How to Plan the Perfect Pet-Friendly Vacation
Nothing says “summer” like a good vacation—and there’s no better companion than your pet! This is what you need to know to plan the perfect pet-friendly vacation for your adventure cat or travel dog.
There’s a whole world of incredible travel destinations out there, but not all are created equal when it comes to traveling with pets.
International destinations might be exciting, but are you prepared to handle the documentation needed for your pet to cross the border? How about loading them onto a plane for a long trip? If you’re going on a cross-country road trip, have your pets been in the car for long periods of time before? If not, you should consider testing some shorter day drives closer to home first.
National parks might seem like an obvious choice with abundant nature to explore, but most national parks have extremely limited areas where pets are allowed. (The notable exception to this rule is Acadia National Park in Maine which has over 100 miles of pet-friendly hiking trails!) Meanwhile, the concrete jungle of New York City might not strike you as an ideal place to travel with pets in tow. However, it’s a surprisingly dog-friendly vacation destination with leashed dogs allowed in Central Park and over 50 dog parks throughout the city.
You should also consider the climate and how it aligns with your plans. For instance, the desert might be beautiful, but temperatures over 90ºF are too hot for dogs and over 100ºF are too hot for cats to be outside. You’ll have to skip afternoon hikes and find air-conditioned indoor activities for most of the day if you’re there during the warm season!
Long story short: do your research on any potential destination to find a perfect fit for your pet!
How are you getting from point A to point B? Planes can be a good option for small pets who board with you, but many airlines require large dogs to go in the cargo hold under the plane, which can be a very scary (and unfortunately dangerous) experience. Most boats aren’t particularly pet-friendly, so that brings us to road trips!
Driving with your pet requires some planning, but is a great option for pets who are comfortable in the car. Road tripping with a pet means more frequent rest stop visits to allow for potty breaks and time for your pets to stretch their legs. The rest of the time, they can stick their head out the window and watch the world go by or cozy up in their cat or dog bed.
If a road trip is in your future, we’ve got a full guide on planning the perfect dog-friendly road trip (and most of those tips will work for cats too).
There are pros and cons to every type of accommodation you and your pet will find along your travels.
Camping allows you to bask in nature and many campsites allow leashed pets. However, if you choose to camp, you can never leave your pet alone at any point during your stay. A tent is too cramped and isn’t secure enough to leave a pet inside, while a camper or RV can become dangerously hot while unattended. There’s no slipping away for a museum visit if you’re camping with a pet in tow.
Airbnbs and other vacation rentals that allow you to stay in a house or apartment will probably feel the most familiar and homey to your pet. That means less anxiety for them and you! Well-mannered pets might even be able to be left alone for short stretches if they’re comfortable in the rental. However, it can be challenging to find pet-friendly rentals and many charge additional fees for your furry friends.
Pet-friendly hotels can be a great option, but their services vary widely. Some pet-friendly hotels offer nothing more than a normal hotel that happens to let your pet into your room. However, some hotels offer specific pet areas, pet-sitting services, and even pet spa treatments in luxury locations—a pretty appealing package. On the other hand, the constant noise and foot traffic in a hotel can be stressful for anxious or territorial pets who might prefer more private lodging.
A quick online search should provide you with plenty of pet-friendly dining options in cities and towns all over the map! While you might have to rule out most luxury dining options, plenty of restaurants allow pets on their outdoor patios. It’s much more uncommon to find restaurants where pets are allowed indoors, so you might want to plan for takeout in poor weather.
Okay, with the essentials out of the way, it’s time to get to the FUN stuff: pet-friendly activities! Google will be your friend here once again, but thankfully a wealth of pet-loving travel bloggers have done the research for us. Plug in your destination of choice and “pet-friendly activities” and you’ll find lists of destinations to keep you busy every day.
Hiking and beach days will allow your pets to romp in the outdoors, but those aren’t their only options. Depending on where you go, you might be able to find outdoor museums and sculpture parks, guided tours, and even boat trips that will welcome your pet +1. Many dog-friendly destinations allow dogs in most local shops, and there’s always the local dog park for getting the zoomies out off-leash.
You’ve got a wealth of options to plan a dream vacation with your dog or cat! If you want to leave the planning to someone else, some travel services are now offering full pet-friendly vacation packages that do the destination research for you. Whatever your plans, you and your pet are guaranteed to remember this trip for a looooooong time.