By Dale E. Smith
The school year is coming to an end, the weather is officially going to stay warm and summer travel season has arrived. Many of us will be heading out for adventure – some will be traveling to destinations where a hotel stay is in order; others will be heading their favorite lake where the accommodations may be a cabin, RV or even a tent. No matter what your category of overnight lodging there are some basics things to which you must pay attention when you are taking your dog, and in some cases your cat, along for the ride.
I get bombarded with newsletters from pet travel websites and get hundreds of press releases from animal related websites on this very subject. I will say most of them do cover all the basics. Most of them actually could be written by grade school children if you want to know the truth. The magazines and websites out there write boring article after article about summer travel with pets. They all tell you the exact thing I am going to tell you in the next few paragraphs. Sadly, that is where these “experts” stop.
After years of reading this drivel I have come to a conclusion that I honestly do not believe ANY of these writers have actually EVER traveled with a pet. So if you can bear with me through the next few paragraphs of the required, standard information I will also tell you what you REALLY need to do and prepare for if your adventures include taking Rover, Fluffy along for your summer vacation.
The basics are really pretty simple. I hate to have to take the time to write these but, there are some folks out there that may be new at this and may not know.
Always be prepared
Pets are instinctively inquisitive and love exploring new sights, sounds and smells. Before you embark on a journey make sure you have your “ducks in a row” so your adventure can be enjoyable and safe for everyone.
Make an appointment to see your veterinarian. Make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccines and obtain a health certificate showing proof of this. Ask the doctor about any health risks at your destination (Lyme disease, heartworm, infection, extreme altitude, heat, cold etc) and any necessary preventative measures. If your destination is unfamiliar to your vet, get on line, pick up the phone and call a veterinary office at your destination and ask them about health risks in their area.
If your pet is on medication, pack the correct amount plus a few day’s extra. Take the Prescription with you in case you need to refill it while you’re away. Take a list of clinics in that area with you in case of emergency or use our handy list of vets throughout the country right on our website.
Most important, KNOW YOUR PET! If you know your pet doesn’t play well with others, why would you take him/her to a crowded vacation spot? If you know Fido likes to chase cars, escape, run off etc… don’t take him along until you have broken him of bad habits. NO hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast wants to clean urine from the carpet. None of them want the other guests bothered by a pet that barks constantly etc. If your dog has separation anxiety, don’t leave him “back at the ranch” while you go off and shop. You will come back to a destroyed room and a very angry hotel staff! Be honest with yourself, NOT ALL PETS ARE ANGELS!
Learn about your destination and find out what types of documentation will be required and check into quarantines or other restrictions well in advance.
Now that the basics are covered, let me tell you what you can really expect if you are a novice at pet travel.
You have to look at traveling with a pet similar to traveling with a child. Let me clarify “child.” I am not talking about your six year old who’s eyes will be as big as silver dollars when they see their first mountain, or bison, or swamp. To be more specific picture a toddler. In other words you REALLY have to want to do it. Let’s look what it’s really like.
Hotels – Traveling with you pet and staying in hotels can be a lot of fun as long as you don’t think you and your sweetie will be able to go out and enjoy a night out on the town and see the sights. Remember, everything you do will have a furry four legged companion attached to you on a six foot leash. Every few hours, the pooch will need to be taken out for a potty break. Let’s say you are at one of our many National Monuments and you would love to take a tour. OOPS! Dogs are not allowed in most of our National Monuments and Museums. So to take that tour of the Washington Monument or to go up in the St. Louis Arch you will have to leave Fido at the hotel. How about a nice breakfast, lunch or dinner out? Should be easy right? You will have to find a restaurant with an outdoor patio that accepts pets and that is not as easy as you may think. On that same subject, you need to pay attention to what time of year it is. We traveled in the St. Louis area at the end of October/first of November. Finding restaurants with pet friendly patios was easy. Finding any that had not closed their patios for the winter was a different story.
Well since you can’t go out to dinner, let’s dine at the hotel or just head down to the hotel bar to grab a drink. Not so fast. The hotel maybe pet friendly but the areas that serve food are not. We have had dinner and drinks brought to us in the lobby before. The hotel was kind enough to create a makeshift eating area for us, that way we didn’t leave the dogs in the room, a place with which they were not familiar.
I hope you are starting to get the picture? You really have to plan your stay around your pooch. If you are not willing to make those concessions you may opt to leave rover at home.
Camping – This should be much easier than a hotel. Well, yes and no. Many of us who camp may do so every weekend from Memorial Day, the traditional kick off to the summer season, to Labor Day which marks the end of summer. Those camping die-hards normally have a favorite campground. It could be a State Park, National Park, City or County Park. Some may have lakes, beaches, trails and so on. This should be a perfect place for your pet right? Well… it can be. Again you have to realize that such places are not quite as inviting to your pets as you may think.
If you are in a campground with designated campsites and facilities there will no doubt be rules and regulations about where your pets can go and what they can do. Taking the dog for the morning potty break is simple, get the leash, unzip the tent door, and head out for a walk. Make sure your dog doesn’t do his deed on or close to anyone else’s tent. Take along the old poop bag and clean up the mess if you need to. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. While you are on your walk make sure your pet keeps his/her mouth shut. A barking dog in the middle of the night or constantly all day long is pretty much frowned upon.
While on your morning jaunt, once everyone is awake, you will encounter numerous other campers with dogs, screaming children, and great smells in the air from campers cooking their morning breakfast. You DON’T want to be the camper everyone complains about because you have a dog that barks and/or sounds like it might be aggressive.
Let’s say the morning potty break goes well and you’ve finished your breakfast. What you would really like now is to head up to the shower house for your morning ritual. Now you have a choice to make. Pets are not allowed in the facilities. So here are your choices. Leave your pet at the campsite either in your tent, camper or locked up in your RV while you and your family head to the shower house. You can always do you morning routine in intervals; one of you stays at the campsite with the pets while the other heads up to get ready for the day. Oh and if you want to head to the beach for a little sun, you may need to find a sitter for the dog. Most areas do not allow pets on the beaches and trails.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to scare you away from taking your family pet along for your summer adventures. However I do want you to be aware of what you are getting yourself into. We take our pets along with us as much as possible. Much of the time it is so we can report on a new product, review a pet friendly place to stay or just to write a fun article that we think our readers may find humorous. We have found out that taking the dogs along for the ride is not as easy as it seemed.
There was a time not long ago that we did not travel with our pets. Every time we would run into someone that had their pet with them we thought, wow, isn’t that great. Hopefully now you can tell that while having your pet traveling with you is a lot of fun, there is a lot you need to think about prior to taking that journey.
We certainly hope you do decide to take your pet along for the ride this summer. For a list of pet friendly hotels and campgrounds see our pet friendly lodging pages.
To read some reviews on pet friendly hotels click here.