Board or Dog Sitter - Which Is Cheaper Across the U.S.?

By BT Editor
August 4, 2022
I Stock 1316012531 - puppy suitcase

Fido is not just a pet––he’s family. Of course, we want our canine companions to join the fam on every vacation, but more often than not, there are cases where our furry family member(s) simply can’t come. Alas, not every trip is pet-friendly. As a result, one of the most common questions for vacation-bound pet parents remains: who on earth is going to watch my dog?

We know how stressful it can be to leave your pup behind. We also know that it’s no easy feat, finding the best possible care for them without breaking the bank. Many turn to platforms like in order to book trusted, vetted pet sitters, but these costs can vary quite a bit depending on your location. CertaPet dove into the costs of boarding your dog at a sitter’s home vs. hiring a dog sitter to come to your own home in the 50 most populous cities around the U.S.

Pet sitting chart
Courtesy of CertaPet

Out of 50 of the largest cities, 10 came out on top for saving the most annually from boarding vs. sitting, based on a two-week vacation. Two cities claimed the top two spots by having an annual savings of over $300 each! Philadelphia landed the number one spot for saving $336.70 per year by boarding vs. sitting, and Los Angeles came in second place for saving $335.30 per year. Atlanta, San Francisco, Tampa, and St. Louis are all in the $200 club, and Denver, Detroit, Houston, and Providence all have annual savings between $180-$200.

Overall, every city shows some amount of savings for boarding over sitting except for one, Minneapolis. In Minneapolis, the average cost to board your furry friend in a sitter’s home matches the cost of a pet sitter watching your pup at your house; so, Minneapolis folks should take advantage of Rover’s “sitting” option, where your dog can be cared for in a familiar environment.

Averaging $30.45 per night, Oklahoma City has the cheapest rate for boarding your pooch at a sitter’s house. St. Louis, Jacksonville, and Memphis also offer low rates, all under $32 per night. New York has the highest cost per night for boarding your canine pal at $61 per night. Averaging $59.25 per night, boarding is pretty steep in both San Jose and San Francisco as well.

Pet sitting chart 2
Courtesy of CertaPet

Let’s face it though, sometimes comfort is worth paying a little extra. If you would prefer that your dog stays in the comfort of your own home with a sitter, there are a few cities where your pup can do so cost-efficiently. Indianapolis is the cheapest city in the U.S. for hiring a pet sitter at $36.45 per night on average. There are also several cities where the cost difference for in home sitting vs boarding is under $3 extra a night - San Antonio ($2.75), Chicago ($2.55), Nashville ($2.50), Salt Lake City ($2.35), San Diego ($1.50) and Indianapolis ($.30).

Whatever way you decide be sure to go with the option that is best for your pet's comfort and yours!

You can view the full study here from CertaPet. CertaPet specializes in US and Canada with a focus on providing clinical services to individuals who are seeking animal-assisted interventions as part of their treatment planning.

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Travel Tips

Best/Worst Days to Fly for Thanksgiving & Christmas

There are a limited number of flights available for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it is important to book as early as possible for the best prices (ideally you have already booked your holiday travel). Additionally, some days are much better than others to fly when it comes to crowds and cost. How Far in Advance to Book Holiday Travel Ideally, you should book your Thanksgiving and Christmas flights many months in advance. As a rule, we suggest booking domestic flights at least one to three months in advance. For international flights, you should book at least two to eight months in advance, but the earlier the better. For the holidays, you should book even earlier if possible to guarantee a desirable route, time, seat, and price. Both domestic and international flights open for bookings around 11 months in advance (for revenue and award tickets), but be careful booking domestic too early. International flights tend to be cheaper closer to the opening of the booking window. Domestic flights are more expensive when released and tend to drop in price after a few months. For that reason, you should aim to book international flights earlier than domestic, and that is especially true for the holidays. Here are our recommended cutoff dates for booking Thanksgiving and December flights. Thanksgiving (book before Halloween) I recommend booking your Thanksgiving flight by late August or early September for the best price. If possible, book in June or July. Book international flights even earlier. If you wait too long, you should aim to book by Halloween at the latest. While it is possible to get a decent deal after Halloween, your chances dramatically decrease. Your odds of finding a desirable flight time also go down when booking after Halloween. Christmas (book before Thanksgiving) The best deals on Christmas flights are usually available through late August and early September. If possible, book even earlier in June or July. At the latest, you should book by Thanksgiving, but the earlier the better. If it is December and you still do not have a flight, you should expect to pay a premium. Additionally, you will likely only have undesirable flight times to choose from with the potential for one or more connections. Best & Worst Days to Fly for the Holidays Being on a Thursday every year, the best and worst days to fly for Thanksgiving are predictable. Christmas is a little more difficult since it does not fall on the same day of the week every year. Here are the days you should target and the days you should avoid this holiday season. Thanksgiving (best departure and return dates) For Thanksgiving last year 10.52% of American adults intended to fly to attend a gathering on Turkey Day. That means tens of millions of people fought over seats for a very limited number of flights. For 2022, we expect that number to be even higher. Best Thanksgiving Travel Dates for 2022 BEST DEPARTURE DATESBEST RETURN DATESMonday, November 21Friday, November 25 (Black Friday)Tuesday, November 22Monday, November 28Thursday, November 24 (Thanksgiving Day)Tuesday, November 29 As the table shows, you want to depart early during the week. If possible, Sunday is even better than Monday. While not ideal, Thanksgiving Day is a great day to fly. Black Friday is also a good day to fly if you can swing a shorter trip. Most people return home the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so aim to fly back on the Friday or Monday after Turkey Day. If you can wait another day, Tuesday is even better than Monday. Worst Thanksgiving Travel Dates for 2021 WORST DEPARTURE DATESWORST RETURN DATESWednesday, November 23Sunday, November 27 Avoid the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at all costs. It is one of the most popular days of the year to fly, and it is expensive. Additionally, airports are always packed, so it is an extra stressful experience. Avoid the Sunday after Thanksgiving for your return flight. Most people fly that day to get home before the workweek. I recommend flying home on Friday or Monday or Tuesday. Christmas (best departure and return dates) Our Christmas Travel Survey last year showed 12.72% of American adults intended to fly to attend a gathering. Since Christmas falls on a different day every year, the best days to fly change. Other things such as school and business closures affect the dates too. Christmas can fall on a weekend (as it will in 2022), which further complicates things. Generally, the worst day to fly for Christmas is December 23, but that is not a hard rule. Best Christmas Travel Dates for 2022 BEST DEPARTURE DATESBEST RETURN DATESSunday, December 18Wednesday, December 28Monday, December 19Thursday, December 29Tuesday, December 20Friday, December 30Christmas Eve or Christmas Day The earlier you depart during Christmas week the better. Americans will look to get a few days of work in early during the week before flying out. If possible, fly on Monday, December 19, or Tuesday, December 20. Sunday, December 18 is even better if you can swing it. Flying on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is ideal for cheaper prices and fewer crowds too, but you may not want to travel on a holiday. Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, so many people will fly home the day after. Monday, December 26 and Tuesday, December 27 will be popular travel days, so try and wait until Wednesday or Thursday. Worst Christmas Travel Dates for 2022 WORST DEPARTURE DATESWORST RETURN DATESThursday, December 22Monday, December 26Friday, December 23Tuesday, December 27 The two days before Christmas Eve, the 22nd and 23rd, are going to be busy travel days. I recommend avoiding them and departing earlier in the week if you can. Avoid the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas for your return flight. Despite being the day after Christmas, many people will fly home on Monday or Tuesday so they can return to work on Tuesday or Wednesday.Additional Tips: Use Google Flights and Consider Multiple Nearby Airports for The Cheapest PriceI recommend Google Flights to find the cheapest holiday flight deals. It offers powerful filtering options to find the cheapest prices from a variety of airlines and airports. Consider flying from a nearby airport if it is cheaper than your home airport. Also, consider flying into an airport a little further from your destination that may be within driving distance. Flexibility is the key to finding a great flight deal, and that is especially true for holiday travel. Book Direct to Avoid Hassle if Your Flight is Canceled or DelayedOnline Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia and Priceline sometimes have better flight prices than booking directly with the airline, but there is a drawback. When you book with an OTA, you contact them in the event you need to change or cancel your itinerary. While that is not usually a problem, it is if your flight is delayed or canceled. Every second counts, so I recommend booking directly so you can avoid the middleman and talk directly to the airline to inquire about rebooking a new flight or canceling your existing itinerary. Good luck and safe travels! Phil Dengler, is a co-owner of The Vacationer, which is a resource for all things travel. Click here to read the full post.

Travel Tips

Tips For Protecting Your Identity While Traveling

As a woman who travels solo to do research, I’ve learned that there’s more to traveling safely than just being aware of my surroundings and staying away from sketchy hotels. Keeping one step ahead of identity thieves is just as important as keeping yourself physically safe. Whether you’re traveling alone, with a companion—or even with a group—these tips should help make your trip hassle-free and keep your personal identity safe while you’re on the road. Many of these suggestions are common sense. Some of them are so simple that you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing them all along. None of them take much time or effort, but all of them will save you the financial cost and personal pain of having your identity stolen. BEFORE YOU GO Notify Credit Card Companies: I learned the hard way that you should notify your credit card company or financial provider that you will be traveling (so they don’t block your card as a security measure when you try to pay the bill at an out-of-town restaurant). Most of them have an automatic phone system that makes it as simple as answering a few yes and no questions. As technology improves, the bigger credit card companies already know you’re traveling through your purchase of airline tickets or booking of a hotel or rental car. Check Your Latest Credit Card Bill: Along the same lines, it’s good to check your credit card bill before you go on a trip. That way you’ll be able to easily spot any new charges that look suspicious upon your return. Big Tip: Don’t wait until you’re in a hotel room or an airport to pay your bills or check your bank account! To avoid exposing sensitive information online when traveling, do your bill paying and checkbook reconciliation before you go. Clean Out Your Purse. I always clean out my purse for two reasons. One, I do a lot of walking when I’m traveling and I want it to be as light as possible. Secondly, my wallet has a lot of extra things in it like gift cards, store cards, etc. that are just unnecessary. I only take what I absolutely need, which is usually two credit cards and some cash. (I recommend taking at least two credit cards, since one could be turned down and then you have a backup. I never had a credit card refused in my life until I was in Las Vegas—and that was because I didn’t call ahead of time and tell them I was traveling). Tell The Post Office: Hold your mail and use informed delivery. You can set up informed delivery through the U.S. Postal Service to receive an email listing of the scanned mail that was delivered. When you return, you can identify any missing items. Holding your mail lessens the likelihood that you’ll have any problems. DURING YOUR TRIP Make Copies: I always worry about what could happen—not what is likely to happen—so I’m all about protecting and duplicating everything I can. Lots of people store their valuables in a hotel safe, but you should be just as careful with your traveling documents—especially your passport. For added security, take a picture of passports and credit cards in case your wallet is lost or stolen. Protect Your Boarding Pass: Use mobile passes when you can, but if you print a paper ticket for backup (raising my hand), make sure you rip it into pieces when discarding. Boarding passes reveal full names and travel destinations. Avoid Remote ATMS: Remote ATMs are more likely to have skimmers attached or cameras that can capture your password data. Also, do you really want to withdraw money from that ATM in the dark, empty-looking parking garage? Social Media...Just No: Don’t share too much while you’re traveling. You can tell everyone about your trip on Facebook and Instagram when you get back. Avoid Public Wi-Fi: This is a hard (if not impossible) one. At the very least, don’t use your computer or phone for anything that could reveal personal or financial data. WHEN YOU RETURN Change Your Passwords: I’m trying to make this a habit because it’s probably the most important thing to protect your identity. Even if you’re not traveling it’s a good idea to change your passwords every few months. Do A Checkup: Don’t wait too long to check your bank and credit card accounts for anything that looks suspicious. Do it while any purchases from the trip are still fresh in your mind. FINAL NOTES I enjoy traveling alone because I can explore at my own pace and change my schedule if necessary. But the freedom to do what I want doesn’t mean I can let my guard down when it comes to protecting my personal identity. If you do a lot of traveling or are traveling abroad, it might be worth the peace of mind to sign up for one of the many of the companies that provide identity protection services or credit monitoring. Also, check with your credit card company. Many of them offer protection as part of their plan. Taking the necessary steps to safeguard my identity is slowly becoming second nature to me when I travel. I hope these tips help you travel safely as well. Happy Travels! Jessica James is an award-winning novelist, freelance writer and travel blogger at Past Lane Travels who lives in Gettysburg, PA.

DealsTravel Tips

California Dreaming? - California Saving!

Summer in California is the perfect time for playing on the beach, exploring state and national parks, and enjoying theme parks all over the state. It shouldn’t have to be high season for prices, though. When planning your trip, check the tourist board website of your destination and you’ll likely find offers that shave a little (or a lot) off your hotel rate, or bundles in freebies and nice amenities. This summer, a number of Golden State destinations are offering free gas gift cards to sweeten deals in addition to rewarding travelers for booking early and staying on weekdays. Here are some ways to add value to your summer getaway. $1 to Kayak Location:ReddingWhat’s the Deal?: Redding is a prime spot for paddling, thanks in part to Whiskeytown Lake, where you can pay just $1 for ranger-led kayak or paddleboard tours. About an hour away, in Lassen Volcanic National Park, pay a vehicle entrance fee of just $30 to enjoy a week’s worth of swimming and hiking at Manzanita Lake. Mark your calendars for August 4 and September 24, which are free-admission days at all national parks. Deal Dates: On-going. Valid 9 am and 5 pm, Wednesday-Sunday Solo Traveler Win Location: MendocinoWhat’s the Deal?: Who knew solo travel had deal options? The perfect escape includes, in this case, $20 off your nightly rate. The adults-only Glendeven Inn & Lodge sits on 15 acres in Mendocino County and has a day spa, wine barn, and wandering llamas and goats (just type “Party of One” in the window as you book). Deal Dates: On-going $100 Gas Card Location: Big BearWhat’s the Deal?: Plan a two-night stay through the Big Bear website before June 30 and you can score a $100 gas card, which you can pick up at the Big Bear Visitor Center—just be sure to choose the “Gas Card” deal online. Planning further out? When you stay at the mountain resort’s Hillcrest Lodge, you can add a free night on either Thursday or Sunday when you also book a Friday and Saturday (good through Nov. 30). Or book a three-night stay at Cool Cabins, using the promo code GASCARD, and get a $50 gift card for fuel. Good through Nov. 23. Deal Dates: Before June 30 or Nov. 23 (gas) , now thru Nov. 30th (hotel) Summer Escape to Napa Valley Wine Country Inn - courtesy Location: St. HelenaWhat’s the Deal?: Weekdays make for mellow visits to wineries, and this deal at the Wine Country Inn in St. Helena takes 20 percent off the rate for a three-night stay between Sunday and Thursday. Stays at the Napa Valley resort—comprised of 24 rooms, five cottages, and a pool—include a daily breakfast buffet and a split of local wine upon arrival. Good through August 31. Deal Dates: Now through August 31 Splash of Summer Location: Greater Palm SpringsWhat’s the Deal?: Summer in Greater Palm Springs brings lots of good pool time and prime deals, so a resort like Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa—with both a kid-friendly “Splashtopia” and an adults-only pool—makes a lot of sense. This deal bundles in a $100 food and beverage pool credit per stay plus an Omni pool towel. Book your trip up until September 10 for stays through September 29. The resort’s Stay and Splash deal, meanwhile, gives you 10 to 20 percent off your stay, depending on whether you stay one, two, or three nights (good through Sept. 30). Or check out the first Margaritaville Resort on the West Coast, where you can get 25 percent off through Sept. 5. Deal Dates: until September 10 for stays through September 29 Click here for more California deals!

Travel Tips

Summer Vacation Tips: Your Ultimate Guide to Safety, Adventure, and Fun

Summer is a time to relax and regroup somewhere else. Anywhere else. But before you set off on your sun-filled journeys, we've put together some must-know intel and helpful tips to make your vacation easier, safer, and, of course, more fun. 1. Swim Safely Even the most skilled swimmer can encounter troubles in the ocean, so when water is on your agenda, safety should be top of your list of things to remember. (Right up there with a portable grill, hot dogs, sunscreen, and towels, of course.) We checked in with BJ Fisher, Director of Health & Safety for the American Lifeguard Association, for tips on how to stay safe in the summer. The most important is probably the most obvious: no matter how much at ease you are in the water, always swim where there’s a lifeguard and never, under any circumstance, swim alone. “Swim with a buddy,” he insists. “Many drownings involve single swimmers. If you can’t find someone to swim with, at least find someone to watch from the side of the pool or on the beach.” It’s easy to be lured by the open expanse of the ocean and forget just how suddenly and drastically the ocean floor can change. That said, best not to use flotation devices, like inflatable rafts, in unfamiliar areas or places where you might not be able to swim. If you fall off, that’s trouble, informs Fisher. And then there’s the ocean’s stealth sneak attack: rip currents. If you’re caught in one, he says, don’t fight it. “Swim parallel to the shore till you reach a spot where the current is weak. Most rip currents are narrow,” he instructs. And for those who like to tackle the water head-on, protect your head and neck when diving and body surfing. For divers he advises, “check for depth and obstructions and remember that feet first is far safer than head first. When body surfing, make sure you have at least one hand extended in front of you.” And, needless to say, if you’re at a pool party or a beach fiesta, don’t drink and dive. Alcohol is a huge factor in many drownings, he says. 2. Get Ready for the Road For most drivers, cruising down the highway is a matter of reflex. But a long road trip requires a completely different frame of mind. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, you might say. One of the biggest problems on the highway is drowsy drivers. More than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related accidents experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel, according to the American Automobile Association. “Drivers shouldn’t rely on their bodies to provide warning signs of fatigue. Instead, they should prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep into their daily schedules,” says Tamra Johnson, former AAA spokesperson. Other rules of thumb: travel at hours when you’d normally be awake, schedule breaks every two hours or every 100 miles, avoid heavy foods and travel with alert passengers. Even better: take turns driving. And then there’s that other major traffic risk: distraction. On city streets and highways, texting and driving has become astonishingly common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving—everything from texting to eating—is a factor in more than 10% of crashes. Nearly one in three drivers admit to typing or sending a text message or email in the past month, according to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey. It also found that 40% of drivers report reading a text message or email at the wheel in the past month. It’s a risk that is all-too easy to eliminate. “Safe driving is a complicated task that requires your full attention, so drivers need to put down their phones and focus on the driving task,” Johnson said. Best tactic: designate a passenger as the chief navigator and texter. Solo drivers should take care of everything before turning the key. Adjust the radio, phone, and GPS system, decide on your route, then take off. Speaking of GPS, AAA offers a free app that travelers can use to map route, map a route, find up-to-date gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Even in our high-tech world, though, nothing is 100% foolproof 100% of the time. Road atlases and maps still work as effectively as they did for our parents and grandparents. Invest in a good one. And as an added bonus, it's a pretty dependable way to keep kids engaged and entertained. 3. Enjoy the Great Outdoors Summer is a prime time to heed the call of the wild. But while nature can be relaxing and rejuvenating, there are also plenty of factors that can put a damper on what would otherwise be a perfect trip. Most, however, are avoidable. Justin Wood, Director, REI Experiences, an active-adventure travel company at REI, the outdoors retail behemoth, has some ultra-helpful hints. He breaks them up into three categories: before, when you get there, and when you’re ready to leave. The before-you-go phase is easily the most important. “About 99% of how your trip pans out is determined by how you planned. Research so you can craft your experience to meet your needs,” he says. First, check up on the site you want to visit. A lot of places require a reservation and can book up six months in advance. There are, however, lots of first come/first serve sites, but plan smartly. Try to get there mid-week to avoid the rush. Need to learn about options in a particular area? He recommends, which drastically reduces the legwork you have to do by providing information on an assortment of trails and cool destinations in any area for any level of experience. But first: to pack. Use a checklist. It’s worth the extra few minutes to download and print one. Get your gear—your tent, your stove—ahead of time so you can make sure everything works properly and all the pieces are there. “The worst thing that can happen is you get there and realize something’s missing. It could be a small thing, but it can really waylay a trip,” he says, noting that REI has a program where you can rent gear, like tents, to try them out before you invest in one. Of course, sustenance is not least among importance when it comes to deciding what to bring. “Planning a menu is an important part of camping—what to eat, how to prepare it, how to store it. Storage is critical, especially if you’re in bear country or if there’s mice around the camp,” he says. He notes that dehydrated food has come a long way with lots of great options ranging from Thai and Indian fare to classic American grub. Dehydrated foods are a great way to keep it simple, which helps with prep and cleanup. Regardless, however, “everything tastes better outside,” he asserts. And good news for the caffeine-fueled outdoorsy types: you don’t have to give up coffee. There are so many great solutions for brewing gourmet coffee in camp, Wood assures, like French presses and pour-over options. Once you arrive set up tent in an established site, not on a hillside or anywhere there are rocks around. Look overhead to make sure there are no branches over where you plan to pitch your tent. And whatever you do, make sure your tent isn't too close to your fire pit. Embers will burn holes in the tent. And definitely pay careful attention when using knives and stoves. Most injuries from cooking and cutting things, Wood notes. Being weather-ready in the winter time is obvious: bring layers and a warm sleeping bag. You can always pile on more clothes to stay warm. Staying cool in the summer is a bit trickier. Of course, make sure you hydrate. At night, it’s important to set up a tent with the rainfly off to keep airflow moving through. In warm weather, ignore that rule about avoiding cotton, an imperative in the winter because once it’s wet it stays wet. That’s exactly what can help your stay-cool cause in the heat. "There's a misconception that camping means rouging it—but it can be such a comfy, wonderful experience. And the best, most experienced campers are always comfy," says Wood. "If you have everything, you never have to worry about being comfy. That means the right size tent—do you want to stand up in it? Does it have enough room for everyone sleeping in it? Can you properly ventilate it? Stay dry inside? Bring a bag that's rated for the right temperature at night.” When you're leaving, do one last sweep to make sure you have all your gear for next time. It's easy to overlook a chair behind a tree. And the cardinal rule of camping: dispose of all your waste and leave the site better than you found it. Follow that wisdom and you're guaranteed the happiest trails. 4. Include Every Family Member in the Fun According to AAA, most American are planning to travel as a family this summer. That means a whole lot of hours of kids asking if you’re there yet. And kids, of course, are the toughest—and usually most honest—critics, so once you get there, you’d better be ready to impress. It helps, of course, when they have some skin in the game. “Make sure to get the kids involved in planning. This will get them more vested in the whole vacation and will likely lead to much less complaining,” says Rainer Jenss, President and Founder of the Family Travel Association. “Letting the children choose activities will ensure they'll be more interested!” He also suggests getting actual cameras for each child, which will get them off their phones and tablets and much more actively engaged in where they are and what they’re seeing and doing. When they’re in the car, however, reading is obviously a better way to pass the time than movies and video games. “Bring along information on your destination, including low-tech options such as TourBook guides and maps, to make the most of your trip and as a source of entertainment for kids,” says Julie Hall, Manager of Public Relations at AAA.