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Traveling with pets is one of the hottest trends in travel. Families don’t want to leave their furry family members at home while they’re off on a trip. The rising demand is leading to increased options that make traveling with dogs easier — from a jump in the number of pet-friendly hotels to great pet travel products. But having family vacation fun with Fido or Fluffy still requires some advance planning before hitting the open road. Read on to learn how to plan the perfect road trip with a dog, cat or other furry (or feathered!) friend.
Some of our best family road trips have been with our dogs. It’s fun sharing outdoor adventures with them on family vacations. After all, they’re part of our family! And when they’re with us, it gives the credit card a break! We don’t have to worry about their care (or kennel expenses).
In hindsight, I wish we would have started bringing our dog, Trooper, on family vacations when he was younger. We didn’t know how much fun it would be to bring him along. He started traveling with us when he was about 5, and loved our road trips to beaches and mountains until he passed away several years later. He even stayed at luxury dog friendly hotels.
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I wouldn’t dream of bringing our young dog, Maya, to a hotel. She’s too chatty. But that doesn’t mean we don’t bring her on family vacations. We just took this sassy (but sweet) girl to stay in a cabin in Bass Lake and a visit to Yosemite National Park.
Thanks to more people traveling with their pets, an increasing number of establishments are welcoming dogs, cats, parrots and other family pets. The pet-friendly Montage Deer Valley in Park City even has canine ambassadors to greet guests. Resident pups Monty and Summit meet and greet guests once or twice a day in the lobby. The Bernese mountain dogs pose for photo ops at 11am Monday to Friday in the off season and at 11am and 3pm 7 days a week during the winter ski season.
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Pet-Friendly Travel on the Rise
“The main focus of pet-friendly travel used to be out of necessity to bring pets. But now the industry has a growing sector of airlines, hotels, and restaurants that cater to pets because travelers are making traveling with their pet a priority,” says Melissa Halliburton, founder of BringFido.com. The website lists pet-friendly hotels and their pet policies. You can also call, email, or send a chat message to BringFido from the road.
The proportion of hotels accepting pets has increased from less than half to more than 60 percent in the last 10 years, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association. The sharpest increase has been among luxury hotels, 80 percent of which are now pet-friendly, says Halliburton.
Sure, it’s more work to bring your dog on vacation. But it’s worth it. You’ll probably even learn a lot about your dog that you might not otherwise. For example, although Trooper was a Lab mix, he didn’t like swimming. However, he loved the snow on our ski vacations, and summer boating trips to Big Bear Lake!
TravelingMom Tip: Consider Bark Box for your pet. It’s a treat if you can’t travel with them currently. With a monthly theme, each Bark Box comes with two toys, two bags of dog treats and a chew. You can send one or several. Shipping is free. The bags of dog treats are perfect for road trips!
Pros and Cons of Pet Travel
Things to consider before taking a road trip with a dog include your pet’s overall temperament, his physical limitations, or if he suffers from an illness. Whether your are road tripping or flying with a pet, it requires advance planning, from visiting the vet to finding pet-friendly accommodations. If you’re taking a road trip, you’ll have to stop and take more breaks along the way. Especially on a long trip. Once at your destination, find activities to keep your dog active. Unless you plan to leave your dog in your accommodations during meal times, scout out dog-friendly restaurants.
TravelingMom Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
Planning Your Pet-Friendly Trip: Hotels
There are thousands of dog-friendly hotels in the United States. Not so pet-friendly are the fees that come along with some of these stays. It is always best to check with individual properties but the following chains advertise no pet fees: Aloft (Marriott brand), Red Roof Inn, Kimpton (IHG brand), and Motel 6. La Quinta was a popular chain for pet families but has now instituted an optional pet fee at the location’s discretion of $20/night. Service animals should never be charged a pet fee at any property.
When picking the right hotel be sure to check:
- Breed restrictions
- Weight restrictions (some hotels only allow small animals under 20 pounds)
- Pet fees
And always leave a phone number where you can be reached if you plan to leave your pet in the room alone. That way, staff can call if your pet appears to sound distressed.
Pick the Right Destination
Take your dog’s health into consideration when choosing a destination.
“Dogs don’t care where they are as long as they are with their owners. However, pet owners should make decisions based upon knowing their dog,” says Halliburton.
For example, if your dog is old and has hip problems, you probably shouldn’t take him on a hiking trip unless you plan on carrying him in a backpack. If your dog is a barker, you may want to book rental home accommodations instead of a hotel stay. Or hire a dog walker/doggy daycare at your vacation destination if you will have to leave your pet unattended at any time. If you are booking a special bucket list-type trip for your dog, you’d want to fill your days with all of his favorite things and places, advises Halliburton.
Plan a Vet Visit
If you’ll be flying with your pet or your trip will be long, it is a great idea to squeeze in a visit with your veterinarian before you go. Your vet can assess your pet’s fitness to travel.
Planning to travel internationally? The American Veterinary Medical Association is a great resource for proof of vaccinations you might need (including USDA certification). Ask for a printed copy of your pet’s health record to carry with you in case an emergency comes up on the road.
Before you leave, have your pet micro-chipped for identification, and bring a spare tag with your phone number.
Taking a Road Trip with a Dog: What to Pack
While on the road, remember that safety comes first. Don’t leave home without an emergency kit for your family and a separate pet first aid kit. Have the first aid kits handy so you don’t have to unpack the whole car to reach them. It’s also a good idea to pack copies of a health certificate and medical records.
Essential pet items include food and water bowls, leashes, pet wipes, travel blankets/bed, poop bags, and a crate or kennel. Be sure to pack any medications your dog needs, and bottled water. It’s also a good idea to have a harness and seat belt or car seat for your dog. BringFido’s editors recommend the Snoozer Roll Around Travel Dog Carrier Backpack 4-in-1 travel carrier. It converts to a backpack, dog bed, and car seat. It also has wheels so owners can tow their pets through an airport.
TravelingMom Tip: We love these leak proof silicone bags for bringing dog food. Once they’re empty they store flat.
Doggy Dos and Don’ts for Riding in the Car
Designate a safe place for Fido in your car. “Traveling with Fido will be much easier and safer when he has a comfy place to ride. The most important thing when on a road trip with a pet is that your pet is restrained,” says Halliburton.
That means your pets shouldn’t sit on your lap or jump between car seats. It’s safest for dogs to be contained in a carrier, secured with a harness or seat belt, or lying down in the back seat. Try to make their area comfortable with a bed, blankets, and familiar toys. Some cars even have great pet-friendly features like washable, fold-down cargo areas or cargo barriers that keep your dog safe in the back of the car or SUV. This cover will ensure the back seat stays fur free. We recommend bringing dog grooming gloves since travel stress can cause excess shedding and hair removal will be as easy as patting Fido.
Flying with Fluffy? Head here. We cover air travel need-to-knows like cargo hold travel crate rules, breed restrictions, what to find out about your destination country, how to communicate with airline staff and what you need to know about direct flights vs. connecting flights.
TravelingMom Tip: Our Travelingmom’s with pets recently used Chewy.com and the products arrived the very next day. Super handy when packing to travel with your pet or to have essential (or bulky) pet items delivered directly to your destination.
Plan for Pit Stops
Give yourself plenty of time to stop for breaks. Be sure you allow extra travel time on your road trip for bathroom breaks for your dog. It’s also a good way to prevent car sickness. “It’s generally recommended to stop for a break every three hours, but again, you know your dog’s routine best,” says Halliburton.
On BringFido.com you’ll find dog parks listed along your route so your dog can stretch his legs after a long car ride. The site also lists pet-friendly restaurants with outdoor patios for meal breaks.
Upon Arrival at Your Destination
One of the first things we do upon arrival is take our dog for a long walk. Dogs are curious about their new surroundings. On her first trip to Big Bear, Maya explored every room in the cabin. But mostly she enjoyed sniffing pine cones, trees and other new smells outdoors. We brought her on hiking trails and to the lake.
Including dogs in our activities is a lot of fun. After all, that’s the main reason we travel with them, right?
What’s the best place you’ve ever traveled with your pet?