Dog-Friendly Vacations

Posted by  on June 14, 2010

You’ve worked hard all year at the office or the shop, now it’s time to take it easy for a week or two, enjoying all the good things vacation has to offer.  But what about your dog?  He or she has been hard at work, too:  protecting your home from strangers, finishing up the leftovers, keeping the kids in line, helping you with the yard work, and keeping you warm in bed.  Doesn’t the dog deserve a break, too?

Hotel Stays

As pets become more and more integrated into our families, many travel destinations have realized that they can profit by allowing you to bring your dog with you when you vacation.  Hotels in every price range now offer the option of bringing your dog.  Call ahead to find out if any restrictions apply.  Many hotels will only allow pets under a certain weight limit, so you may have to leave the Great Dane at home, but the Yorkie may be more than welcome.

Some hotels charge a pet deposit, which may or may not be refundable.  See if you can negotiate to get your deposit back if your room is left in substantially the same condition as you found it.  Bargaining before you arrive allows you to make a choice to stay elsewhere if you can find someone else with a policy that takes less of a bite out of your wallet.  If you really want to stay at Hotel A, but Hotel B has a better offer, ask Hotel A to match it.  The travel industry is highly competitive, and you may just be able to get both the great deal and the great hotel.

If you do take your dog to a hotel, plan your days so that you will either be able to take the dog with you as you sight-see or be able to stop by the room several times to let the dog outside.  If you are choosing the second option, make sure you leave the “Do Not Disturb” tag on the hotel room door to protect both your dog and the hotel staff.  Some hotels require that dogs not be left unattended in the room, so be sure to check this out while you are planning your trip and making your reservations.

Other lodging options

One way to make sure your pet has all the comforts of home is to rent a pet-friendly cottage or vacation home.  A little research can help you find accommodations where you pet will not only be welcomed, but will be pampered.  Vacation rental owners who have dogs of their own are often willing to rent to families with dogs, and may even provide amenities geared to dogs such as crates, fenced-in yards, dog pillows, special treats, or dog-walking services during the day while you visit local attractions.

House-swapping can provide a great way to see the country while not breaking the bank.  If you have friends or family near a destination you want to visit, ask if they’d be willing to house swap for a week or two.  And since they are your friends, chances are they already know you don’t go anywhere without your dog.  They may feel the same way, and both houses will already be set up for canine habitation.

Camping is a great option for those who want to explore the great outdoors with their dog by their side.  Many campgrounds are very pet-friendly, although some have strict leash laws or tie-out restrictions.  If you will be visiting a National Park, make sure you check out the pet policies of the park before you assume your dog will be welcome.  Although you are a responsible person who cleans up after your dog, the National Park System has dealt with many people over the years who are not so considerate.  As a result, they often have very strict restrictions on where dogs are allowed so that our beautiful national treasures are preserved in pristine condition for all visitors.

Getting your dog ready

Consider your dog’s temperament before you just assume the dog wants to travel with you.  Dogs who bark incessantly or who have other behavioral problems may not be the best travel companions.  Their difficult behaviors will likely be harder to handle when they are stuck in a small car or hotel room with you, especially if they are nervous about being in new surroundings.

If you plan on taking your dog on a vacation, make sure the dog is healthy and properly prepared for the trip.  If your dog has never ridden in the car farther than to the vet’s office, it might be a good idea to go for a long ride in the country before you set off on that thousand-mile journey.  Learning that your dog gets car sick or howls the entire time when you are hundreds of miles away from home is not the optimal situation.

Make sure all of your dog’s vaccinations are up to date, and check out any travel restrictions for dogs where you intend to visit.  For example, Hawaii is currently rabies-free and it intends to stay that way.  All animals entering the state are subject to a 14-day quarantine to make sure they are not carrying the virus.  This would kind of defeat the purpose of taking your dog along if you are staying in the islands less than 2 weeks.

You should plan on bringing the dog’s vaccination records and a certificate of health from your veterinarian with you on the trip, just in case anyone asks to see them.  They may be required when you enter a foreign country or even a National Park or hotel.  They will definitely be required if you decide to try out a dog day care or boarding facility while you are on the road.  You may want to ask your vet if he or she has a recommendation for emergency care at your destination.

Getting there is half the fun

If you will be traveling by car, there are many things you must consider before your dog joins you.  First of all, make sure your dog has an ID tag, even if he or she is microchipped or tattooed.  If your dog gets lost, a tag is the single easiest way for a Good Samaritan to find you and reunite you with your best friend.  Make sure the tag has your cell phone number so you can be contacted while you are away from home.  There would be few things worse than going through your entire vacation worrying about whether or not there will be a call on your home answering machine from someone who has found your dog.

You can buy engraved dog tags at most pet stores, or you can shop online for more elaborate tags.  Decorative ID dog tags sold by Dog Tag Art are guaranteed not to lose their lettering as some tags do over time.

Make sure your car is supplied and outfitted to make the trip safe for your dog.  Dogs should be crated or secured in some other manner when the car is in motion.  Many pet supply companies now offer seatbelts or harnesses designed for dogs who travel.  Keeping your dog secured can make him or her feel safer and less likely to become car sick during the trip.  In addition, a loose dog can cause driving hazards by getting under your feet or blocking your view.

As you plan your trip, make sure to take into consideration the extra stops you will have to make for toileting needs for your dog.  In addition, pre-plan how you will handle meal times.  You already know you can’t leave your dog in the car overheating while you enjoy a leisurely lunch in a sit-down restaurant.  Will you picnic by the roadside or will you go through fast food drive-thrus during the trip?

If you will be flying to your vacation destination, make sure you find out your airline’s dog policy before making your reservations.  Some require a specific type of crate.  Most require dogs to ride in the cargo compartment.  You might consider flying your dog separately to your destination via Pet Airways, an airline that is specifically devoted to flying pets in the passenger cabin.  When your plane lands, you simply go to the designated spot in the airport to pick up your dog.

Where to go?

If you’re taking your dog along, it may be that the dog can become the center of the vacation.  For example, you might want to travel to dog sporting competitions, conformance shows, or dog camps.

Check with the sanctioning body of your favorite dog sport to find out where competitions will be held and how you can enter your dog.  A few of the organizations are linked here, but many more are available by using your favorite search engine.

Dock Diving



Lure Coursing

Earthdog Trials

Many areas of the country have camps set up specifically for dog families.  One such example is Four Paws Kingdom in North Carolina, an RV campground which offers such things as hiking trails, dog ponds, play parks for agility and Rally-O, and a dog bathhouse that includes a grooming station.

For other ideas, check out these sites that list places where both you and your dog will be welcomed with open arms.

Bring Fido

Dog Friendly

Pet Friendly