Whether you’re traveling for work or getting away for the weekend, you need to make plans for your pet. If they can’t go with you on the trip, where will they stay and who will care for them? For many pet parents, the answer is a pet boarding facility.

“Boarding facilities are a great option for many pets, offering pet owners peace of mind that their pets are in good hands when they’re away,” says Dr. Ari Zabell, a veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Washington.

Here’s what you need to know about boarding your pet:

1. Boarding is popular

The American Pet Products Association (APPA), the leading trade association for the pet products industry says last year, Americans spent $6.16 billion on pet services — including grooming and boarding. In APPA’s Pet Owners’ Survey, dog owners reported spending $322 to board their pet, while cat owners paid $164.    

2. Ask questions

When considering a facility, take a tour to see where your pet will sleep, eat and play. The areas should be clean and comfortable and give animals room to move around.

“It is important you feel confident your pet is getting the best care possible while you are away,” says Joanna Zucker, vice president of services at PetSmart, who says round-the-clock supervision and socialization is an important consideration.

Check with the facility to make sure the boarding staff is safety certified. Also ask if there’s a veterinarian on hand at all times in case of emergency.

3. Remember the stress is manageable

“Boarding your pet can be an especially stressful time — both for your pet and your family,” says Dr. Zabell, who recommends considering the animal's health and behavioral needs, including medications and dietary needs.

Don’t make any changes to your furry friend’s routine before boarding.

“If your pet has a favorite toy, bed or treat, we recommend you bring it so they have some comforts of home,” says Zucker, noting it’s common for overnight guests at PetSmart’s PetsHotels to have a familiar toy to play with while they’re away.

4. Focus on healthy and happy

Make sure your furry friends are healthy. They need to be up-to-date on preventative care, including bloodwork, vaccines and preventing parasites.

It’s also smart to think about how your pet reacts to other animals, new people and new places. “If there is anything you think they should know about your pet’s quirks, behavior, eating habits or other details, make sure to tell them before you drop off your pet,” says Zucker.

5. Prepare your pet for their getaway

To help limit worrying about your pet while you are on vacation, talk with your boarding facility staff in advance and make certain the amenities that are important to you such as onsite veterinary services, video cameras, phone calls and doggie day care are available at your preferred boarding facility.

Many PetSmart pet parents stop by the PetsHotels with Fido for a trial run a few days before going away.

“The first time your pet sees their boarding facility shouldn’t be during check-in,” says Dr. Zabell. “Introduce your pet to the boarding facility in advance to get them used to the people and the location.”

Know the boarding facility’s plan for how they will handle any unexpected emergency veterinary care issues while you’re away.

6. Pamper your pup

Indulge your furry family member during their stay. PetSmart PetsHotels’ amenities include playtime, private suites and even dog-friendly ice cream.

Then turn boarding time into grooming time.

“After a play-filled stay, many pet parents find a homecoming bath is a perfect way to get their pups ready for pick up,” says Zucker.

Your pooch will look, smell and feel great — what a wonderful homecoming!