Before booking a stay at a kennel, consider other options: taking Fluffy along; leaving her with a friend; having a friend sleep over; or hiring a sitter. Each option comes with important pros and cons.

If you decide a kennel is the best option, the ratings by other pet owners we have collected will help you find a top-notch one. (We’re still working on methods to survey pets.) Several of the kennels received “superior” ratings overall from almost all of their surveyed customers. But some kennels didn’t exactly wow clients.

There are also large price differences, as shown on our Ratings Tables. To board a medium-size dog for one week, for example, prices range from $200 to more than $500 or more. That’s just for the basic boarding. At some kennels, the extras can add up fast: Administering a pill might cost $3 more per day; arranging for extra attention or exercise could run $10 or more a day. Also, some kennels’ extremely limited drop-off and pickup periods make it difficult to avoid shelling out for an extra day.

It can all take a substantial bite out of your vacation budget. Fortunately, several higher-rated kennels charge below-average prices.

Carefully check out any kennel you are considering:

  • Be wary of kennels that won’t let you inspect their facilities.
  • Check whether indoor and outdoor areas for dogs are secure, large enough, and provide protection from sun, rain, cold, and heat.
  • How do staff make sure pets are good fits for their facility? Do they require a trial stay? What do they do about animals that don’t get along with others?
  • Make sure the kennel has proper health protections—that it is clean and not excessively smelly, that all admitted pets must have proof of proper vaccinations, and that pets are carefully examined for signs of disease or parasites at check-in.
  • Do staff answer your questions? Do they show the animals affection? Are they available 24 hours per day?
  • Determine when the kennel is open for drop-off and pickup. A common complaint is that facilities don’t have convenient hours, particularly on weekends.
  • Get in advance a written statement of costs, including any extras.