Traveling With Your Pet: Pet-Friendly Hotels

By Anne Dagner, DVM; Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

Vacations are more fun when you’re with friends and family. For many people, that circle of fun includes a pet. Finding lodging that welcomes both you and your furry travel companion can be tricky, so here are some things to consider before booking your stay.

What You Want in a Hotel

First, you want a hotel that is pet-friendly, not just pet-tolerant. The staff should welcome two- and four-legged guests with warmth and enthusiasm, granting them appropriate access to on-site areas. A pet-friendly hotel should provide ample green space for exercise and potty breaks; if it is close to a dog park, that is a bonus. Your pet may accompany you on many outings, but you should verify that your hotel will allow them to stay in the room alone if you go out without them.

What Your Hotel Wants from You

Hotels want responsible pet owners and may require you to sign an agreement that states you will be financially liable if your pet destroys hotel property. You may also have to submit a refundable pet deposit.

Most pet-friendly hotels have a few ground rules to ensure a pleasant, safe stay for all guests, two- and four-legged. Remember that not all people are pet lovers, so you should respect their space. In an effort to please all guests, hotels usually want pets that behave well and do not disrupt other lodgers. With safety and consideration in mind, aggressive dogs may be declined admittance. In fact, some hotels refuse certain breeds.

"All pets should be current on immunizations for their protection and for the protection of other furry guests."

Hotels prefer dogs and cats to be clean and flea-free. All pets should be current on immunizations for their protection and for the protection of other furry guests. Responsible owners are expected to pick up pet waste and dispose of it properly in designated receptacles. Remember to pack pet waste bags in case your hotel does not provide them.

In the interest of cleanliness, hotels appreciate it when you pick up any hair your pet sheds in communal spaces. Who wants to sit on a lobby sofa covered with fur? Some hotels have more stringent housekeeping rules. For example, some establishments request that you wipe sand or dirt from your pet’s paws and coat before entering the hotel and even provide wipes as encouragement to do so. This is especially true for beachfront properties.

To make cleaning your room easier, some hotels ask that you take your pet for a walk while the housekeeping staff is present. If you cannot be there, simply hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. That way, your pet and the housekeeper do not startle each other!

What to Do Before You Leave Home

A successful vacation means preparing in advance for your pet’s needs, so here are a few travel tips.

  • Even if your pet is microchipped, make sure they are wearing a collar and an ID tag with your phone number on it. If you and your pet become separated, this information will make it much easier to reunite with your pet.
  • Pack your pet’s medication and food. In fact, pack extra of both in case your return home is unavoidably delayed.
  • Carry a copy of your pet’s medical records in case of emergency.
  • Pack your pet’s favorite toys and bedding to make the new surroundings less scary.
  • If your pet is an anxious traveler, talk to your veterinarian ahead of time to see if prescription medication is appropriate to help your cat or dog be more comfortable.
  • Make a reservation specifically for your pet and familiarize yourself with the hotel’s pet policy. Some establishments have size or number limits and may not be happy if you show up with three 70-pound dogs unannounced! Inquire about additional pet fees.
  • Request an appropriate room. A room on the ground floor will make potty breaks easier, especially if your dog isn’t physically able to navigate stairs or shies away from elevators. Speaking of elevators, avoid rooms right next to these noisy conveyances that transport noisy people. Both may agitate your pet. If your pet’s food or medication needs to be kept cold, make sure you can get an in-room fridge.
  • Include your pet in the vacation budget. Consider the cost you might incur if your pet experiences unexpected medical issues while away from home. Consider the cost of a dog walker if you need one. Call in advance so you’re prepared if your hotel charges extra for your pet. Some hotels add $20-25/day on a sliding scale for additional pets, while others charge a flat, one-time fee.
  • Incorporate extra time for your journey. Your pet may slow you down. 

What to Do When You Arrive

After you arrive at your destination, there are a few things you can do to keep your pet happy.

  • Scan the room for potential dangers. Exposed power cords can be risky. Pills and small items dropped on the floor by a previous guest can mean disaster. Open windows can be fatal.
  • Introduce your dog to the room by walking them around and letting them explore and sniff - under close supervision. When outside the room, keep your pet on a leash. Even well-behaved dogs can forget their manners when around new people in a strange place.
  • If you allow your pet to rest on the furniture or bed, bring a sheet from home. The familiar smell will make your dog feel more secure and keep shedding hair confined.
  • Set up your dog’s crate and bedding. A nice nest will make it seem like a home away from home! It is a good idea to crate your dog while you are gone even if the “Do Not Disturb” sign protectively hangs from the doorknob. If a staff member needs to get into the room while you are away, your dog could bolt out the door.
  • Bring along your dog’s favorite toys. Kong toys stuffed with treats are great, because they entertain and keep your dog occupied. It is okay to indulge a bit with treats while on vacation, right?
  • It may help to leave the television on while your pet is alone in the room. Hearing human voices may comfort them and drown out strange sounds from the hallway or other rooms.
  • Beware of the mini-bar! Prevent intestinal upsets by keeping human snacks out of reach. Keep trash cans empty so your dog does not scarf down your hamburger or candy wrappers.
  • Leave your contact information with the front desk if your pet stays in the room while you are gone. You will want to be notified if problems arise. Be prepared for a phone call if your dog barks excessively during your absence! If you plan to be away for an extended period, inquire about local dog walking or dog sitting services.

The Welcome Mat is Out

Pet-friendly hotels work hard to welcome people and their pets. Many go the extra mile and provide doggie beds, water bowls, litter boxes, or potty pads. A pet-loving staff can provide information about dog parks, pet sitters, and dog-friendly restaurants. Some hotels even have pet-centered room service menus for your pet’s dining pleasure so you can both settle in for dinner and a movie!

And if you travel without your pet and get lonely, some hotels let you visit with the resident dog or cat, and some even provide a goldfish as a roommate!

Search online to find a list of hotels with the pet welcome mat at the front door.

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