Pet Vacation

Well, no need to pant with anxiety. The boarding and sitting options for pets these days are plentiful and in some cases rival the luxuries enjoyed by their traveling owners.

The American Pet Products Association (APPA), estimated that pet owners would spend more than $5 billion on boarding, grooming and other services, excluding food and medical care, in 2016. As more and more pet owners treat their pets like surrogate humans, so do pet caretakers humanize their market offerings. Big business means big perks, and doting pet owners have their option of pet “spas," “resorts" and “hotels" that offer a variety of luxury amenities such as solar-heated “suites," human-size beds, 24/7 webcams, and organized hikes and play sessions.

The Paradise Ranch Pet Resort in Sun Valley, Calif., advertises itself as the originator of the “cage-free" boarding concept, adhering to the principles of pack socialization. Says Paradise co-owner Brian Kneier, “we let all the dogs sleep slumber-party style with human caretakers. The more dogs the merrier." And the dogs at Paradise tend to sleep well given the plethora of outdoor exercise options, which include a canine water park complete with waterfall and dock diving pool. Nightly stays usually run $74, with prices increasing to $89 during the holiday season (rate subject to change).

Should you really want to pamper your pooch, D Pet Hotels, with locations in Chelsea and Hollywood, as well as Scottsdale, will make sure your pet curls up in the lap of luxury. Perks include a choice of doggy suites, three indoor dog parks, and the full-on spa treatment where dogs receive baths, massages, aromatherapy, and “pawdicures." Don't feel like having a tearful goodbye with your furry little one? The hotel's D-Chauffeur service will pick up your dog celeb style in a car from its luxury fleet, which includes Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches.

If your dog is the outdoorsy type, Fitdog Sports Club in Santa Monica offers off-leash outings such as canyon hikes and beach excursions. And after a long day in the great outdoors, dogs can kick back in their private suites that feature special elevated and orthopedically designed dog beds as well as a minibar service that provides doggie snacks.

No matter how pampered, some dogs simply don't do well when taken outside their normal environment. Fortunately, there is a booming industry of at-home pet-sitting services such as Rover.com, which essentially serves as an online matchmaking service between dog owners and pet sitters. Rover spokesperson Elena Caldwell says the Rover “provides your pet with the personalized attention it needs," and each stay booked through the site comes with insurance and 24/7 customer support. Sitters set their own rates; some may charge slightly more around the holidays.

However you choose to take care of your pet while you're out of town, here are a few basic tips:

1. Book in Advance

This is pretty much the golden rule when it comes to securing a facility and/or sitter for your pet over spring break, summer vacation time and the holidays. Resorts like Paradise Ranch typically book up months in advance of busy seasons, and don't want to have to put your pooch on the waiting list.

2. Do a Health Inspection

Any kind of pet boarding facility can become an incubator for animal illnesses. Before boarding your pet make sure your pet's caretakers require proof of immunizations and inquire whether there is an in-house veterinarian or on-call health resource.

3. Word of Mouth

According to online pet sitting and services community DogVacay, it's important to get personal feedback from other pet owners. Visit pet stores and especially dog runs and ask pet owners for their personal recommendations. Lots of high-end kennels have terrific PR, and every at-home pet sitter can make him or herself sound like the canine's answer to Mary Poppins. As with everything, dig past the hype for that bone of truth.

4. Do a Sniff Test

Since dogs have a more advanced sense of smell than you do, allow your pooch to perform an evaluation of the boarding facility or a meet and greet if you are using a pet sitter. You can judge by your dog's reaction whether or not it's a good match.

5. Make It Feel Like Home

High-end amenities are great but more than luxury, dogs crave familiarity and routine. Check with your doggy spa or resort that your dog can bring its favorite blanket and toys, enjoy its regular food – this is extremely important if the animal is on a special diet – and take walks and naps during its accustomed schedule.

6. Tail Up or Down

Use a very basic litmus test to see if your dog's boarding or pet-sitting experience has been a success. After you return from your trip, ask yourself “is your dog happy, agitated, angry, relaxed…?" If they're not acting like themselves, it may be time to look for another pet-sitting option.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute an offer or solicitation to sell the products or services of the providers identified. City National Bank makes no recommendation of the products or services offered by the providers attributed in this article. The opinions expressed are those of the persons quoted and not necessarily the opinions of City National Bank.