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Taking your pet to a hotel? 8 tips

I once worked at a hotel that was so pet-friendly that other employees and I often brought our own dogs to work with us. We loved playing with the guests' pets behind the front desk, and our lobby often resembled a small zoo. Most hotels, however, don't make traveling with your pet such a pleasure. If you plan on bringing your pet to a hotel, I've got a few tips that can make your stay comfortable for you, the hotel staff, your fellow guests and most importantly, your pet.
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My cousin Melinda and her husband Sam are frequent travelers, and when they hit the road, they often take their dog, Tucker. They say traveling with Tucker is usually rewarding, but they admit that bringing a pet to a hotel can have its challenges. They were kind enough to share some of their tips for taking pets to a hotel, and I've added a few tips that I picked up working in hotels and traveling with a pet myself.

1. Make sure it's a good idea to bring your pet along. Are you taking Fido on the road with you because you'll miss him too much? Do you consider your pet to be a status symbol that must be shown off like a new handbag? Be sure your reasons for including your pet in your travel plans are honorable and that the trip will do him no harm. If your pet would be upset by a long car or plane ride, or would be happier frolicking at your local kennel than cooped up in a hotel room, reconsider your plans. Likewise, think about how caring for a pet will affect your trip. I've often heard people describe a pet as their "child." If that's the case, then consider this: Would taking a kid along on this trip cramp your style? Would it limit your sightseeing or hamper romance, for example? If so, then leave your pet at home.

2. Search for pet-friendly hotels. Sure, a hotel may advertise that it accepts pets. But being "accepting" and being "friendly" are two different things. Pet-friendly properties often provide special services for all types of animals; they may keep food on hand, or provide ample facilities for pets to do their "business," and even offer the services of pet sitters and butlers. Just type "find pet friendly hotels" into an Internet search engine, and you'll find many Web sites that will help you locate properties of all types that welcome "special" guests.

3. Know pet policies. Once you've selected a pet-friendly property, ask lots of questions. Does it accept only certain types of animals? Are there size limits? Are the animals allowed only in certain areas? Should you bring shot records? What will be the extra charges? A hotel should be able to answer these and any other questions about your pet's visit, so that you can be prepared for anything.

4. Speaking of extra charges ... Pets can, and do, destroy hotel rooms. And rooms must be cleaned in a different manner if a pet has been in residence. For these reasons, hotels will often require a deposit that will be returned after a post-checkout room inspection; they may even charge a higher room rate if a pet will be present. These requirements are legal, and it's not just a way of picking on pet owners. Hotels often have the same policies for Spring Break vacationers and other notoriously messy guests.

5. Choose your room wisely. Of course, floor plans vary widely from hotel to hotel. But if possible, request a ground-floor room, preferably one that opens to the outside. That way you can take your pet in and out without going through a lobby and you will disturb as few people as possible. It's also much more convenient for you when taking care of that "business" early in the morning! Also, if your pet is large, I would recommend a suite. You and your pet will appreciate the extra square footage.

6. Be very careful if you leave your pet. Melinda and Sam often leave Tucker in the room when they're gone. When they do, they always leave the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. They also leave the television on so that he won't hear, and therefore bark at, every strange noise. If your pet makes no noise (lizard owners, you're in the clear) or is constantly caged, this is probably OK. Most pets don't fit both criteria, however, and I can't really condone leaving those uncaged noisemakers in the room. "Do Not Disturb" signs can be forgotten, ignored or accidentally removed.

If the door is cracked open even for a second, a pet can bolt or, worse yet, bite someone. The hotel's pet policy most likely releases it from all liability in any of these situations. And I've found that pet owners who swear up and down that their precious Rover never makes a peep are most often the ones whose dog yaps from the second they leave until the second they return. If your pet regularly disturbs other guests, chances are you'll be asked to make other arrangements for him. The hotel staff should be able to provide you with information on reliable pet sitters or kennels in the area.

7. Pack well. You make sure you pack everything you need for your trip — do the same for your pet. Make a list of everything your pet needs to stay safe, clean and comfortable, and check it twice before you leave home. Be sure to pack a copy of the animal's health record, along with any medications he might need on the trip.

8. Practice pet etiquette. You and your pet might be on vacation, but that doesn't mean your manners can take a break. Don't just follow the rules that are imposed at your house or your local pet park — go overboard with the good behavior. Pack plastic bags for pet waste and use them every time. Hotel housekeepers and groundskeepers are not there to clean up after your pet. Remember that many people dislike animals or are allergic to them, so do not allow your pet to have contact with others unless they initiate it. This is especially true of children — no matter how adorable you think it would be for your pet to make a new little friend, kids may be uncomfortable when approached by a strange animal. And if your pet is not adapting to the new environment or is constantly misbehaving, do everyone a favor and leave the situation before the complaints and/or damages mount up.

Just as people love seeing new places and enjoying new experiences, so do pets. Taking your pet along on your next trip can be fun and rewarding. How much fun and how rewarding is up to you, however, so follow these tips to have a great time traveling with your best friend.

Do you have any traveling advice for pets to share? Put it in the comments section below or post a comment in our Tripso forums.

Amy Bradley-Hole has worked in the hotel industry for many years in many different positions and at all types of properties — from small luxury boutique hotels to large resorts, both in the United States and abroad. or on