General Travel Tips: Finding a hotel or rental for your dog

General Travel Dog Tips for the beach in regards to rentals:

Look Ma! No Leash! A rare off leash moment without a fence with our escape artist.

I have a confession to make, that if you read our blog/fb page regularly you already know- I suck at putting blog posts up in a timely (if at all) manner. Somehow, some of you still love us and follow us despite knowing that 2 years ago we made a trip and never blogged about it. I feel like I should do some penance for this! Maybe go scoop poop at the dog park? 100 dog belly rubs?

So in lieu of actually posting about our trip to Gulf Shores last year (I will I swear eventually do that!) but until I do- I’ll tell you some general trips we’ve learned through the years of traveling with a dog. This has come up because on a FB page, for a town that I’m beginning to think is the least dog friendly town in AL, myself and a few other women were asking questions about dog travel. This town is Gulf Shores. One of the women seemed saddened that she was having such difficulty figuring out where she could stay with her two little dogs. I realized, this information is hard to find! If it’s hard for me, someone who makes it her life’s work to travel with her dog, then how hard is it for the novice dog traveler? Almost impossible.  And the reception I got on “that page” when trying to find dog friendly restaurants was disheartening. There are a lot of dog haters out there! For shame to those people from Gulf Shores who were being so negative and nasty and mean. You’re making your city look bad and earning it the current title of “least friendly dog city in Alabama” from us. I was told I’d be contacted by their “media relations” person when the conversation started going downhill on their page and I announced I was a dog blogger reviewing their city for dog friendly places. I haven’t heard a peep from anyone yet.

Okay, so off my soap box and onto the tips for new dog travelers.

First- if you have a little dog- you’re in luck! Hurray! You’ve won the “you can stay just about anywhere lotto!”

Which inevitably leads to the Second- if you have a big dog as a family member, you’re going to have a much harder time of this. You will get quizzed on bsl questions (What breed is your dog Mrs. Robertson?). Just last week I heard a woman lean over and whisper “Are huskies on our banned breed list?” TY Reed Real Estate in Gulf Shores, I’ll be avoiding renting from you at all in the future now that I know have your own rotten BSL list.  You will get asked about your parenting skills as a dog owner at times, or you might even outright get told no. If you’re desperate you might find yourself sneaking your dog into a hotel or house late at night to avoid having no where to stay.  We’ve never had to do this (yet). But I know lots of wonderful dog lovers who have when no one would allow them to house their dog there because of his size or breed. This can be very risky! You can often get a big fine, loose your deposit, be kept from ever renting from them again, and worst of all- kicked out immediately. These terms of agreement are usually *clearly* listed. Unfortunately most rentals (hotel or house) do not clearly list the important thing… like what breeds they don’t accept and what size they don’t accept, or whether dogs are allowed on the furniture etc. We once went to the mountains in GA to a lovely cabin that had pictures of dogs all over their furniture when advertising it only to arrive and suddenly have a sign at the cabin announcing no dogs allowed on furniture?! We decided not to give this particular person our money again (there’s tons of cabins to go around!) because it’s a bit of false advertising.

To help avoid this ask ask ask questions before hand. This will help avoid problems in the future. Even when told no I still ask. For instance, at a beautiful motel that was really a string of cabins in NC we asked if they allowed dogs. Maybe next time we’d bring him with us.. “OH YES!” the man squealed. “We LOVE Dogs!!! You just bring ‘em on down!” so I began to talk about our dog. I said he was a rescue. This was the first mark against me. He paled a little I swear. And he then badmintoned back that his precious teacup was a purebred something or another- that of the bag sized variety (my words not his). The guy said he had concerns about a rescue dog. Then I said he was a husky and woohoo! That opened up a can of worms. The kind of worms that people think chew on furniture and generally tear stuff up?  Oh, he’s not like that I assured him. He’s really good! Of course there was that one time when he ate all that electrical wire… but that was a long time ago, and we did have a hell of a time house breaking him the first year, but that’s all in the past now.. Mr. Teacup dog did not look convinced. I knew he was doing the math in his head… “what does a dog like that weigh” so I told him ours was a little overweight at 80lbs… You could visually see a sigh of relief flood through him restoring some color. “Oh, we don’t allow dogs over about 15 lbs” he said. They were a little flexible he said, but not that flexible. Oh. Well, maybe I could have left out the part about the house-training. But still. I asked if he ever would make an exception if I had a cash down payment for damages  or paid extra… and could prove to him our dog was well behaved. He paused and seemed to consider it. He didn’t say no in the end which left it open to pursue despite how many ways our conversation had gone comically wrong. But worse, if I had stopped with his first yes and not kept asking questions, we would have planned a vacation we could never take when they turned us away due to their own rules. Now I ask a lot of questions, and am not afraid to ask beyond a no 🙂

There are dog friendly cabins and chalets at Cheaha State Park in AL and it is one of our favorite dog friendly places to stay. Here Whiskey models his swank dog friendly chalet! Most of the AL state parks have dog friendly rentals! yay!

So where to go: Here is what I recommend. There are a lot of affordable homes rented by owners.  I truly believe this is your best bet. Often these pet owned homes already come with crates, dog runs, fenced in back yards, doggie gates for porches etc. It’s fantastic! And way better than any run of the mill rental place like ahem, Reed, or Meyer. We’ve stayed in the mountains using VRBO.com and stayed at the beach using Homeaway.com. Both allow you to search for dog friendly rentals and narrow down in different ways. Now I’ve used these places several times and have always had positive experiences at the homes we stayed in which usually had a very personal dog friendly touch. I *highly* recommend this for dog owners with dogs over 25 lbs as it is almost impossible to find anywhere that will let you stay in a chain managed rental company or hotels.

One basic way I’d suggest anyone start off their search would be to google “Dog friendly hotels” or “dog friendly bed and breakfasts” plus the name of the city or state you are traveling to. You’d be surprised what pops up! Always make sure to find out exactly what the policy is before booking.

 Search sites:

http://www.bringfido.com/

http://www.officialpethotels.com just found this site and used it doing a fake search. I like that they list the pet policies on the main page when you first do the search (not in the pop up box). Still, always call and confirm those policies before booking!

http://www.dogfriendly.com/server/travel/guides/us/us.shtml Their site is constructed a little old school but I like that they have a list of dog friendly hotels right on that page without ever doing a search. These are hotels known to cater to pet traveling families, regardless of state.

http://www.petswelcome.com/ My *fave* feature about this site is the “search by route” button. For casual travelers like me and Whiskey- we might set out at 3 a.m. not knowing how far we will get that day. That can be a problem when going across several state lines in a trip. Camping helps remove this problem, but camping really limits you to the time of year and locations as well. Now that I know this exists I’ll be using this… a lot. April in Ashville! (and any of our other NC friends!) Watch out, we are on our way using this pawsome feature 😀

A good article but a few years old, still worth checking out! http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/americas-best-dog-friendly-hotels

Also, have AAA? Check with them as they have a dog travel book (that I think is a little out of date but I heard recently they were going to update it soon). Aside from the book, they are being paid to help you plan travel so let them know about your dog needs and they will help you! It’s a great service. We love our local AAA office.

Don’t know much about this one but I’ll be keeping my eye on it: http://www.dogwonderful.com/

http://k9roadtrip.com/ has a lot of different types of info from the social to the travel related. Plus, we just love Prospect the dog.

http://www.vrbo.com/ Vacation Rentals By Owners is the first place we started finding good dog friendly cabins from. I just now realized that under their VRBO logo it says that this is part of the Home Away Co. I have no idea why they have two sites or what purpose this serves. But J that’s okay. Mysteries abound.

http://www.homeaway.com/We eventually graduated from VRBO to Home Away. You’ll find as you really begin to search the site that many of the homes are on both, but not all. It’s good to search both sites because the best one we’ve found yet was only on Home Away site. We also found that even when a house is on both sites, sometimes the sites have different pictures or more info on one than the other. Go figure!

Also, check at your local state parks. Many offer dog friendly hotel rooms, cabins, and chalets. Though we’ve also found some in other states that offer nothing. You just have to check with your own state/location.

Whiskey asks “What do you mean I can’t get on the furniture!?” Here Whiskey checks out a room at the Desoto cabin we rented through HomeAway. Very nice place! Wish I’d taken a pic of the outside 🙂

Points of interest to remember!

  • Be aware! Most pet policies listed online only list deposits, not weight limits or rules. This is very important to find out before you get too far into your travel arrangements.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a house rental if they allow dogs on the furniture (if this is important to you). Don’t be afraid to ask if they have their own crate (and what size it is!) or dog items. There was nothing worse than hauling Whiskey’s huge heavy crate out only to find they had the exact one, or to not haul one only to find they had one for a 20 lb dog. Also, once we had a cabin owner after talking to us a few times say “I normally don’t allow dogs on the furniture, but you guys can.” Yes! We hadn’t even asked if we could! She just seemed to like us for no apparent reason. We liked her a lot!
  • Email to ask. I’ve learned if you want to email to ask a chain like Meyer Realty be as specific and honest as possible. E.g.: “I have a 3 year old husky mix who is 75lbs. I am looking for a beach front property on fort Morgan road. Can you give me names of the houses this description fits so I can look at them at my leisure online.”
  • Calling- be prepared that even when emailing people often don’t want to put their policy in writing. That’s why they don’t list which houses have weight limits or which dog breeds are not allowed. They will email you back saying to call during business hours. It’s happened to me more times than I can count when trying to contact a chain rental agency.
  • When renting a house don’t be afraid to say no if the person seems…wrong. We were scheduled to rent a house from a person who admitted to us she was a backyard breeder of Jack Russell Terriers and that they weren’t selling and she might have to take them to a shelter (okay, that’s character flaw #1). After a few conversations on the phone she seemed more and more mentally unstable. She kept putting strange restrictions on us (we were not allowed to play the piano, even though my husband is a classically trained pianist with a MM ((Master of Music)). And telling us how she should have charged ‘those other people who she *knew* scratched her piano….’ (and all kinds of other complaints about previous renters). Then she talked about her ex husband who she had left during the middle of his cancer treatment because she couldn’t take his *&^% anymore and didn’t care if he died… and that she was appalled he showed up at “their” rental (which she admitted they were still in dispute about) and had taken half the furniture “oh don’t worry I’ve got plenty of furniture in there now…” We suddenly decided about 3 weeks before our arrival date not to rent from her. Really I can’t make this kind of stuff up. I just attract craziness at times. So anyyeeeeway- Use your best judgment and don’t be embarrassed about backing out. Find out what the policy is just in case you need to do this anyway. Luckily we hadn’t mailed our check yet so there was no problem, just incredible awkwardness. But be prepared to have these kind of horror stories which make for fun dinner conversation!!

    Happy travels to you. – from gina&whiskey

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4 Responses to General Travel Tips: Finding a hotel or rental for your dog

  1. Pingback: Gulf Shores 2011 | Whiskey on the Rocks

  2. Hi Gina & Whiskey,
    I was browsing the internet and came across your blog about pet friendly rentals in Gulf Shores, Alabama. After reading about your experience, I felt as though I needed to help clarify some details in your story. My family owns Reed Real Estate and we have been in business in the Ft. Morgan area since the 80s. I hate that you had a negative experience when you were searching for a dog friendly rental for you and Whiskey. It is true that some of our pet friendly homes have a weight limit that the homeowner has chosen but we do also have quite a few homes for larger breeds as well as more than one dog. We want you to know that we have absolutely nothing against huskies or other large breeds. Some homeowner’s insurance policies actually specify certain breeds of dogs that are not “allowed” on the premises, therefore the homeowner have requested us, the management company, to adhere to these restrictions. We do have our guests that are bringing a dog fill out a pet addendum before they arrive. This has actually been extremely helpful in the past because we have had a few guests get separated from their pet while on vacation. It has helped us determine who the lost puppy belongs to by being able to look up the breed and weight of our guest’s dog. It does also make sure everyone is on the “same page” as far as pet rules and certain things that are expected from the pet owner in regards to taking care of their pet and the home. You and I both know that unfortunately not everyone takes care of their dog as well as they should so sometimes it is best to outline the rules for them. All in all, I think we have some wonderful dog friendly homes available to rent in all price ranges and for big and small dogs. Ft. Morgan is also one of the only dog friendly beaches along the entire Gulf Coast. I sincerely hope that you do not take offense to this response as I am not trying to offend you or anyone else in any way. I just wanted to let you and your readers know that some of our pet friendly homes will accept larger breeds. If I can help answer any questions for you, please feel free to contact me at 1-800-678-2306. Hope you will give our coast another chance:) Jill Reed Manning.

    • Gina V says:

      Hey Jill! It is GREAT to hear from you actually. Everything you said is important to be heard by people traveling with their dogs. In our recent move in 2011 (after our trip to the beach) we received a mighty education about home owners insurance’s breed restrictions (esp since huskies are on many of those lists!). Personally I disagree with any BSL/prejudice against breeds and we advocate for many of the “banned breeds” you hear about. But from a business perspective you *must* abide by those restrictions for legal reasons. You also have to remember that I contacted your agency back in 2011, possibly the spring I think. And over the course of 2 years many things can change. I do regret that they were not more helpful in directing me in how I could find a rental that works for us. I’m all about giving my money to wonderful companies that love dogs! I always find it crazy when I’m like “hi, I’d like to give you my money :)” and a company isn’t nice. Though I believe the lady on the phone never meant to be rude, and was completely oblivious to the way her comment would be taken by me, the dog owner of that potential “dangerous” or “banned” dog, and as an advocate for those dogs. That said, we recently redid our searches for summer rentals- we do this *every* year because things change and came across this site on our own: http://rentals.petswelcome.com/alabama/fort-morgan/ which we highly recommended on our page and several people responded to. Your houses on there are AWESOME and we will probably be changing our tune to a much more pawsitive 😉 one. Especially since many of your homes on there accepted multiple/&/or Large Breeds which is something our fans are always looking for. Lastly, we have visited Ft. Morgan every year for about the last 30+ years. I will always go there, but I find it needs to be more accommodating to those of us with dogs. But even in the last 5 years there have been major changes (dog rescue groups that rock!, new dog parks, proposed dog stuff) for the better for dog owners. Thanks for contacting us!

      • Thanks for responding back Gina. Give me a call when you get ready to come back our way:) I will find the perfect house for you & Whiskey. Also, let me know if I can help answer any questions about our area and beaches for you or any of your readers. My brother & I grew up at the 2 mile marker (forever ago:) I love that you have been coming here for the last 30+ years! I think it is awesome to meet other people who have been able to see the changes over the years, all positive I think. Ft. Morgan still has the same gorgeous, secluded beaches and quiet charm it has had since day 1:)

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