside Cabins.

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Borneo, Southeast Asia

Covered in old-growth rainforest and split among the nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, Borneo entices travelers with the chance to spot orangutans swinging through the trees or catch a glimpse of Asia’s smallest elephant. Love monkeys? Don’t miss a trip to Kinabatangan Wildlife Reserve, home to a whopping 10 different primate species including proboscis monkeys, orangutans, and multiple variants of macaques and langurs. Keep an eye out for the elusive Malayan sun bear and its distinctive white or gold patch of chest fur.

How to get there: Intrepid Travel and G Adventures run a number of small-group Borneo tours with various price points and activity levels. If you’d rather travel independently, you can book a multi-night package at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, located in the Danum Valley Conservation Area; past guests report seeing red leaf monkeys, orangutans, macaques, and various colorful birds around the grounds.

Tanzania

No wildlife lover should pass up a chance to see Africa’s legendary Big Five: lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, and Cape buffalo. In Tanzania you’ll find them all plus many more, including hippos, giraffes, and zebras. The country is most famous for the Great Migration, when millions of wildebeest move en masse from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in neighboring Kenya; June and July are the best months for viewing the migration in Tanzania.

How to get there: Bright African Safaris is one well-regarded local operator. Nomad Tanzania runs luxurious safari camps across the country. Intrepid Travel offers a number of Tanzania packages, many that also include time in Kenya.

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Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Also known as the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez is the body of water between the Baja California peninsula and the mainland of Mexico—and it’s teeming with wildlife. Blue, gray, sperm, fin, and humpback whales migrate through these waters at various times of year, while dolphins and orcas are year-round inhabitants. You can even go swimming alongside playful sea lions and gentle whale sharks.

How to get there: You can base yourself in Los Cabos and take whale watching and snorkeling excursions to see the local wildlife. For a more in-depth look at the region, book a small-ship expedition cruise with operators such as Lindblad Expeditions or UnCruise Adventures.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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Active Travel Arts & Culture Booking Strategy Experiential Travel Health & Wellness Miscellany Outdoors Pet Travel Sustainable Travel Travel Etiquette Travel Trends

How to Spot Animal Cruelty While Traveling


When you love animals, it’s hard to imagine participating in an act of animal cruelty. Of course you would never attend a dog fight or purchase a rhino horn, but when you’re traveling and looking to interact with wildlife, animal cruelty is not always obvious. Many animal attractions market themselves as animal sanctuaries, but too often these so-called “sanctuaries” are just trying to capitalize on a rising public interest in conservation.

Animal Cruelty in Disguise

[st_content_ad]The people who run these animal attractions know that travelers are no longer interested in gawking at trained circus animals. Many travelers are now more aware of the animal cruelty that occurs when elephants are trained to be ridden or tigers are sedated in order to sell a photo op. However, as tourism has evolved, animal abusers have adapted, lying to tourists and disguising their facilities as animal sanctuaries.

For many years, Thailand’s Tiger Temple seemed like a harmonious alternative to the local tiger shows common in Thailand. Instead of watching tigers perform dangerous tasks like jumping through flaming hoops, visitors could observe the animals living “peacefully” among Buddhist monks. However, in 2016 the temple was shut down for wildlife crimes, and the facility’s cruel practices were exposed, including the drugging, breeding, and selling of baby tigers.

So how can you tell if an animal attraction is cruel or not? According to Leigh Barnes, the chief purpose officer of Intrepid Travel, the first tour operator to eliminate elephant rides from all its itineraries, “Genuine sanctuaries don’t buy or sell wild animals, don’t use the animals for interactions with travelers, and  don’t breed wild animals.” To put it simply, true animal sanctuaries are always operating within the best interest of the animal.

Though there are many fake sanctuaries out there, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good ones. Here are a few questions to guide travelers when searching for an ethical wildlife experience or animal sanctuary visit either abroad or in the U.S.

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Is the Animal Sanctuary Accredited?

Before visiting any animal sanctuary, you can check to see if it’s been accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). This organization requires animal sanctuaries to keep a strict code of ethics and welfare standards before issuing accreditation. The process requires sanctuaries, rescue centers, and rehabilitation centers to apply and undergo an inspection of their facilities. Because these organizations have been vetted, the GFAS website is a great source for finding an ethical animal sanctuary in the area you’re visiting. Here you can also find out about organizations that accept volunteers like the Centre for Rescue and Conservation of Orangutans in Indonesia or the Three Ring Ranch in Hawaii.

This list is a great place to start, but just because a sanctuary isn’t accredited doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t legitimate.  If you can’t find an GFAS-accredited sanctuary in your destination, there are still many ways you can determine if an animal sanctuary is for real.

How Do the Animals Look?

It may seem like common sense, but there are actually a lot of different things to look for when visually checking for animal cruelty. If an animal appears excessively dirty, this is an obvious sign of neglect, but you should also look for signs of disease or starvation. If you are passing by in person, you might not be able to see the animals before being asked to pay the entrance fee, so your best bet is to check online and see if you can find photos or additional information. TripAdvisor, SmarterTravel’s parent company, is a good place to look for photos and see what other visitors have had to say. If you can’t find a lot of information online about the sanctuary, play it safe and stay away.

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How Much Space Do They Have?

Just because the animals look OK doesn’t mean they’re being taken care of humanely. Check to see what the conditions of the sanctuary are actually like. Animals need a lot of room to roam and explore, so enclosures that are cramped or overcrowded are definite signs of animal cruelty and often lead to disease.

For example, a hotel in Bali was exposed for animal cruelty in 2015 when it was discovered that it kept four full-size dolphins in a small chlorinated pool. Not only were the dolphins overcrowded and trained to perform for guests, but the chlorine in the water also caused them to go blind.

When inspecting a sanctuary, another thing to look for is enrichment activities for the animals. What is there for them to do? Artificial habitats should offer ways to keep the animals physically and mentally active, such as climbing structures for primates or water for an animal to splash around in.

Where Do They Come From?

If an organization is breeding animals for tourism purposes, it does not have their best interest in mind. Reputable sanctuaries never breed animals, because to do so would be to take away valuable resources from the animals they are already taking care of. Most sanctuaries rescue their animals from circuses, zoos, or neglectful owners and intend to take care of the animal for the rest of its life. While some sanctuaries have rescued baby animals, the animals in sanctuaries tend to be older. So if a so-called sanctuary is advertising baby animal experiences, this is a huge red flag that they are breeding the animals or separating them from their mothers at birth.

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What’s the Visitation Policy?

Many animal sanctuaries sell tours in order to raise funds that support the animals, but reputable sanctuaries usually have strict rules that limit visiting hours so the animals are not overwhelmed. In some places, such as Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, you may even need to book your tour in advance.

If you’re looking for the roots of animal cruelty, follow the money. Around the world, many people abuse animals to make a profit and take advantage of tourists looking to have an unforgettable wildlife encounter. The best way to decide if an animal attraction is ethical or not is to figure out who benefits the most. Trying to maximize profit by opening the facility up to as many visitors as possible suggests a lack of concern for the animals’ wellbeing—and could mean that the owners are scrimping on care in other ways as well. Wildlife interactions can be incredibly educational and impactful experiences for travelers, but these experiences should always occur in the best interest of the animal.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto. 

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Airport Health & Wellness In-Flight Experience Pet Travel Security Travel Trends

An Airline Denied Her ‘Emotional Support Hamster’—So She Flushed It


What if an airline refuses to let your “emotional support hamster” fly with you? That might seem like nothing more than a jokey headline, or downright clickbait, but for 21-year-old college student Belen Aldecosea, it was a real-world dilemma, with life-and-death implications for her emotional-support animal.

And yes, the emotional-support animal in question was indeed a hamster, Pebbles, a dwarf hamster, small enough to fit in Aldecosea’s hand.

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[st_content_ad]As reported by the Miami Herald and other sources, Aldecosea had twice confirmed with Spirit Airlines that Pebbles would be allowed to accompany her on the flight between Baltimore and her home in South Florida. Nevertheless, when she attempted to check in, Spirit insisted that Pebbles could not board with her.

Aldecosea, under pressure of a medical condition to get home and unsuccessful in her efforts to rent a car, claims that a Spirit representative at that point suggested that she either flush Pebbles down a toilet in the airport restroom or free the rodent outside the terminal.

[st_content_ad]Finally, tearfully, Aldecosea chose to flush Pebbles.

Spirit acknowledges that it mistakenly told Aldecosea that Pebbles would be accommodated on the flight, but denies recommending that she flush the hamster. To compensate her for the loss, the airline ultimately offered Aldecosea a voucher for a free flight, which she declined. She has a lawyer and is considering suing the airline “over the conflicting instructions that wound up pressuring her into making an anguished decision.”

While the extent of Spirit’s culpability can be debated, there’s no question that Aldecosea brought Pebbles to the airport on the airline’s explicit say-so, which in my mind gives Spirit substantial responsibility for finding a creative, non-fatal solution to the program.

Reader Reality Check

Who bears blame for this incident?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Pet Travel Travel Technology

Petnet SmartFeeder Review: Feed Your Pets Via App


Going away for a weekend sounds fun, unless you’re a cat owner whose pet considers free-feeding an excuse to eat everything at once, throw it all up, and then spend the rest of the weekend hungry. Enter the Petnet SmartFeeder, an automatic pet feeder you can control with your phone.

Petnet smartfeeder

Petnet SmartFeeder Review:

Price and Where to Buy:  $119 on sale ($149 full price) on the Petnet website or Amazon.

How the Petnet SmartFeeder:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. I’ve been using an automatic feeder for my cats for years, but have found the SmartFeeder to be a major upgrade over the previous generation of feeders. The hopper is large, so you fill it less often. You can schedule feedings via an app—the app even helps you determine how much you should be feeding your pet for optimal health. Because the feeding bowl is pressure sensitive, it knows if and when your pet skips meals—a useful thing to know if you’re away and trying to guess the health of your cat.
  • Value: 9/10. The full cost of the feeder is about $150, which is on par with other, less useful pet feeders. On sale, it’s an even better deal. Note that the Petnet SmartFeeder is large enough for dogs to use too. But since you can’t really leave dogs on their own for the weekend, it’s really a cat-owner-centric vacation enabling tool.
  • Cool Factor: 8/10. Being able to monitor your cat’s eating habits while away is a great tool for weekend travelers.

Final Verdict: If you’re looking for an automatic feeder that you can monitor via your phone and that will dole out appropriate portions to a cat who can’t be trusted to free feed, the SmartFeeder might be just the thing for you.

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Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

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Adventure Travel Booking Strategy Family Travel Pet Travel Road Trip Weekend Getaways

11 Pet-Friendly Hotels Your Dog (and You) Will Love


Forget dog sitters and kennels—it’s now easier than ever to bring your furry friend with you when you travel. Thanks to the rise of pet-friendly hotels, you can afford a room both you and your dog will love.

Best Pet-Friendly Hotels

The experts at the dog-friendly hotel engine BringFido highlighted these 11 options as some of the best, from chains to locally run boutique pet hotels. 

Kimpton Hotels

[st_content_ad]Vacationing with even a large pet doesn’t have to be pricey: Many hotels will let your dog stay for free. Kimpton has been among the roster of pet-friendly hotels since it was founded in the 1980s, and provides necessities like dog beds, food, water bowls, toys, and waste bags, all free for dogs of any size. Guest perks like the daily wine social hour also welcome pets. Some properties even have their own resident pooch, dubbed “Director of Pet Relations,” whom you can meet in the lobby and during wine hour.

Red Roof Inn

Not only will you avoid a pet fee at Red Roof Inns, but these pet-friendly hotels will reward you with a 10 percent discount for bringing one along. Being a dog parent is a lot of work, but Red Roof’s 500 pet-friendly hotels across the U.S. are an easy, money-saving option for frequent travelers with dogs. Find them all across the U.S. plus a few bonus spots in Asia and South America.

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The Jefferson Hotel: Richmond, Virginia

Who says pet-friendly hotels don’t have style? A historic beaux arts option just outside of Washington, D.C., the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond is ideal for pet owners who want to stay outside the cramped city. For $50 per pet you’ll get bedding and treats, and the hotel has its own resident rescue dog you can make friends with.

The Surrey Hotel: New York City

 

Treat yourself and your canine travel companion to a city getaway with all the amenities at the luxe Surrey Hotel. Its Upper East Side location adjacent to Central Park means you and your dog will have plenty of room to walk and play, and guests at this pet hotel get 15 percent off at the nearby Canine Styles dog grooming salon. All pets at the Surrey receive a dog bed, food, and a water bowl. But, like most things in New York City, this pet getaway will cost you: The Surrey charges $150 to cover up to two pets of any size. Get your money’s worth by asking the staff for pet-friendly restaurant, park, and museum recommendations, like the 19th-century dog portraits at the William Secord Gallery.

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La Quinta Inns & Suites

 

La Quinta Inns & Suites never impose fees or deposits for bringing pets, and the chain’s affordable pet-friendly properties are in hundreds of locales across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Breakfast is included, although pets aren’t allowed in the breakfast dining area. BringFido has lots of La Quinta Inns & Suites reviews for specific properties, so you can scope out the rooms and amenities beforehand.

Aloft Hotels

Dogs up to 40 pounds stay free at Starwood’s boutique brand, Aloft Hotels, thanks to the “Arf” program, which includes a dog bed, a bowl, treats, and toys in your stay. Aloft Hotels have sleek properties in the U.S. and abroad, including 169 in North America and dozens in Asia. But make sure you clear the size of your dog, as larger breeds over the 40-pound limit require manager approval.

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The Cottages and Lofts at Boat Basin: Nantucket, Massachusetts

 

Splurge on a New England island getaway with an exclusive Woof Cottage on Nantucket. For $45 per night you can bring up to two dogs to stay on the Straight Wharf docks and enjoy amenities like on-site dog walking services and doggy turn-down service in their comfy pet beds. There’s a resident dog, Bailey, and nautical chew toys are provided to get your beach games started.

The Peninsula Beverly Hills: Los Angeles, California

Dogs of any size are welcome at one of Beverly Hills’ most luxurious hotels, The Peninsula, for $35 per pet, per night. On top of the cityscape views, ornate lobby, alfresco dining, and spa treatments, pet owners can take advantage of a doggie room service menu, plush dog beds, complimentary on-site dog walkers, and even in-room dog massages. If you and your pooch are into high-maintenance digs, this pet fee packs plenty of value.

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Seventy-Four Ranch: Jasper, Georgia

 

A bed and breakfast where you can get rustic with a four-legged friend, Seventy-Four Ranch in Georgia is one of the most affordable pet-friendly hotels. The Saddle House, which once hosted cowboys, has four beds that make it ideal for families with a dog. Three fenced-in acres serve as a play area for all the guest dogs, and pooches of every size can stay for no additional fee.

Cypress Inn: Carmel, California

Photo: Michael Troutman/www.dmtimaging.com

The off-leash beaches and parks of Carmel, California, are your dog’s playground if you choose to stay at the cozy seaside town’s Cypress Inn. Enjoy a “Yappy Hour” cocktail with your pup at the hotel’s pet-friendly lounge, and rely on the on-site dog sitters and treats when you need to get out on your own. Pet fees start from $30 per night for one dog.

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Iron Springs Resort: Copalis Beach, Washington

A seaside retreat for only $20 per pet, per night, Copalis Beach’s Iron Springs Resort supplies their pet-friendly hotel cabins with a tennis ball plus all the dog bowl and towel necessities you’ll need for frolicking on the beach. Up to three pets are welcome, and cabins have enough room for families to enjoy this pet-friendly hotel.

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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Family Travel Pet Travel Road Trip Travel Etiquette

How to Travel with Your Dog: 8 Hotel Tips and Tricks


If you’re a dog owner who loves to travel, often the most difficult part of a trip is leaving your beloved friend behind. In a recent survey from Nature’s Recipe, almost half of the respondents said they avoid traveling with their dogs because of the inconvenience and that the biggest hurdle is finding a dog-friendly hotel.

How to Travel with Your Dog Overnight at a Hotel

Because figuring out how to travel with your dog requires some extra planning, here are eight tips to help with overnight hotel stays and finding dog-friendly properties.

Understand the Hotel’s Pet Policy and Fees

[st_content_ad]When traveling with your dog, I recommend booking directly with the hotel over the phone. This way you can ask specific questions and understand the hotel’s pet policy.

Before you book, ask if there’s a pet fee, if the fee is per night or a flat rate, if there are breed or weight limitations, if the entire hotel is pet-friendly or if there is a designated floor, if you can leave your dog alone in the room, if there are dog walkers or sitters available for hire, and if there are any charges associated with damages from your pet.

Pro Tip: A $25 to $50 fee for dogs is pretty standard, depending on the hotel. Check for specials from major hotel chains that are dog-friendly or ask a boutique hotel if it runs discounts for pets during the off-season.

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Know Your Dog’s Behavior

You’ll never know how to travel with your dog until you try it, but understanding your dog’s behavior is extremely important when staying overnight with him or her at a hotel. For example, if your dog tends to bark at people walking past a window, ask for a room on a higher floor. Or, if your dog gets nervous in elevators, ask for a room on a lower level so you can take the stairs. Another useful tip is to put the TV on when you leave the room, so your dog won’t hear people coming and going in the hall and get anxious.

Pro Tip: Before you go on a longer trip, do a trial run at a nearby pet-friendly hotel to see how your dog reacts. If things don’t go well, you can easily bring your dog home.

Have a Plan If You Can’t Leave Your Dog Alone

If a hotel’s policy is that you can’t leave your dog alone in the room, make sure you have some resources to call upon if you’re planning on going somewhere that doesn’t allow Fido. Ask if the hotel has a dog walker or sitter for hire; at some pet-friendly hotels, non-scheduled staff members are happy to walk your dog for you as long as you ask ahead of time. Another option is to bring your dog to a groomer, a boarding kennel, or even a doggie spa for the day.

Pro Tip: If you can leave your dog alone in the hotel room, always give the front desk staff a heads up and ask them to call you if there are any noise complaints or issues. 

Research Pet-Friendly Restaurants

If you can’t leave your dog alone in your room per the hotel’s policy, you’re going to want to find restaurants where you can bring your dog for meals. Most hotels can provide a list of nearby restaurants that allow pets, and typically if the hotel is pet-friendly, at least some part of its lobby bar or onsite restaurant will be too.

I’ve also found that most restaurants with outdoor seating will allow dogs as long as they are leashed and stay around the perimeter. However, the weather doesn’t always allow for this, so it’s wise to have a back-up plan—like room service or takeout.

Pro Tip: Check out BringFido for pet-friendly restaurants by city or region.

Pack the Right Gear and Food

Your doggie-packing list will vary based on the length of your stay and mode of transportation. Most hotels will include a dog bed, some treats, and a bowl as part of the pet fee; ask about this ahead of time so you don’t bring anything that’s unnecessary. You can also buy pet food at your destination to save some extra space in your suitcase.

If you’re going to be traveling with your dog often, I recommend purchasing a collapsible water bowl, a travel bed, pee pads, an extra leash, and lots of treats. If I’m packing dog food, I always measure it out ahead of time and put each meal in a separate plastic bag.

Pro Tip: One of the best things I’ve learned about how to travel with your dog is that you should always bring a favorite toy or item from home. Having something with a familiar smell will help make your dog more comfortable in the hotel room. 

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Stick to a Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit, so it’s important to stick to your pet’s routine when you travel. Feed them at the same time, place the dog bed in a similar spot as it is at home, and give them plenty of exercise. One of the first things you should do when you get to the hotel is find a green space for them to go to the bathroom.

Pro Tip: If your dog is used to socializing with other dogs or needs some time off-leash, find a nearby dog park.

Choose the Right Pet-Friendly Hotel

Keep in mind that just because a hotel allows you to travel with your pet, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily “pet-friendly.” The hotel might have rooms available for your pet but not provide any extra perks or information, for example.

If you’re traveling with a small dog that doesn’t require a lot of exercise, then any standard hotel chain will probably do. But if you have a larger dog that needs lots of attention or you’re traveling on a budget, it may take more research to find a good fit.

Pro Tip: Boutique hotels will often provide more amenities or attention to dogs if they pride themselves on being pet-friendly. Some of my favorite pet-friendly hotels include The Colonnade Hotel in Boston, Topnotch Resort in Stowe, and Hotel Vermont in Burlington.

Kimpton is a great chain-option for dogs since it doesn’t charge any extra fees and even invites dogs (and any other pet) to the nightly, complimentary wine reception the brand is known for.

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Find Dog-Friendly Activities

Some suggested dog-friendly activities while on vacation include hiking, walking along a running or bike path, breweries (call ahead to make sure they’re pet-friendly), markets, beaches, and outdoor parks and monuments. The more tired your pup is, the better they’ll sleep at the hotel.

Pro Tip: BringFido lets you search for events and activities in your destination.

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Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Cities Experiential Travel Family Travel Food & Drink Oddities Pet Travel Travel Trends

9 Cutest Animal Cafes Around the World


Animal cafes are popping up in major cities all over the world, to the delight of travelers looking to get their fix of caffeine and cuteness. Featuring cats, dogs, woodland creatures, and farm animals, these animal cafes offer unforgettable experiences with the world’s cutest baristas.

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Cute Animal Cafes

Harry Hedgehog Cafe in Tokyo, Japan

[st_content_ad]In Tokyo, the unofficial world capital of cuteness, you could spend all day hopping between the many animal cafes, but one you definitely shouldn’t miss is the Harry Hedgehog Cafe. This small cafe located in the hip Roppongi neighborhood lets visitors play and pose with adorable and prickly little hedgehogs. There’s often a line out the door, but you can make an advance reservation online to avoid waiting.

The hedgehogs are very friendly, though they might be a little sleepy since they’re naturally nocturnal. If you really want to get their attention, splurge on the “hedgehog treats,” small worms that will be sure to pique their interest and get them to pose for a photo.

animal cafes  

Meow Parlour in New York, New York

On the global animal cafe scene, cat cafes dominate—and are becoming increasingly popular throughout the U.S. In New York, you’ll find one of the best and cleanest cat cafes in Chinatown at Meow Parlour. This cafe not only offers plenty of snacks for you and the cats, it also puts on special events like yoga and bingo night. And it has special hours for families with children under 10 when the staff can be extra attentive to the cats and the kids. Best of all, all cats at Meow Parlour are adoptable.

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animal cafes  

KitTea Cat Cafe in San Francisco, California

In San Francisco, get your cat-and-coffee fix at KitTea Cat Cafe. This cafe offers two options—one where you can play with the cats (reservations required) and another if you want to watch the playful pets from behind glass—a great option for any animal lover who also suffers from pet-hair allergies.

Look out for special events like “Mewvie” Night, Yoga Night, and Caturday Morning Cartoons.

animal cafes  

Thanks Nature Cafe in Seoul, South Korea

Waffles are pretty good on their own, but add some friendly sheep for company and you’ve the one-of-a-kind experience that can only be had at the Thanks Nature Cafe in Seoul, South Korea. What seems like a perfectly normal cafe from street level is actually a sheep cafe where guests can sit-down for iced drinks and waffles while petting some lovely sheep. As you can see on the cafe’s Facebook page, the sheep are well-cared for and friendly with children.

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animal cafes  

Cafe Chat L’Heureux in Montreal, Canada

As the first cat cafe to open in North America, Cafe Chat L’Heureux in Montreal is a must-visit for cat lovers. Featuring a dozen cats from local shelters, this is a great place to hang out with felines and even do a little shopping for your pet back home. In addition to food and drink, the cafe also sells a variety of products that your cat might appreciate—that is, if you catch them in the right mood. The cafe itself is warm and inviting with modern design that’s sure to please both the cats and the humans who visit them.

animal cafes  

Dog Cafe in Los Angeles, California

At Los Angeles’s Dog Cafe, the cafe experience is about more than just scheduling in some facetime with friendly dogs; it’s also about changing the way dogs are adopted. The Dog Cafe is part shelter and part animal cafe, offering an experience for visitors to connect with rescue dogs, help socialize them, and maybe even take one home. Like most animal cafes, you’ll need to make your reservation ahead of time.

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animal cafes  

Ms. Bunny Cafe in Tokyo, Japan

If you didn’t get your fill of cute at Tokyo’s Harry Hedgehog Cafe, head upstairs to Ms. Bunny, a rabbit cafe located right above the hedgehogs. Unlike the hedgehog cafe, you cannot make your reservation ahead of time, so you might have to wait for a table. This bunny cafe also offers the unique opportunity to take one of the rabbits for a walk around the Roppongi neighborhood by leash.

animal cafes  

Purringtons Cat Lounge in Portland, Oregon

In Portland, you’ll find plenty of cat cafes where you can play with or adopt cats, but Purringtons Cat Lounge is the very first cafe that also serves alcohol. Order from the small menu of food and drinks, and then settle into either the cafe side or the cat lounge side. To make the cats more comfortable, the cafe only allows up to 15 people in the lounge at a time, so make sure you plan ahead and make a reservation.

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animal cafes  

Reptile Cafe in Yokohama, Japan

If hanging out with fluffy animals isn’t your thing, head south of Tokyo to the Yokohama Subtropical Teahouse, for a chance to sip hot tea with some scaly animals instead. This reptile cafe in Yokohama is home to different species of lizards, tortoises, snakes, and even some amphibians. Most of the reptiles are kept behind glass, but there are some tortoises roaming around. There’s no need to make a reservation and no price for admission, but you are expected to buy something in the cafe. 

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure, especially if it might involve an adorable animal. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

 

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Pet Travel

Traveling with Pets


Traveling with pets is a growing trend, but even the most precious pet does not necessarily a good traveler make. Whether or not you bring your pet along for the trip is not so much a question of “can you?” but a question of “should you?”

No one knows your pet better than you, so no one is more qualified to answer that all-important question. If the answer is a resounding yes, keep reading — we’ve compiled a list of tips and resources for all you pet lovers who can’t bear to leave their furry friends behind.

General Pet Travel Tips

Check whether pets are allowed. Many destinations don’t permit easy entrance for pets. Hawaii, for instance, has a quarantine period for dogs and cats of up to 120 days, as Hawaii is free of rabies. However, dogs and cats meeting specific pre-arrival requirements may qualify for a quarantine of five days or less, or even a direct release, at Honolulu International Airport after inspection.

Don’t underestimate the cost. Between crates, air and hotel surcharges, toys, extra food, unexpected vet bills away from home, and more, traveling with your pet can add up. Be aware of the costs and allow a little wiggle room in your budget.

Use proper identification. Put a tag on your pet’s collar that includes rabies vaccination information, your name, your address and phone number, and local contact numbers. It could save your pet’s life.

Train your pet. A pet that responds to your commands will save you considerable trouble while on the road. From the airport to the hotel, a pet that is friendly and obedient is the most pleasant traveling companion.

Learn about your pet’s health. Knowing a little about your pet’s normal temperature, pulse and respiratory rate, prescription medications, and other health issues can save you time, worry and money on the road. Consult your vet, and make a checklist of these issues.

Bring a pet first-aid kit. A pet thermometer, tweezers, gauze, antibiotic ointments, ear drops and other items available at most stores will work; consult your vet for a complete list.

Buy a crate. A pet crate is not something to skimp on. It should be sturdy and correctly sized for your pet. A crate that is too small will be very uncomfortable; a crate that is too large could allow your pet to be tossed around during handling. If you’re bringing the animal on a plane, be sure to read your airline’s requirements regarding crate size, weight, material and design. Airline-approved crates must have ventilation on the sides (in addition to the door) and have food/water trays that are refillable from the outside in the case of a delay.

Most crates come with stickers indicating that an animal is inside. If your pet is house-trained, consider putting a blanket, liner or cushion in the crate for comfort. If she’s not house-trained, a clean carrier floor is best.

Crate train your pet. A long flight or a lonely hotel room should not be the place your pet becomes acquainted with a traveling crate. Buy your crate well before traveling, and work with your pet until he’s familiar and comfortable in the crate. Normal training techniques should work, such as the use of food, praise and other incentives to get your pet used to staying in the crate.

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Car Travel Tips

Don’t leave your pet unattended. This is one of the great “don’ts” of pet ownership. Even when temperatures are mild, a car can get dangerously hot or cold. In most situations, you are putting your pet at risk by leaving her alone in a car.

Some other don’ts: Don’t let your pet hang his head out the window. Don’t leave your pet loose in the vehicle; use a leash tied to a seat or a stable crate. And don’t let your pet ride in the passenger seat. It’s dangerous for the animal and potentially distracting for you as a driver.

Walk your pet frequently. Plan to stop the car on a regular basis. Many pets love to get out and explore, and they may need to be taken outside to relieve themselves more often while traveling than at home.

Provide adequate food and water. You should always keep food and water with you in the car — the heat of the vehicle, the stress of traveling and your pet’s excitement often cause increased thirst.

Fend off carsickness. Pets are as prone to carsickness as humans, if not more so. Partially open windows and frequent walks help, and there are many remedies available from pet stores and vets as well. Consult your vet for more information.

Pet Hotel Tips

Find pet-friendly hotels. Many hotels gladly accept pets, such as Kimpton and La Quinta Inn & Suites. Find a list of additional pet-friendly properties at PetsWelcome.com, BringFido.com, Pet-Friendly-Hotels.net and PetFriendly.ca.

Stay on a lower floor. It’s far easier to get your pet in and out of a hotel without incident if you are on the ground floor — no elevators, stairs or altercations with other guests.

Keep your pet clean. Wipe mud, dirt and water off your pet’s fur before bringing her back into the hotel. If your pet stains the hotel’s carpet or linens, you might have to pay for cleaning or replacement costs.

Keep your pet in a crate. Hotel employees, neighbors and your pet are probably best served by this step. Your pet can relax in familiar surroundings, the room stays clean and you can relax as well. Don’t leave your pet loose and unattended.

Use the “do not disturb” sign. If you do have to leave your pet in your room, put the “do not disturb” sign on the door so hotel employees don’t enter and become frightened — or get accosted — by your pet.

Walk your pet in approved areas. Ask hotel management where they would prefer that you walk your pet.

Consider a vacation rental. If you’re having trouble finding pet-friendly hotels in your destination, consider a vacation rental through a site such as Airbnb or FlipKey; some owners allow pets.

Flying with Pets

Consult your vet. Many pets are simply not suited to air travel due to health, age or breed concerns. (Breeds that have restricted breathing, including short-nosed dogs such as Boston terriers and bulldogs, as well as Persian cats, are considered at risk when flying.) Animals under 8 – 12 weeks, or older than 10 years, might not be physically prepared for the stress of air travel.

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Get the required documentation. You need a health certificate if you want to get your pet on an airplane, usually issued within 10 days of your flight. Most veterinarians can supply you with everything you’ll need. If you’re on the road and your pet gets into a fight or bites someone, you’ll want documentation that the pet has had rabies and other vaccinations.

Know your airline. Keep in mind that the airline you booked with may not be the airline you’re actually flying for all legs of your trip. Melissa Halliburton, founder of BringFido.com, notes that codeshare partners do not always have the same requirements for traveling pets, so you’ll want to double-check with each carrier.

Carry your pet on the plane. If your pet is small enough (typically about 10 pounds or less), your airline may permit you to bring him into the cabin. (Fees apply.) This is typically safer than checking your pet’s carrier and having him fly in the cargo hold. Remember that many people are allergic to pet hair or simply do not care to be forced to deal with an animal during a flight. Be considerate and keep your pet in his carrier for the duration of the flight.

Watch the temperature range. Airlines generally will not transport checked pets if the temperature is below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, it is best to travel early in the day during the summer, and at midday during the winter.

Purchase nonstop or direct flights. Your pet is at the most risk for mishandling during connections, especially tight connections. A direct or nonstop flight is your best safeguard against these types of problems.

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Feed with caution before flying. Avoid feeding your pet large meals before flights. A small meal will stave off hunger, and you can feed your pet again at your destination.

Walk your pet. Imagine if you had to be inside a cargo hold with no bathroom for a long flight. Your pet will be most comfortable if you take him out as close to flight time as possible. (As a bonus, exercise can also help tire your pet out so he’ll sleep better on the plane.) Similarly, walk your pet immediately upon arrival.

Get to the airport early. Arrive well in advance of your flight to allow time for any necessary special handling by the airline and for a last-minute walk. Your pet may also need a little extra TLC if he’s nervous or afraid when flying.

Administer drugs with caution. Sedatives for pet air travel create risks for some animals, including difficulties at high altitudes, and are not recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Consult your vet. If you decide to give your pet a sedative, the timing and dosage are critical. Bring your veterinarian’s instructions with you to the airport.

Prepare the crate. Colorful, large, easy-to-read labels and sufficient water and food are essential for your pet’s well-being. Some travelers label crates with their pet’s name, and you should always make sure that your pet, as well as her crate, has identifying information — such as a baggage address label and a name tag on the animal’s collar including your contact information both at home and at your destination.

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Follow crate/kennel requirements. Most airlines stipulate the following:

– Kennels must be enclosed, with enough room for the animal to sit, stand and lie down. The crate must be strong enough to withstand normal travel usage.

– If the crate has wheels, they must be removed or made inoperable before travel.

– Kennels must have a leak-proof floor lined with some absorbent material.

– Kennels must have handles or grips that do not force handlers to put their fingers inside the crate in order to move it.

– Kennels must be marked with the words “live animal” in lettering at least one inch high, with directional arrows indicating the proper orientation of the kennel.

– Airlines may have additional restrictions on the number of animals per kennel, as well as other requirements. For specific policies, visit your airline’s website.

Airline Pet Policies

Air Canada * American * Delta * JetBlue * Southwest * Spirit * United

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Editor’s Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc., which also owns FlipKey.

Categories
Pet Travel

Traveling with Dogs: Q&A with the Founder of BringFido


Have you ever considered bringing your dog with you on vacation — even when traveling overseas? Melissa Halliburton founded the website BringFido to make it easier for people to do just that. The site is a directory of pet-friendly hotels, vacation rentals, B&Bs and campgrounds all over the world; it also includes information on restaurants and attractions. We caught up with Halliburton to ask about her practical tips for traveling with dogs as well as find out where she and her own pet, Roxy, are headed next.

Independent Traveler: Other than companionship, what are the benefits of bringing your pet with you when you travel?

Melissa Haliburton: Traveling with your furry friend can be good for your health and possibly your pet’s health too. You and your four-legged companion will both get great exercise exploring new destinations on foot. And bringing Fido along on your adventure will eliminate any concerns about separation anxiety. Traveling with a dog may also help you make new friends in an unfamiliar destination. Take your pooch to a neighborhood park and mingle with local pet owners. Mentioning Fido’s travel adventures is always a great conversation starter. Finally, bringing your pet along on your journey may save you some money. Many hotels and vacation rentals welcome pets for no extra fee, saving you big bucks over expensive boarding options.

IT: There are plenty of horror stories about bringing pets on flights, particularly in the cargo hold (for animals too large to bring in the cabin). How can you decide whether it’s safe to fly with your pet?

MH: Before finalizing any travel plans, be sure to ask your veterinarian whether your pet is healthy enough to travel. Go over the full itinerary in the vet’s office and ask for his/her advice. Even if your pet is perfectly healthy, that doesn’t mean that she is safe to fly.

Reduce the risk of incidents by following a few basic tips: First, you should book nonstop flights whenever possible. Avoid destinations or connecting cities that may expose your pet to extreme temperatures while in cargo, on the tarmac or in the custody of the airlines. Second, anticipate delays and have a backup plan in case your original itinerary is impacted. Third, for your pet’s safety and your own peace of mind, invest in a pet tracker to monitor Fido’s whereabouts throughout your trip. Finally, don’t medicate your pet with tranquilizers, as these medicines can cause heart and respiratory issues. Instead, focus on making sure that Fido is comfortably fitted with an approved crate that is large enough for him to turn around and lie down inside.

IT: Which is a better bet for people traveling with a dog — a vacation rental or a hotel?

MH: Deciding between a vacation rental or hotel is generally a matter of personal choice, as both have pros and cons. But pet owners may want to consider their pet’s individual needs and personality when making their lodging decision. For the pampered pooch, an upscale hotel may be just the ticket. Some hotels offer amazing pet amenities like doggie dining menus and pet spa services. If your pooch prefers some off-leash time, a vacation home with a fenced backyard would make his holiday special. Regardless of the type of accommodation, always consider the location around the hotel or rental, as you’ll likely be going on late night or early morning walks with your pup.

IT: What advice would you offer people who want to bring their pet on an international vacation?

MH: Plan ahead. Depending on the destination, you will need to begin preparation weeks, if not months, prior to an international trip. Never book an international flight until you have double-checked that you pet can be safely accommodated and that your pet can satisfy all entry and exit requirements for pet transit.

IT: Which places are easiest for Americans to travel with a pet, and which are the most expensive and/or challenging?

MH: Traveling internationally with a pet is never as simple as paying a fee and setting off on your journey. No matter the destination, you’ll be completing paperwork, scheduling vet appointments and paying hefty sums to get your pet to your intended destination. But pet owners should be particularly cautious when it comes to travel in countries with strict quarantine requirements, such as Australia. Even domestic travel to Hawaii involves quarantine restrictions for your furry friend.

IT: What’s your favorite travel experience that you’ve had with your dog?

MH: We recently visited the town of Canals, Spain (near Valencia) with our Chihuahua-pug mix, Roxy, to participate in festivities celebrating Saint’s Day for San Antonio Abad. Each year in mid-January, locals and visitors gather for a three-day festival involving parades, a bonfire celebration and the Blessing of the Animals ceremony.

IT: Where are you and your dog headed next?

MH: We don’t have another international trip planned at the moment, but we’re likely to visit one or two Asian capitals sometime in the next year.

Want to learn more? Check out Halliburton’s book, “Ruff Guide to the United States,” which includes a directory of dog-friendly attractions and hotels across all 50 states. And don’t miss our guide to traveling with pets.

See more travel interviews!

Categories
Pet Travel

5 Travel Ideas for Pet Lovers


Admit it. While you’re jetsetting across continents, dancing in bars and dining on exotic delicacies, deep down you’re thinking about faithful Sir Barksalot, who is back at home in a boarding kennel, whining at a picture of you.

You’re not alone. On Facebook, we asked our readers to tell us what they miss the most about home while traveling, and the majority of respondents revealed that above all, they miss their pets.

I must concur. There isn’t much unconditional love to be found in hotel lobbies and airport waiting lounges. Sure, customs’ drug-sniffing canines are cute, but we’re not supposed to pet them (which I discovered the hard way). When you need to scratch your pet itch while traveling, consider the following options.

In the Doghouse

Retreating into the belly of a giant dog may be taking the whole “man’s best friend” thing a little too far. Nevertheless, lodging is available inside the world’s largest beagle at the Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho. Visitors are invited to “Experience the Dog!” by circling three times before dozing off in a dog-themed room inside a massive two-story canine named “Sweet Willy.” There’s even a cozy loft inside Willy’s head, where one can squirrel away and think dog-like thoughts. Don’t forget to bring your dog-print pajamas and collection of self-help books.

Puss and Boat

Amsterdam’s De Poezenboot (or in English, the Cat Boat) is the only houseboat-cum-animal sanctuary in the Netherlands (and possibly in the world, I’d wager) — and it’s open for tours. Anyone who’s been inside a Dutch houseboat knows they’re typically quite small, so the tour is brief. You walk in, you look at a room full of cats, and then you leave. When I last visited the Cat Boat, one particularly angry feline growled at me from atop his cage while I stood at a distance, calling to him sweetly. A staff member told me, “He’s beautiful, but the nasty thing’ll bite your hand off.” Despite this one unbalanced animal, I got my cat fix — there were a few less menacing creatures onboard.

I’ll Have a Large Coffee and a Domestic Shorthair

Tokyo, land of avant-garde pop-culture trends and humanoid robots, is igniting a fad that combines two popular pastimes: cats and caffeine. At Tokyo’s cat cafes, dozens of resident felines weave between the legs of coffee-drinking cat people, and patrons pay hourly fees to pet purring balls of fur while sipping on lattes. According to CNN, as many as 100 cat cafes are operating in Japan.

Captain Canine

Why not free Sir Barksalot from his kennel confines and take him on a cruise? There’s only one ship that permits pet-owners to bring their four-legged counterparts onboard: Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. The luxury ship boasts an onboard pet kennel, plus a “Pets on Deck” program that provides fresh biscuits, beds and blankets, pet toys and more. Fees range from $500 to $700 per cruise, which isn’t too shabby considering at-home kennel costs can be comparable. Plus, professional cruise photos of you and your Airedale make fabulous Christmas cards.

Have a Cow

Farm Sanctuary, a shelter for farm animals rescued from stockyards and slaughterhouses, has a charming bed and breakfast at its Watkins Glen shelter in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Guests stay in private cabins (daily vegan breakfast is included) and are invited to help out with farm chores and explore the Sanctuary grounds. Choose to sponsor an animal prior to your visit and you’ll get a V.I.P. tour that includes a personal meet-and-greet with the cow, duck, goat, chicken or other barnyard creature you’ve generously funded. Companion animals are welcome.

For more information about hitting the road with your dog or cat, read Traveling with Pets.