Sniffing out pet-friendly accommodations

  • Article by: MYSCHA THERIAULT , McClatchy News Service
  • Updated: July 3, 2014 - 10:31 AM

A little legwork helps smooth out the “ruff” edges.

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Large-breed dogs can be included in family activities, such as this water wonderland along Florida’s Paradise Coast.

Photo: MYSCHA THERIAULT,

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Traveling with a dog doesn’t just call for patience and planning. It requires a great deal of flexibility, as well. Choosing destinations and routes is based on what you want to see and do. This means your accommodation choices will be based on the available selection, not what works perfectly for your pet.

Now that we’re on the road with ours full-time, we’re learning how to roll with the punches and make the most of certain types of venues.

Resorts

I’ll admit that I’ve been slow to embrace the idea of resorts as an appropriate choice for canine travel. With the right venue, however, being in that type of environment can work to a pet parent’s advantage. For example, having eateries located on-site provides the opportunity to scope out spots where a sparky, super-sized breed can be successfully secured, and to reserve those spots in advance.

While every resort is different, each usually has a few additional spots where your pooch can perfect its socialization skills. Sometimes it’s a sitting area just slightly removed from the chaos. Other times it’s a small outdoor park area with a bench. Resort travel with pets can get pricey, however. That’s why it pays to explore off-season rates.

At the Wyndham Orlando, for example, summer rates can drop to less than half. Their family fun suite can run as much as $220, but midweek prices during the warmer months can drop to as low as $89. The room is big enough for a family of four plus a dog, with smooth flooring that reduces allergen build up. Their on-site bar extends to the outside and incorporates a pergola with sturdy posts perfect for holding a plus-sized pooch.

Similarly, the resort’s outdoor restaurant has umbrella bases that a miniature pony couldn’t lug away if it tried. Pet bag stations are located throughout the property, and free shuttle service is provided to a number of area theme parks, making it easy for a mid-sized family to meet everyone’s needs.

Accessories

While landing at a hotel with a single bag isn’t really our reality when it comes to traveling with a dog, we do try to be as compact as possible. Her water dish, for example, collapses down to a flat disc with a clip, which we use to attach the bowl to her harness.

Similarly, her food bowl collapses flat and tucks into her gear back along with her medicine, food, snacks and other items. That way, if our room isn’t ready when we arrive at a hotel, we can immediately get her settled and hydrated in the common area.

We also have accessories to assist us with her integration into a more formal setting. It’s difficult to find venues that are open to large-breed dogs. Because our particular pooch is easily excitable despite her age, my husband and I try to do our part to keep her and her messiness under control. Part of our approach involves flat-strip fabric leashes. These enable us to secure her to sturdy fences and furniture legs without damaging wood or paint.

Additionally, we pack baby wipes and an extra bandana. If it’s a considerable drive from the rest area to the hotel, her first bowl of water is typically a multi-sensory experience involving a full head shake with an extra side of dog drool. Having something on hand to wipe up the fallout helps prevent water marks on the lobby coffee table and eliminates the resulting mess before anyone even notices.

Cabins

While we’ve actively incorporated pet-friendly vacation flats and cottages for some time now, we recently had a chance to check out a few woodsy cabin rentals while on the road. They’re a surprisingly affordable option, and offer our furry child the chance to relax and be herself.

In addition to the extra space and home atmosphere that leaves her calmer than standard hotel rooms, the more isolated location leaves her with room to explore in a way that won’t interfere with anyone else’s personal space. She loves the chance to roam about and enjoy the textures and scents of whatever leaves, twigs and plants are in the immediate area.

At a recent cabin stay at Smithgall Woods State Park in Georgia, this worked to our advantage. The extra enrichment and physical activity resulted in a restful night, free of the pacing and confusion that have become typical during her senior years.

Amenities

The cabin also came with a glass-front wood stove, which kept her fascinated during the evenings while we were working or preparing dinner. The small on-site hot tub allowed us to relax with her nearby in a way that a typical communal tub would not. She didn’t have to be left alone in the room while we went out and had fun. She could simply rest next to where we were, and feel secure that her family pack was within eyesight.

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