Posts Tagged ‘dog friendly travel’

Fantasies of Summer Vacation (With Dogs, Of Course!)

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Here in New York, we’re looking at the coldest day we’ve seen in in several years — it’s so cold, in fact, the dogs haven’t even asked for walk (which is unheard of around here). We’re comforting ourselves with hot chocolate (me), bully sticks (the dogs), a cozy heating blanket (all of us — and who knew a single heating blanket could fit one human, two dogs, two cats and a giant stuffed hedgehog?) and fantasies of summer vacation.

Of course it will be a dog vacation, because what fun is going on vacation without the dogs? Well, okay, on days like today, I wouldn’t mind a week on some tropical island, relaxing on a lounge chair with oversized sunglasses and a drink with an umbrella in it. But since I haven’t won Lotto yet, I can’t buy my own island with a private dog-friendly beach…nor do I have a private dog-friendly plane to fly there. And anyway, the dogs would just hog the lounge chair.

dog camp, enjoying the pool!

You're not the only one who fantasizes about enjoying vacation poolside in a comfy lounge chair!

Thankfully, I have Canine Camp Getaway, which satisfies my dogs’ need for fun in the sun (and in the shade, and in the pool, bar and pretty much everywhere else), as well as my own need to kick back a bit and relax, without having to worry about work deadlines, what to make for dinner or whether my dogs are safe and happy. Dog camp may not be everyone’s dream vacation, but spending a week with dogs and dog lovers actually suits me quite well — and let’s face it, is there anything better at the end of the day than Yappy Hour with friends (both two-legged and four-legged)?

With Canine Camp Getaway’s June vacation nearly sold out, and September filling up fast, you’d think other hotels would be taking the hint: dog-friendly properties = more customers. Yet not everyone seems to be getting the message.

In a random sampling of “dog friendly” hotels, I found that more than half charge a (sometimes hefty) dog deposit or “cleaning fee” (It costs you a hundred bucks to clean the room after Buffy the miniature poodle stays over for two nights? Really?). Many still regulate the size, weight or breed of dogs they will accept (and my 97-pound dog points out that it’s not only not “friendly” but downright rude to have strangers questioning her about her weight!).

Atlantic City has finally gotten some dog-friendly hotels (presumably someone finally saw that “Dogs Playing Poker” painting and realized there was an opportunity there), though there’s still not a lot to do with your dog once you get there.

Disney, I’m told, has added a doggie daycare center for those who want to bring their pup along for vacation…a step in the right direction, to be sure…but the hotels on site are still not dog-friendly.

California does a better job with dog-friendly hotels, beaches and restaurants…but if you live on the East Coast, you’ve either got a really long drive to contend with, or you have to worry about bringing your dog on a less-than-dog-friendly airplane.

So, what do you do if you’re a dog owner who hates to leave your dog behind, or a dog who’s too big to sneak into Mom or Dad’s suitcase? First off, do your research: when planning your vacation, call several area hotels and ask about pet policies, any hidden charges, available dog amenities and local activities for dog owners. Some hotels will not allow dogs to be left alone in the room — even in a crate — so be sure you know the hotel’s policy on this, and if your dog must be with you at all times, be prepared with a list of dog-friendly restaurant options, or a local doggie daycare center. Don’t count on leaving your dog in the car — even if the temperatures are moderate, an unexpectedly hot day can put your dog’s life in danger.

If sharing time with your pet is an important part of your vacation plans, contact pet stores in your destination cities and ask about dog-friendly events, restaurants of hot spots — sometimes there are “unofficial” hangout spots where dogs and dog lovers gather that only the locals know about. Local dog meetup grounds can also be a great resource for this — contact the group organizer if you’re looking for suggestions for the best hiking spots, dog-friendly parks or other fun events.

Even if you’re spending much of your vacation sight seeing, be sure your dog gets enough exercise and entertainment to minimize stress — a long hike and some playtime each day will leave your dog feeling relaxed and happy. And you’ll not only feel better about heading out with friends if your dog is happily tired out first, but you’ll be glad you got some extra exercise when you’re eating out and enjoying that extra glass of wine, or that rich slice of double chocolate cake.

Of course, if your dream vacation involves seeing your dog have a great time, check out Canine Camp Getaway of NY — designed by dogs, for dogs…and their people, of course!

It may be too cold to do much more than “armchair traveling” right now, but it’s a great time to curl up somewhere warm, relax and dream about your (and your dog’s) next vacation. Happy travels!

Janice Costa is owner and founder of Canine Camp Getaway of NY, the Lake George, NY-based vacation for dogs and dog lovers. When she’s not working, playing or traveling with dogs, she works in the home design field as an author and magazine editor.

In Search of a Dog-Friendly Vehicle

Monday, October 10th, 2011

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she has to accept certain inevitable truths. For me, this week’s inevitable truth was that my beloved Sebring convertible isn’t going to make it another year.

Now, I’ve never understood the suburban fascination with SUVs, being neither a soccer Mom nor a person who drives on rough terrain (unless you count the potholes on the Long Island Expressway). In my world, “the outback” is a steakhouse, not a place you drive; and while “all weather driving” is a lovely concept, I’m more of a “nice weather driver” who would more likely be home drinking hot chocolate during the kind of weather these “all-weather” vehicles are purportedly built for.

Also, I LIKE small cars and hate those gas-guzzling monstrosities that sit 10 feet above everyone else in traffic so you can’t see past them or even read your exit sign until it’s too late.

So why am I suddenly looking at SUVs?

The same reason I gave up my luxurious rain shower for the convenient but not nearly as luxurious handshower. The dogs, of course!

While I’ve tried to make due, the truth is, two large dogs don’t really fit in a convertible. And certainly two large dogs with dog accessories do not fit in a convertible. As that my dogs have a LOT of accessories — and neither one is particularly amenable to being left home when a trip is being planned — I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to upsize. Running Canine Camp Getaway of NY, my dog vacation business, means the dogs and I spend a lot of time on the road. So here I am, doing what I never thought I’d do — looking at SUVs and soccer-Mom-mobiles.

Now I know some people love car shopping. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. I’ve been riding in a friend’s car for the past five years and still can’t tell you what he drives, except that it’s white, and big enough to stuff two dogs in the back seat. So wading through car reviews, auto comparison Web sites, Consumer Reports and crash test ratings is about as appealing as watching the Guatemala news network. In Guatemalan.

I tried googling “dog-friendly cars” but I keep coming up with the Nissan cube, which is quite possibly the second ugliest car ever made, right after the PT Cruiser, and the Range Rover Supercharged, which has a base price that’s only slightly less than that of my house. Unless the dogs are planning their own reality series on a major network in which they can win a million dollars by beating out all the other reality-dog-star-wannabes, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

I did find an interesting site that focuses on dog-friendly cars. DogCars.com

The Nissan Cube is supposed to be a great vehicle for dogs -- but it's also one of the ugliest cars I've ever seen. I suspect even my less-than-fashion-conscious dogs would be embarrassed to be seen in this! (Photo courtesy of GAYOT.com)

looks at a variety of vehicles from the dog-friendliness perspective. They seemed hot on the Honda Element and the Toyota Venza. Unfortunately, the former could be confused with a hearse and the latter is pricey.

Expanding my search to friends who have dogs, I’ve gotten recommendations for the Ford Edge (cool looking, but lousy gas mileage), the Subaru Forester (which used to be a nice crossover SUV/Wagon/Drives More Like a Car Than a Monster Truck, but which has since been redesigned to be larger, which means I’d probably never ever be able to park it) and the Kia Rondo (which they don’t make anymore, replaced by another square, boxy looking SUV or a model which appears to only be available in a color called “alien.” While I’m not married to the idea of buying American, I certainly would like to keep my options to the known planet!).

I thought maybe I should consider a nice used car, but people keep warning me about getting stuck with “flood cars” which apparently are flooding the market, disguised so you don’t know you’ve bought a disaster until 30 seconds the warranty runs out.

Then there’s the whole insurance thing, which I didn’t even think about until a friend told me I’m better off with something classified as a “wagon” if I don’t want my car insurance to go up by $500 a year or so. And of course with gas at $3.79 a gallon, I have to worry about what kind of mileage per gallon I’ll be getting.

Honestly, I’ve barely started my search and I’m sick of car shopping already. I don’t want to keep looking at cars online, which does nothing but confuse me. I certainly don’t want to walk into a dealership, where they’ll smell my uncertainty like sharks sniffing out blood and move in for the kill.

I just want a nice, affordable vehicle that drives like a car, doesn’t guzzle gas and fits one girl, two dogs and luggage for three. Is that too much to ask for?

If you have any suggestions for dog-friendly vehicles, please feel free to share them!

And for more info about dog-friendly vehicles, check out this great article:

Traveling Tails

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

For the first 21 years of my life, I never traveled out of the tri-state area. So it still sort of amazes me that the second half of my life, I racked up more frequent flier miles than your average basketball team (but not nearly as many miles as my luggage racked up!) and I now run a dog vacation business.

Equally amazing, I somehow ended up with two dogs who not only love to travel, but who seem to feel it’s their mission in life to encourage dogs and dog lovers to join them on their Canine Camp Getaway of NY vacations.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. Most dogs are wanderers at heart, and while my dogs are more of the velcro-dog variety, both share an adventurous spirit and a willingness to chase tennis balls across fields, valleys, state or even country lines. They also love other dogs, so while travel is fun, travel to someplace with lots of dogs is MORE fun.

They even have their own luggage — matching travel bags with paw prints on the outside and separate compartments for treats, bowls, tennis balls and extra leashes. Which is funny, since I spent my college years heading back and forth with my clothing stuffed in a duffel bag that vaguely resembled a large pillow case.

If you’d told me 20 years ago that I’d be planning vacations for dogs and their people, I probably would’ve thought you were crazy. Of course now some people think I AM crazy…but these are generally people without dogs.

If you have a dog, you understand that going on vacation isn’t nearly as much fun when you have to leave your furry four-legged friend behind. And dog guilt is a really powerful thing.

But my two dogs took it one step beyond dog guilt. First, they started dumping their bones, balls and toys in my suitcase when I started packing for a trip. When that didn’t work, they began lying in the suitcase (like, I might somehow miss a 100 pound dog sprawled in the middle of my clothing, zip it up and take her with me by accident!).

Finally, they decided to forget subtlety entirely and plan their own vacation. Canine Camp Getaway of NY is their idea, and it’s all about them. Dogs in the pool. Dogs running lure coursing, or chasing frisbees, or doing agility. Dogs in the dining room, or in the bar at night. Dogs and their people romping, playing, relaxing together, and remembering what makes the bond between canine and human so very special.

I’m just along for the ride.

But as rides go, it’s a good one. Dogs teach us so much about life, and traveling with your dog turns a vacation into a Grand Adventure. When I’m with my dog, the grass is greener, the air is fresher, the stars are brighter. And my soul is lighter.

In these high-stress times, there’s something to be said for that. So next time you plan a vacation, think about bringing your best friend along. You’ll both be glad you did!