The first time my golden retriever, Jessie, stepped paw into a hotel, I was nervous. We were at Chicago’s Hotel Burnham. I knew it was pet-friendly, but I had no idea how she would feel or how the hotel would actually react when faced with a dog at check-in. So when we arrived to find Jessie’s name on a “VIPets” board and staffers waiting for her with treats, a bed, and a bowl, we were both psyched. They offered to arrange dog-walking or sitting services and even invited Jessie to the free nightly wine hour.
This type of pooch pampering is part of a growing trend in the hotel industry. “It’s no secret that dogs are part of the family, and given the option, most people would prefer to bring them along on their travels,” says Marylouise Fitzgibbon, general manager of the W Fort Lauderdale hotel.
Before you pack a suitcase for your furry companion, though, consider if he or she would make a good hotel guest. Does she respond well to strangers and commands? Rarely bark or cry? Is she comfortable in unfamiliar places? If you answered yes to all, you’re in luck.
Start your search by pinpointing what you want out of the hotel. If you’re looking for one-night lodging that allows pets with low (under $25) or no pet fees and clean, comfortable rooms, chains like Kimpton Hotels, La Quinta, Motel 6, and Red Roof Inn are good bets, says Amy Burkert, owner of GoPetFriendly.com and a pet travel expert.
But if you’re staying a little longer and looking for a few more perks, focus on hotels that offer pet amenities, like in-room pet menus and spa services, plus easy access to outdoor areas for bathroom breaks and nearby pet-friendly activities. Just be prepared to pay a little extra.
To find a place that will welcome your pooch, try GoPetFriendly.com or BringFido.com. But before you book, call properties directly; many have weight restrictions for pets or set aside only a few rooms as pet-friendly.
If you want to fly with your pet, here’s how to keep animals safe during plane travel, from Sonja A. Olson, DVM, senior emergency clinician with BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, FL:
- Make sure your pet is fit to fly. High-energy or anxious pets with cardiac, respiratory, or neurological issues may be better suited to travel with you via car.
- Ensure that the airline can accommodate your pet. Many airlines have restrictions, like how many pets can be in the cabin per flight and where they can fly geographically.
- Mark cargo-bound pets’ crates with their name and your name, cell phone number, and email address. Throw in a favorite toy for added comfort.
- Let pets do their business before boarding. Preflight food and water are OK, but only brands your pet is used to.
- Keep in-cabin pets on a leash at all times and ask your vet if it’s safe to calm them with Benadryl or Xanax preflight.
- Update your pet’s ID tags or implant a microchip for added travel safety.
As for Jessie, she loved her stay. Now when I look at her pleading eyes, I imagine them asking not for a morsel but for a road trip.