In his travelogue Travels With Charley: In search of America (1962), John Steinbeck writes of his cross-country jaunt with his brainy black poodle. “Now, Charley is a mind-reading dog. There have been many trips in his lifetime, and often he has to be left at home. He knows we are going long before the suitcases come out, and he paces and worries and whines and goes into a state of mild hysteria, old as he is.” As Charley surmises, sometimes pets must be left behind, but there are a surprising number of hotels, motels, campgrounds, cabins, and inns that welcome well-behaved, housebroken, leashed, flealess furry friends.
Just think about the heroine of Kay Thompson’s Eloise (1969), who lived at the Plaza, a hotel in New York City. “I have a dog that looks like a cat,” says Eloise. “His name is Weenie.” Size is, indeed, one of the restrictions for pets who sleep over at the Plaza – the animals must weigh 16 pounds or less. Visitors with acceptable pets must sign a short waiver form when they check in. After that, the staff says that it’s up to the pets’ owners whether or not the animals sleep on the beds, but adds that most people bring their own bedding. Room service says that they don’t offer pet food, but would be happy to supply a bowl. And before you ask – pets are not allowed to dine in the Oak Room.
“The Plaza is the only hotel in New York that will allow you to have a turtle,” said six-year-old Eloise, who kept a turtle named Skipperdee. These days, that’s not the case. The Waldorf-Astoria allows pets as well, and the front desk staff notes that they don’t know of any kind of pet that isn’t allowed. No weight restrictions apply, but the pet must be in a carrier when you enter the hotel and when you want your room serviced (unless the pet is small and you are there to watch it while the staff is in your room). Just like at the Plaza, guests must sign a waiver declaring that they accept liability for property damages or injuries caused by the pet. And, they prefer that pets don’t sleep on the beds. “We’re not really thrilled about that, to be quite frank with you,” says one staffer. “The comforters and the spreads are quite expensive and, in all honesty, pet hair never comes out.” Room service, though not geared toward pets, is flexible. “We don’t carry dog food,” they say, “although I’m sure the chef would be happy to make something.”
“We have lots of guests who bring their pets to our hotel,” says the concierge at the Four Seasons, in Chicago. The room service menu includes a “doggie pet menu,” and they bring amenities like big bowls of water and either dog or cat treats to the room. Travelers should give advance notice, as certain rooms are designated specifically for guests who are staying with pets. The weight restriction is 35 pounds, and though they see mostly dogs and cats, they say they would deal with other types of animals on a case-by-case basis.
Pets are allowed in hotels throughout the Four Seasons chain, as they are in many other nationwide chains. The important thing to remember is to call well in advance, so that you and your pet won’t be left out in the cold.
That’s how Heather MacLean Walters, a consultant for the Pet Channel, got into the pet travel field. After spending a long night searching for a hotel that would take dogs, Walters realized others must be having the same problem and decided to write Take Your Pet Along: 1001 Places to Stay With Your Pet (MCE Press; $16.95; 800-932-3017), which lists pet-friendly lodgings across the country. And since she enjoyed activities with her dog, she wrote Take Your Pet Too! Fun Things to Do! (MCE Press; $14.95), a guide to pet-targeted events and places as well as towns that have plenty of pet-friendly shops and restaurants. Some of her favorites:
BAR HARBOR, MAINE “Beautiful coastal scenery is the hallmark of any visit here,” Walters writes in Take Your Pet Too! The area owes its charm to the harbor’s namesake sandbar, which allows access to an island at low tide, numerous tidal pools for wading and swimming and pet-friendly shops, galleries, and restaurants where you can have a lobster dinner with Fido. Also here is Acadia National Park. By the way, the National Park Service says that “Pets are usually permitted in parks providing they are either restrained on a leash (not exceeding 6 feet in length), caged, or crated at all times. Pets can be restricted further by specific park regulations. Please check with the park(s) of your interest.”
CARMEL/MONTEREY, CALIF. Quiet and picturesque, Carmel is also close to outdoor attractions such as often-photographed Route I, giant redwoods, and Big Sur. Both Carmel Beach and Delmar Beach allow unleashed pets, and the Cypress Inn, run by Doris Day, welcomes pets and has a helpful concierge who can direct you to other pet-friendly restaurants and activities in the area.
NILES, MICH. Those looking to pamper their pooch can try the Doggie Drive-Thru. In addition to a dog/cat wash, a canine swimming pool, and a nanny service for those who need to shop without their pets, the menu offers a selection of fast food only a pet could love, including doggie burgers, beef-flavored fries, wheat pizza, and even chicken- or liver-flavored Italian ices.
Packing Your Pet’s Suitcase
Six things to bring along to make the trip more pleasant for both of you.
1 Fresh water
2 Your pet’s regular food: an abrupt change in diet can make your pet ill
3 Grooming supplies
4 First-aid kit
5 Beach towel: in case your dog wants to swim
6 Sunglasses and hats: models made to fit animals can prevent premature aging of pets’ eyes (but then again, not every pet wants to look like a movie star)
Travel With or Without Pets: 25,000 Pets-R-Permitted Accommodations, Petsitters, Kennels & More! (Annenburg Communications; eighth ed.; $13.95; 310-374-6246) is a sort of Yellow Pages of hostelries in the United States, Canada, and Mexico that, under certain circumstances and with advance notice, accept pets