Pet-friendly Vacation Ideas

Vacations aren’t just for the two-legged members of the family. We’ve got some pet-friendly ideas for your next trip — plus tips for planning success.

Can I come too? Those big eyes set in a furry face can be hard to resist.

In recent years, the number of pet owners sharing their vacations with the four-legged members of the family has taken off — and businesses are stepping up their pet-friendly appeal.

But there’s more to pet-friendly vacations than the right place to stay: pets want in on the action too. From transportation to parks and activities to attractions, you’ll find even more ways to spend some quality time with your furry friends.

Need a little inspiration? Whether you plan to travel near or far, here are some ideas to get you thinking.

Pet-friendly ideas

See the sites. Taking your dog doesn’t mean you have to miss all the popular places. Walking tours offer an opportunity to see a city up close and personal, and many tour companies now cater to four feet as well as two.

Need to get around? Aside from site seeing tours, many major cities like New York City, San Francisco and Seattle have pet-friendly transportation options — like public transit and taxis that permit pets.

Take a cruise. While large cruise ships aren’t a practical option for pet travel, that doesn’t mean your dog can’t enjoy the waves. Many cities now offer harbour or river cruises with dogs in mind. For instance, your pooch can enjoy the view of Washington’s monuments on a Canine Cruise from the Potomac Riverboat. Many of New York’s ferries also allow pets on board for an iconic view of the city.

Tour the attractions. Who said museums and historic sites were off limits? While the insides are usually limited to dogs with jobs, the extensive grounds and gardens can be the setting for some furry fun. For instance, every year the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont “Goes to the Dogs” for a day to benefit local animal rescue groups. The museum’s extensive grounds play host to dog shows and demonstrations, live entertainment and exhibitions. (Humans can also enjoy the museum’s many exhibits).

In addition, many local must-sees include parks and gardens which are open to pets.

Attend a festival. Dog shows and competitions aren’t the only pet-focussed events you’ll find. Many outdoor festivals welcome dogs, and you’ll find many other pet-friendly activities across the country. For example, Whistler, British Columbia’s DogFest and St. Catharines, Ontario’s Niagara DogFest. Some events are even breed specific, like Mississauga’s Westie Play Day. (Another bonus: many events are inexpensive or free.)

Take a city break. You might think major cities wouldn’t be welcoming, but more shops and restaurants are opening their doors to pets — especially in places like Los Angeles where a purse-sized pup is practically an accessory. In addition to luxurious pet accommodations with spa treatments and other pampering options, watch for pet-friendly cafes, bars and restaurants. (L.A. even has it’s own doggie nightclub, Sky Bark.) Of course, there are evenings out for the canine cocktail crowd too, like “yappy hours”, “pug crawls” and other doggie-themed events. You don’t have to pack your dog food either as the menu often includes tasty fare for everyone.

Need some help with planning? Websites like,, and offer not just accommodations listings but pet services, parks, events and activities as well.

Hit the beach. Looking for a sunny escape? It isn’t just cottage country that lets pets play in the water. More beaches and beachside resorts from Florida to Thailand are welcoming new visitors. While many places still require leashes or have designated doggie hours, off-leash beaches like Lee County and Fort DeSoto, Florida’s Dog Beaches are open any time and offer bonuses like nearby vacation rentals. (Pet magazine Fido Friendly has a list of Top 10 Fido Friendly Beaches for ideas.)

Paddle away on a canoe trip. Camping has always been a popular activity for pooches, but some companies are taking these retreats to the next level. For instance, Dog Paddling Adventures offers canoe excursions in some of Ontario’s most scenic places, like Algonquin Park, McCrae Lake, Killarney Provincial Park and even Toronto’s Harbourfront. Enjoy a day-long beginners’ trip or try a more ambitious three or four day adventure including amenities like yoga workshops, cooking classes and culinary treats.

Enjoy the parks and trails. Think of it as the ultimate dog walk: national parks and trails offer both exercise and a chance to enjoy nature. Look into camping options and amenities — and pay extra attention to the park’s policies. All national parks in Canada require dogs to be on leashes at all times to protect the local flora and fauna, and cleaning up after your pet is a no-brainer.

Abroad, look for scenic walks along major trails like the United Kingdom’s Celtic Way where you can take pets. Different areas have different policies, so check before you go.

Take a ski break. Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy a little powder. Many ski resorts and resort towns like Aspen, Lake Placid and Whistler have specially designated trails and activities so that everyone can enjoy some outdoor fun. Take your dog snow shoeing, hiking or cross country skiing — or try skijoring (where a dog donning a harness pulls a cross-country skier).


Planning tips for your trip

Taking pets on vacation has its rewards — and challenges. Here are a few things you should know before you go:

Safety first. If you’ve ever heard a horror story about a pet dying on a plane or being thrown from a car in an accident, you know travel can be risky for pets. Before you start planning, consider your pet’s health and well-being. There are many things you can do to make the journey safer — like investing in the right kind of carrier for the plane or a proper restraint for the car.

Another option is to consider specialty companies like U.S.-based Pet Airways and DogTravel Company that allow pets (and often their owners) to travel in the cabin.

Get a check up. It’s also worth a trip to the vet to find out if your pet is in top travelling form. The stress of travel can be fatal for older pets and those who have chronic health conditions. Short or snub nosed breeds (known as brachycephalic) face additional risks — and often tighter controls on airlines.

Know the requirements. What entry requirements do you have to meet to cross borders — like a health certificate or import permit? What is your airline’s policy about carrying pets? What requirements does your hotel, park, event or activity require — like proof of vaccination or a muzzle and leash worn at certain times in certain areas?

When in doubt, call your embassy, airline or facility to get full details — but do it well in advance of your trip. Beware that some countries require a quarantine period, making a short vacation impractical.

Read policies carefully. Does your pampered pooch require a leash to stroll in the park? What happens if your friendly feline scratches the furniture? As with any vacation, make sure you get the details in writing and read the fine print.

Plan for emergencies. What happens if your pet is ill or injured on your trip? Pets should be part of your emergency planning while your away. Check out local clinics in your area and look into emergency services — and be sure to keep that contact information handy.

Carry I.D. Even if not specifically required, make sure your pet can be easily identified by a tattoo or microchip (check to make sure they’re readable before you leave.) A recent picture can also help if your pet gets lost.

Provide plenty of food, water, exercise and rest. Your pet’s usual routine gets interrupted on trips, but experts warn to make it a point of providing the essentials along the way. Packing some comforts from home, like a favourite blanket and toy, can ease the way.

Read, read and read some more. There’s a lot to know about travelling with your pet, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Both CAA and AAA have guides for travelling with pets, and there are numerous websites and books on the subject. (We’ve got more advice in Tips for travelling with your pet.)

In addition, look for local websites for pet owners, travel agents that specialize in pet travel and travel guides. While information for dogs is plentiful — after all, they’re more likely to enjoy an outdoor adventure than a cat or a hamster — it may take a little digging to find events and activities for other animals.


Top mistakes pet parents make
10 myths about your pet
Your pet’s health: Symptoms you shouldn’t ignore
Doctor dog
Cooking for your pet