More and more people travel with their pets instead of leaving them behind at a kennel or under the watchful eye of a friend and as a result, the hospitality industry is beginning to accommodate these furry, four-legged family members.
At El Portal, Sedona's luxury hotel, pet expert and owner of the award-winning, pet-friendly hotel offers several important tips about what to expect when bringing your animal companion along presented here in a Q and A format for your reading pleasure:
What should you, as the pet owner, do before your vacation begins and what are ways to prepare, minimize the possible hassles on the road, and ensure an easy travel experience with you pet?
"Research is an absolute must before your trip begins. I suggest starting by going to several pet friendly travel websites, looking at hotels online, and checking their pet policies. Also talk to friends who you know frequently travel with their pets and ask them about where they have stayed. I also suggest that you call the hotel directly and ask about their pet policies and to see if they really are pet friendly. This way you can write down the agent's name and ask one direct person all of your questions. The more information you have, the easier it is to be prepared. In today's changing hospitality industry, hotels are now more than ever allowing pets as real guests and not just second-class citizens relegated to the back of the hotel or to smoking only rooms. Oftentimes, hotels will welcome pets with packs of treats, pet bedding, or even maps to local dog parks. Before you set off on your trip, call the hotels and ask about their pet policies to find out if they are truly pet-friendly. You should be wary of any hotel that requires high pet fees, since this means that the hotel is just looking to gain a new source of income and doesn't necessarily mean that they are a pet friendly establishment. Be sure to be clear on the rules too- where they allow pets and location of pet potty areas. Most importantly, if you get a bad vibe from anyone at a potential hotel, don't book there! Take your business elsewhere!"
What are some tips on how or when to travel?
"If your pet is kennel or crate-trained, you should be able to bring it along to more destinations since your pet has a place that it automatically feels safe and secure. One thing to watch out for is the season though. Travelling with pets means that you need to be extra sensitive to the weather. If the temperatures are too hot or too cold, do not travel by plane. If the weather is good, and you anticipate flying, talk to your airline about what your options are. Your pet may be small enough to fit under the seat or may have to go down in cargo. Whatever the case, be sure to bring their regular food, make sure that your pet is hydrated and has a little food in their belly, bring their toys, bowls, bedding, and a leash to ensure that they are comfortable and have familiar items to help ease their travel anxiety."
How do you recommend keeping pets on their best behavior while traveling?
"It is incredibly important to keep your pet on a leash when outside of your familiar environment. Also, you should never leave them alone in a hotel room, cabin, or other foreign space. They may not bark or be destructive at home, but they may in a strange place. For feeding, you should keep them on their same diet and feed them on their normal schedule. Since they may have anxiety, you should expect some atypical behavior. In a way, pets are just like kids, which means that not everybody likes them so you should be cautious and try not to let them bother other people who are also trying to enjoy a vacation. It is helpful to search out pet friendly hotels and restaurants to ensure a comfortable environment for both you and your pet. If you are travelling by car, I recommend stopping at least every three hours for a break. It's a good habit for both you and your pet to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and use the restroom if necessary. At nighttime, it's also helpful to take your animal out for a long walk to encourage a good night's sleep!"
Do you have any recommendations on how to train pets to be good travelers and good neighbors?
"My biggest piece of advice is to train them when they are young. The more they experience from an early age the more natural a traveler they will be. Pets are part of our families too and they need to be taken care of with love, attention, and discipline. I think it's best to be prepared for your pet to bark, chew, or exhibit other behaviors when out of its home space. To counter these potential problems, always be prepared!"
What should you do about a carsick dog?
"Poor pup. First thing to do is to pull over to the side of the road and walk around for a bit. Let your dog normalize for a while. Also, it's important not overfeed as this can exacerbate your pet's stomach. If you do want to feed your dog something on a driving day, make sure it's something soft and
easy to digest - no crazy treats or rawhides!"
How do I accommodate a time change? Like if I travel from New York to Phoenix?
"It really depends on how long your trip is. If it's very short, I recommend sticking to your normal schedule however it works out in the new time zone. If your trip is long, you should gradually alter your dogs schedule to fit the time change.
Steve is a previous pet store owner, developer of several specialty pet food items and supplies, and grew a booming business in L.A in pet food marketing where he conducted pet-related business for over 30 years. In addition to these life experiences, he has also filled numerous Board of Director positions within several pet industry associations. He recently finished a three-year tenure as the President of the World Pet Association, and has also been one of the founding members of the Pet Care Trust, developing programs such as Pets in the Classroom. Steve and his wife Connie, currently own the award-winning El Portal Sedona Hotel*, a pet friendly hotel in Sedona, Ariz.
*El Portal has been voted as the Best Pet Friendly Hotel in the USA by USA Today Traveler and 10Best.com, is a AAA Four Diamond Hotel, is one of the top hotels in the Southwest (by Coñde Nast Travelers readers) and has received TripAdvisor's' Certificate of Excellence Award, along with being one of the eight best hotels in America by Harper's Hideaway Report, Frommer's and the New York Times.