By Dr. Becker
An increasing number of U.S. pet owners take their pets with them when they travel — 37 percent, to be precise, up from 19 percent about a decade ago, according to American Pet Products Association (APPA) data. The travel industry has taken notice, with the number of pet-friendly hotels rising from under 2,000 to upwards of 40,000 since the late '90s.1
It's not an entirely altruistic act on the part of the hotel industry; it's been estimated that even a moderate-sized 300-room hotel could bring in up to $150,000 in extra revenue a year by allowing pets through its doors.2 Today, it's not unusual to find pet-friendly policies at budget chains and five-star resorts alike.
Essential Tips If You're Looking for a Pet-Friendly Hotel
Traveling with pets takes careful planning and consideration, including knowing that not all pet-friendly hotels are created equal. To avoid major disappointment or unexpected hiccups, here's what you should know when considering booking accommodations for you and your pet at a pet-friendly hotel.3
1. It Will Probably Cost Extra
Some hotels allow pets to stay free of charge but most do not. Additional nightly fees are typically charged on a per pet basis, and you may have to put down a security deposit as well.
2. Some Limit the Number of Pets
Some hotels allow only one pet per room. Others will allow more. It's essential to find out whether your pet-friendly hotel room will accommodate all of your pets, particularly if you're traveling with two or more dogs.
3. There May Be Breed or Weight Restrictions
After finding out the number of pets allowed, ask about any other restrictions, such as those based on size or breed, especially if you're travelling with a large dog.
4. Your Pet Will Still Need Good Manners
Just because a hotel claims to be pet-friendly doesn't mean it will allow your dog to bark relentlessly and disturb other patrons. In fact, you could be asked to leave in this case. Similarly, your dog should not be allowed to soil the room or destroy any property. And if your pet is not well-behaved in public, you may want to reconsider travelling together in the first place.
Some hotels also ask that you do not leave your pet unattended and keep your pet off of beds and furniture. One way around the latter, as suggested by PetMD, is to bring sheets to cover any upholstery or bed linens. This way, your pet's paws "never touch the fabric."4
Some Hotels Offer Attractive Pet Perks
Pet owners may be content simply finding a hotel willing to put a roof over their dog's heads, but for those looking for extra pampering, some hotel lines offer an attractive array of perks designed to lure in pet-laden travelers. At Stanford Court, a San Francisco boutique hotel, for instance, pet owners receive chew toys, poop bags and a lint roller with their stay, and the room is even stocked with pet food, water bowls and a dog bed.5
Other hotels take it a step further, offering pet grooming, dog walkers and even, at some Kimpton Hotels, a dedicated "Director of Pet Relations" — the pet of an employee who acts as a mascot of the hotel. At the latter hotel chain, any number of pets are welcome at no extra charge (with no size, weight or breed restrictions), and guests receive a list of nearby pet-friendly restaurants and parks. There's even a nightly wine reception where pets are welcome to join.6
At 1 Hotel South Beach in Miami, Florida, meanwhile, pets receive a box of squeaky toys and have access to a 3,000-square-foot adventure zone for dogs.7 The New York Times reported on other plush offerings for pets at hotels where it seems the sky is the limit when it comes to pleasing your pooch:8
"Among luxury perks, fluffy monogrammed robes greet man's most pampered friend at the Peninsula Beverly Hills … Need an activity for your dog? Try the Bacon Scavenger Hunt for pups at Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley. Staffers hide smoked bacon in the surrounding vineyard and then lead a guided scent-and-search walk to sniff them out. Beyond bacon, the resort's in-room canine dining options include braised short ribs …
To capture the pet point of view, the Pines Lodge, a RockResort in Beaver Creek, Colo., now rents GoPro cameras with pet harnesses for romps on dog-friendly trails. The Miami-based Art Deco Tours welcomes well-socialized canines. When pets are not allowed inside, a designated petsitter will keep them company outside."
Pet-Friendly Alternatives to Hotels
If you're intent on traveling with your pet but are looking for a non-hotel experience, other options include purchasing or renting an RV or staying in a pet-friendly campground. As with hotels, some RV parks and campgrounds are more pet-friendly than others, so do your research before deciding on a site.
If you want to travel by rail, for a $25 fee, Amtrak allows pets up to 20 pounds on most of its seven-hour or less routes (but your pet must stay in a carrier beneath your seat).9 Traveling by sea? Cunard cruise line has kennels available to dogs and cats on certain transatlantic voyages, along with a designated outdoor space to play in and set times for owners to play with their pets.
Perhaps the first questions to ask, however, whether you're looking for a pet-friendly hotel, RV park, train or cruise ship, is how your travels will be experienced by your pet. If you're traveling for pleasure (as opposed to making a necessary move and bringing your pet), your pet may be happier staying home with a qualified pet sitter providing care. You know your pet best, so before deciding to take a trip together, decide whether he has the personality and inclination to enjoy it.