The good news is that the travel industry is finally catching on -- or trying to. I've been traveling for 12 years with my big shepherd mutt Jolly and have seen lots of improvements in his lifetime, but pet owners still have to put a lot of effort into having a good vacation with our pets.
Decades ago nearly every hotelier would've considered you wildly eccentric for traveling with your dog. Many establishments are still hold-outs to this antiquated philosophy, fearing that people will be traveling with out-of-control beasts who will take a break from chewing furniture only to mess the rug or scare other guests. Some give the excuse of allergies. I have allergies; I'm sympathetic. But I've never seen anyone go into anaphylactic shock because there was a dog in the room last week.
The number of people who travel with their pets depends on who you ask: the Travel Industry Association says 14% of people travel with their pets, mainly dogs, in a 2002 survey. Trip Advisor surveyed travelers in 2007 and found 56% of American animal owners took their pet on vacation.Many chains are pet friendly -- like the W, Best Western and Red Roof Inn. But many more say they're pet friendly but have complicated policies because they're individually owned. At various Holiday Inns Jolly has been welcomed (including into the bar), shunned, asked his weight and required to stay in a crate in the room (Yeah, right, who came up with that policy, a cat person?).
There are plenty of websites and books to help you find pet-friendly lodging, but the simplest thing is just to remember 1-800-Red-Roof. You may not want to stay at the Red Roof Inn for a whole week, but it's a terrific option when you need an overnight stop on a roadtrip and don't know where you'll land. The Red Roof Inn never gives you any attitude about having a dog.
VET STUFF: Your dog is not getting on a plane without a very recent visit to the vet for a health certificate (and airline travel is a whole other issue for another time) but most dogs are traveling by car. When you make your reservations to stay somewhere with your dog for more than a couple days, figure out who the local vet is and where the 24-hour emergency vet is. You can ask your hotel or just look around online. You hope not to need the information, but if you do, you'll want it fast.
MEDICINES: You're not going to forget any daily medication your dog might take, but you may forget the monthly heart worm pill. And I can't say how many times I've been out on a trail with Jolly and suddenly remembered I hadn't put the flea and tick medicine on his back in the last month.
ID AND PHONE: Traveling is just one of the many reasons your dog should have a tag with your cellphone number and a microchip with your vet's information. Dogs on vacation can get confused and wander off, if only to look for you. Make sure there is some way for whoever might find your dog to get in touch with you quickly. A lot of Petco stores have a machine to make a tag right on the spot. You can also tape another number on -- which will look ridiculous, but it's better than nothing.
BEVERAGE AND SNACKS: You bring beverages and treats for the ride for yourself, so remember to bring something for your dog. At minimum you need a bottle of water and food to cover your travel time. But who doesn't appreciate a little traveling snack? Toys (like Kongs) that can be stuffed with treats like liverwurst.
FRILLS: Some hotel chains like to show how dog-friendly they are by offering twee dog treats or robes. I'm not sure if it's the owner of a Shitzu that's coming up with this stuff or just another cat person. Dogs want meat, jerky, not homemade vegan cookies.
REAL TREATS: If you want to make your dog happy on a trip, be sure to include him or her in your activities, whether that's hiking or just eating outside. My dog Jolly howls if I leave him alone, so I take him everywhere. My husband and I work indoor attractions in shifts, one going in, one staying with Jolly. This should be obvious to dog owners by now, but don't leave your dog in the car when it's hot. Even if you roll down a window. Don't tie your dog up on a city sidewalk unattended, either. Many dogs have been stolen that way.
Finally, now that pets are welcome in so many places, you don't have to countenance a lot of attitude from your hotel. If they get on your nerves asking you too many questions about your dog on the phone, imagine what a pest they will be in person. These days, you've got choices.