For many people, pets are very much part of the family. Whether they are naughty or nice or somewhere in between, pets are there to help you when you are stressed out or simply need a furry friend to lean on. Since pets are such an important part of our lives, it is no surprise that many people wouldn’t dream of traveling without them. This, combined with the high cost of pet care while you are away, makes the thought of a pet-friendly vacation sound more and more appealing.
While traveling with your furry friends can be a bit more challenging than just hopping on a plane or making a hotel reservation, it is well worth the effort to have your favorite snuggle buddy with you as you embark on a new adventure. There are a few things that you definitely need to keep in mind in regards to transportation and accommodation options so we have put together this handy guide on how to vacation with pets with ease to help you get started.
Things to Consider When Traveling with Your Pet(s)
Deciding Where to Go
The first thing that you need to do when planning your cat and dog-friendly vacations is decide where you want to go. While this may seem kind of obvious, not all places are pet friendly so you may want to have a few ideas on where you want to go and what you want to do. This will help you narrow down the list a bit as to what places are feasible and which ones you may have to reconsider until you find a place for Fido to go.
When you are planning your vacation, it is important to think about what are the most dog-friendly vacation destinations and what are your options for accommodation once you get there. Beaches and parks are usually good options and you may want to steer clear of traveling to big cities with dogs as they may not be allowed in many of the hotels or attractions and it may make it challenging to see everything that you want to if you are worried about your fur babies being all alone.
Choosing How to Get There
One of the easiest ways to travel with a pet is to simply hop on the road for a road trip. Road trips are an amazing way to explore an area as they allow you to stop in many off-the-beaten-track places and really give you the chance to go at your own pace since you don’t have to worry as much about catching a flight anywhere.
If you are looking for something more like a weekend getaway, it may be wise to look at places that are within driving distance from your hometown. This will help you save money on the exorbitant pet fees that airlines charge and will let you stop off at places along the way where you and your fur babies can stretch your legs and go to the bathroom.
Things can get a little trickier when there are flights involved with your trip so make sure to read airline restrictions carefully to see what bringing pets on the flight entails. If your dog is small enough, they may be able to sit in a pet carrier under the seat in front of you but if they are larger, you may need to put them in cargo. If you are traveling internationally, it is also important to read any restrictions that there are about bringing pets into the country, find out what type of paperwork that you need to bring with you, and what the requirements are for kennels as you often have to meet certain size parameters based on the size and weight of your dog or cat. These plastic kennels are often very expensive so if you don’t have them already, make sure that you incorporate them into the cost of traveling with your pet.
Finding a Place to Stay
Once you have figured out where you want to go and it is now time to see where you can stay once you get there. Trying to figure out where you can find pet-friendly accommodations can be a little difficult depending on the destination and ideally, you would have some friends or family that you can stay with. However, it certainly isn’t impossible and there are plenty of pet-friendly hotels, vacation rentals, or campgrounds that are willing to welcome your four-legged friends with open arms.
Pet-friendly hotels can be found across the country including Kimpton Hotels, Motel 6, Best Westerns, and Hampton Inns. There are also plenty of smaller, independent properties that are also pet-friendly. Some properties offer special pet-friendly amenities such as toys, food, or doggy daycare. It is important to keep in mind that some may have restrictions on how big your dog can be or how many pets can stay in a room so make sure to check directly with the hotel staff to see what is acceptable and how much extra you will need to pay to have your pets stay with you.
If you are flexible with time (ie work remotely or are retired), it may be a good option to plan on staying at a few different destinations for a week or so which gives you the option to rent a vacation rental at a discounted rate which can help you save a lot of money plus give you the space that you need for you and your pooch. You can search for pet-friendly properties on websites like Airbnb, Booking.com, and VRBO which can help you find some hidden gems and save a ton of time not having to scroll through every single hotel listing in a destination before finding ones that welcome pets.
Many campgrounds and state parks also allow pets to stay with you. While some campgrounds may have different restrictions set in place for both the safety of your pets, their guests, and local wildlife, others may be a bit more lenient. If you need some help finding the perfect camping spot, BringFido has put together an extensive list of pet-friendly campsites across the country
Depending on where you are traveling to, it is probably a good idea to try and book somewhere close to a dog park. This can give you an easy way to take your dog out to get some exercise and you may even be able to meet new dog-lovers while you are there who can tell you some great tips and tricks about navigating their city with a pet such as dog-friendly restaurants and hotels that are dog-friendly.
Looking for Things to Do
Once you have figured out where you are going to go and how you will get there, it is time for the fun part! Now you get to think about all of the fun stuff that you can do there! If you are planning on a road trip, make sure that the things that you want to do along the way are pet friendly or that you have accommodation lined up where your pet can hang out for the day while you go exploring.
Pet-Friendly Vacation Destinations
Some of the most dog-friendly activities and attractions include lounging around or playing in the surf at dog-friendly beaches, hitting the hiking trails to stretch your legs a bit and get some much-needed exercise, or hanging out at pet-friendly microbreweries which generally have some type of outdoor space. If you are looking for a way to learn more about a city that is both fun-filled and pet-friendly, make sure to check out some of our destination scavenger hunts. These are a great way to challenge yourself, your friends, and your family as you race through the streets trying to find your next clue.
Below are just a few vacation ideas for pet-friendly spots across the United States.
This wonderful city in Central Oregon is surrounded by stunning nature making it a mecca for outdoor activities. With the Bend city limits alone, there are 51 miles of hiking trails and 13 different off-leash areas where your doggy can do his doggy-thing freely. There are many parks and fascinating museums to visit and if that’s not enough to make you want to visit, the city is also overflowing with fantastic breweries where you can try out some of the freshly-made local beers while basking in the warm sun.
Nearby, you can visit Deschutes National Forest which showcases some of Oregon’s most impressive scenery, including the stunningly beautiful Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which features the 17-mile wide Newberry Crater, the Lava Butte cinder cone where you can get sweeping views of the surrounding parkland, the Big Obsidian Flow that was by compacted obsidian and pumice stone, and the 80 feet tall Paulina Falls. You can also check out the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway which stretches a whopping 66 miles where you will find glacier lakes, and get sweeping views of the nearby volcanic peaks.
To find out all the great things while you are there, make sure to visit our great article The Best Things to Do in Bend.
Sedona is located in the heart of Arizona’s red rock country and has a plethora of outdoor activities on offer such as hiking up to the striking Cathedral Rock or through the Oak Creek Canyon, catching the sunrise at the Airport Mesa, or stargazing in the crystal clear night skies. There are a seemingly endless array of hiking trails to choose from allowing you to walk amongst the otherworldly scenery. Make sure to start a hike early in the morning to try and beat the midday heat and carry plenty of water for both you and your pup. If it feels too hot for you, imagine what it feels like to be wearing a fluffy coat!
If you want to hit the road, you can head out on the Red Rock Scenic Byway. This seven-mile stretch of highway may be short but it is known as the Gateway of Sedona Red Rock Country and you can see many of the city’s top natural attractions located along this stretch of road. It is often referred to as a museum without walls and as you drive through this spectacular stretch of concrete surrounded by the red rocks of Arizona, you may even begin to think that you have been transported to another planet! While you are on the byway, don’t forget to check out the two vortexes, aka energy centers that are believed to be helpful with healing, meditation, and self-exploration and happen to be one of Sedona’s major attractions.
If you need a bit of relaxation after a long drive or a long morning of hiking, you can also explore the Verde Valley Wine Trail. While Arizona may not be particularly well known for its wine, this trail packs in a surprisingly large amount of options when it comes to wineries and tastings.
To learn more about Red Rock Country, check out our great guide on The Best Things to Do in Sedona.
Located just a five-hour drive from New York City, Lake Placid is a tranquil spot nestled in the Adirondack Mountains that is perfect for a dog-friendly long weekend getaway. It is a popular spot for outdoor activities such as kayaking, swimming, and hiking and it is surprisingly dog-friendly. Many of the local businesses welcome dogs and the beautiful Mirror Lake offers a 2.7 mile long paved walkway that allows you to take in the magnificent scenery while getting some fresh air.
If you are a fan of sports, you can also check out the Olympic Ski Jump Complex or the Bobsled and Luge Complex that are remnants of the 1980 Winter Olympic where you can learn more about these unique (and death-defying) Olympic sports while getting amazing views of the surrounding area.
Sanibel Island & Fort Myers
Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Sanibel Island is an ideal spot for a pet-friendly vacation. The island has a wide array of dog-friendly accommodation options and all beaches are dog-friendly and allow dogs as long as they are on a leash that is less than eight feet long. This means that you can take your furry best friend with you when you go out to spend a day of fun in the sun. You can also take advantage of the numerous opportunities for kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. There are also eco-tours that you can join to learn more about the local flora and fauna or you can just go along to enjoy a lovely boat ride. If you want an in-depth look at the local wildlife, you can spend a day exploring the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Sanibel Island is located near Fort Myers and is accessible via a causeway that offers sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico.
In Fort Myers, you can visit the Fort Myers River District where you can check out some of the early 20th-century architecture that lines the streets, or head over to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates where two of the most important inventors in modern American history used to hang out. Located just 20 minutes away, Manatee Park is a great place to see lovely awkward manatees. You may have to leave your family furry members alone for these ones but thankfully, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a place that will welcome dogs.
Located off the southern coast of Florida, Key West conjures up images of swaying palm trees, laid-back beach bars, and a life where you never have to change out of your flip-flops. The island is very pet-friendly and while you are there, you can take your pooch for a walk down to the Key West Historic Seaport where you can take a look at the yacht-filled marina, eat at one of the waterfront restaurants, or have an ice-cold beer at one of the local bars.
In Key West, there are also a number of pet-friendly activities including a watersports company that lets you take pets out kayaking and paddleboarding! Pets on leashes are also welcome at a wide range of attractions such as the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, the Key West Aquarium, and if your dog is small enough to carry, you can even take them into the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum where you can learn about four centuries of shipwreck history in the Florida Keys and see artifacts from a vessel that sank in the mid-19th century.
San Diego basically epitomizes everything that is great about Southern California. Miles upon miles of beaches, a compact downtown that is easily walkable, the picture-perfect seaside communities of La Jolla, and the stunning nearby island of Coromandel make San Diego a prime tourist destination. As the icing on the cake, San Diego is also incredibly dog-friendly! Leashed dogs are welcome on many of the beaches and inside many eateries and since the downtown area is easily walkable, you can take your dog out to pee while you go sightseeing!
During your visit, don’t forget to visit Old Town San Diego, the birthplace of the city that is now a state park. It is a fun place to stroll around and imagine what San Diego must have been like when it was originally settled by the Spanish in the 18th century. You can also head over to Balboa Park, the green lung of San Diego that is home to 17 different museums and beautiful gardens.
The words pet-friendly Portland kind of roll off of your tongue and there is no surprise why! The city is full of pet-friendly accommodation options. If you need a bit of exercise, there are five different off-leash dog parks in the city to choose from that offer a slew of other options for outdoor activities. Portland is also home to more than 70 dog-friendly breweries giving you the perfect opportunity to try some amazing beer without having to leave any member of your family behind (except maybe the kids). The Travel Portland website has a ton of helpful information for planning a pet-friendly vacation.
During your visit to Portland, you can also hit the trails at some wonderful parks including the Powell Butte Nature Park, Mt. Tabor Park, Tryon Creek State Natural Area, and Oak Bottom Wildlife Refuge which offers miles upon miles of hiking trails.
Another very pet-friendly destination is the state of Colorado – it was even voted one of the most pet-friendly states in the entire country. It is also a pretty incredible place for humans too with tons of great state and national parks, pet-friendly cities, and an all-around laid-back attitude that makes it a bit easier for high-maintenance hounds to relax a bit. Great pet-friendly spots in Colorado include places like Denver, Colorado Springs, Aspen, Buena Vista, and Telluride and you can go hiking or biking on thousands of miles of well-formed trails across the state.
If you want to learn more about all the amazing things that Colorado has to offer, make sure to check out our Colorado travel guides!
Tips & Tricks for Traveling With Pets
Traveling with pets can be stressful for both the pet and the owner so below are just a few tips and tricks that will make the process easier so that you can still hit your favorite vacation spots without having to worry about leaving your best friends behind.
Keep Your Pet in a Crate
While you may love the idea of seeing Fido’s ears flapping in the wind as you drive down the open road, it is usually safer and less stressful for them to be in a crate. This stops them from sliding around across the backseat of a car and gives them a sense of security. If you are worried that they may have to use the bathroom during the trip, it is a good idea to throw a wee-wee pad in the crate with them. Make sure that they have plenty of space to move around so that they don’t feel trapped but not so much room that they are bouncing around like a ping pong ball inside.
Make Sure that You Have Their Paperwork
Just like you need to make sure that you have your passport when you are going on a long trip, pets need to have the proper paperwork, especially if you are traveling internationally. This could include things like their vaccination records, an up-to-date health certificate signed by a veterinarian, and special pet passports. Make sure to keep them handy as you are crossing international borders in case anyone asks for them.
Skip A Meal
On the days that you have a lot of travel ahead of you regardless if it is by planes, trains, or automobiles, it is a good idea to skip the meal beforehand. This will help a lot if your pet gets anxious and has stress diarrhea or if they get motion sickness just like many of us do. Try not to worry too much about them being hungry during the flight. The excitement and stress of traveling will probably make them not feel as hungry as normal.
Get Them Microchipped
If you have adopted a pet from an animal shelter, there is a high chance that they have already been microchipped. If they haven’t been or if you are not sure whether or not they already have a microchip implanted, make sure to check with a vet to see and get one as soon as possible. This is one of the easiest ways to find your pet if they happen to get lost while you are traveling and there is nothing that can ruin a pet-friendly vacation that your pet somehow gets left behind or lost somewhere.
Never Leave Your Pet in a Car Alone
When you are on the road, it may be tempting to stop quickly to check out an attraction but it is incredibly important that you never leave your pet in the car alone. It only takes around seven minutes for them to overheat and begin to suffer from dehydration and this can actually prove to be fatal. If there is something that you really want to see but that doesn’t allow pets, check if there is a local kennel where you can board them for a few hours or if there is pet-friendly accommodation that will allow you to leave them alone.
Bring Plenty of Water
Pets can get dehydrated just as easily as humans can so make sure to bring plenty of water with you when you travel, especially if you are doing a lot of hiking or outdoor activities. If possible, you can leave a water bowl or canister in their crate so that they can drink as they get thirsty. If not, make sure to factor in plenty of stops where you can give them a drink during the journey. Try not to worry about the impact that this will have on the number of bathroom breaks needed. It is better to have to make a few extra stops than to have a sick puppy on your hands.
Don’t Forget Their Toys
Just like with kids, it is a good idea to bring your cat or dog’s favorite toys along on the journey with you. Not only will this keep them occupied but it can also help calm them if they get stressed out during the journey. If your dog isn’t that into toys but you still want to have something to keep them occupied, you can always try “puzzle” toys where they need to figure out how to get to a dog treat inside. If they are desperate for the yummy morsel inside, it may be hard for them to focus on much else!
Create a Home Away from Home
If you are nervous about how your pet will handle traveling, make sure to create a new home away from home for them by bringing along some of their favorite items like their dog beds, blankets, bowl, and toys. This will help them feel more secure in their new environment and can massively reduce anxiety which is a good thing for your pet and for your family. If you are a little crunched for space, try to prioritize whatever it is that you think will make your cat or dog feel the most comfortable.
Keep Important Phone Numbers Handy
When you are traveling, it is always important to keep important numbers handy including your regular veterinarian as well as recommended veterinarians for places that you plan on staying for a while during your trip. This is especially important if you are traveling to an area where your pet may get into something that they shouldn’t. Even the best dog may accidentally eat something poisonous or have an encounter with a wild animal and knowing what local vets are open on weekends or late at night could end up making the difference between life and death for your pet.
You may also want to get the phone numbers of any dog walking or dog sitter services for different places before you head out. These can prove to be really helpful if you fancy a night out on the town but can’t bring Fido along with you or are a bit worried about leaving Kitty Cat alone. If you are planning on staying for a few weeks or more in a place and going for short jaunts to other destinations, it could also be a good idea to have the phone number of a recommended boarding service nearby as well in case you need to find an overnight home for your dog or cat.
Special Considerations When Travelling Internationally With Pets
While traveling around the United States with a cat or dog can be a bit tricky, traveling internationally with pets is a whole new ball game. Going on vacation with a pet can be relatively straightforward if you are going to nearby destinations. However, it can be a lot more challenging if you are relocating between countries as an ex-pat or as a digital nomad. While there are many companies out there who can help you transport pets internationally, they tend to be very, very expensive and with a little proper planning, it is possible to do it on your own.
Many European countries are very dog friendly, especially Germany and the Czech Republic, and you may even find that they are more relaxed about where dogs can and can’t go than many places in the US. If you happen to be in a country where English isn’t the first language, make sure to try and gather a few recommendations from English-speaking veterinarians. You can probably find many of these through Facebook ex-pat groups or from groups aimed especially at pet owners. If you decide to stay for a while, these groups can turn out to be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to finding dog-friendly restaurants and bars, and tips for traveling with pets on public transportation.
Triple-check the Travel Requirements for Pets
When you travel, you need to double-check all the requirements necessary for the destination that you are flying to and keep in mind that it differs based on the place that you are flying from. For example, some countries may have different rules regarding rabies vaccinations based on if you are coming from an area that has recently had a rabies outbreak. Where you are coming from can make a huge difference in the different restrictions that are applied where you go.
It is also important to remember that there are certain types of dog breeds that aren’t allowed to fly, particularly if they have short snouts like pugs as flying can make it very difficult for them to breathe. Pets are also not allowed to fly as cargo during certain months of the year if the temperature is likely to be too hot or too cold. Make sure to double-check all of this before booking a flight to make sure that you aren’t left scrambling around trying to find a place for your fur babies to stay hours before take-off.
Figure Out the Cost for Your Pet(s) Before You Book
The cost of traveling with pets can be extortionate depending on what airline you fly and what distance you are traveling. It is possible to travel with some small dogs and cats on short international flights from the US to the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, or Canada, it can get a bit harder if you are traveling to places like Europe and Asia and pets may need to fly cargo. Don’t be too worried though – animals are normally kept in a temperature-controlled environment in the belly of the plane and are safe.
Prepare for the Flight
Before you head to the airport, it is important that you give your pet enough water but try not to feed them within four hours of the departure time as it may upset their stomach during travel. Depending on how long the flight is, you may want to put in some food and extra water. Even if it is a short flight, keep in mind that you may be delayed on the tarmac before takeoff for hours at a time and your dog or cat should have enough water available if this happens. You should also put in some wee-wee pads in case your cat or dog has to go to the bathroom during the flight. You can also throw in a few toys if you want to make them extra comfortable.
When you finally arrive at your destination, you may need to pick up your pet in the luggage terminal or at the cargo terminal. Make sure to double-check where the pick-up spot is and check to see if there is any paperwork that you need to have handy to claim your pet.
Also, be prepared that there is a good chance that your pet may have had to relieve themselves during the flight……a lot. You may have a big mess to clean up when you finally get home or to your accommodation so keep some time set aside to give them a bath if necessary. Like people, they also need time to get used to their new surroundings so it is also a good idea to plan on spending your day hanging around your new digs to make sure that your pets get acclimated to their new environment, especially if they have just undergone a long flight.
Frequently Asked Questions About Traveling with Pets
One of the most important things that you need to do before you start any adventure is to figure out how you will get to your destination and what pet-friendly accommodation is available. To see a full list of recommendations, check out this guide on How to Vacation with Pets with Ease.
This depends a lot on where you live and whether or not you feel comfortable flying with your pet or if you prefer to drive. You can find a list of great places to visit across the country on this guide to How to Vacation with Pets with Ease.
If you are looking for a fun-filled activity that is pet-friendly, why not try a destination scavenger hunt? These will have you racing your nearest and dearest down the streets of a city searching for your next clue. You will learn a lot about the city and have a great time doing it!