If you're heading home for the holidays, don't forget to make plans for your pets, too.

This holiday weekend, 43.6 million people are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home, according to American Automobile Association projections. Whether you're taking your four-legged friend to the family feast or leaving them behind, it's a good idea to think ahead, said Jeff Hogans, owner of Harden Ranch Veterinary Hospital in Salinas.

For people hitting the road with their pets, safety is a concern. Although there are seat belt laws for people, nothing is required for pet passengers. A calm dog can be thrown with the same amount of force as an active dog in a crash or sudden stop — a danger for all passengers as well as the pet, said Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA Traffic Safety Programs manager, in a press release.

Though 1-in-5 drivers said they have been distracted by pets while driving, and 83 percent of drivers are aware it is dangerous, only 16 percent of owners regularly use pet restraints, according to the 2011 AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Survey.

Anyone thinking about taking a plane trip with their pet should visit their veterinarian for a health certificate, said Hogans. Although not every airline requires a certificate, the paperwork needs to be issued — ahead of time — by a veterinarian specifically credentialed to do so.

If you're considering boarding your pet while you're away, you should already have reservations.

"Holidays are always peak times in Monterey. A lot of military are rotating out and families are rotating in," said Joel Jensen, owner of Home Away From Home, a day care, boarding and grooming facility in Monterey.

Although there is still some space available, Jensen said, lodging is usually full four weeks before holidays. All kinds of animals are welcome at Home Away From Home, from chinchillas to parrots. Just no fish, said Jensen. The cost of care depends on what each pet needs and availability.

Scheduling in advance is ideal because most kennels require current vaccinations, said Hogans.

The Harden Ranch boarding facility is already 75 percent full said customer service representative, Elisa Lobell. But there is still time to book accommodations, she said. It costs extra, but pampered pooches can relax in double-sized, upscale "suites" with extra-fluffy beds, televisions, and webcams that owners can check 24/7 with their smart phone.

There is even a stay-and-swim option with the adjoining Motiv K9 Fitness Therapy center owned by Becky Lewis. Water-loving pets can enjoy supervised half-hour swims in an enclosed, heated pool. Dogs of all sizes, from four-pound yorkies to 145-pound Mastiffs, like to get their paws wet while their on "vacation", said Lewis.

Another option for the stay-at-home critters are pet sitters.

"My calendar has openings right now, but I'll probably be completely booked by Wednesday night," said Lucinda Andersen, the 20-year owner of Carmel-based Happy Pets Sitting Service. People's plans often change at the last minute and flexibility is a key for pet sitters, she said.

When everyone stays home for the holidays, our pets often get a few extra helpings of food along with everyone else. There can be too much of a good thing.

"There's a huge increase in patients with stomach problems during the holidays. Pets get into stuff that really wreaks havoc with their intestinal tracts," said Hogans. But, just like people, pets find good food hard to resist: His own dog stole the turkey off the table after dinner last year, he said.

Elizabeth Devitt can be reached at 648-1188 or ldevitt@montereyherald.com