On a recent trip to Huntington Beach, California, Jen Reeder chose a hotel for one very specific reason: the room-service menu. For dogs.
"It was called a 'Yappy Hour' menu," says Reeder, who is president of the Dog Writers Association of America and frequently travels with her dog, Rio, a 6-year-old Labrador retriever mix. She selected steak and vegetables from the menu for Rio, and when it arrived, his meal was served on a proper dish with a lid, just like human food.
"It's sort of spoiled him," says Reeder. "Now, every time we get room service in a hotel he expects that he's going to get his own special plate."
Reeder isn't alone when it comes to her travel priorities. According to research conducted by the American Pet Products Association, dogs and road trips go together like, well, Kibbles 'n Bits. In 2006, 19 percent of dog owners took their pooches with them on a road trip. In 2014 (the most recent data available), that number nearly doubled to 37 percent.
Hotels are responding with open arms and chef-made treats so doting pet parents like Reeder know to look for pet-friendly brands when they travel. The pet policy at Kimpton Hotels is among the most liberal, welcoming pets of all shapes and sizes to stay with no fee. Others, such as Motel 6, La Quinta and Red Roof Inn, don't generally charge a fee, but have rules regarding number, type and size of pets. And a whole host of properties welcome pets for a fee - Loews, Drury Inn and Best Western, along with most Sheraton and Westin properties, for starters.
As pet travel becomes more common, the amenity bar gets higher. Seemingly fancy amenities of years past, like fluffy dog beds and branded dog bowls, are practically a given at higher-end, pet-friendly properties today - all the ones highlighted below offer those and more. To stand out, hotels are offering over-the-top perks such as elaborate room-service menus, dog butlers, dog spa treatments, bacon-infused water, and so on. Seeking a doggy destination? Keep reading.
Dining for doggies
With the Loews Loves Pets program at Loews Hotels and Resorts, bakery-made treats are doled out on arrival, and pets eat as well as humans when ordering room service. In-house chefs collaborate with veterinarians to create gourmet menus for dogs and cats. At Loews Chicago Hotel, that means all-natural beef with brown rice, peas and carrots for dogs; poached salmon or chicken terrine for cats. At the ART hotel in Denver, two-legged guests get plain-old water, but four-legged guests receive the bacon-infused variety. San Diego's Hotel del Coronado invites dogs and their owners to a weekly Yappy Hour (Sundays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.) where dogs can lap up Evian and snack on "yappetizers" as their human compatriots sip Salty Dogs and other drinks inspired by canines. (Introverted pets and their owners can order from a petcentric room-service menu.) At Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego, in-room doggy tapas include Shepherd's Pie, Rin Tin Tin Tartare and Morning Risers with scrambled eggs and potatoes. The Pierre, a Taj Hotel in Manhattan, has gone gourmet: Lassie's Atlantic Salmon comes with a fresh salmon fillet, haricots verts and aromatic rice, while Cody's Chicken is boneless chicken with organic brown rice and young farmers-market baby carrots. No doggie bag is needed at 312 Chicago inside Kimpton Hotel Allegro in Chicago. When it's patio weather, pups can dine on chef-made meals and snacks, like a peanut butter biscuit or a beefsicle outdoors (for a fee).
Throughout the year, Top-notch Resort in Stowe, Vermont, seeks to soothe your pup's aching muscles and offers a 25-minute, in-room Rover Reiki or traditional massage. This summer, the hotel will open its tennis court to fur babies and fur parents alike, offering a "Serve, Fetch, Love" package that includes a tennis lesson or court time, canine spa treatment and other amenities. The Betsy-South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida, offers a "Pamper with Pooch" spa treatment, in which owners and pups are massaged side-by-side in an outdoor cabana while breathing in the scent of the ocean. Doggie massage, a bath and blow out? It's all there (along with turndown service that includes a rawhide bone) at the Pines Lodge, a RockResort in Beaver Creek, Colorado. At Kimpton EPIC Hotel in Miami, Yip Yap breath mints are included in a stay, and pet parents can book pedicures, shampoos and walks. Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee works with aspiring pet models to arrange a professional photo shoot in the lobby or hotel room. (Order that pup a Big Dog Burger - two patties with a Milk-Bone biscuit - from room service for foodie photo props). Lots of hotels are a quick walk from a dog park, but the West Inn & Suites in Carlsbad, California, practically has its own puppy wellness program, with dog park, dog run and even a dog drinking fountain on site.
Psychic pet friends
Does Bowser have hopes and dreams? Ask the pet psychic, who occasionally drops in during the complimentary, pet-friendly wine hours at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Portland in Oregon and sheds light on behavioral and relationship challenges between the pet and owner. Guests also can inquire at the front desk to set up a more in-depth, private appointment with the psychic.
Outdoor adventures are a given in Aspen, Colorado, even for dogs. The St. Regis Aspen Resort has plenty of gear for the whole family, including jogging strollers for smaller dogs and "doggles" to protect canine eyes from the mountain sun. If you get delayed on the slopes, a dog butler is available to take Fluffy for a walk or play a quick game of fetch. Over in Vail, activity trackers are all the rage at the Arrabelle at Vail Square. Guests can check out a dog-bone-shaped Fit Bark, which tracks a dog's activity levels, calories burned and even the animal's sleep while snoozing in one of the hotel's red, plush and velvety beds. With its seaside location on the Baja Peninsula, the sun can get hot at One & Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico, and the resort is ready to protect those of the canine persuasion, with doggy umbrellas and tents. (Life preservers are on hand for unsteady dog-paddlers.) To ensure that dogs are well rested on vacation, the resort provides a nightly turndown service, swaddling Baxter with an appropriately sized bed and showering him with biscuits, a chew toy menu and doggy desserts - that is, if he eats all of his steamed pacific salmon with zucchini and fingerling potatoes or braised beef tenderloin with crispy tortillas and cilantro rice from room service.
Dog and cat owners can bring their companions on a transatlantic cruise between New York and Southampton, England, when they board Cunard's Queen Mary 2. The animals stay in a kennel and are doted on by staffers, who provide freshly baked biscuits, beds, pillows and toys. Pet art created by Karen Katon-Oprey, daughter of Queen Mary 2 Capt. Kevin Oprey, lines the owners lounge and pet playground, and there's an outdoor area, complete with a lamppost from Liverpool and a fire hydrant from New York City, so that animals can spend time alfresco and still enjoy the trappings of home.
At some hotels, animals are loved so much that they are given a regular home. Watch your feet at the Village in Breckenridge, Colorado, or Bozi, an enormous, beautiful brindle just might sit on them. The Cane Corso mastiff/Great Dane mix is the house hound, and he shares his toys and treats with all of his visiting furry friends. Maddie, a.k.a. the "Resort Pup," is a sweet and fluffy Labradoodle who has educated the Ritz-Carlton staff in Rancho Mirage, California, on what dogs want: room service, a comfy bed and lots of treats. She's usually on hand to give guests a welcoming sniff. Sammy - an eager Australian Shepherd mix - is "director of pet relations" at the Waldorf Astoria Park City in Utah, where she oversees quality control of the house-made, bone-shaped treats that are printed with the names of guest dogs. At Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia, guests might just be tempted to take a pet home with them. The staff works with a nonprofit organization called Saved Me to bring in animals from local shelters, allowing them to spend time at the hotel welcoming guests at check-in and cuddling with them during the nightly wine hour. So far, thanks to the Palomar Pet Pals Program, six dogs that were having trouble finding homes have been adopted. Talk about a souvenir.
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Silver is a writer based in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at @K8Silver.