7 Tips for Planning a Dog Friendly Vacation

Nelson and Arrow enjoying a camping trip in Western Maine

Nelson and Arrow enjoying a camping trip in Western Maine

With summer here and many getaways in your future, you’re likely thinking about whether or not to bring your dog with you. For many pet owners, leaving your dog behind while you go on vacation is just not an option. It’s a family trip and they’re part of the family! 

Many wonder if a pet-friendly vacation is feasible. While bringing your dog on your trip does require some extra organization and planning, it’s certainly not impossible. Check out our tips for planning your pet-friendly vacation.


1. Consider Your Dog’s Personality

Make sure that the trip you’re planning matches your dog’s personality. If you’re going to be driving for 8 hours a day but your dog doesn’t ride well, this might not be the trip for him. Consider hiring an overnight pet sitter or reputable boarding kennel instead. The last thing you want is for your dog to be miserable the whole time or spend most of its day doped up on Dramamine to prevent motion sickness.

It’s important to make sure that your trip not only accommodates you and your budget, but that your furry friend will also enjoy his time away from the house.


2. Traveling with Your Pet

There are two main ways we travel on vacation: by car and by airplane. With each, there are points to consider when bringing your dog.

Some airlines are more pet-friendly than others. For instance, JetBlue is a pet-friendly airline, having won several awards for their JetPaws service. They even allow small dogs and cats to fly in the cabin for a fee each way. If you can afford it, PetAirways offers the best service with its pets-only flying in the main cabin and attendants who take your pet out during the flight for bathroom breaks. Continental Airlines and Delta Airlines have the worst reputations for pet travel. 

Due to reports of kennel cough, heat exhaustion, lost pets, and stressful below cabin environments, many pet owners fret while in the air about how their pooch is doing. One way to set your mind at ease is by doing a little research, finding testimonials, and reading a couple of consumer reports to find the airline that you’re most comfortable entrusting with your pet’s travel. 

Driving to your vacation destination is common and a great alternative for those who can’t decide on a pet-friendly airline. While the highway may be the most direct route, taking some back roads may be the most enjoyable for your pet. Fiddo will have to make frequent stops to go to the bathroom, stretch, and exercise. Map out your route and note any rest stops, parks, or woody areas along the way. If there doesn’t seem to be a lot of options, find an alternate route. 


3. Finding Pet-Friendly Accommodations

You can’t just roll up to a motel and hope they’ll let you stay with your dog. While many resorts and hotels are making the switch to being pet-friendly, this can mean different things to different establishments. For some, pet-friendly simply means you’re allowed to have a pet. To others, it means they provide a walking trail or allow dogs to be left alone during the day. They might even have services where staff members will check in on your dog while you’re grabbing dinner.  

Always call and have the reservations clerk send you a copy of their pet policy along with a list of any extra pet accommodations to make sure where you stay fits your dog’s behaviors and your plans. 

Cabins and campgrounds typically offer the best, no-fuss accommodations for dogs. There’s plenty of grass and their pet policies tend to be far more lenient.  You can pretty much go about your normal routine. You don’t have to worry as much about disturbing your neighbors and many allow you to keep your pets in the camper or cabin so long as they don’t bark or whine excessively. 


4. Other Pet-Friendly Accommodations

Finding a pet-friendly hotel is an obvious starting point, but you also have to consider what you’ll be doing for meals, day adventures, and evening entertainment. If your hotel is truly pet-friendly, speak with the concierge who will likely have a variety of packages coordinated with local pet-friendly businesses and restaurants. It’s a good starting point and limits the amount of research you have to do on your own.

Instead of spending the day at a local theme park, your daytime fun might include street fairs, concerts in the park, hiking or other public activities where dogs are allowed. Check out town event schedules through the recreation department to see what’s happening in the places you’ll be visiting and plan accordingly.

Not only are active vacations more cost-effective, but they mean your pooch will be too tuckered out to engage in chewing the hotel’s furniture or late-night barking, which can increase your room charges and disturb other guests.

5. Pack Carefully

Once you’ve got your itinerary set and you know your key stops, you have to pack. Packing for your dog is really no different than packing for yourself, except that if you forget something, it can be harder to replace it while on the road. The local QuikStop is unlikely to carry that brand of specialized kibble.  

Your pet’s travel bag should include the essentials:
Enough food for the duration of the trip
Bottled water (more than you think you’ll need) 
Medications (and a way to properly store them if they need refrigeration)
A couple of toys

But you also need to plan for emergencies:
A jump drive or copies of medical records and vaccinations
Printed photo of your dog in case he gets lost
Collar tag with updated information (side note: your ID tag should have your cell phone number, not your landline)
First aid kit with antiseptic, bandages, motion sickness tabs, and tweezers or other tick removing tool

Also consider extras specific to your trip. If it’s hunting season, make sure to include a brightly colored jacket or vest. If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking, include remedies like paw butter to help ease sore paws or cracked pads. Plan to do some boating? Bring along a doggy life jacket in case they don’t have one on hand. It’s also not a bad idea to bring along an extra leash or harness, just in case. 


6. Consider Micro Chipping

Dogs get lost on vacation more frequently than you may think. While tags can help, collars can breakaway or fall off, making that ID useless. Micro chipping adds an extra sense of security. It’s standard protocol now for animal control and animal shelters to scan found animals for microchips that provide contact information for owners. 


7. Keep Your Pet-Friendly Manners in Check

While you’re excited to have Rover accompany you on vacation, not everyone is as excited. Not only do you not want to spoil someone else’s vacation, but you and your dog should set a positive example for why more and more establishments should welcome pets. (The more businesses embrace pet-friendly vacations, the cheaper and easier your vacation planning will be in the future.)

Some basics to keep in mind are: 

Keep your dog on a leash. Even if your dog has good recall and off leash behaviors, he’s in a new place and the likelihood of your dog running off or running into danger is increased. Also, some towns may have leash policies you’re unaware of. You don’t want to incur a fine while visiting.

Pick up their messes. Even though you might be in the great outdoors, keep in mind that no one wants to accidentally step in your dog’s ‘business”. Bring along some baggies and dispose of them properly. Many state and national parks provide stations now for this type of waste. 

Give others some space. When picnicking in a park or catching some sun at the beach, make sure you give others around you some space. Anticipate that your dog will want to run around, bark, and drag driftwood back from the water. 

Call ahead or double check that pets are allowed. We think we’ve covered this already, but it’s a good point to stress. Some beaches and public parks don’t allow dogs. Some businesses may not have a sign in the window prohibiting dogs, but that doesn’t mean dogs are necessarily allowed. Politely ask if your dog can come inside with you. 

While planning a pet-friendly vacation takes a little extra effort and time, bringing your dog on vacation creates unique and lasting memories. It also allows you to enjoy your vacation more rather than needlessly fretting over what your dog is doing without you. 


Stephanie Libby is a freelance writer and blogger living in New Hampshire. Her work as appeared online at www.inkandcoda.com and www.sherambler.com. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. A list of her freelance services can be found at www.libbywritingservices.com.