The world of pet-friendly travel has certainly opened up in Australia as more options become available. Where we used to be reliant on the good-will of friends and family or trusting our fur-family to kennels, there are now many regions that offer pet friendly accommodation plus dog-friendly parks, beaches, cafes and other activities to enjoy!
We are often asked questions from new pet owners or those taking their fur-loved ones on holidays for the first time. Our top 5 guide for a fantastic holiday for all of you will help you all have a relaxed, fun and comfortable stay.
While we often mention ‘dogs’ below, we also mean all pets – cats, rabbits, birds and all pet-family.
No. 1 Practice with your pooch
The most common problem with pets travelling away from the security and safety of their homes is being in a different and unusual environment.
While us ‘humans’ can’t wait to get away and do something out of the norm, it is not the same for our fur-friends. Your dog may be happy and content at home but may not be in a different ‘home’ especially if you are out or away.
To help your pet with different environments, try ‘play dates’ at other homes that they may not be used to and seek the feedback of neighbours or friends about how your dog settles in. How is your dog when you are away from home and they are by themselves? Ask neighbours for any feedback. Do they bark or whimper while you are away or have ‘whoopsies’ that would normally not occur? While we may only see a happy and content dog when we come home, it may not be the case in a different environment.
This can be easily overcome with ensuring your dog has their favourite toys, familiar bedding and encouraging them before you leave, as well as on your return. As they say “practice makes perfect!” Start with small periods away (5 minutes or so) and then slowly increase this to see how your dog may react.
Also remember that pet-friendly holiday accommodation (holiday rental, hotel, motel etc) is not specialist kennelling services and is also not designed for pets to be left alone with no human supervision or interaction. Pet-friendly accommodation is about going on holidays with the fur-kids and everyone enjoying a holiday together! While your dog may be comfortable and confident at home or in familiar environments, your fur-child may not be in ‘strange’ places.
Other tips to help them settle in to ensure you do not leave them alone for long periods of time (afterall, a pet-friendly holiday means you enjoy being with them :-)).
It is understandable that you may wish to go to places that are not pet-friendly while you are on holidays, for short periods of time; to try out that ‘must go to’ restaurant, to grab some groceries, to have a relaxing massage. However, the last thing you want is a phone call from a neighbour, property manager or owner, letting you know that your dog is anxious or barking.
So, the more practice you have with your fur-kid, in gaining confidence in ‘strange’ places, the more your holiday will be truly relaxed and enjoyable for all of you!
No. 2 Keep to a routine
We all know that our fur-babies love routine. They know when it is time for a walk, time for when you go to work, time for a trip to the local cafe or to drop the kids off to school.
And again, unlike our fur-friends, when we are on holidays, ‘humans’ tend to want to do the exact opposite of the ‘normal’ routine!
To help your dog enjoy their holiday as well, try to stick to a routine they are used to and love, to help them settle into the holiday lifestyle. Our pets are generally so adaptable so a daily walk to fabulous beach cafe will be the same to them as a walk around their local ‘normal’ neighbourhood.
Ensure as well that you bring their favourite toys, bedding and bowls. Familiarity with smells and having their favourite things around them, will help them to settle into other locations.
Many pet friendly providers provide toys and other dog-friendly items such as bowls, but generally, it is far better to bring your own – your fur-kid will thank you for it!!
No. 3 Plan your route and doggy rest breaks
This is always a big surprise to many when they first begin travelling with their pet-family. While we can normally travel fairly long distances without a break, your pets can’t.
Make sure you know where you are travelling to and the exact route plus how long it will take to get there – with your fur- family. On freeways and highways, it is especially important to know where the next rest stops are located so that your dog can get out, stretch and ‘do what dogs do’!
Also, how well does your fur-kid travel in a car? This may also be a surprise. Short city or town trips, trips to the shops and school and back, may be usual and familiar for your pets but longer travel trips may not.
And yes, pets can get car-sick.
While not all dogs will experience this, motion sickness is more likely to occur in younger dogs as their inner ear is still developing. There are many tips to help your pooch not get car sick and generally, these are:
- ensure your dog is comfortable driving and being in a car. Make sure that when they are restrained they can still face the same way as you are travelling and can ‘see’ where they are going
- bring along some familiar toys while they are travelling
- ensure they are not fed a big meal before their trip
Watch out for any warning signs – yawning, licking lips, whining, drooling or just not acting themselves – and stop and rest when this occurs.
Younger dogs normally grow out of it as they develop. Your vet may also be able to recommend solutions as well.
No. 4 Research – ‘Pet Friendly ain’t always Pet Friendly’
For seasoned pet-travellers, we all know what this means. ‘Pet Friendly’ accommodation may not be what you think it will be. We have heard so many disaster stories of so-called pet-friendly accommodation so the No.1 Rule is to research before you book.
It was our own very poor experience with “pet-friendly” accommodation with our fur-son, that made us decide we wanted to create truly pet-friendly accommodation that was welcoming to all the family.
Typically (though thankfully, this is now changing) pet-friendly accommodation was low end, poorly maintained accommodation, only worthy in some people’s minds, for pets! But if accommodation is going to be truly pet-friendly, it needs to be foremost, “human” friendly first.
When you are looking for suitable accommodation, use our check-list below:
- The no. 1 rule is, is it Human Friendly? It is important that the accommodation will suit your needs first. Ensure it is well maintained and the type of accommodation you expect for your holiday, and that is also a place that you would be happy to stay, even without your fur-family.
- Does the accommodation have a size limit on pets and how many can stay? If it is not clear how many fur-kids are allowed, ask. Some providers also have size limits on dogs staying at their property and it is also important to know how suitable the accommodation may be for your dog. A pet-friendly villa with a small courtyard, is unlikely to suit 3 large outdoor dogs but may be perfect for a smaller dog.
- What are the ‘rules’ eg. pets allowed inside, where inside etc? This is definitely not an area ‘of one set of rules is the same for all pet-friendly accommodation’ and there is no standard code for what pet-friendly accommodation needs to provide. Ensure that ‘pet-friendly’ means what you are expecting for your holiday. ‘Pet friendly’ may not always be pet-friendly. We have heard of a ‘pet-friendly’ cottage where pets were ‘allowed in the laundry only’! So ensure you know where your fur-kid is, and is not allowed, and that you are comfortable with the arrangements.
- What security and features do they have for pets? eg. safe and secure outside and garden areas. Not all accommodation is actually safe for pets. Ensure that pets will be secure and safe on the property. We have seen ‘pet-friendly’ accommodation with no fencing so make sure you know what the accommodation provides. Are pool areas safe, indoor stairwells, no unsuspecting escape routes etc.
- What do people say in reviews for the accommodation? Check reviews to see what others have to say. We also recommend that you do a general Google search of the accommodation to see what others say for a more honest assessment and feedback of the property. Check Facebook groups as well. There are many pet Facebook groups related to specific breeds and many people post their favourite holiday experiences (and also, where to avoid).
- What do you need to bring? Make sure you know what you need to bring for your pooch or pets, so that you are not caught short on your holiday. And if you are asked to bring certain things, do so! Make sure though, you are comfortable with any requirements before you stay.
- What are the ‘House Rules’? Responsible accommodation providers will be clear on the house rules before you stay, so that there are no surprises for you. Make sure you are comfortable with these, before you book, and when you arrive, respect the ‘house rules’ as well. Good pet-friendly accommodation is gold so ensure that you leave accommodation how you found it so that other travellers can enjoy the same experience that you have enjoyed.
Remember too that new Short Term Rental Accommodation conditions apply for all short-term rentals in NSW, and this applies to guests as well as owners. More information can be found here: Nsw Fair Trading short term accommodation code of conduct
No. 5 Holiday Location and Activities
Luckily, Google and so many travel sites and regional visitor information centres provide a lot of information on what to do in the area. And it is also important to check if the area and activities that you enjoy, will also be suitable for your fur-family.
If you enjoy hiking, ensure there are plenty of good walking and hiking trails in the area you wish to visit, that will also allow pets. Typically, National Parks will not allow pets so check before you travel. Many regional locations have pet-friendly parks, walking trails that will suit your pets as well as you.
Love the beach, surfing and swimming? Well, you may do so but your fur-friend may not know how to swim……or surf!
It is a big myth that all dogs know how to swim. They simply don’t. So ensure your holiday expectations will not be disappointed when you find out your pooch cannot do what you assume they can. (Oh! And remember sun-screen and hats as well for dogs with skin, eyes or noses that are sensitive to the sun).
If you don’t know your fur-kids skills, go to local pet-friendly locations before you travel and give your dog the time to learn and enjoy the activities you also enjoy to do.
Ensure as well that you have checked out vets and other facilities should you need them. None of us want to have a sick pet while we are away so it is good to know what the area has in the way of veterinary care, should you need it.
Also ensure that your pets are treated for fleas, ticks and have their immunisations up to date. Some providers will wish to see immunisation details before your pets stay.
Make sure you also have a little ‘day pack’ for your furry friends depending on your location. This should include water, a portable dish, suitable protective covering for cold or warm environments, and possibly even paw coverings that may be suitable for your holiday destination.
Ensure your smart phone is fully charged! There will be so many happy snaps you will wish to share of your holiday time with your family and 4-legged loved ones, not only of your first holiday away together but for all the many happy holidays that you will enjoy with your fur-kids!