Each year, the pet industry in the United States grows, causing an increasing number of travelers to search for ways to include their pets in their vacations. Melissa Halliburton, president and founder of BringFido.com, says that means more pet-friendly destinations and accommodations–good news for those who don’t want to leave Fido home.
Traveling with Pets
Halliburton’s website is a specialized booking engine for pet-friendly travel. She started it in 2006 when she began traveling with her own dog after college.
“I would look at the travel websites and look for place with a ‘pet friendly’ icon, but when I would actually call them I found that 25 percent of the time it was wrong,” she said. “Even if there was a place that was pet friendly there might be a substantial fee involved, or other limitations that were undisclosed.”
Bring Fido was the first booking engine of its kind when it launched with around 10,000 pet-friendly hotels in its database. Today, that number has grown to 40,000, she says.
A growing industry
“We started with just the U.S. but now we are all over the world,” she said. “But even just looking at the U.S. I would say it (the industry) has doubled over the past 10 years.”
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), industry sales reached $38.5 billion in 2006, when BringFido began. Sales are estimated to reach $62.75 billion in 2016.
Halliburton has a 6-year-old son and two dogs that she travels with. She says she thinks more people are
traveling with pets because an increasing number of travelers consider their pets a part of the family. Finding pet friendly hotels and activities that are fun for the whole family, including pets, is becoming more commonplace.
Fun for the whole family
Halliburton advises people who travel with pets to “scope out activities in advance” when looking at a destination for their trip.
She says traveling with pets can be an added stress, especially when children are also included in the trip. But, she says, it is possible to find activities and attractions that are both child and pet friendly.
“Since we travel with our two dogs a lot, I always know to look for dog-friendly places to play, stay and eat ahead of time,” she said. “That is the minimum it takes to make it a fun trip for everyone.”
She considers where and how her dogs will be spending their days before booking. She chooses interactive attractions over those that will confine her dogs to a kennel.
Finding Pet Friendly Attractions
Halliburton said these types of attractions can be found all over the world. Still, some destinations, such as the West Coast of the U.S., are more inclusive than others.
“There’s definitely something for everyone all over, but in general the West Coast seems to be a bit more pet friendly,” she says. Warmer weather can make for a more enjoyable experience for pets, especially dogs.
Special experiences for Pets
Over the past few years, the industry has also seen a growth in pet friendly hotels that are solely focused on Fido, Halliburton says.
These specialty or “boutique” hotels include features such as doggy spas, specialty catering and pet-centered events such as agility camps and sausage roasts.
However, Halliburton says, “even your typical hotels are making efforts to ‘roll out the red carpet’ for pets.” That could include special amenities and events throughout the year.
She said she has seen places that are not specifically operating as pet-centric hotels offering surfing lessons, massages and monthly yoga sessions to their furry patrons.
“Certain little things like that are definitely becoming more common,” Halliburton says.
All pets welcome?
Although dogs are popular travel companions, other pets are also hitting the road with their families.
“But we do have customers who like to travel with their cats or ferrets, all sorts of animals really.”
According to APPA, 54.4 million U.S. households own dogs and 42.9 million own cats.
“I have met a cat on a whale watching boat before,” Halliburton says.
She said many hotels that consider themselves pet friendly allow dogs as well as cats. If cats are specifically not allowed, the hotel’s policy will specify on Bring Fido. Halliburton also says some allow “exotic” pets, but call before you show up with the family gecko.
This post was written by Alexandra Olsen, a college student intern for TravelingMom.com. Her love of travel began at a very young age–traveling with her family to little beach towns growing up in Brazil. Alexandra also has her own personal travel blog, Trail Mix, which she started while spending a summer studying abroad in Norway.