Puppy Love?By Joe Sharkey
More corporate travelers are bringing along pets on business trips — are they being accommodated?
The idea that more people are driving when it’s feasible rather than flying is well-established, but really: 5,000 miles, cross-country and back? With a dog?
Over the holidays, my wife and I did just that: Tucson to Athens, Ga., to upstate New York and back home on a trip that combined business and family visits. And our frisky two-year-old dog, Ragtime, was along literally for the ride, traveling in business-class-level accommodation on his comfy dog bed arranged in the back seat of the Lexis.
In all, we stayed at 11 different hotels on a southern route driving east and the midwest route back west. Most were one-night stays, but the trip included five-day stays each at hotels in Athens and Binghamton. N.Y.
Avoiding flying and taking the dog or cat along in the back seat requires some advance planning and, frankly, a little nerve. But more people are doing it, especially on the growing number of extended business trips that mean being away from home sometimes for weeks at a time, with no one remaining back at the hacienda to look after Rover and a disinclination to stash the pet at a boarder’s (or, worse, to relegate the beast to an airline cargo-hold).
If you’re considering the option, good news: Hotels are rushing to accommodate four-legged plus-ones. Pet-friendly policies are turning up all over the hotel industry in response to the fact that 84.6 million (68 percent) of the households in the United States have at least one pet, and a lot of those people travel. A survey by the American Pet Products Association says that the U.S. pet population in 2018 included 89.7 million dogs and 94.2 million cats, and that a total of $72.1 billion was spent overall on pets last year. The trade group says that nearly 40 percent of pet owners travel with their pet (travel defined as two days or more away from home). That’s double the percentage from a decade ago.
That’s a market hotels are eager to tap into, and they’re doing it with enthusiasm. Here’s an overview of hotel chains that welcome pets.
Our experience with Ragtime along in the back seat was uniformly positive, I’m happy to say. Here’s a brief summary:
His dog-bed fit snugly into the back seat. Like a little kid, Ragtime fell asleep within minutes after we started out every morning. Unlike a little kid, he didn’t whine during the whole trip. Not having planned any time to sightsee, we traveled almost exclusively on interstates. Across the South, rest areas were amazingly pleasant, incidentally. We took to rating them, from A+ (Louisiana and Mississippi) to a solid B (Texas, Alabama, Georgia). On the northern-route return trip the scores dropped (hey Pennsylvania, your rest areas are barely a C), but throughout, there were adequate areas to walk the dog.
One amusing side note: Till this trip Ragtime, a desert dog, never encountered snow or even fallen leaves. His initial horror at walking on dead leaves to do his business was hilarious, till he spotted a squirrel and instinct kicked in. Always walk the dog on a leash, of course.
My wife had done a lot of research about individual accommodations, and planned the itinerary around hotels in pet-friendly chains: La Quinta and Hilton’s DoubleTree or Homewood Suites. All were god, reasonably priced choices. The hotel giant Wyndham – which was one of the early pioneers of pet-friendly accommodations – bought La Quinta and its 900 mid-scale hotels for $1.9 billion last year. Without exception, the La Quinta and mid-scale Hilton properties were excellent -- and they truly were pet-friendly.
Besides the plush dog bed, which we dragged from the car to the room with each stay, we also brought a collapsible soft-sided dog crate that we used for Ragtime on those nights when we went out to dinner. As far as we know, he never raised a ruckus.
Every one of the hotels, by the way, had convenient grassy areas outside for pet-walking, and most had stations with dog-poop bags and places to dispose of them. Most people, I am happy to report, seemed to use them.
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