Top 10 dog-friendly travel destinations

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Top 10 dog-friendly travel destinations

Summer’s here and, like millions of others, you’ve got the travel bug. So what happens to Fifi and Fluffy when you start digging out the luggage?

Up until recently, every vacation you booked meant a visit to the kennel for your animal buddies. But all that’s changing, thanks to consumer demand and a marketing-savvy travel industry.

Almost 30 million Americans now travel with their animals, according to a recent Travel Industry Association study, and businesses are scrambling to cater to your needs. So if you’ve got a few days, why not choose an animal-friendly getaway? To get you going, we’ve narrowed down the selection to our Top Ten Getaway Ideas. There’s something for everyone, no matter what your budget or your timeframe. So drop the guilt and go ahead and pack your suitcase. Just remember to save a little space for treats and toys!

1. Pamper yourselves

Go ahead. Indulge your need to relax and de-stress by hitting the spa. While you’re enjoying a facial and pedicure, your canine can be soaking up the same attention. Spas that specialize in taking care of you and your canine satisfy your needs and let you pamper your pooch too.

Wyndham Peaks Resort in Telluride, Colorado offers doggie spa services including grooming, guided playtime, and specialized dining (choose from a la carte or doggie spa packages). After your special day, you can hit the beautiful mountain trails together for some exercise (if your dog’s a little older, remember to bring a joint formula such as DGP from American Bio Sciences) or simply relax and soak up the beautiful view. What a great way to spend a holiday!

2. Head to the beach

Sun, surf and sand…they’re as much fun for your canine companion as they are for you! Most dogs love to splash in the waves, play in the sand, or race along the shore after a ball or stick. Sharing a day at the beach with your dog makes everything twice as enjoyable, and the quality time you spend together strengthens your bond of love and friendship.

Not all beaches allow dogs, so do your homework before bundling Rover into the car along with the towels, sunscreen, and picnic cooler. There are currently over 200 dog-friendly beaches in the U.S. and Canada, and they can be found in just about every region, from California and British Columbia on the west coast to New York and Florida in the east. Among the most popular is Dog Beach, a sandy stretch located at the north end of Ocean Beach in San Diego, where beach-loving canines are allowed to run off-leash from dawn till dusk.

Remember that even the most dog-friendly beaches have regulations. Some allow pooches to run free, while others require leashing. Others may only allow dogs during certain hours of the day, and virtually all of them request that you pick up after your dog.

If you’re looking for more than just a day-long adventure, book into a pet-friendly seaside resort. Cayucos Beach Inn, for instance, located in Cayucos, California, is just one block from the beach and also includes areas for both walking and washing your dog. Seabrook Exclusives villas, meanwhile, on Seabrook Island in South Carolina, offers more than three miles of unscathed beaches and lush forest – a virtual paradise for dogs and their humans.

No matter where you go, remember to pack your natural flea repellent, and use it throughout the day.

3. Paint the town

Is Fido a city slicker? If so, there’s a growing number of pet-friendly communities where you and your dog can enjoy an urban holiday indulging in all kinds of activities, from relaxing at a pet-friendly hotel or savoring a meal at an outdoor restaurant, to romping at the local dog park or shopping for the latest fashions and accessories at a pet boutique. Some cities even have pet-friendly buses, subways or ferries, so you don’t have to worry about how to get around.

Topping the list of pet-friendly cities is Chicago, according to www.dogfriendly.com, an online travel resource for dog guardians. Along with a selection of luxurious pet-friendly hotels, cafes and bars, you and your dog can take a carriage ride, go on a boat cruise, or explore Navy Pier together. North of the border, Toronto welcomes dogs on its TTC buses, subways and streetcars, and is also home to pet-friendly hotels such as the Fairmont Royal York and The Holiday Inn on King, as well as parks. You can also visit a pioneer village, go on a walking tour or take a ferry to Toronto Islands Park. Also on the top ten list of pet-friendly cities are Vancouver, Boston, San Francisco and many others.

If your dog is sociable and well-behaved, and enjoys the bustle and energy of city life, an urban getaway might be just the ticket!

For more information and pet-friendly city guides, visit dogfriendly.com.

4. Take the scenic route

A road trip is one of the best ways to get away with your animal, especially if he travels well and you have a spacious vehicle such as a van or SUV. As long as you provide everything your animal needs to stay comfortable – water, food, a bed, and regular bathroom breaks or a litter box – the vehicle can become his home away from home while you’re on the road. Some companies now even sell dog beds, ramps and other accessories designed for SUV travel. Don’t forget his leash and ID, and a carrier or crate if you have a cat or small dog.

There’s no limit to road trips. If sight-seeing is your goal, how about a ramble along Route 66, which traces a route from Chicago to L.A. through hundreds of historic landmarks, from picturesque villages and First Nations sites to nostalgic 1950s diners and motels. In Canada, the Trans-Canada Highway stretches from Victoria on the west coast to St. John’s, Newfoundland in the east, with countless opportunities for side trips along the way. Keep in mind that your animal isn’t as interested in scenery as you are, so bring some toys for him to play with.

Before hitting the road, you’ll need to research pet-friendly accommodations along your route. Call ahead to make reservations and to find out what’s offered and what restrictions apply. And before you hit the road, don’t forget to pick up a cat kennel or doggie seatbelt (Hug-a-dog and Neopaws both make good quality products) so your animals are as safe as you. To protect your upholstery and enhance Fido’s comfort, equip your vehicle with a water resistant or water-proof seat cover (Kozy K-9 and Soggy Dog are two to consider).

For more information on travel guides, visit tripswithpets.com/recreation.asp. For accommodation in Canada, visit petfriendly.ca.

5. Hit the slopes

It may be the height of summer, but ski resort towns are still booming with activity, and with the wide range of outdoor activities available they make a great place to take your canine companion for a vacation. Many of these areas are pet-friendly, and offer accommodations that accept animals.

One of the most popular ski destinations in the U.S., Colorado offers plenty to do after the snow melts. Skiing hot spots such as Aspen and Breckenridge are a haven for hikers, horseback riders, white water rafters and mountain bikers, and both places have pet-friendly lodges, hotels and resorts. In Canada, meanwhile, Whistler in British Columbia offers golfing as well as mountain biking, alpine hiking, kayaking and ATV and heli tours during the summer. You’ll also find pet-friendly trails here, and there are nearly a dozen different accommodations that accept animals. Locally-based pet sitters and dog walkers are available to look after your animal while you’re shooting the rapids or teeing off at the golf course.

If you’re heading east, Vermont is another popular ski destination that you and your pooch can explore together. Many of the state’s resort towns, such as Stowe and Ludlow, offer golfing, fishing, biking, gliding, canoeing and other activities during the summer, and have a choice of accommodations that welcome animals.

6. Saddle up

Hankering for a taste of the old west? Guest and dude ranches are becomingly an increasingly popular travel destination for horse lovers and those who enjoy a vacation with a rustic country flavor. Happily, some ranches will accept dogs and even your own horse, so there’s no need to leave your companion at home.

Located in Texas not far from Houston, the Cielito Ranch B&B is just one example of a country guest ranch that welcomes both dogs and horses. This working ranch covers over 175 acres of woods, fields and pecan groves, and provides cabin-style accommodations and large pasture boarding for horses. Along with hiking, fishing, campfires, hayrides, pecan picking and other activities, the ranch offers miles of riding trails, as well as riding clinics and instruction. If your dog is well-behaved, he’s invited to mingle freely with the ranch dogs and take part in ranch activities.

Canada also has a variety of guest ranches, mostly in British Columbia and Alberta. The Montana Hill Guest Ranch in Bridge Lake, B.C. welcomes well-behaved pets. The main attraction here is horseback riding, but you can also indulge in fly fishing, mountain biking, canoeing and wildlife viewing. Ranch staff members match the right horse to your riding abilities, and also have a pony for children. You can even book private riding lessons from a certified coach.

7. Blaze a new trail

Looking for a more active getaway? Hiking is great exercise for you and your dog. Whether you’re a novice with a comfy pair of walking shoes, or a more experienced hiker sporting top-of-the-line boots, North America’s trails offer beautiful views and varying levels of difficulty. And canines make the perfect hiking companions – they keep you company and make you feel a little safer on the more remote trails – and they’re perfectly willing to let you indulge your need for self reflection, should the mood strike you.

While dogs are not allowed in many American national parks, there are exceptions, so it’s important to do your homework ahead of time. Some parks will let your canine in if he’s leashed (which helps protect your dog from getting lost or involved in a domestic or wildlife skirmish). Canadian national parks tend to be more lenient with restrictions.

If you’re looking for company on your hike, you can try booking a tour with Doug Gelbert, author of The Canine Hiker’s Bible through hikewithyourdog.com. The day-long and multi-day tours leave from the Valley Forge, PA area and head into four different states.

For more information on pet-friendly hiking trails and national parks, visit tripswithpets.com, www.hikewithyourdog.com, or get a copy of The Canine Hiker’s Bible, published by Cruden Bay Books.

8. Wet and wild

If your idea of a perfect vacation involves nature and water, you’re in luck. Animal friendly cottage and boating operators are popping up all over, much to your retriever’s delight! Check with cottage or cabin rental agencies to find out which of their listings welcome pets. Ideally, if you have a dog who loves to swim, rent a place with a shoreline that provides easy access in and out of the water. And of course, you’ll need a good vantage point, from where you can sip a cool drink while you throw that stick for the 100th time. Cats will be quite content exploring their new digs or enjoying the outdoors in their harnesses.

If you prefer a more mobile holiday, how about a canoeing trip on the pristine lakes of northern Ontario? Outfitter Dog Paddling Adventures specializes in bringing you and your canine closer to nature. They offer everything from one-day adventures to full-week sessions, and neither you nor your dog need be expert paddlers. Just put on your life jackets and hop in! You’ll get the hang of it in no time.

9. Sleep under the stars

Whether you’re looking to get back to the basics, or prefer your home away from home to include its own shower and television (RVers, you know who you are), camping remains one of North America’s favorite pastimes – for people and their animal companions. Dogs and cats love the sights and sounds of Mother Nature, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a great time. Many tent and RV campgrounds welcome animal companions, but they may have restrictions, such as weight and size of animal, and may require your friends to wear leashes at all times and walk only on designated pet trails, so check ahead if you want a setting with more freedom. When booking a campsite, remember to ask for one with shade, and don’t forget natural bug repellent and your first aid kit (Everglo-Natural Veterinary Services offers a comprehensive holistic kit).

For pet-friendly travel guides, visit tripswithpets.com.

Food tip: If your animals eat a raw diet or even if they don’t, try a dehydrated food for camping. Dehydrated food is light to carry and when rehydrated, provides your dog or cat with a delicious meal he’ll love.

10. Wind through the country

What could be more fun and relaxing than a leisurely getaway through North America’s increasingly popular wine districts? How about doing it with your best friend? Your dog may not know a Chardonnay from Shiraz but he’ll be ecstatic you brought him along for the ride. And with the number of pet-friendly accommodations on the rise, it’s easier than ever to pack up Fido for a tasting tour.

Although much of California is pet-friendly, Jerry Hatfield from pettravel.com recommends the stretch from Healdsburg down to Petaluma on Hwy 101 (from Napa on the east through to the Pacific Ocean). Not only can you find an abundance of accommodations, from B&Bs to 4-star resorts) that welcome your canine, you’ll also find many pet-friendly cafes and shops.

In between tastings, pack a picnic, visit one of the local farmer’s markets, or just wander through the little towns that make up this region. You’ll return home happier, less stressed, and hopefully with a couple of good bottles to add to your collection.

In Canada, try visiting British Columbia’s Okanagan valley for your tour. Again, you’ll find a variety of animal-friendly accommodations (Duck and Pug Lakeside Suites even offers a doggie package upon arrival), beautiful views of the water and lots of tasting opportunities.