Pet-Friendly Hotels: Ten Tips for a Happy Visit

Just last week, I ventured into the lobby of the Aloft Hotel in Tampa, FL, a new, high-end “boutique hotel." The décor was stunning, stylish and inviting, just the trendy ambience that appeals to the “luxury traveler” (which would not be me). But it was not the sleek modern decor that really caught my eye. Nope. It was the very ordinary pet food bowl by the reception desk, full of dog biscuits.  Right there in plain view.  “Ha!” I exclaimed to myself. “A pet-friendly hotel! Even the high-enders of the hospitality industry know what sells!”

When I got home, I googled Aloft Hotels and discovered that they do indeed have a general chain-wide policy of welcoming pets. “Animals R Family, too!” declares their pet policy. There is no pet fee for furry overnight guests, and their “ARF” program offers a special bed, bowl, and “a doggie bag of woof-alicious treats and toys,” all complimentary for the duration of your stay.

Pet-Friendly is Good Business

Aloft is just one of the growing number of hotels and other travel destinations that have decided to cater to people who travel with their pets, all 30 million of us. Pet-friendly has become good business, and everyone is scrambling to get on board.  From the basic and affordable Motel 6 to New York’s posh Carlton Hotel, the pet welcome mat is out.  Holiday Inn Express proudly proclaims, “We gladly allow additional family members under 30 pounds,” acknowledging, of course, that we consider our four-legged companions to be family members and as important to us as the two-legged kind.

Even that ultimate family vacation destination, Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, has recognized the advantages of accommodating pets. Their 27,000-square-foot pet care center “offers boarding, daycare and grooming for dogs, cats and other family pets.” Even overnight accommodations are available: cat options include the choice of a 2-level or 4-level condo; dogs may choose a VIP Luxury Suite which includes potty walks, playgroups, a flat-screen TV, webcam, and bedtime story.  Wow.

All of this is great news, but it behooves us to be sure that we and our pets are on our best behavior when we check into a pet-friendly lodging.  Clearly, there is a certain amount of risk involved for the hotel in the form of damage to furniture, carpets, etc. as well as disgruntled non-pet-friendly guests. So here are some recommendations that will ensure that your visit is a stress-free one and that you and your pet are good guests.

Hotel Etiquette for Pet Parents and Their Companions

  • Food and water bowls are best in the bathroom, as is the litter box. The tile floor will allow for easy cleanup.
  • Do NOT leave your pet alone in the room, unless you can put her in a crate or carrier.  Some hotels will not allow you to do so anyway; but pets in new surroundings can become frantic without you, and you don’t want to get stuck with a bill for torn up or soiled carpet, or something worse. Howling or crying pets will not endear you to other guests either.  If you know ahead of time that you will have to leave the room, speak to the concierge, as some hotels have a list of local pet sitters. If you have to leave unexpectedly, inform the front desk, give them your phone number, and, for the sake of your pet and an unsuspecting housekeeper, be sure to leave that “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.
  • Be vigilant! Keep your pet firmly on a leash or in a crate or carrier to avoid unpleasant interactions with other pets or guests. If you're walking your pet, watch out for debris, broken glass and bits of discarded food on the property that could harm him.  Before you open the door to your room, be sure your pet is restrained or in a crate. Otherwise, you could end up chasing a frantic pet through the hallways.
  • If your pet should cause any damage to your room, be sure you point it out and pay for it.  Good etiquette will go a long way toward keeping hotels pet-friendly for future visitors.

Need some help finding pet-friendly hotels? Check out these websites.  Happy traveling!

Would you take your pet with you on a trip? Perhaps you already have an experience you can share!