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Practical Tips for Travel With Dogs


Dog in driver's seat of car. Photo © Justin Sullivan / Getty images.

Hey, don't leave home without me!

Photo © Justin Sullivan / Getty images.
- Dog travel advice, and an invitation to share your tips-

Our family would need a giant RV to travel with all our pets, but we have made forays with our dog, Buddy, who certainly thinks he should be part of any family trip.

More and more hotels and resorts -- from budget to luxury-- agree with him. The Grand Traverse Resort, for example, on Lake Michigan, has a "resort caliber" Dog House on-property; and some upscale resorts offer an outrageous level of doggie pampering.

A number of sites such as PetsWelcome.com and Dogfriendly.com can help you find dog-friendly accommodation.

Life's not all beer and kibbles, though, when traveling with a dog, and solving the problem of lodgings is only part of the picture. Read on below, and I hope you'll also share your own tips about travel with dogs.

Find Restaurants Where Dogs Are Welcome
These dog-friendly havens do exist in some locales, and what a nice find they are, for anyone traveling with a dog.

My son and I once stayed at the Sonesta Coconut Grove in Miami, and as we strolled to breakfast along an upscale street we were surprised to see several canines enjoying outdoor restaurants with their two-legged companions. Dogfriendly.com indicates that Miami visitors have quite a few options for dining al fresco with a pooch along.

Realistically, in most areas you'll be hard put to find a dog-friendly place to eat. But it's definitely worth checking: try Dogfriendly.com's clickable map of the US states. PetfriendlyTravel.com is another good resource and covers locations in Canada too. And About.com's Guide for Washington DC lists places where you can bring your dog for Happy Hours.

If you can't find a dog-friendly restaurant... You're stuck with some not very appealing options. Fido probably can't be left alone in a hotel room; meanwhile, doggie day-care doesn't make much sense if you just want to have a meal, and is probably unavailable in any case during dinner hours. Locking Fifi in the car gets old very fast for both canines and humans, and may be impossible to do for even half an hour on a hot sunny day.

Thus when dining with a dog along, options tend to be few: either get take-out or drive-through food, or have one family member stay in a hotel room with Fido while others go out to eat.

If you have tips about such travel with dog challenges, share them now!

Think Through Your Logistics
Likewise, logistics get tricky if you want to enjoy some activities on your getaway, but have a pooch with you. We once did a ski weekend with Buddy along; I booked him into a doggie day-care and thought we were all set. It turned out, however, that out the hours of operation and location of the dog-care were not a good fit with where we were staying.

So do some detailed planning, along with the regular due diligence:

  • contact the dog daycare early, and deal in advance with good-health requirements and filling in forms
  • book a guaranteed spot
  • make sure the hours and location of the daycare fit your activities
  • figure out exactly how you will drop off and pick up your pet
  • be prepared for hefty pricing in a resort area

Do Advance Planning About Where Dogs are Welcome
Dogs are definitely not welcome everywhere: we've had some nasty surprises with public parks and seaside walkways where dogs are forbidden. Get the scoop (pardon the pun) in advance: a site such as Dogfriendly.com has city guides that identify dog-friendly parks, beaches, outdoor restaurants, public transit, and more, in hundreds of towns.

Also check out hiking trails in advance, if you want to take a hike with Fido: again, you might find that dogs are not allowed on particular trails.

Dog Travel and Safety
Dogs can't sweat through their skin, so they quickly overheat in hot cars; read about Heat Stroke in Dogs and learn fear. (Dogs do sweat, through their footpads, but not enough to relieve overheating.) Letting your dog stick her head out the car window is a no-no, too. Also, don't leave your dog unattended: in some places (the UK, most notably, at time of writing) dog-napping is a risk and owners are forced to pay high ransoms to get back their pets.

I hope you'll share your own Dog Travel Tips!

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