Summer vacation time is upon us, and while you’re considering which destination to travel to, a big factor to consider — if you’re planning on taking your dog along — is what hotel is the right one for you and your pup. Before delving too deeply into the subject, it’s worth stating that this article was not written for users of working service animals (who have many rights under local laws), but rather is aimed at owners of non-service dogs that are simply family pets.
How to Research Hotels That Allow Dogs
First of all, not all hotels allow dogs; in fact, it’s only in the last decade or so that significantly more hotels have permitted dogs to stay in the same rooms or on the same premises as owners.
Many hotels have decided to relax their rules, but some are determined to make dog owners pay for the extra privileges they’ve extended — either via higher room costs, cleaning fees, surcharges per animal and/or pet deposits (be sure to check the conditions for the return of these deposits before you make a reservation).
Some hotels may have weight limits for dogs or may base their room prices, fees or additional charges on this factor, while others may be more or less restrictive based on the breed of a dog. In some cases, dog owners must sign waivers at check-in to cover any possible damages. Too many fees or restrictions may mean it’s not worth it to stay at a particular hotel. By contrast, a truly enlightened establishment will allow dogs of all types to stay for free or for a minimal extra charge.
Certain hotels designate a number of their rooms as dog- or pet-friendly, while rare properties make the majority of their accommodations available if someone is willing to pay enough. Sometimes this is determined on an entire-floor basis, often with lower floors being more commonly accepting of dog owners. Usually — but not always — the flooring of a dog-friendly room will not be carpeted, so you don’t have to worry about your pup leaving tracks everywhere (see the “Bathroom Business” section below). But be careful if this isn’t the case — especially if there’s a dog deposit — hotel furnishings usually aren’t cheap, and carpeting is no exception.
All of the above information should be outlined on a hotel’s website. If all costs, surcharges and deposit amounts are not spelled out, email the hotel and get these in writing before you book. Beware any establishment that says they allow pets on a “case-by-case” basis, as they may impose hefty fees after you’ve checked in, especially if they know there’s no other dog-friendly hotel availability in the local area. Or, they may decide to “change their mind” about letting you stay if they don’t like your dog’s actions or behavior during your occupancy, forcing you and your pup to move to another establishment at the last minute.
Along with scanning a hotel’s website thoroughly, dog owners should read reviews of any hotel they’re thinking of staying at on sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor to see if they can glean any details about previous stays from other dog owners. Did the hotel live up to its promises? Did a previous dog owner’s stay end up costing an arm and a leg? Note that some websites like bringfido.com or petswelcome.com have specific recommendations for dog-friendly hotels.
What Requirements Do Hotels Have for Dogs?
Hotels that do allow dogs typically permit them only in certain areas of the hotel. Usually, formal hotel restaurants and dining rooms are off-limits, but dogs are often allowed in bar and lounge areas. Most hotels require owners to stay with their pets at all times, but some may permit your dog to snooze in your room while you enjoy a meal in the hotel’s restaurant.
Beyond this instance, however, it isn’t advisable to leave your dog alone in your hotel room for any length of time. Even if your dog is normally well-behaved, if he or she happens to damage furniture, make a mess, bark or otherwise cause a disturbance (especially at night), it could cost you, both in terms of embarrassment and money. It could also cause the hotel to have second thoughts about accommodating dogs in the future.
For those dogs that are crate trained, it’s always recommended to crate them in the room for a short period of time.
Does the Hotel Have an Adequate Area for Dogs’ Bathroom Business?
Garden and outside areas will make almost any place away from your home feel like home for your dog. It helps if your hotel room is on the ground floor, and access to the outdoors is either direct or just a few steps away. Be sure you have plastic bags on hand, so you aren’t accused of leaving a mess after your dog does his or her business.
Are There Nearby Trails or Dog-Friendly Beaches?
Dogs need to walk every day, so check ahead of time if there are grassy places and/or sidewalks around the hotel that are particularly suited for daily walking. Even if you look on a map and see nearby green spaces, not all of them may be open to the public or necessarily allow dogs, so it might be best to ask the hotel what close-at-hand attractions are best for your pup.
If there are local beaches, be sure to check ahead of time if they’re dog-friendly. Some beaches allow dogs, but only on certain days of the week or during off-peak months of the year (see our past article on What to Know About Taking Your Dog to the Beach for tips on beach visits).
Be Sure Your Dog Is Travel-Ready and Up-to-Date With All His or Her Shots
Before planning a trip with your dog, ask yourself if your dog actually likes to travel. Has he or she stayed in a hotel before? If so, how was the experience? Is your dog up-to-date with all his or her shots?
It’s not recommended to travel with puppies that haven’t had all their vaccinations, as they can contract illnesses such as parvovirus (an acute gastrointestinal malady) or distemper (a serious and contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system).
Luxury Hotels and Their Dog-Oriented Amenities
At a bare minimum, a dog-friendly hotel should have treats and fresh water bowls readily available. While many hotels have doggy “welcome packs” with essentials like toys, treats, bowls and poop bags, some luxury hotels go above and beyond with their dog amenities, offering mini-fridges for dog food, special dog menus for room service, personalized water bowls, dog beds, dog birthday cakes, dog cocktails, dog grooming services, on-site dog walkers and doggie turn-down service.
Boutique Hotels vs. Chain Hotels
Boutique or “one-off” hotels by nature have more perks and quirks than their counterparts that are part of larger hotel chains. One of these quirks — especially if the hotel is an inn or is a smaller or rural establishment (although a few chains are starting to adopt it as well) — is that it may come with its own resident pooch. If it does, that should bode well for you, as the staff will likely be used to making a fuss over dogs and be more understanding of your needs as a dog owner. It’s possible that your dog can get to know their dog and acquire a new playmate for a few days.
Fortunately, there are now a lot more choices of accommodations for dog owners than there were in past decades. With a little bit of research and preparation, you and your pup should be able to have many great vacation adventures, both this summer and for years into the future.