When my husband and I first started throwing the travel nursing idea around there was no question our sweet, first-born fur-baby was coming with us.
For us there were no reservations. As with anything worth doing in life, traveling with a pet has benefits and its challenges.– Courtni Sladek
Here are some tips for traveling with a pet — and some ways your travel nursing agency can make things easier for you and Fido on the road.
Benefits of Travel Nursing With Pets
The first few years of our travel nursing adventure, my husband Ryan didn’t have a job so if Pearl hadn’t been there he might have gotten pretty lonely on the days I worked. The same is true if you’re traveling solo.
A four-legged companion is just what you need to curb any feelings of loneliness or homesickness. Nothing feels better than getting home from a long day at work and being greeted so excitedly by little fur-babies that love you so much! Also, if you’re stressed out or mad, they’re perfect to vent to because they just listen and look at you and don’t offer any unsolicited advice you probably wouldn’t take anyway.
Most travelers I know travel with a dog, but that’s not saying you can’t travel with a cat or other animal. I actually met a couple who traveled with a cat, a bird, and some sort of lizard. They fit all of them with all their stuff in a little Toyota Camry. The options are limitless!
You can also consider an A-Class RV, B-Class RV, or modified van for cross-country travel nursing.
For the last year, Ryan has found odd jobs at all of our locations, so now we’re both at home by ourselves sometimes. The girls are not only great binge-watching buddies, but they also help get me off the couch and outside. If I’m in a new place with no buddies to hang out with, it’s very easy for me to not even get out of my PJs.
Having the pups encourages me to go outside and get some fresh air and exercise. Plus, they’re great for starting conversations with people. “Well hello, I see you have dogs. I too have dogs. See how cute they are? Let’s be best friends.” And there you have it. New hiking buddies. You’re welcome.
This is literally how to make friends as an adult.
Challenges of Owning Pets As a Travel Nurse
Transportation: Pets will make it more necessary for you to drive from one travel nursing assignment to the next. Regardless of the type of vehicle you have, most pets will fit. Ryan and I pack our Ford Escape to the tippy top. I would imagine that as long as you have front passenger seat space, you’ve got enough space for pets.
Cost: Pets travel in cars for free, but if at any time during your contract you might need to fly somewhere it’s gonna cost you. Having pets in the cabin is going to cost you around $100 a pet, give or take $20 depending on the airline.
Storing pets in the cargo area is going to be closer to $250 and quite frankly it sounds horrible.
Don’t even consider cargo storage, most pets will be very seriously hurt by the conditions. There is a reason it is not legal for a human to travel in cargo areas.
Records: You’ll want to keep any vaccination records in case you need to visit a new vet. It’s also important to make sure that you have an up-to-date registration for your pet in your new city. Update your pet’s license tag to reflect your new address and any new contact information — and their microchip if they have one.
If they don’t have a chip, consider getting one! It’s more affordable than ever before and many veterinary networks report lose and found pets to one another.
Boarding: If traveling with your pet isn’t an option, there are plenty of reliable places to board your furry friend. Price per night is typically anywhere from $25-$40/pet. Big pet stores like PetSmart have boarding kennels, some vets offer boarding, and now there’s even an Airbnb-esque app where you can find regular ol’ pet people who keep them at their house. We used it most recently in Denver and loved it! The sitter even sent us texts and photos letting us know how they were doing.
Side note: if you feel guilty about leaving your buddy at home during long shifts, then the same app (Rover) has dog walkers available for a reasonable price.
What Your Agency Can Do For You
In my own personal experience, it is much easier to travel with a pet if you take your agency’s housing. They already work with so many housing complexes and have many more pet-friendly housing options.
Going with this scenario, some things to expect are familiar if you’re used to living in an apartment: pet deposits, pet rent, pet fees, and breed restrictions. Some nursing companies will take care of all of those things for you providing your pet doesn’t tear up the place.
Others will ask you for a deposit up front that will carry over to each new assignment. Then if at some point you leave or decide to take the stipend they’ll give it back to you. With these companies, you’ll usually be responsible for any extra pet fees or pet rent as well.
If you prefer finding your own housing you might need to allow for a little extra time for researching your new location. Some cities are more pet-friendly and tend to be easier to find a place for you and your fur-baby.
Go Ahead, Get That Doggie in the Window
Traveling with pets is so rewarding. They are the best buddies and having someone to come home to can turn a bad day into a great evening full of loving attention.
We treat our pups like they’re our kids and I like to think they get something out of traveling too. It was so fun to see how excited they were to be in Arches National Park – even though it was definitely just my excitement and they were just stoked because they knew they were about to get out of the car.
Original by Courtni Sladek.
Travel with your pets often? Share some pictures in the comments below or tag us on instagram @nursebackpack!