People looking to travel with their pets this holiday season may face more challenges than in the past. Many airlines have responded to COVID-19 by passing new regulations on carrying pets on board and transporting pets in cargo holds, as well as by increasing rates. That’s coupled with new CDC restrictions on transporting dogs internationally, due to rabies concerns.

As the holidays near and people gear up to fly, CivicScience findings suggest the new regulations may impact the likelihood of travel among pet owners.

A survey of more than 2,250 U.S. adults found that owning a pet may keep close to one-quarter (23%) of pet owners from taking holiday trips this year. A solid 8% say their pets will definitely prevent them from traveling this year, while 15% may possibly forgo making travel plans. More than one-third (37%) of pet owners don’t typically travel during the holidays to begin with, which may or may not be due to pet ownership.

Owning pets is certainly a deterrent for air travel. Fifteen percent of pet owners report frequently avoiding flying, while an additional 24% sometimes avoid air travel on account of their pets.

Among pet owners who plan to travel this year, fewer than one-third will travel with their pets (by plane, car, or other means). More people will leave their pets with friends or family than either board their pets at a facility or hire someone to take care of their pets while away. 

Cost Is Key

While it’s very likely that new airline regulations may result in lost ticket sales among pet owners, the survey indicates that cost is more likely to be a driving reason. Pet owners who earn $50K or less annually are the most likely to forgo holiday travel this year. Just 10% will travel with their pets, compared to 18% of earners who make $100K or more. 

New Pet Owners

Pet ownership is up. Survey results show that the majority (67%) of U.S. households own one or more pets, of which 13% have become first-time pet owners over the course of the pandemic. 

However, new pet owners are a breed all their own. Unlike pre-pandemic pet owners, the majority of new pet owners won’t let their pets prevent them from traveling. The data show they are 40% more likely to travel this holiday season than pre-pandemic pet owners. However, new pet owners are less likely to travel with their pets and three times more likely to board their pets. 

One reason for the discrepancy among old and new pet owners is that new owners are significantly more likely to own cats, which require less maintenance and tend to be more cost-effective when traveling.

It’s also worth noting that new pet owners are much more likely to skew younger – 45% of pet-owning 18- to 24-year-olds are new pet owners. Because this age demographic is also the most likely to still live with their parents, it’s possible the costs and responsibilities of pet ownership are shared. In fact, new pet owners are more than six times as likely to still live with mom and dad, compared to pre-pandemic pet owners. They are also much more likely to rent than own a home.

While intent for Thanksgiving travel this year is remarkably higher than even 2019 levels, the study suggests there will still be a loss felt from pet owners who opt to forgo holiday travel, with cost being a major reason. However, this loss will affect pre-pandemic pet owners more than new pet owners.