When people ask how your trip was, your answer might be A or B.
A. Awesome! Terrier Toby loved the hotel staff and had a great time with us.
B. Awful! Three hotels we booked no longer allowed dogs.
To help you answer A, using apps, blogs and websites to find places that welcome Toby is definitely the smart choice. And to avoid the disappointment of B, don’t assume websites are 100% current on pet policies.
Review the information online, then call to confirm policies and personnel. If there is an issue it’s a lot more compelling to say, “I spoke with Yolanda on Friday at 2 p.m.” instead of “I talked to some lady last week.” Print out any of those confirmation conversations from your notes or email; don’t rely on your phone in case there are any connectivity issues when you try to check in.
There are countless industries catering to pet owners. Luckily for people on the move, there are niche specialty websites, apps and blogs that focus on traveling with pets.
“The good thing about dog-specific websites is they help answer questions that human-centric sites won’t be able to,” says Candy Pilar Godoy, based in New York City, who runs the Boogie the Pug travel site, which features tips and equipment for traveling with dogs, as well as her adventures traveling with her own dogs, Boogie and Marcelo, around the world. “This is especially helpful if you’re traveling with multiple pets, and/or if you have a large dog.”
Those sites can help you while researching at home, and on the fly on location. Jessica Williams, who created the You Did What With Your Wiener? travel site, takes a combo approach. “I do my research beforehand or just look for hotel chains that I know are dog-friendly, and Bark Bark to help locate dog parks while on the road.” Jessica’s site and blog features travel product reviews and info about hiking and camping with her two Dachshunds in Seattle and beyond. “Before I head out for a trip, I’ll often search for places, hotels and things to do on GoPetFriendly.com and BringFido.com.”
Both of those sites have many more fans, including Candy. “Bring Fido helps you locate nearby hotels, attractions and restaurants that welcome pets,” she says. “They’re the Yelp of the dog world, with reviews and photos submitted by other dog owners. Plus, they have easy-to-use search filters.”
Candy cites another personal favorite. “AllTrails has the largest collection of trail maps.” AllTrails.com says more than 100,000 are listed. “It’s great for hikers, and active dogs and dog owners,” she says, “Browse photos and reviews, and filter your search by dog-friendly trails, so you know which welcome dogs. The app also gives you driving directions and lets you save your favorite trails.”
You might find that blog browsing helps you determine your next trip. “I love to read dog blogs, especially those geared toward travel lovers,” Candy says. “Firsthand accounts of a destination or activity are always insightful.”
Just a few of the many travel resources to consider are below, ranging from, say, finding a dog-friendly hotel in New York to locating a pet sitter to visit your dog in that hotel while you’re at a Broadway play. (Not seeing Cats, of course.)
BarkHappy.com – locate dog-friendly parks, restaurants, lodging, etc.; find local dog events or arrange a pooch playdate.
PetsWelcome.com – includes dog-friendly hotel chains, travel tips and a road trip planner that helps you create an itinerary with planned stops near dog-friendly digs along your way.
Rover.com – dog walkers and pet sitters throughout the United States and Canada. Pay through the site, no need to have cash on hand.
Blog.Slobbr.com – app with travel search details, as well as a blog that includes resources about traveling with dogs, along with interesting related stats by gender and generation.
OutdoorDogWorld.com – from the general (the best first-aid kits for dogs) to the extremely specific (seven tips to keep your dog safe from alligators), this site covers a wide variety of topics and products for hiking and outdoor adventures.
TripsWithPets.com — pet travel company that provides online booking of pet-friendly accommodations across the United States and Canada. Also includes pet-friendly activities, travel supplies and information like airline pet policies
Depending on your vacation location, you may prefer to maximize your time at the destination instead of on the journey. In that case, a plane may be your best option. Flying may or may not be optimal for your dog, and there are additional levels of research and paperwork required.
“Flying for dogs is similar to flying for humans in that there are many variables,” says Candy. “Dogs can fly in cargo, as baggage or in the cabin. Every airline has their own specific rules (there are no universal rules!) and country policies matter if you’re flying internationally. If you’re flying with your dog, make sure you do your homework beforehand and give yourself plenty of time to plan.”
No matter where your dog is on the plane, she will need to be in a carrier of some kind, Candy adds. Get your dog used to her carrier or kennel, so it’s a safe and comfortable space for her. Another reminder: “Be vigilant of carrier requirements given by the airline, and make sure yours qualifies.
Seattle-based Jessica offers additional tips specific to using a carrier in the cabin to fit under an airline seat:
While not specific to dog owners, all-purpose travel sites can still be a helpful source of information. Keep in mind these sites often require an extra step to search “dog” as a filter. Many of them also remind you to ask about any restrictions on size, breeds or number of dogs.
Users should look for firsthand accounts, as well as tips from other dog owners, Candy says. “Sometimes a location will say it’s pet-friendly, but reviews from patrons will help you know just how pet-friendly they are. There is a difference between businesses that tolerate pets and those that genuinely welcome them.”
Other general sites can help, too, such as Google and Yelp. “Yelp has a dog-friendly function where businesses can say if you allow pets or not,” Candy says. “They’re also great for reading reviews.
Don’t forget local sites, as well. “I often check websites of destination tourism boards to see if they have any information specific to dogs,” Jessica says. “I also use state-specific hiking websites, if they exist, like Washington Trails Association (WTA) in Washington State. I’ll also Google ‘dog friendly’ for the area we are visiting to read a few articles about the area.”
Sites you may find helpful include:
TripAdvisor.com – enter “dog” in the search function, choose general, such as restaurants, or
specific, such as pubs friendly to pups.
AAA.com — search under dog for specifics on the main site. There is also a sub page, AAA.com/pettravel where you can search pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, attractions and campgrounds.
Expedia.com – there’s a pet-friendly icon as one of the filters. It touts the highest rated pet-friendly hotels around the world.
Booking.com – one of the sites that doesn’t have a dog section on the home page. But if you search under “unique places to stay,” you’ll find a list of pet-friendly hotels.
If room service isn’t important to you but a backyard is, you may choose to rent someone’s home for your next vacation. Candy, who often uses Airbnb, cites extra space, a full kitchen and accommodation varieties — apartment, house or even houseboat — as worthy perks.
Going this route requires the same research you would use when contacting hotels. Candy recommends contacting the host directly to let them know about your pet, ensure the place is a good fit and ask questions before booking. “Is the dog allowed home alone? Is there an extra cleaning fee? Ask questions to ensure the place is a good fit and so you’re not surprised by the rules later,” she says. “Better to know up front than to assume!”
And while “make yourself at home” is the optimal experience, make sure you find out where in the home your dog may not be welcome. “Some general guidelines are to make sure your hosts know you are traveling with your dogs, ask if they have any other pets or animals on the property, be respectful and don’t let your dogs on their furniture unless they give permission first,” Jessica says. Even with permission, it’s polite to bring a sheet from home to keep the fur (and anything else) off the furniture
zjessica has another tip to help you keep the home clean in another critical way. “Watch your dog extra close for signs that she needs to go out to prevent accidents. Dogs sometimes don’t know how to ‘ask’ you in a new place; the back door they usually go to isn’t there.”
Along with the well-known Airbnb, there are many home rental sites, some with a special focus you might find desirable. Also, many of these sites don’t allow owners to delete reviews deemed undesirable, which may boost your peace of mind.
VRBO.com – lets you filter so only homes that allow pets show up in the listings. This is also the parent company to Vrbo and VacationRentals.com.
HomeToGo.com – offers multiple providers on the site, including Expedia and TripAdvisor, for a combo approach.
SellMyTimeshareNow.com – despite its name, this site also has listings of units for rent by their timeshare owners. Many locations are in resorts that may otherwise be out of your price range. Don’t forget to make sure dogs are welcome at the resort itself, not just the timeshare rental.
TurnKeyVR.com – another misnomer, homes on this site are accessible through digital locks accessed on your smart phone. The app also includes restaurant ideas, as well as local entertainment options.
ThirdHome.com – specializes in luxury vacation rentals that may be more affordable than other routes. Listings include inns, estates and even castles.
With most summer vacations put on hold because of COVID-19 quarantining, road trips, camping and RVing were pretty much the only way to get away. But social distancing travel may be a way of life if you happen to have a dog who’s very shy or fearful of new people. It could also be the best way to see how a rescue pup comes out of his shell when gradually introducing him to new things.
Along with the typical supplies, consider investing in a doggie stroller or backpack so your four-legged friend doesn’t hinder your adventure when those legs get tired.
There are many sources dedicated to help with traveling with your four-legged friend via four wheels. They include:
It’s worth reminding that while fun is the name of the game on vacation, safety for traveling Toby is all-important. If your dog hasn’t been microchipped, this is a perfect time to have that done. Check your dog’s ID tag and collar to make sure they are in good shape.
Days or weeks after all your research is done and reservations have been made, it’s time to pack. And while Buffy won’t need a bikini (or maybe she will, you do you), definitely have a checklist for your dog that covers food, toys and beyond. Ensure vaccinations are current and you have paperwork proving it. Other important documentation includes any prescriptions in case your dog runs out. (Did you know Costco fills many different drugs your pooch may be taking?)
Another must is a collapsible kennel. This can be used both at a picnic in the park and in the hotel room when your dog gets dog-tired from new people and activity. Some hotels require one.
Finally, bring an in-home camera to keep an eye on your dog in the room or vacation rental from your phone when you’re out and about. Make sure there is WiFi available.
Use these technology tips to make traveling with your dog — and the stories you tell when you return home — more pleasant. And don’t forget to bring old-school poop bags to clean up after him. Now if only there was an app for that.
Featured photo: stilletto82 | Getty Images