Luxury travel is going to the dogs
Ruby is a hotel snob. She frequents five-star properties that offer plush beds, gourmet in-room dining and unforgettable service. But she’s not your typical guest: Ruby’s my two-year old Shitzu who enjoys traveling as much as I do.
When I roll out my suitcase, her tail furiously wags before she hops in her soft-sided crate, ready for an adventure. And she’s not the only pet hankering for vacation time. According to the Travel Industry Association, 30 million Americans travel with their pets every year, and that number consistently rises.
Traveling with Fido (or Ruby) has become seamless thanks to pet-friendly programs at high-end hotel chains, airlines and public transportation now offering less strict requirements. Amtrak made headlines in June when Illinois became the testing ground for a carry-on pet program that would potentially and permanently allow furry companions.
In the skies, the US Transportation Department is getting more involved. Come January 2015, 27 airlines (as opposed to the previous 14) will have to provide information on all on-board pets to ensure further safety. It’s a huge leap, indicative of changing times for pet travel considering only sightseeing dogs were permitted on board merely a decade ago. In fact, according to PetFriendlyTravel.com, most US airlines now accept in-cabin pets when traveling domestically. JetBlue is regarded as the most in-cabin tolerant with its JetPaws program that includes carrier bag tags and custom pet-travel products like travel kits. Pet owners can even earn 300 TrueBlue points on each flight segment traveling with pets.
“Things have changed a lot in the last five years,” says actress Ginifer King (Nickelodeon’s “Haunted Hathaways”) who is public on social media for traveling with her yorkie Wrigley. “I’ve started feeling guilty when I don’t bring Wrigley along because it’s so convenient now.”
Pet-friendly hotel chains
Kimpton Hotels, based out of San Francisco, pioneered pet-friendly accommodations, allowing on-property pets since the company was founded in 1981. Its policy is pretty simple: if the pet can fit through the hotel doors, they’re welcome. There’s no size, weight or breed restrictions and never additional charges. At a minimum, each of the 60 hotels provides water bowls, treats, pet beds, toys and pooper-scooper bags.
Noting more pets are traveling through the Big Apple, the W Hotels of New York recently revamped the brand’s signature pet program, offering a new PAW (Pets Are Welcome) package that includes day passes to Fetch Club, NYC’s state-of-the-art canine spa; canine cocktails in the Living Room; in-room movie rental and W Hotel toy, collar, leash and pet tag. “Bringing pets along on trips has become a natural evolution,” says Patrick Horstmann, GM of W New York Downtown. “W’s PAW program makes our guests feel more at home and that’s exactly what we want.”
Hotel groups like Trump, Viceroy and Loews welcome pets with in-room dining menus, toys, plush dog beds and other amenities, and they’re also notable for recognizing in-house pet travelers through social media channels like Twitter and Instagram.
Smaller is better
Independent hotels in less urban locations offer a long list of diverse, pet-friendly amenities and activities. Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, Calif., where popular reality TV shows like Season 9 of Bachelorette and Season 3 of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills were filmed, owns a nearby Equine Center that’s home to doggie obstacle courses.
Utah is famous for pet deliveries. Guests traveling without pets can often rent a dog, proven popular with PuppiesForRent.com in various Utah locations. At Red Mountain Resort in St. George, for instance, guests can be joined by a dog from a local shelter for outdoor adventures like hikes. “We recognize how much guests enjoy having their dogs at the resort and we wanted to offer that same experience to everyone,” says general manager Tracey Welsh.
The Resort at Paws Up in Montana offers an annual Wine & Bitch Dinner where guests enjoy a gourmet, outdoor meal with their dog and 100 percent of proceeds go to the Humane Society of Western Montana.
Colorado also gets marks as a pet-friendly state. Guests staying at St. Regis Aspen can borrow a dog from the Aspen Animal Shelter for a day. One of the most dog-friendly destinations on the planet, Vail, Colorado, hosts the GoPro Mountain Games where dogs are encouraged to participate with owners in activities around Vail Mountain, including the new BADASS Dash obstacle course challenge and mud run. Guests traveling with pets shack up at The Lodge at Vail, where staff provides complimentary babysitting for in-house pets, atypical for most pet-friendly resorts.
Cage-free dog vacations
Seeing the opportunity for pets to have a vacation while the owners head off internationally or on business trips, Santa Monica-based Aaron Hirschhorn launched DogVacay in 2012. Like AirBnb.com for humans, DogVacay allows dog owners to board their pets in actual homes of pet-loving sitters (rather than a kennel) while also providing 24/7 customer care, $25,000 vet insurance and tons of love. “I thought of the company while traveling in 2011,” says Aaron. “I had boarded my pups at a local kennel, only to come home to a $1,400 bill and my Labradoodle Rocky hiding under a table, clearly distressed. I knew there had to be a better way than paying hundreds of dollars to leave my dogs in a cage.”
Pet sitters get reviewed and most rates average $30 a night.
Even swankier is a pet hotel, gaining popularity for pampering pads and spacious recreational facilities for dogs. D Pet Hotels, consistently voted as a top boarding facility, is the only pet hotel in Los Angeles to offer chauffeur services, traditional bedrooms with queen-size beds, spa treatments and more than 6,000 square feet of indoor dog park. Due to its success, D Pet Hotels opened two more locations: Scottsdale (2012) and New York City (2012).
This article was published on New York Post. Feature photo of GoPro Mountain Games at Vail courtesy of Andrew Taylor/Vail Resorts.