I've developed a slight case of vacation envy. My friend posted photos from her trip to Hilton Head, S.C., and even the dog had a great time. Everyone walked along the beach, dined outside and managed cheerful smiles during that long car ride home.
My dog Lulu loves the idea of taking a joyride. Jingle your keys and she starts jumping around like a toddler on jellybeans. Once we get settled into the car and start moving, she gets second thoughts. Then come the tummy troubles — or worse. Some folks don’t take walks without poop bags. I don’t get in the car without at least two or three.
Fortunately, Lulu doesn’t know what she’s missing.
During a recent trip to Savannah, I fell in love with the laid-back atmosphere, outdoor dining and gorgeous squares. It would be so nice to take a stroll along those cobblestone paths with my Lulu, poop bag in hand. But transporting my anxious pooch to this pet-friendly destination would drive at least one of us to drink.
“I can’t say enough about Savannah,” says Susan Smith, president of PetTravel.com. “It’s a combination of historical and antebellum — and I love the parks.”
Travel sites BringFido.com and Travel and Leisure also give Savannah high marks, citing multiple greenspaces and mild temperatures. But what makes Savannah — or any city — a pet-friendly vacation spot? Smith points to the abundance of hotels, restaurants, parks and activities that appeal to pets and their people. Combine these qualities and you get happy pet owners who return year after year.
“People who travel with pets and have a good experience will not only tell friends; they will come back and stay longer,” she says. “You enjoy unpacking your suitcase and you tend to get out more.”
If your pet can handle the trek, consider these four other popular destinations:
Key West and the Florida Keys: Located off the southern tip of Florida, Key West delivers plenty of pet-friendly restaurants, beaches and activities. Smith says pets complement the laid-back way of life embraced here.
Sanibel Island, Fla.: Frommer’s selected crescent-shaped Sanibel Island as its top travel destination in the world. Hunt for seashells or plant yourself on a beach towel and soak up the Gulf of Mexico. Nature lovers flock to Sanibel for the J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge, 6,400 acres of greenspace to explore with your dog.
Washington state: If you prefer outdoor activities, check out the network of walking trails and off-leash dog parks throughout Washington. Some even feature swim areas or covered spaces for pooches to frolic. Smith notes that the San Juan Islands draw crowds during summer months, and many of the ferry companies allow pets.
Hilton Head Island, S.C.: “The moment you go over the bridge, everything is a different world,” Smith says of this destination best known for its beaches and stellar golfing. Check out dog-friendly Alder Lane Beach or visit Chaplin Park, which features two fenced areas for pooches to run free. BringFido.com also gives Hilton Head kudos for its eight pet-friendly hotels. Someday I’ll get there, Hilton Head … someday!
If you do book a hotel room, follow up with a phone call to make sure they have a spot for your pet. Smith says hotels set aside a certain number of rooms for pets — and those spaces go quickly during busy seasons.
And don’t forget to pack the poop bags.