More and more hotel chains are not only accepting pets but also rolling out the red carpet. Pet-friendly properties range from Econo Lodge to Ritz-Carlton. Best Western has more than 1,900 pet-friendly hotels; Choice Hotels, which operates 11 major brands including Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, and MainStay Suites, has more than 2,500.
Some hotels welcome pets in all rooms; others have a limited number. At Starwood's W Hotels, pets are greeted with a custom bed, place mat, and water and food bowls, and a concierge will provide sitting, walking, and grooming services. Hilton offers a goody bag with organic snacks, waste bags, and a travel-sized bottle of disinfectant; and your pet can lounge on a pillow designed by artist (and weimaraner fan) William Wegman.
According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners will spend an estimated $47 billion this year on care and pampering, almost triple the amount spent in 1994. Part of the increase stems from the growing trend among vacationers to take their pets along.
"It makes good business sense for hotels to recognize that pets are part of the family," says Susan Sims, publisher of Fido Friendly magazine. "People who bring their pets tend to stay longer and spend more."
One reason guests spend more is that, unlike children, pets usually don't stay free. Many hotels charge about $25 a night, others far more, Sims says. You might also have to put down a refundable $100 deposit and accept financial liability for any damage your pet causes. Some hotels, such as the W, impose a nonrefundable $100 cleaning fee.
Call ahead and ask these questions to avoid disappointment:
Even chains that profess to be pet-friendly might not welcome pets at every hotel. Individual properties set their own policies.
Some hotels have rules against certain breeds, no matter how lovable your particular pooch. Hotels need to take into account the feelings of guests who are easily frightened.
Some hotels turn away big dogs. A Hampton Inn we contacted in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., set a 25-pound weight limit; one in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., allowed pets of up to 80 pounds. If you call in advance, explain your situation, and describe your dog's temperament, operators might be willing to waive the restriction, Sims says.
Homewood Suites in Baltimore, for instance, requires documentation that your dog is up-to-date on all shots.
Some hotels won't allow pets to be left alone in a room; others mandate that your pet be crated when you leave. Owners might have to be present when any member of the hotel staff is servicing the room.
Besides bowls, pillows, and treats, some hotels offer walking service, sitting, kenneling, or in-house pet massage for an additional fee. And some are near walking trails.