Itchy Paws: Travelling with Pets

When people say chocolate is preferential to sex I roll my mind's eyes and wonder if they don't have their priorities out of alignment. I know I should feel the same way when they say they love their pet more than people, but I can't help but see their point. That order of priorities can change when it comes to choosing a travel companion, it depends on the pet as well as the person, but there are folks out there for whom a dog really is their best friend, and that dog must go where they do...

Astute readers will notice that I changed from pets in general to dogs specifically. This might be admitting something, but though I am very officially a cat person there is no way I'd want to travel with a cat. Likewise a bird, rabbit, or turtle. I was forced to take my cat on a plane once - 28 hours between Sydney and London - and he NEVER EVER forgave me. This may well be saying something about my cat, but then who's to say whose cat is more stubborn, wilful, destructive and defiant than whose: in my experience and opinion they should have changed the name of that film, 'Snakes on a Plane' if they really wanted to instil some terror.

At the other end of the scale from my own furry progeny, my Mum has a dog, Bella Mack, a Labrador, who would make a better travelling companion than a lot of people, for example some people I've been forced to spend two weeks with on a road trip though France. So I can understand why there are people who think their pet is essential luggage. Those people need to read the following, to make sure that the rest of the non-furry-people they're sharing their plane, campsite or hotel with are just as happy that they've brought their fur baby along as they are.

Best Pet Friendly Destinations

In New York, a pampered pooch stepping off the plane, or out of a cab is so nothing new, that you're able to take your dog to see the Statue of Liberty, which is the most outrageous pet friendly attraction I could turn up. Afterwards you can take Fido to an outdoor restaurant like the Barking Dog Luncheonette or the Grey Dog Café, then call Pet Taxi or Pet Chauffeur to drive you back to your pet friendly hotel or off to Central Park for a 'pit stop'. Hollywood – is equally pro-pup: there are Rodeo Drive boutiques where some dogs tread that many people would fear to. And Paris has long had a reputation for French poodles and more, which suggests that cities full of dog lovers make for pet friendly destinations. London'sHyde Park understands the need for 'proper puppy facilities', as do all the major cities where you can expect to see some women treating some dogs like designer handbags.

Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, Chicago and Key West are America's other top doggy city breaks. While in Europe, with its pet friendly ferries and Pet Passports, the attitude seems to be more akin to 'you make the mess, you clean it up', with the springing up all over the place of pet friendly hotels, holiday rentals, B&Bs and campsites. While Marriot and the Hilton have some pro pet hotels, Best Western and the Travelodge are actively seeking the pet pound, offering special pet beds and pet rooms - the Travelodge pet beds look like mini people beds. One London hotel even runs doga classes, yes, that's right folks, doggy yoga. But The Barking Bedgebury is best in show, it's a hotel JUST FOR DOGS.

Best Dog Beaches, Parks and wide open spaces

It's surprisingly easy to imagine what Bella Mack would do if introduced to St. Marks Square or the Natural History Museum. Although she might enjoy a few seconds of utter ecstasy, in the long run it's going to be long faces all round; and while my cat might have a subtle appreciation for expensive items, especially if they belong to me because in their destruction is a test of my love, most dogs would far rather a holiday involving a beach, a national park, or at the very least a string of dog-friendly parks. And if you really love them you'll think about what they want too.
Old faithful, Yellowstone, has got to be a top choice for pups and their people, likewise The Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains and Sequoia National Park.

These kinds of out-door-sy breaks lend themselves to camping or road tripping: types of travel that have the added advantage of not being too hung up on the idea of immaculate personal hygiene, or carpets. The secret to the perfect outdoor break is finding out which national parks welcome dogs, but it's very common for them to have special doggy areas. Dog beaches are another saviour for poodles that paddle and their people, and often beaches have a dog section, used by local owners. The Queen recommends Holkham Beach, apparently the corgis love the smooth rounded sand dunes, ideal for low slug tummies; but other favourites with the British Bulldog are Rhossili Bay, a sandy pup paradise that lets them run free all the way along to the Gower Peninsular and Calgary Bay - for the hounds. Camber Sands and St Bees are long and sandy, especially when the water's out, and if you want to really walk your dog, walk him on the nearby Coast to Coast Walk. The whole stretch of Cape Cod's National Seashore is open year round for beach lovin' mutts, and the Hamptons are long used to pups in the waves. Cape Hatteras is another doggy classic, as is Carmel, and guests at Loews Hotel in California's Coronado Bay can sign their dog up for surfing lessons. If they show promise, enter them in the Dog Surfing Competition. Just don't put then in surf outfits as well, that really looks foolish...

For the Serious Furry Traveller

This year sees the launch of something really interesting if you're the person of one with itchy paws: Pet Air, the first airline just for pets. Not pets and their owners, just pets. Each flight can accommodate up to 50 averaged sized pets and one 'Pet Attendant', and the service will start off flying between five US cities. Euro pets bored by the service on the ferry, which involves being stuck in the car, can be accommodated on some airlines, some even offer a premium service involving complimentary travel sized pet toiletries etc.
For something a little bit different, one vet recommends taking your pet round the Napa Valley for wines not whines, sic, because they're likely to enjoy the space and there's a couple of vineyards, such as Beringer Vineyard and Sullivan Vineyards that welcome dogs – assuming they drink responsibly? In Chicago you can go on a Canine Cruise with Mercury Tours, and finally, Beijing , shaking off its poor reputation when it comes to dogs, has a theme park especially for pooches called Coolbaby part of Chaoyang Park, which boasts a swimming pool, obstacle courses, a playground and a doggy restaurant for dogs, not for eating dogs!.

P.S.

Over the course of my research I did end up finding a place to go with your pet bird: Hong Kong's Bird Garden, where everyone comes to 'walk their bird'? Wow. Animal lovers are a unique bunch...

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