Options growing for travelers with pets
By BRUCE SMITH
By BRUCE SMITH
Many travelers will tell you it can be doggone hard to make arrangements when you have a pet in tow — worrying about everything from finding dog-friendly hotels to activities for canines while on the go.
From plush hotels to, uh, ruffing it at campgrounds, the travel industry is making more options available for people traveling with their four-legged friends.
Now from the French Alps to the New York Catskills and the California wine country, companies are offering tours where dogs are welcome and arrangements for man and beast are all made ahead of time.
Linda Lombardi of Silver Spring, Md., a zookeeper at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., always travels with Lilly, her pug. Generally, that means vacationing with her husband and Lilly at the Delaware shore where the dog has been welcomed in the past.
"We go to Rehoboth Beach because there is a hotel there that takes dogs," she said, adding that dog owners quickly learn not only where they are welcome, but where they are not.
"We know beaches where you can't even carry your dog in your arms on the boardwalk," she said. "I don't know if they have roving bands of people throwing their Chihuahuas at people or what."
"A lot of times, people travel with their dogs because they don't see the dog often enough during the time they are working," said Tara Kain.
She and her husband, Len, operate DogFriendly.com and publish a guidebook of hotels and attractions in North America that welcome dogs.
In the eight years the couple has operated the Web site, more hotels have started accepting dogs, she said. Some even cater to pampered pooches.
According to the Travel Industry Association of America, more than 29 million Americans took trips of more than 50 miles with their pets during the past three years.
Almost 80 percent of those travelers took dogs. About 15 percent took cats, while the rest took birds, ferrets, rabbits or that quietest traveler of all, fish.
Breakaway Adventures in Mount Pleasant, S.C., offers 210 tours in various parts of the world, including four dog walking tours through France. The options include a high Alps tour, recommended for hardier hounds.
The company has been operating for almost a decade and decided to include dogs because of numerous requests.
"France is very dog-friendly," said Carol Keskitalo, who with her husband, Michael Carson, runs Breakaway. "All our trips are to undiscovered Europe — small hotels with lots of family rooms. When you go to France you'll see a couple of dogs in every lobby, just lounging around."
Owners, however, need to provide food for their pets, usually purchased when they arrive.
"That's better when you think about it because people know their own dogs," Carson said. "A French dog might like foie gras, I don't know."
At the upscale Charleston Place Hotel in Charleston, S.C., visiting pooches are pampered with special dog dishes, snacks and pet sitters. They sleep in designer pet beds that cost more than $350, and there are signs for the rooms reading VIP — Very Important Pet in residence.
Nearby, well-behaved pets are welcome to wander along with their owners on walking tours offered by Tour Charleston LLC.
The company's Web site has photos and a link to e-mail Jane Dog, the 12-year-old English springer spaniel whose human is company owner Julian Buxton.
"We've gotten so much business from having our dogs on this site," he said. "It's either because they have a dog and like people who are friendly toward dogs or they need advice for visiting with a dog."
Doug Gelbert, who operates hikewithyourdog.com, offers outings for people and their dogs from the Catskills to Virginia, visiting everything from beaches to historic sites. Overnight trips include campground accommodations.
"Any dog can be a trail dog," said Gelbert, author of "The Canine Hiker's Bible."
"I have done hikes in the Poconos with dogs like a miniature dachshund. You would think that dogs whose legs are not as long as a dollar bill would have a problem. Some streams may be deep for them but you just pick them up and carry them across," he said.
On the West Coast, Europeds, which offers walking and cycling tours in Europe and California, now offers dog walking tours in the California wine country.
Such tours would have been unheard of a decade ago, said company president Dave Martin, who added the travel industry is opening its doors to dogs.
"The Internet gave dog owners a place where they could communicate," he said. "The Internet may be quite responsible for the increase in dog travel."
He said while not all wineries are dog-friendly, "more and more wineries are realizing there is a dog market out there for them."
But the trip to California might be lost on Lilly, the pug who vacations at the Delaware shore.
"I think the dog is very happy in Rehoboth Beach. She doesn't understand she's not going to California," Lombardi said. "She remembers the only place you can eat french fries off the ground."