How to Look After Reptiles While You’re on Vacation

There are many amazing things about keeping and breeding reptiles – but vacation time isn’t one of them.

After all, most traditional pet boarding facilities would have a heart attack if you rang them up to ask about boarding fees for your python or bearded dragon.

What is a reptile keeper to do?

In this article we’re going to look at some of the potential options available to you, so that you can enjoy your time away without constantly worrying about how your pets are getting on…

Ask Your Local Reptile Store

Opening a reptile shop is very rarely a route to instant riches. The costs associated with properly caring for reptiles and amphibians means that very few reptile store owners are driving around in a Rolls Royce. Little wonder, then, that an increasing number of reptile stores now offer boarding for your pets.

If you have a local reptile store then it is well worth asking if they offer reptile boarding. Even if they don’t then they may know someone locally who offers such a service.

Of course, just because your local reptile store offers pet boarding doesn’t necessarily mean you should take them up on it. Spend some time investigating their standards of care, the costs involved and find out where your exotics will be housed.

Many reptile stores, for example, simply keep your exotics in any spare display tanks they may have with a note on them that your animals aren’t for sale. The risk, here, is that your pets may become unnecessarily stressed with so many people walking past and tapping on the glass.

Take your time to carefully consider all the options available to you before deciding on who you will entrust your exotics to while you’re on vacation.

Seek Out Specialist Reptile Boarding Facilities

Alongside traditional reptile stores there are a limited number of specialist pet boarding facilities. There are also a small number of “at home” pet boarding services, where you can leave your pets where they are, and a dedicated expert will come to feed them and check on them regularly.

Again, try to seek advice in your local area and look for reviews or recommendations from other reptile keepers. Joining your local reptile society (if one exists) can be a good way to meet fellow exotic pet keepers.

Alternatively, Facebook is alive with groups focusing on specific locations. Spend some time discovering your local reptile-keeping community who may then be able to direct you to their preferred pet boarding service.

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Use a Fellow Reptile Keeper

Reptile keepers tend to be a friendly, passionate and knowledgeable bunch. While we’re still reasonably thin on the ground when compared to other hobbies, there’s still a good chance that there are other keepers living nearby.

These same local reptile associations and location-based discussion boards can be a great way to meet local keepers. Over time, true friendships can blossom; and these are arguably the best solution of all when going on vacation.

There are numerous reasons why sharing vacation care with a friend works well. Firstly, the costs are minimal because you can simply offer to pet sit for your friend in exchange when they go on vacation themselves. Secondly you can feel reasonably confident that your reptile-keeping friends know what they’re doing when it comes to looking after exotics.

Lastly, rather than just hiring someone you don’t know, using the services of a friend means there is a bond of trust. You’ll know what herptiles they keep, how they look after them and their knowledge base.

So get out there and start making friends with other exotic pet keepers; you’ll be surprised how handy they can be when it comes to vacation time!

Ask a Friend

I live deep in the countryside, where knowledgeable exotic pet keepers and reptile stores are very thin on the ground. In these cases it might be necessary to try to enlist the help of a non-reptile keeper.

In truth, it is unlikely that many non-exotic pet keepers will be willing to defrost snake food, handle locusts or get your python out for a health check. As a result, minimal care is likely. However if you’re only heading away for a short period of time and just want someone to top up waters and keep an eye on things then it can work.

Under these circumstances, however, try to spend some time before going away on “training”. Get your friend used to your exotic pets, help them understand the key ingredients of care (such as checking the thermometer for a suitable temperature) and make them comfortable around them. With a little luck your neighbour might just be willing to carry out some basic checks and let you know if they have any concerns at all.

Take a Chance

Depending on what you keep, and how long you’re going on vacation for, it may be possible to simply leave your pets to their own devices. My collection includes a wide variety of invertebrates such as tarantulas, mantis and stick insects. With suitable feeding and watering before I go away I don’t worry too much about taking a long weekend away.

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Of course, things can be rather different for more “demanding” species of exotic pets like poison dart frogs, so only you can decide whether this is a risk worth taking. This should only be an option if you’re fully confident that your pets will remain in the best of health in your absence.

Take Your Pets With You

Possibly the most random idea of all is to take your pets on vacation with you. Now, of course, things aren’t going to be easy if you’re going abroad but if you’re travelling in your home country then it may be easier to take your corn snake with you.

Indeed, I recently packed up my exotic pet collection and transported them to France for a vacation. In this way I could keep an eye on them the whole time and knew they’d get the best possible care – but without excessive fees.


Exotic pet keepers deserve vacations just like anyone else. While at first glance it may seem like a mammoth problem there are a variety of ways to keep your captives happy and healthy during this time. Before long you’ll be home again, relaxed and tanned, and with your reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates in the best of health.

What do you do when going on vacation? Please leave your experiences in the comments section below…

Richard Adams

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