It’s a scenario pet parents know well: You’re on vacation exploring an attraction, taking a scenic hike or enjoying an al fresco dining experience, when you run into a fellow traveler with their pet. Suddenly, you miss your own four-legged companion back home, wonder what they’re doing at the kennel or with the dog sitter, and wish they were there with you instead. While not every trip screams “dog-friendly,” (for example, we wouldn’t recommend bringing a pup on a tour of the Great Cats World Park in Southern Oregon to meet tigers) there are plenty of travel destinations that work well for pets. With a little preparation and know-how, a doggone good trip just might be in your future.
HIT THE ROAD, OR THE RAIL: The easiest option may be choosing a drivable destination and bringing a pet with you in the car. Having plenty of packing space to bring a dog’s bed, food, bowls and other belongings can help make them more comfortable when away from home. While it’s less common to travel with a cat, they are welcome, as are small dogs, on many passenger trains, including Amtrak routes from Eugene and Portland toward Seattle, from eastern Washington to northern Idaho and from Oregon down to California.
TAKE TO THE SKIES: For farther-flung destinations, air travel is an option, but it has limitations and guidelines for companion animals. Many airlines accept small pets that can fit in a carrier underneath the seat in front of you in the cabin, while larger pets must be crated and flown in the cargo area of the plane. While both options can get pets from point A to B, air travel can be a stressful experience for animals, particularly those who are first-timers, so it’s important to consider whether it’s worth it for your pet.
RESEARCH PET FRIENDLY LODGING: Websites such as petswelcome.com or bringfido.com allow users to search by destination for pet-friendly lodging rated by other travelers, with destinations receiving a score based on pet-friendliness. “We love furry friends at the Hood River Hotel,” said James Pearrow, general manager of the pet-friendly, historic hotel in downtown Hood River, Oregon. “Our special canine treats and goodies make sure that both people and their pups feel welcome during their stay.” Some destinations take pet-friendliness to another level, such as the Dog Park Bark Inn in central Idaho. This roadside attraction, guest house and chainsaw art gift shop in the town of Cottonwood is home to the “World’s Biggest Beagle” which is available for nightly rentals each summer.
PAMPER FIDO, TOO: Many hotels have taken pet-friendly lodging to new heights, offering amenities such as pet turndown service and a dog-specific room service menu. At Hotel 43 in Boise, dogs are invited to kick up their paws and make themselves at home with a bed, food dishes, treats, a leash and doggie bags all waiting in the room upon arrival. For guests who book the hotel’s Pet Package, a portion of the proceeds is donated to the Idaho Humane Society.
EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS: Most of Oregon’s public coastline is dog friendly, with many dogs enjoying swims and romps through the sand each day. Keep a careful eye on pets who swim in or play near the ocean, and remember to check paws for excessive wear caused by running in the sand. Many hiking trails on public lands are dog friendly, with options for on-leash and off-leash adventures in local, state and national parks in Oregon, Idaho and beyond. Choose hikes with water sources along the way or bring extra water and a travel-friendly bowl to ensure animals stay well-hydrated.
PLAN OUTINGS IN ADVANCE: In many cities, well-behaved pets are often welcome inside gift shops or on patios at breweries and restaurants. Stop into a local pet store to pick up any forgotten essentials, souvenirs or toys, and chat with staff who are often knowledgeable about the best pet-friendly activities in the area. Plan out a list of things to do by checking BringFido, calling ahead or popping inside establishments to ask about pet policies. When bringing a pet on vacation, keep in mind that most of the activities on the itinerary should be pet friendly. Many hotels don’t allow pets to be left unattended in rooms, and in places where it is permitted, the time should be limited.
Pets invited on vacation should be comfortable traveling, free from illness or injury, and of appropriate age and temperament, according to advice from the American Veterinary Medical Association. Young puppies, old dogs and those who don’t enjoy being in the car or around people may not consider a trip away from home much of a “vacation” at all, so remember to take into account what’s best for the animal before planning to bring them along.
CARRY MEDICAL RECORDS: As more pet parents decide to bring their animals on vacation, there are a few things to consider when doing so, according to Dr. Charles Hurty, a veterinarian with the Grove Medical Clinic in Newport, Oregon. “I do recommend that families travel with all of their pet’s relevant medical history, including vaccination certificates, illness history and medication history,” Hurty said. “In emergency situations it can be extremely difficult for a pet parent to remember the minor details of a medical history; those details can be easily accessed in current medical records.”
MICROCHIP PETS: Hurty also recommended all pets have registered microchips, which can help reunite pets and parents that get separated on a trip. Hurty said that several years ago he reunited a cat on the Oregon Coast with its owners from Arizona who had traveled with the cat by RV to Oregon three months prior. “They were in tears when we told them that their cat had been found and was safe,” said Hurty, who credited the successful use of a microchip for the tearful reunion.
RESEARCH THE DESTINATION: Check destinations for area-specific concerns, such as salmon poisoning on the Oregon Coast, areas prone to ticks, blue green algae in rivers and lakes or specific parasites. “It is always advisable to take a look at the websites of veterinary clinics in the region to which you travel to see if there are any area-specific health concerns,” Hurty said.
With health records in tow and an eager pet along for the ride, the opportunities for pet-friendly travel are limitless. The best part? Running into other pets and owners on vacation becomes an opportunity to swap stories and share ways four-legged companions can participate in all the fun.
Teresa Ristow is a writer and editor based in Bend, Oregon. She loves exploring the Pacific Northwest and beyond with her terrier, Henry.