I have been traveling with dogs for 20 years. I have not taken a vacation without a dog by my side during that time, and my passion for traveling with dogs has led me to become a noted pet travel expert. As the former managing editor for a pet travel magazine, pet writer, and now industry insider, here are 10 secrets about dog friendly travel that no one talks about:
Not all pet restraints are created equal. Loose, unrestrained dogs can not only distract the driver but may be killed or injured by airbags. Sudden stops pose projectile dangers, and free-roaming Fido can easily block or move the gear shift, steering wheel, or gas pedals. One of my greatest fears is getting in an accident and having my panicked dog escape, become lost and never recovered. I wrote about car restraints for dogs in a piece for Dogster magazine, and the results were disconcerting, to say the least.
Pet fees are not always clear cut, so ask and then re-ask. Is the $25 dollar fee per pet, per night, and is any of it refundable on checkout? Some hotels are not crystal clear in revealing these details, so pet parents need to practice due diligence and ask.
There are actually cars on the market that are pet friendly, with features and design built into the car for dog moms and dads to travel easier, safer, and with their BFF. My car lease is up later this year and we’ll be looking into getting a Subaru vehicle.
There are good apps and some not so good apps to help pet parents have a more pet friendly experience while traveling. Two favorite pet travel apps I use include:
Subaru Facebook app: http://subar.us/USzh6V – try making a license plate app like I did! I also found out what car is best for Dexter. (see above)
Squeaky toy app: Want a cute pic of your dog while traveling? This fun app makes squeaky toy sounds! Dexter responds to the squeak sound as I snap the picture – that, coupled with a few treats are my secrets to stellar pictures.
Ever wish you could go shopping with your dog? You can! Sniff out a bargain with your two best friends: your pooch and a charge card, as retail therapy has gone to the dogs. From sea to shining sea, merchants are unleashing “no pets allowed” policies and letting the dogs in. We profiled five dog friendly retailers, and I can tell you that if you let me in your store with my well-behaved dog, I tend to spend more and come back. Hint hint retailers reading this!
Weight limits drive me a bit insane. I’ve yet to ask someone to put my Cocker Spaniel on a scale at the front desk, but we’ve exceeded the 25 pound limit a few times. Policies vary, but as anyone who travels with a dog knows, weight limits are enforced. This excludes a LOT of dogs. If anyone in the hotel industry reads this, try and ask your manager if you can get this rule lifted. You’d see a nice boon in the economy if more “bigger” dog moms and dads could bring their greyhounds, Labradors, and over 50-pound dogs on vacation. I know throngs of them. It’s true.
Pet friendly is not the same as pet welcoming.
Pet Tolerant: Allowing a dog the privilege to stay but without many amenities. I checked into a hotel once that said there were pet amenities. The carpet-less room was their featured amenity for pets. I never forgot that, in a negative way.
Pet Welcoming: Fido is treated like the family member he or she is. How so? Things like an in-room massage, spa robe, chic designer bowls, toys, towels, natural organic treats, Fido bed fold-down, offer of pet sitting, list of dog-friendly events or activities, access to al fresco restaurant seating and/or doggie menus, provided doggie bowls. I never forget when businesses extend themselves to my dog. I return time and again.
The Travel Industry Association of America says 78% of vacationing pets are dogs. There are restaurants along those roads that allow dogs. I get asked a lot where I eat when traveling with my dog. I do take out, patio seating, or dine at pet-welcoming eateries. Call ahead, look on websites for city searches and eateries that allow dogs, and do your homework first.
Some dogs should not travel. Some dogs are not happy about traveling, so a road trip might cause more harm than good. Car-fearful dogs should never be forced to face their anxieties. Instead, assess your pooch’s road readiness with a five-minute trip around the block. Work with your vet and/or a behaviorist in ways to curb doggie apprehensions. Do short trips and increase the amount in getting to a favorite destination, like the dog park or favorite relative’s house. Make the arrival a fun, positive and rewarded experience. Never punish a dog for not wanting to travel in a car. In a worst case scenario, enlist the help of a trusted family member, friend, or pet sitter.
Cleaning fees. I sometimes have a near anxiety attack at the thought of my hard-earned money going for a “special cleaning” process some hotels charge for the luxury of having my pet with me. Aside from some carpet cleaning I have witnessed at a 5-star hotel, most pet friendly rooms I have been to have not required over the top cleaning. In fact, this As I write this blog post, the words of a hotel in Maine that I stayed at (with my dog) resonate:
Dogs are welcome in this hotel. We’ve never had a dog that smoked in bed and set fire to the blankets. We’ve never had a dog who stole the towels, played the TV too loud or had a fight with his traveling companion. We’ve never had a dog who got drunk and broke up the furniture. So, if your dog can vouch for you, you’re welcome, too!
Subaru asked me to spread the word about their awesome new app. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the Dog Tested. Dog Approved.™ campaign, but Fidose of Reality only shares news for things we support. Have dog, will travel…that’s us!
BONUS – WIN GIFT CARDS!!!
You can also enter to win. Everyone must like Subaru’s Facebook page to enter, but the other 4 entries are optional and can be done once each day. One first place prize winner will receive a $350 Visa gift card and one second place prize winner will receive a $150 Visa gift card. The winners will be announced within 48 hours after the raffle closes. The contest opens at 12:00 am ET on Monday, February 18th and closes at 11:59 pm ET on Sunday, February 24th. Entrants can enter once every day as long as the raffle is open.