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Tips for Traveling With Pets

traveling with pet

I'll admit it: My husband, Doug, and I think of our standard poodle, Henry, as one of the kids, so we hate to leave him behind when we head off on a family vacation. Traveling with two kids and a dog certainly presents challenges -- bickering and barking from the backseat, another (drooly) mouth to feed -- but bringing along our four-legged child, uh, pal, has gotten much easier lately, thanks to a host of helpful resources. Read on to learn about websites, gear, and hotels that make tail-waggers out of travelers like Henry -- and make the rest of our family doggone happy, too.

Dog Is My Copilot

A successful trip with a canine companion takes planning. Here's what to keep in mind:

  1. Don't wing it. Map out pet-friendly restaurants, destinations, and hotels along your route before leaving home (see tips on the following page).
  2. Wear him out. Dogs relax when they're tired, so have your kids exercise your pooch before you hit the road. A bonus: they'll get their ya-ya's out, too.
  3. Practice restraint. "For everyone's safety, pets should stay in the back seat," says the American Automobile Association's Heather Hunter. "Also use a secured crate or seat belt harness to hold your dog."
  4. Don't eat and run. To help prevent car sickness, feed your dog no later than four to six hours before traveling. Avoid giving him food or water in a moving vehicle.
  5. Don't make 'em stay. Dogs should never be left by themselves in a car.

You may not want to take rover if...

  1. He gets anxious in the car or when he's away from home.
  2. He'll mostly hang out in his crate while you play tourist.
  3. You won't be able to relax, trying to manage both him and your kids.
  4. You are visiting relatives who collect crystal figurines and cover their furniture with plastic.

Where Sleeping Dogs Can Lie

A growing number of hotel chains, including Loews Hotels and some Best Westerns, now welcome families with pets. Loews Coronado Bay Resort even offers canine surf lessons. Still, be sure to do your homework before booking a room. Here's how:

  1. Call the hotel directly (not just a chain's general number) to ask about pet policies. "They can vary by property and change quickly," says AAA's Heather Hunter.
  2. Ask the right questions. Are there size or breed restrictions? Can you leave your dog alone in the room? "Some hotels don't permit it, while others do, as long as your pet is crated," says Melissa Halliburton, of bringfido.com. Also check what type of rooms they give guests with pets. "This isn't as common as it used to be," she says, "but some budget hotels allow pets only in smoking rooms or require pets to stay on the ground floor."
  3. Inquire about fees. "Chains, such as Red Roof and La Quinta, often let dogs stay free," explains dogfriendly.com cofounder Len Kain. "Others charge by the night or per stay. The latter can be a bargain if you're booking a room for a week but not if you're just spending the night."

Certain vacation spots are more welcoming than others to the furry members of our families.

  1. Hit the beach. "Florida's Sanibel Island is one of my favorite destinations for kids and pets," says Melissa Halliburton. "It's on the Gulf side, so the water is very calm, and the beach is covered with shells you can collect. And leashed dogs are allowed year-round." (sanibel-captiva.org)
  2. Step back in time. Dogs are permitted on the grounds of a number of popular historic sites, including Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, and the Biltmore in North Carolina. "They can't go in the buildings, but there's still plenty to see and do outside," says Halliburton.
  3. Check online. You can find many additional dog-friendly destinations on the Web. Three of our favorite resources: bringfido.com, for hotels, restaurants, and destinations worldwide that welcome pets; dogfriendly.com, for guides to pet-friendly cities, hotels, restaurants, ski areas, parks, beaches, and more; and tripswithpets.com, for hotels by route and information on the pet policies of major airlines and car rental companies.

Packing List

Bringing a few key items, like a favorite sleeping pad or chew toy, can take the stress out of travel for a pooch. These items also come in handy:

  • Food and water to go. A portable water bowl is ideal for car travel. The Waterboy (Lixit, $10) is a spill-proof container with a built-in bowl. The Dog Travel Mess Kit (Lixit, $8) holds six cups of food, a 12-ounce canteen, and two travel bowls.
  • An old sheet or two for covering furniture
  • A towel for wiping muddy paws or drying off your dog
  • Biodegradable waste bags, such as the lavender-scented bags from Earth Rated ($6 for 120 bags)
  • A flashlight for nighttime dog walks
  • Carpet cleaner or disinfectant spray (we like the Nature's Miracle brand), just in case.

Originally published in the December/January 2013 issue of FamilyFun