How to Vacation With Your Pet

A lonely dog Chihuahua on a kayak floating in the vast open sea.
Does your pooch kayak? Then, bring him along. See more pet pictures.
Gen Nishino/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

­So, you want to take a vacation and you can't bear the thought of leaving your pet behind. Good news: It's not a problem. There are a number of vacations you can enjoy with your furry, feathered or scaly friend right at your side.

Some vacations are harder to take with your pet than others. For example, very few cruise ships allow pets on board, and if you're planning on visiting a national park, there are a number of restrictions regarding animals. In both cases, the rules that have ­been put in place are meant to protect both natural resources and your pet.


When you're vacationing, keep in mind that your pet shouldn't disturb anyone else who's also vacationing. Be extra careful to clean up after it and always keep it under control. Remember to call ahead when you're planning to bring your pet to any sort of establishment. You don't want to ruin your entire trip by showing up with an animal, only to find out that it's not allowed.

­By planning ahead and following a few simple rules, there's no reason you can't enjoy the open water, the wilderness or snowy mountainsides with your pet. And if it's thrills you seek, that's OK too. Many theme parks allow pets inside their gates.

Lots of vacation destinations ar­e more than happy to accommodate your pet, and those that can't are usually more than willing to help you find a kennel or some alternative animal accommodations nearby. Even a couple of cruise ships have kennels on board.

When it comes to vacationing with your pet, the sky's the limit. The trips you can take with an animal are limited only by the extent of your imagination. It may not always be easy, but it's almost always possible. Just don't forget to bring along some extra plastic bags.


Pets on Cruises

So, you want to test out your pet's sea legs. Unfortunately, most major cruise lines don't allow pets on board unless the pet also happens to be a guide or service animal. The only line that does currently allow pets is Cunard. It has two ships that are equipped to handle animals, the QE2 and the QM2. However, you'll need to check availability well in advance because it's limited, and they only allow pets on select transatlantic crossings.

It may seem odd that more major cruise lines don't allow pets on board, but the simple truth is that most ships just aren't equipped to handle it. Animals need a place to sleep and, more importantly, a place to relieve themselves. Cruise lines have very strict health codes to follow, and this makes it difficult to accommodate pets.


Cunard's QE2 and QM2, however, are equipped with air-conditioned kennels, a kennel attendant, pet exercise areas, and the cost of pet meals is factored into the price of your ticket. There are restrictions on pet size. So if you're animal is big, you may still be out of luck [source: Pets Can Stay]. Also, pets are kept in the kennel during the entire crossing and can only be visited during specified hours, so you may not get to spend as much time with your pet as you would like.

Aside from not being equipped to handle animals, there's one other major reason that most cruise lines don't allow pets. Cruise ships visit a number of different ports during the course of their journeys. They travel to foreign countries, and a number of those countries have strict quarantine and entry requirements for animals [source: Pets on the Go].

If you love being out on the open water and you can't stand to be away from your beloved pet, don't lose hope yet. There are a couple alternatives you may want to consider. A number of charter outfits out there are more than happy to have your pet aboard as long as it's well behaved. If you're considering a shorter day trip, there are many sightseeing companies that also allow pets onboard, so strap Fido or Garfield in a life jacket and break out your sunblock. The open water is calling you.


Camping with your Pet

You love everything about camping -- the great outdoors, fishing on a lake, the smell of a grill at dinnertime and the warmth of a late night campfire. There's no reason you can't share the experience with your pet. In fact, camping can be one of the most fun and rewarding vacations you'll ever take with your pet. You just need to keep a few things in mind.

Do your homework ahead of time. Find the nearest emergency veterinarian in the area just in case something happens. You should also check the weather. You don't want to bring your pet along if it'll have to endure unusually cold weather or extreme heat. You also need to make sure that your pet is up-to-date on all its shots and vaccinations [source: Campfish].


If your pet is used to sleeping in a kennel at night, there's no reason you can't bring it along. It can help provide your furry friend with some familiarity in a new and temporary environment. Chances are that your pet is going to be rolling around in brush or a pile of leaves, so it's also a good idea to make sure that it's received a full dose of flea and tick repellent.

Above all else, consider this: What are you going to do with your animal's waste? Don't be the inconsiderate camper who lets your pet relieve itself and then kicks some dirt or leaves over it. That's sure to turn into an unpleasant experience for another camper. Be prepared. Bring plenty of small plastic bags to pick up waste and a sealed container to dispose of it. This will keep the unpleasant smell from overtaking your campsite [source: Campfish].

Store your animal's food in a sealed container to keep the bugs out. Bugs can soil food, and your pet could get sick. You also need to keep a water source nearby and accessible to your pet at all times. That includes any time you stray from your campsite to hike or enjoy the wilderness.

As for activities that your pet can enjoy while camping, the list is endless. It can come along for almost anything. It's also always a safe bet to bring some toys for Fido to play with when you aren't able to give full attention.


Pet Beaches

So you like long walks on the beach … with your pet. No problem. There are tons of beaches that allow pets. You just need to keep a few cardinal rules in mind. Never leave your pet unattended. Always keep your pet on a leash or under voice control. And the most important of all is always clean up after your pet. You aren't going to make any friends by letting your pet relieve itself where an unsuspecting surfer or sunbather could make the unfortunate mistake of stepping in it.

The number of beaches in the world that allow pets has been shrinking due to the simple fact that most people don't follow the rules listed above. So which state has the best pet-friendly beaches? It's California. The state currently has four of the top 10 pet beaches in the U.S., according to America's Best Online [source: Pet VR]. That's surprising considering the fact that in Los Angeles County, out of 70 miles (112 kilometers) of coastline, there is only one small beach that allows pets on a regular basis.


The number one reason that most beaches end up banning pets is that owners ignore the leash law. We all like to think that our pets are well-behaved, but the truth is that we just don't know what they'll do in a public setting with a lot of commotion. A dog that's not on a leash can get into loads of trouble, so the safe bet is to keep it nearby on a leash or in a harness that it can't wiggle out of.

A day at the beach can be incredibly fun for you and your pet, but keep in mind that you're completely responsible for its actions. Other people don't know your pet like you do. If your cat or dog runs at another animal out of excitement, the owner of the other animal may think your pet is dangerous and means harm. We've all heard horror stories about one dog attacking another dog.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of beaches you can enjoy with your pet. You just need to be considerate of the other beachgoers and keep an eye on your animal at all times. This will keep everyone happy.


Pets at Theme Parks

So you love the thrill of a roller coaster and you want to bring your pet along. No worries. You can't take them on the rides­ with you, obviously. But you can bring them along to a number of theme parks.

Many theme parks have kennels to accommodate pets [source: Pets Welcome]. But the majority of them don't provide staff to watch over your pets. So you'll want to bring your own bowl, blankets, toys and anything else your animal might enjoy while you're out getting nauseous. If the idea of leaving your pet in a kennel all day doesn't sit well, you could always bring a friend along who isn't quite as brave as you. If you do decide to put your pet in a kennel for the day, it's a good idea to check on it regularly.


One theme park goes above and beyond to make sure your pet is comfortable while you enjoy its amusements. Can you guess which one it is? Its mascot is a mouse with big ears -- Disneyworld. The park not only provides food for your pet but also air-conditioned accommodations to make sure it's completely comfortable [source: Pets on the Go].

If you choose to keep your animal close by, all the normal rules apply. Keep your pet on a leash. Be prepared to pick up after it if it chooses to relieve itself in front of a gigantic roller coaster, and always be aware of other patrons. The most likely way you and your pet will be kicked out of the park is if someone makes a complaint. So try not to give anyone anything to complain about.

There's no reason you can't enjoy the thrills of your local amusement park with your pet nearby. Just keep in mind that your pet shouldn't interfere with anyone else's good time.


Shopping with your Pet

So it's the day after Thanksgiving and you don't want to miss out on th­e great sales, but you also don't want to leave your faithful pet behind. Don't fret. Most malls and shopping centers don't have a problem with you bringing an animal along, as long as it's small enough. In fact, it usually has to be carried by hand or in some sort of carrier [source: LA Times].

If your pet fits into a carrier that's not much bigger than a large purse, chances are nobody's going to give you any problems about carrying it around with you. On the other hand, if you own an animal that's any bigger than a small child, you'll need to leave it at home or in a kennel.


The exception to this rule is outdoor shopping centers. If you live near a mall that isn't completely enclosed, you can usually bring a pet of any size along. You may have to leave it tied up outside certain stores, but many of them are more than happy to have you peruse deals with your pup or cat by your side.

As always, the main concern is that you clean up after your pet. If you let your animal defecate in the middle of Macy's, don't expect an invitation back for VIP sales. It's always a good idea to keep a supply of plastic bags handy. And always, always, always keep an eye on your pet. There's no excuse for letting your animal hurt another patron.

It's also important to keep your pet comfortable throughout the day. If you're planning an all-day shopping excursion, remember to bring food or a snack for your pet and water to keep it hydrated.

It's always a safe bet to call ahead and make sure your pet is welcome. You wouldn't want to drive all the way to the mall only to be turned away by a security guard. Be respectful of the other shoppers and you shouldn't have a problem.


Pets at State and National Parks

So you want to enjoy the splendor and majesty of a state or national park with your pet. It's possible. It may not be easy, but it's possible. Many national and state parks have strict rules regarding animals, and for good reason. Pet owners who aren't mindful of their pets can cause discord among fellow campers.

Many parks only allow pets in parking lots, cars, and within 50 feet (15.24 meters) of the road. Most allow pets in campgrounds and developed areas. But hiking trails, backcountry trails, beaches and buildings are generally off limits [source: Dog Friendly]. These rules may seem strict, but they're necessary for a number of reasons. They're meant to protect your pet and the parks.


The purpose of state and national parks is to protect our nation's natural resources and wildlife. Domesticated pets can make this difficult because many of them are natural predators. They have a tendency to harass or even kill wild animals like squirrels and raccoons. Many of the wild animals that pets harass will react aggressively and endanger you and your animal. In parks like Yellowstone that are home to bears, coyotes and other predators, your pet could even become prey.

A recurring theme in vacationing with your pets is managing their waste. Although it's easy enough to clean up your pet's excrement with a plastic bag, there's not much you can do about its pee. This poses a problem because the scent it leaves behind may be perceived by the local wildlife as the scent of a predator. This can disrupt or alter their behavior [source: NPS].

The bottom line when you bring your pet to a state or national park is that you must always have control over them. Most of the time, leashes no longer than 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length are required and strictly enforced. Though visiting parks is fun for you, the experience may not be very fun for your animal. Policies regarding pets differ from park to park. So as always, call ahead to find out the specific restrictions for the park you plan on visiting.


Pet Skiing Destinations

Every year you look forward to the snow. Everything looks so white and pretty, and more importantly, after months of waiting, you can finally hit the slopes. Your only question is: Can I bring my pet along? The answer is "yes" -- oftentimes you can.

There are a number of prime ski destinations that offer pet-friendly accommodations. Some resorts have kennels on their premises where your pet will be cared for around-the-clock. If the particular resort you've chosen doesn't have a kennel and won't allow pets in rooms, don't lose hope. With a little bit of research, you might be able to find a nearby kennel that isn't associated with your resort but is more than willing to take care of your dog while you carve through fresh powder.


If your resort doesn't offer a kennel and there are none nearby, you could always rent a private lodging such as a house or cabin. Your pet can stay in the comfort of your home away from home while you do your best not to fall off a chairlift.

If you like skiing, but not going fast down the side of a mountain, there are also a few cross-country ski centers that allow pets on certain trails. One such trail at Windblown Ski Touring in New Hampshire was cleverly given the name Loop de Poop [source: GORP]. It's not clear who exactly created the name, but a few others like Tahoe have also adopted the clever saying. Currently, Tahoe has 4.6 miles (7.5 kilometers) of dog trail [source: Tahoe's Best].

Always call ahead to make sure pets are allowed where you're going. If they are, be sure to be courteous to those around you and respectful of any rules regarding animals. One bad apple can ruin it for everyone.

For more information, visit the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Barnett, Lindsay. "Shopping with your dog? The pet-friendliest (and unfriendliest) stores." Los Angeles Times. (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Best Friend's Pet Care. "Pet Library! Fun Facts About Dogs." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Camp Fish. "Camping with Pets." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • GORP. "Northeast Cross-Country Ski Roundup." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • I-Pets. "Animal Trivia - Canine Facts." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Kain, Tara. "In Search of the Best National Parks for Dogs." Dog Friendly. (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Pets Can Stay. "PET Extras: Stats, Surveys, and more…" (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Pet Friendly Travel. "Dog Beaches & Dog Friendly Beaches in the U.S." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Pets On The Go. "Transportation: Cruise lines/Charters." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Pets On The Go. "Theme Parks." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Pet VR. "Top Ten Pet Friendly Beaches." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Pets Welcome. "Amusement Parks." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Pick Brains. "Animal facts: Interesting facts you never knew." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • Tahoe's Best. "Lake Tahoe Skiing." (Jan. 21, 2009)
  • The National Park Service. "Visiting Parks with Your Pets. (Jan. 21, 2009)