Taking a Vacation with Our Dog

Taking a Vacation with Our Dog

Hello dear readers,

I took a short hiatus the last couple of weeks as we went on a vacation to Florida. We decided to take our little dog, Maya, with us. Maya is a 10-pound, black and tan miniature dachshund. She is very sweet, but has anxiety. This was an experiment for us to see how well she would travel and if we could find places to stay that were decent that allowed a dog along.

More and more people are starting to travel with their dogs. In an annual survey conducted by TripAdvisor of pet parents, about 53% said they travel with their pets. Businesses should take note 65% of households in the United States own at least one pet (usually a dog or a cat), this is an untapped market that savvy businesses will tap into.

So, how did our adventure go?

The Hotels

Fortunately, I am a planner and always line things up ahead of time, because finding a dog-friendly hotel for the drive down to Florida and back was a challenge. We stayed with my parents while in Florida, which allowed us to have a nice visit with them and also they were happy to have our dog there. If you don’t have family to stay with, you’ll also need to line up a dog-friendly place to stay once you arrive at your destination.

To get to Florida, we had to drive down I-65 and onto I-75. I knew we wanted to stay on the other side of Atlanta each time because of the traffic in that area. If you can get through Atlanta, the second day is less grueling.

I started by checking the pet policy on the two hotels I normally stay at, which are Hampton Inns. Neither allowed pets (only service animals are allowed). This was a huge disappointment to me as I love staying at Hampton Inn as I find them very consistent. However, their no pets policy has me rethinking if I want to frequent them any longer. I truly hope they reconsider this policy.

When that was a no go, I went over to BringFido.com. This site is a treasure trove for anyone wanting to travel with a dog. It lists not only dog-friendly hotels and restaurants, but rates them. You’ll also find articles and tips about traveling with your dog.

Thanks to BringFido, I was able to narrow down my search to about six dog-friendly hotels. I read the reviews on that site and then cross-checked them with reviews on TripAdvisor. This allowed me to rule out one hotel that visitors said they’d seen bed bugs at (eww), and another that people said was extremely run down. My next decision was simply based on which ones offered free breakfast and/or had the best rates.

Since rates in an area are often very comparable, I try to look at what extra features I might get to allow me to get the most bang for my buck. Free breakfast saves us around $10, I figure, if not more. So, that is a consideration. I also looked at which ones were easiest for getting off and back on the highway.

My Final Hotel Choices

Trip Down: Best Western Plus in Valdosta, Georgia

I chose this hotel because it had great reviews about customer service and cleanliness. There was a $20 charge for my dog, but I felt it was worth it to stay in a room that would be a bit cleaner and where people had given the location good reviews. My total cost after taxes and discounts was around $116.00, which was on target for the area for a decent hotel. After all, you want to be able to rest and know you’re safe and bed bugs won’t crawl on you.

I enjoyed this hotel for the same reason that others said they did. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. I had to get up a couple of times during the night to take my dog outside to the bathroom. The front desk clerk was pleasant and friendly. When checking out, the girl engaged me in conversation and said how cute our dog was.

I thought the room was very pet friendly. There was a small kitchen area with a mini fridge, sink, and microwave. It was tiled, so I could put Maya’s food and water there for her. She also figured out to go to the door when she wanted to go outside to the bathroom.

The room was very clean and had no weird pet smell odors, which was something I had initially been concerned about when booking dog-friendly hotel rooms. It was the same as any other room we’ve stayed in, but was on the first floor next to other pet owners (this was fine as they were all friendly and fairly quiet). The room was large as it was a handicap accessible room.

The bed was pretty comfortable and you didn’t hear a lot of noise while in your room. I think the walls were fairly well insulated. The area was nice and there was a good pizza place down the street called Marco’s that we enjoyed trying.

The free breakfast was wonderful. Lots of hot, fresh food such as scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, etc. I would definitely recommend this hotel. While it wasn’t fancy, it was a nice place to rest before heading out the next day.

Trip Home: La Quinta in Dalton, Georgia

maya at La Quinta
We were all exhausted after battling Atlanta rush hour traffic on a Friday. Maya is ready to go to sleep.

I had been really reluctant to book at a La Quinta. Even though I think more hotels should allow dogs, the fact that they can stay for free worried me a little. I wasn’t sure if owners would pick up after their dogs or the rooms would be clean if they weren’t paying anything. I also had read a really bad review about a different one for the trip down.

However, the Dalton La Quinta had excellent reviews on multiple sites, so I decided to book the room and give it a try. I want to say that this La Quinta was even nicer than the Best Western Plus we stayed at. The room had no signs any other pets had ever stayed there.

The staff was friendly and nice and one thing I truly loved was that there were other pet owners there and they were friendly and nice. There was a nice area at either end of the hotel where you could walk your dog for the potty. However, it was clean as people had cleaned up after their dogs (us included).

The bed was very comfortable according to Maya (see picture to the right). We slept fairly well, but the walls are a bit thinner at this hotel. We always take earplugs, but even with that the people next to us came in about 11 p.m. and woke me up because the woman was talking so loud. I said something about it being pretty bad that someone was so loud you could hear them over your earplugs, which I’m sure they heard since I could hear them. They quieted down after that and we rested better.

Maya did bark once in the night as she heard some other dogs barking, but then she settled back down and I didn’t hear any other noise. We didn’t get a chance to try their breakfast. We had a family meeting about a serious issue and had to rush back home, so we left the hotel at 5 a.m. before the breakfast started.

The total cost was around $134. There wasn’t an extra charge for Maya, but the rates in that area are higher because it is closer to Atlanta.

Yes, we would stay here again. It was very nice and a good stopping point between Indiana and Florida.

As a side note, when we got the call from family to come home for an important meeting about a family member who is ill, we thought we might just drive straight through, so we called and cancelled our reservation.

However, after sitting in Atlanta Friday afternoon rush hour traffic for about four hours, we decided we had better go ahead and stop and just get up very early the next morning for the final push home. We called back and they were so nice and easily got our reservation rescheduled so we would have  place to stay. GREAT customer service.

Sanibel Island, Florida

maya with water
I don’t know if you can tell from this fuzzy picture, but she was actually smiling. She loved this place. The hamburger patty I fed her likely helped.

While reading on BringFido.com, I found an article about Sanibel Island and that there was a dog-friendly beach there where dogs must be leashed. I liked this because I have a tiny dog. I don’t want her on a beach with dogs that are very large running loose. I like big dogs, too, but she thinks she is larger than she is and I worry she would just be like a little toy they would rip apart. Every dog being on a leash makes sense to me.

It is about a two hour drive from the center of Florida out to Sanibel. This was a great find, not because of the beach so much (it was awful as there had just been a red tide), but because of an eatery we found and LOVED.

The place we had lunch was The Island Cow. Honestly, even if you don’t have a dog with you, go eat here. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was laid back, island style. Tons of funny sayings graced the walls.

maya at island cow
No shirt, no shoes, no problem

When we sat down, they brought out a bowl of water for Maya. Other people were dining with their dogs as well, but they were all well behaved and not barking at each other.

Even though it wasn’t, the place had a definite Jimmy Buffet feel. One of the signs even said you might see Jimmy Buffet performing there (but likely not). That is the sense of humor of the place with the “likely not”.

I can’t recommend this restaurant highly enough, to be honest. Rarely does this foodie find a restaurant with excellent food, excellent atmosphere, and excellent service.

Helpful Grandparents

My mom often refers to Maya as her granddog. Maya loves my parents. Since we wanted to go to Disney one day, it was a real blessing to be able to leave Maya with my mom and know she’d be loved and safe and wouldn’t be as stressed as in a kennel. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have gone with my dad and my husband and left her in a kennel. Disney does have one, but yeah.

If you are going to visit family, this might be an option for you. Or if your dog doesn’t suffer from the anxiety Maya does, then you might be able to hire a dog sitter or leave your dog in the kennel for the day (be sure dog is vaccinated for kennel cough).

Alternately, you could plan activities where your dog can go along, such as to national parks and the beach.

Dealing with a Dog that is Anxious While Traveling

Maya has some pretty extreme anxiety. I have no idea why. We’ve had her since she was a puppy and she has never had a bad travel experience. She suffers from separation anxiety when we leave her (one reason we chose to take her with us). She will refuse to eat even. Last year, when all four of us went on a cruise, she lost about two pounds because she refused to eat barely anything while we were away.

She also hyperventilates and pants when in a car. And, I don’t mean that she does that and then settles down after a bit. I mean that we drove seven hours with her panting and hyperventilating and whining.

It was at that point that I used the anti-anxiety pills my vet had given me. They made her drowsy and out of it and I hate giving them to her, but they did calm her. We gave her one only on days we were traveling from and to Indiana, though.

If your dog has anxiety, I recommend talking to your vet about what you can do in extreme cases. Hopefully your dog doesn’t have the anxiety that Maya has.

Would I Travel with my Dog Again?

Absolutely. It was a lot of fun having her along. I miss her when we are away. However, I would probably plan for a few more dog friendly activities next time. I would plan in a day at a park and another beach day. I would also seek out more dog-friendly restaurants.

In fact, The Island Cow has inspired me to visit dog friendly eateries in the Louisville area. When the weather warms, we plan to take her to Comfy Cow down in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They even have frozen dog treats there.

It only makes sense that dogs get bored with the same old thing every day, just like we do. A short trip to get ice cream or even going on vacation with family  is a nice break for them. Have you traveled with your dog? I’d love to hear your stories and tips.