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how to travel with your dog

How to Travel with Your Dog: 8 Hotel Tips and Tricks

If you’re a dog owner who loves to travel, often the most difficult part of a trip is leaving your beloved friend behind. In a recent survey from Nature’s Recipe, almost half of the respondents said they avoid traveling with their dogs because of the inconvenience and that the biggest hurdle is finding a dog-friendly hotel.

How to Travel with Your Dog Overnight at a Hotel

Because figuring out how to travel with your dog requires some extra planning, here are eight tips to help with overnight hotel stays and finding dog-friendly properties.

Understand the Hotel’s Pet Policy and Fees

When traveling with your dog, I recommend booking directly with the hotel over the phone. This way you can ask specific questions and understand the hotel’s pet policy.

Before you book, ask if there’s a pet fee, if the fee is per night or a flat rate, if there are breed or weight limitations, if the entire hotel is pet-friendly or if there is a designated floor, if you can leave your dog alone in the room, if there are dog walkers or sitters available for hire, and if there are any charges associated with damages from your pet.

Pro Tip: A $25 to $50 fee for dogs is pretty standard, depending on the hotel. Check for specials from major hotel chains that are dog-friendly or ask a boutique hotel if it runs discounts for pets during the off-season.

Know Your Dog’s Behavior

You’ll never know how to travel with your dog until you try it, but understanding your dog’s behavior is extremely important when staying overnight with him or her at a hotel. For example, if your dog tends to bark at people walking past a window, ask for a room on a higher floor. Or, if your dog gets nervous in elevators, ask for a room on a lower level so you can take the stairs. Another useful tip is to put the TV on when you leave the room, so your dog won’t hear people coming and going in the hall and get anxious.

Pro Tip: Before you go on a longer trip, do a trial run at a nearby pet-friendly hotel to see how your dog reacts. If things don’t go well, you can easily bring your dog home.

Have a Plan If You Can’t Leave Your Dog Alone

If a hotel’s policy is that you can’t leave your dog alone in the room, make sure you have some resources to call upon if you’re planning on going somewhere that doesn’t allow Fido. Ask if the hotel has a dog walker or sitter for hire; at some pet-friendly hotels, non-scheduled staff members are happy to walk your dog for you as long as you ask ahead of time. Another option is to bring your dog to a groomer, a boarding kennel, or even a doggie spa for the day.

Pro Tip: If you can leave your dog alone in the hotel room, always give the front desk staff a heads up and ask them to call you if there are any noise complaints or issues. 

Research Pet-Friendly Restaurants

If you can’t leave your dog alone in your room per the hotel’s policy, you’re going to want to find restaurants where you can bring your dog for meals. Most hotels can provide a list of nearby restaurants that allow pets, and typically if the hotel is pet-friendly, at least some part of its lobby bar or onsite restaurant will be too.

I’ve also found that most restaurants with outdoor seating will allow dogs as long as they are leashed and stay around the perimeter. However, the weather doesn’t always allow for this, so it’s wise to have a back-up plan—like room service or takeout.

Pro Tip: Check out BringFido for pet-friendly restaurants by city or region.

Pack the Right Gear and Food

Your doggie-packing list will vary based on the length of your stay and mode of transportation. Most hotels will include a dog bed, some treats, and a bowl as part of the pet fee; ask about this ahead of time so you don’t bring anything that’s unnecessary. You can also buy pet food at your destination to save some extra space in your suitcase.

If you’re going to be traveling with your dog often, I recommend purchasing a collapsible water bowl, a travel bed, pee pads, an extra leash, and lots of treats. If I’m packing dog food, I always measure it out ahead of time and put each meal in a separate plastic bag.

Pro Tip: One of the best things I’ve learned about how to travel with your dog is that you should always bring a favorite toy or item from home. Having something with a familiar smell will help make your dog more comfortable in the hotel room. 

Stick to a Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit, so it’s important to stick to your pet’s routine when you travel. Feed them at the same time, place the dog bed in a similar spot as it is at home, and give them plenty of exercise. One of the first things you should do when you get to the hotel is find a green space for them to go to the bathroom.

Pro Tip: If your dog is used to socializing with other dogs or needs some time off-leash, find a nearby dog park.

Choose the Right Pet-Friendly Hotel

Keep in mind that just because a hotel allows you to travel with your pet, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily “pet-friendly.” The hotel might have rooms available for your pet but not provide any extra perks or information, for example.

If you’re traveling with a small dog that doesn’t require a lot of exercise, then any standard hotel chain will probably do. But if you have a larger dog that needs lots of attention or you’re traveling on a budget, it may take more research to find a good fit.

Pro Tip: Boutique hotels will often provide more amenities or attention to dogs if they pride themselves on being pet-friendly. Some of my favorite pet-friendly hotels include The Colonnade Hotel in Boston, Topnotch Resort in Stowe, and Hotel Vermont in Burlington.

Kimpton is a great chain-option for dogs since it doesn’t charge any extra fees and even invites dogs (and any other pet) to the nightly, complimentary wine reception the brand is known for.

Find Dog-Friendly Activities

Some suggested dog-friendly activities while on vacation include hiking, walking along a running or bike path, breweries (call ahead to make sure they’re pet-friendly), markets, beaches, and outdoor parks and monuments. The more tired your pup is, the better they’ll sleep at the hotel.

Pro Tip: BringFido lets you search for events and activities in your destination.

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