Want to ensure your pets happiness while you’re away? Plan ahead by picking the right care provider.

Even those of us who love nothing more than spending every possible moment with our pets realize that we can’t always travel together. Sometimes it isn’t logistically possible, such as taking them on long flights in hot weather. Other times, certain travel destinations make it kinder to our pets to allow them to stay home. In any case, leaving your companion animal while you travel can be stressful for you and your pet. So how do you minimize the stress?

Nikki Ferraro, who owns luxury pet hotel ROVER in Los Angeles, says the first thing you need to decide is whether your pet would prefer staying home with a care provider or going to a boarding facility, where he would have the opportunity to socialize.

“Not every pet enjoys being boarded,” Ferraro explains. “If your pet isn’t a social butterfly who loves meeting new people and animals, then in-home care might be your best bet.” Home care is usually more expensive than using a boarding kennel, but the added expense may be worth it for the peace of mind it provides. Additionally, the money saved by kenneling might prove fruitless if your pet becomes stressed to such an extent that he requires veterinary care.

If you decide for in-home care, there are a number of options to choose from, ranging from daily visits to full-time care. Ferraro advises her clients to use a licensed and bonded professional service for in-home care and strongly urges reference checks and asking trusted friends for referrals. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (petsitters.org) provides a pet sitter locator and information on the benefits of using a professional

Conversely, if your pet is more of a party animal, then boarding can actually be fun. Ferraro says it’s not unusual for guests to show reluctance to return home. What outgoing individual wouldn’t love being at a place where they get to play with new friends until fatigue drives them back into their rooms? Amenities can include comfortable furniture, pet-friendly TV and room service. Nicer boarding facilities also provide 24-hour attendant care, massages and even spa mud baths for a fun way to get a clean and shiny coat. Many facilities now include video cameras so pet parents can see that all is well from anywhere with Internet access.

As with identifying home care, Ferraro believes that the key is asking friends for referrals to licensed facilities. You can also get in touch with insured and bonded boarding providers in your area through petboardingfinder.com. Seeing the facility in advance is also important, though don’t be alarmed if you are asked to view back rooms via video. Sometimes strangers visiting play and sleeping areas can cause stress for pets. Pet parents are encouraged to bring their pets food to avoid stomach upset, but she cautions that there’s a chance toys and blankets may get lost. Any reputable facility will provide playthings and bedding as part of the service, so your pets treasured toys can stay safe at home.

Leaving your pet when you are traveling doesn’t have to be unpleasant for either of you if you do a little pre-planning. One last tip: Your pet will certainly enjoy edible souvenirs from your trip far more than your vacation slideshow!

Jennifer Arnold is a New York Times best-selling author of Through a Dogs Eyes and In a Dogs Heart. She is the founder of Canine Assistants, a nonprofit organization that teaches service dogs to assist children and adults who have physical disabilities, seizure conditions, or other special needs. For more information on Arnold and Canine Assistants, please visit canineassistants.org or facebook.com/canineassistants.