Imagine that the following happens during your next vacation: You enter the lobby of a luxury hotel with your accompanying children, colleagues or friends, and your eyes wide open. Your companions gasp while you stare, jaw agape, at the finery and expensive furnishings. You're so taken aback by the splendor that you almost drop your dog's leash.
This scenario might not just be a daydream -- especially the part about your dog. That's because many hotels now cater to dog owners like you. Now you can stay at hotels ranging from luxury chains, where you can expect royal rover treatment, to reasonably priced hotels, which place more emphasis on functionality rather than flash.
Puttin' On the Rover Ritz
With few exceptions, nearly the entire Ritz Carlton chain allows dogs. Just be sure to check the pet policy at your particular destination, as rules can differ among various hotels, even if they are under associated ownership. Call ahead to ask if your dog is welcome at that specific hotel, and also keep in mind that each hotel within a chain may offer different pet perks.
At the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans, for example, you can arrange for a dog bed, tags, chew toys, bowls, designer collars and leashes. The hotel even provides door hangers saying "woof," and the staff will show you the grass, a block away, where your dog can do its business.
"We've had several movie crews enjoy long-term stays here with their pets," said Char Schroeder, a Ritz spokesperson. "Queen Latifah was here for three months with her Weimaraner, Isis. We provide dog walkers and sitters." Schroeder adds, "To get the most out of your visit, I recommend calling ahead to discuss your pet's size, age and needs, and we'll explain what amenities are available." Although the hotel's policy applies to dogs 40 pounds or less, it accepts larger dogs on a case-by-case basis. Discuss the matter with your agent when making reservations.
Loews Loves Pets, Too
The Loews hotel chain offers a "Loews Loves Pets" program that begins with a personal note from the hotel's general manager. It lists all the pet services available at the hotel, plus dog walking routes, veterinary contacts, nearby pet shops and groomers, pet sitters and restaurants where dogs are welcome. Dogs receive complimentary pet treats and a toy. Pets get their own place mats with food and water bowls. Specialized pet bedding is available. Loews' "Did You Forget Closet" includes dog beds, leashes, collars and pet videos. Even room service caters to pets by offering grilled lamb or chicken for dogs. Loews will help to arrange for special services and, after you leave, the staff initiates a thorough "pet-cleaning process" that includes filtered vacuums to remove pet allergens so that all future guests can enjoy their stay, too.
Read Up and Hit the Red Roof
If you often travel, consider purchasing a guide such as DogFriendly.com's Lodging Guide for Travelers with Dogs (DogFriendly.com Inc. 2008). According to the online resource DogFriendly, many of the larger, widespread chains accept pets. These include Best Western, Candlewood-Staybridge, Choice Hotels, Holiday Inn, La Quinta Inns/Suites, Loews, Motel 6, Novotel Innworks, Red Roof Inn, Sheraton-Westin and Studio 6. Expect a one-time pet fee per stay at most chain hotels. The fee usually ranges from $25 to $150.
The Red Roof Inn's 350 hotels all accept dogs. The chain attracts dog show attendees, as well as families and individuals traveling with their dogs. "Some people drive twenty or thirty miles out of their way to stay with us, because they know how pet-friendly we are," said Randy Fox of Red Roof Inn. "If you call ahead, we'll arrange for a convenient first floor room for you." Technically, the hotels only allow one pet per room, but their staff understands the needs of dog show people with multiple canines, and they will try to work out a suitable arrangement. In general, however, it helps to travel with just one dog, since it's hard enough to keep track of one, much less two or more, when on the road.
Red Roof Inn asks that you mention your dog when checking in so housekeeping knows your pet is there. They require that pets not be left unattended, although someone inevitably breaks the rules. "We've had cases where surprised housekeeping staff has run after a dog, but we haven't lost one yet," says Fox. "We had a big manhunt once where the whole staff got in cars and drove around and found the runaway dog." Fox adds, "We try to have as few rules as possible to make it easy for folks with pets to stay with us; all we ask is that our guests use common courtesy."
Ways to Get the Most from Your Stay
Assure a Warm Welcome in the Future
It takes just a few bad apples to spoil the barrel. Some chains have only recently allowed dogs. Inconsiderate behavior could reverse that trend. Be sure to mind both your and your dog's manners. For example, it's critical to prevent excess barking, and you must pick up your dog's feces immediately. The bottom line is that in order for a dream vacation with your dog to stay dreamy, you have to be considerate of others. If you and your dog behave yourselves, you'll both be welcome back soon.
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