5 Tips: Bringing Your Dog on Vacation

Can I just say right up front that you don’t have to take your dog on vacation. DON’T TAKE YOUR DOG ON VACATION. That’s what WOOF is for! So, go ahead. Go on vacation. Leave your dog with us. We got this.

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Welcome to WOOF – may we take care of your dog today? 🙂

But let me pose a hypothetical situation. Say you adopt a dog. Say that dog is crazy adorable.

lady stump

(And this is just the back view.)

Say this crazy adorable dog also has separation anxiety. And say, even though you may work at a boarding facility, and get free boarding, you never leave her at work. Like ever. And maybe in order to actually be able to relax without constantly worrying about your dog, you have to take Miss Crazy Adorable with you on vacation.

Maybe that person is me.

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Hi, my name is Vickie and I am with my dog all the time.

(Hi Vickie!)

Let’s just say I have a lot of practice taking my dog everywhere, even on vacation. Let me share my insanity wisdom.

1. Find a good dog-friendly hotel.

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The emphasis being on the word “good.” Just because a hotel will accept your dog doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to you. Remember, this is your vacation so find a place you would like regardless of its pet policy.

I drove across country with my dog twice and was able to find a decent spot just about everywhere we stopped. Most chain hotels accept dogs – just call ahead and check. It’s becoming more and more trendy to accept pets, so you have that going for you.There are books and web sites listing pet-friendly hotels, like this one. If they’re pros, they’ll only charge you an additional $20-$30 a day for your dog. If it’s more, or they want a hefty “dog deposit,” shop around. A pet fee shouldn’t be more than 15-20% of what your room costs per night.

Some hotels won’t allow a dog over a certain weight. This always confused me because little dogs can be just as destructive as big dogs. I’ve heard hotels prefer small dogs because if the dog pees or poops in the room, the mess is smaller. There’s no point in arguing with the front desk, especially with a chain that operates by corporate rules. (And don’t start your vacation being angry – it’s not worth it.)

But sometimes if I just say, “okay, I’ll call the hotel down the street,” they want your business so badly they’ll accept your big dog. Same goes for the pet fee – if you think it’s too expensive, politely decline and tell them why. They’ll either lower the price to get your business, or they’ll make a note for management.

lady halloween

I am very clean, thank you very much.

Make sure you understand the rules – the main ones being don’t make a mess (easily done if your dog is potty trained and you take care not to let food and hair get everywhere) and don’t leave your dog unattended in the room. (I couldn’t leave Lady in the room even if I wanted to, so my plan includes bringing her along everywhere we go.)

Luckily for me, my favorite place in the world is also famously dog-friendly. We most often vacation in Carmel, Calif. because it has everything we like: beaches, hikes, great food and it’s just plain beautiful. Neighboring city Monterey also has the amazing  aquarium, which is worth going to more than once. Up picturesque Highway One is the coastal majesty known as Big Sur. (If you haven’t been up this way, you really should go!)

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This is just a picture I took from the car. I mean, come on.

I love the Carmel River Inn because it’s clean, quiet and my kind of charming. There is a main motel-like hotel but tucked in the back is the good stuff: sprawling gardens peppered with quaint little cottages. We like the John Steinbeck cottage (room 24, king bed, whirlpool tub, little patio). Rates per night are around $150-$200, depending on the season, and the dog fee per night is $20. It’s very reasonable considering you get your own space plus acres of Bambi-esque meadows to wander around in.

If Disney designed these cottages, they couldn’t have been cuter. (And I did not get any discounts for mentioning this inn – I just really like it!)

Some photos, proving my point:


Gurgling fountains.


Flowers, flowers everywhere.


(Oh, hi Lady!)


Our cottage duplex.


Part of our room (I moved the couch around.)


The rest.


Big, ol’ tub!


Our patio.


Swing for swinging.


… my magical place….


… where I swung my head back, looking at the trees.


An actual hammock.

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A leafy heart right outside our room.

Not every dog-friendly hotel is the Carmel River Inn, but if you do a little research, you’ll find a good place.

2. No hot weather (sorry sun-worshippers!)

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It’s essential that the place you’re visiting doesn’t get much hotter than 70 degrees because it’s likely you’ll have to leave your dog in your car sometimes. (Make sure your dog doesn’t mind hanging in the car!)

Generally, it’s cool enough to leave your dog in the car if the temperature outside is under 70 degrees. Finding shade is best but not essential if the temperature is low enough. (If it was over 70 degrees and we couldn’t find a shady spot, we’d change our plans to include Lady.)

A sandwich on the beach instead of dining in a restaurant is not that much of a letdown when the view looks like this.


(Carmel Beach is 100 percent dog-friendly!)

3. Pack only the essentials.

Just like with your own packing, you don’t need to totally relocate all the creature comforts of home for your creature abroad. We take food (meals in sandwich bags are easy), leash, bowls, brush and bed. That’s it. Anything else that comes up, like a bee sting or wound, you can buy what you need at the drug store. Read my blog about home healthcare here.

(The bed is optional but Lady loves hers and knows immediately where her “spot” in the room is. But most dog-friendly hotels will provide a doggy blanket.)


Bed in car!

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Bed in room!

Bonus tip: If you’re ever travelling and run out of dog food, white rice mixed with scrambled eggs or boneless, skinless chicken is a good alternative (and your dog will love it!)

4. Have a game plan.


Dogs are pretty basic. They need food, exercise and sleep. (And love, yes, yes.) They’re like humans without all the added cerebral BS – they know what they like, and they don’t over think things. Following their lead actually leads to a pretty awesome vacation day.

Here’s what worked for us:

We had breakfast in the room. A french press and fruit is a little piece of heaven. Lady ate her breakfast and got pieces of toast. We showered. Lady did not.


We went on our Big Morning Outing – I’m talking at least a couple hours. It was either a hike in the forest or a long beach walk. This was Lady’s favorite part (and mine too!)

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Bonus tip: have water and a bowl in your car at all times. It’s important to hydrate your dog (and yourself) frequently.

The next thing was our people-only time. This is when we found the shady parking spot, Lady took a nap and we had some human fun.


One of my fancy meals.

 Then a siesta was in order. We all went back to the room, cleaned up a little and rested.


Sometimes we’d nap on the beach.

Refreshed, we’d venture out for our Nighttime Activity. We’d go out to dinner, we’d sit on the sand and look at the stars, we’d marvel at the weirdness that is Carmel.


This is their gas station sign, for example.

5. Decide if your vacation can realistically involve a dog.

Figure out what a great vacation is for you. Mine is pretty simple: to walk, to eat, to sleep, to read. That’s all I want. Lady fits in with our ambitious plans just fine.

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Like peas and carrots.

 But if your idea of a good vacation is more involved, like flying to a faraway land or exploring the ruins of an ancient civilization, you might have to leave your dog at home.

And “by home,” I mean at WOOF, of course!


Staff are standing by.

Much love,

Vickie Jean






About Jonathan

Vickie is blogger, copy writer and dog welfare coordinator at WOOF Dog Daycare & Boarding in San Ramon, California. She loves loving dogs and loves the love she gets in return.

18 thoughts on “5 Tips: Bringing Your Dog on Vacation

  1. Hi Vicki,

    Thanks again for a fantastic blog article. We were wondering where to go that we could take our pups with us and now we have a great option! What a pawsitively wonderful travel agent! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the information. I think it’s cool that you travel with your dog. I don’t think that traveling with my dog is for me. Judging by what you’ve said, it seems like a pretty hard thing to take a dog on vacation. I think I’ll leave him at a dog boarding place.

  3. I have been planning a family vacation for a while now, and it has been difficult to know what to do with my dog. I have thought about bringing him along, but it would also be much more convenient to find good dog boarding. Then he would be taken care of and would be comfortable. I will keep thinking about it, since it would be fun to take him on the trip with us! I just want to be sure that he is safe and comfortable, so it might just be better to leave him for a few days while we are gone.

  4. Finding a dog friendly hotel is really tough! Growing up, my family always had dogs and when we moved around it was a pain finding a place that would take them. Sometimes we had to let them sleep in the car and that’s no fun! Great post Vickie!

  5. Thanks for the tips about bringing my dog on vacation! I definitely want to find a good dog-friendly hotel, like you mentioned. It’s good to know that the pet fee shouldn’t be more than 20% of my room cost. I’ll be sure to find a hotel that doesn’t charge too much. Great article!

  6. Lady really is adorable! That doggy hotel look so nice. You sure do spoil your pup and I can’t blame you! I do the same thing. I hope we can find a pet boarding place as nice as this one when we go out of town for Thanksgiving.

  7. Thanks for the post Vickie! I feel like there are a lot of people out there like you who don’t want to leave their dog at a dog boarding place. I think that’s completely fine. I like your tip about just making sure you understand the rules. Whenever you go to a hotel or business, make sure you know their pet policy.

  8. It is such a huge weight off my mind knowing the people are actual as passionate about their pet’s as I am. You know, I always felt guilty having to leave my best friend when I go on vacation, and just coming across your article Vicky I realize there is a larger market for dog boarding than I thought. Next time I take a trip, I can take my Charlie with me and have him stay in a nice room like i do, or leave him at an appropriate boarding facility back home!

  9. It’s true what you said about not wanting to leave your dog because you may have just adopted them, or that they are so cute! It’s also true when you mentioned to not bring your dog on a trip. It’s hard enough to keep your kids in line on a trip, but taking a dog just makes it ten times harder. Next time I go on a vacation, I’ll have to try looking for a pet sitter for my dog!

  10. This is some really good information about what to do with your dog when you are on vacation. My grandmother doesn’t like to go anywhere without her dog. So, I liked that you talked about really thinking about if you can bring the dog. It might be a good thing to bring up with my grandmother. After all, boarding her dog would be a lot easier.

  11. I thought you made a great point when you talked about leaving your pet inside the car only if it is below 70 degrees. I would add that it might be a good idea to park in some place that has the right amount of shade. I’ll have to remember your tips if I ever take my cat on vacation.

  12. I liked that you had mentioned that it can be important to avoid taking your dog on vacation because it can cause them a lot of stress. My wife and I have been trying to decide on whether or not we’ll be taking our dog with us on our trip and we haven’t really been able to come to a conclusion. It seems like it might be best to just start looking for a pet boarding company that can take care of her while we’re out of town in this situation.

  13. Hi Vickie, what a brilliant post I have come across and believe me I have been searching out for this similar kind of post for past a week and hardly came across this. What a wonderfully extensive guide! I always loved traveling with our dog. Pets can make road trips even more fun .. though sometimes also much longer. Please keep sharing more updates!

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