Every pet owner who loves to travel has experienced that guilty moment when preparing for a trip. You're ready to pack, then Mr. Whiskers curls up in your suitcase and starts to purr. Or you call the kennel to board your poodle Lucy, and she unleashes her saddest brown-eyed stare as if she knows she's destined for a week of incarceration.
Bringing along four-legged companions can make boating complicated, chaotic and restrictive. But once they become part of your family, it's heart wrenching to leave them behind. Fortunately, the world is becoming more amenable toward furry guests. Restaurants, public parks and hotels are hanging up Pets Welcome signs. Some realize catering to clients' special needs is good for business; others just have a soft spot for animals, especially when they're well-behaved and on a leash.
After our dog sitter canceled right before a recent getaway, we were pleasantly surprised when our Siberian husky Luca was spoiled with chewy treats and granted access to the maritime history exhibits at the Steamboat Era Museum in Irvington, VA. We spent the night at nearby Hope & Glory Inn at the Dog & Oyster Vineyard, where Luca romped with rescue dogs that guard the grapevines and wolfed down breakfast sausages at the B&B in the morning. Everyone was welcome.
Marinas are especially receptive toward canine and feline visitors. Many are pet owners themselves and understand the challenges of cruising with a crew comprised of more than humans. Water bowls, poop scoopers and doggie bag stations are becoming commonplace at ports of call.
For example, at Marineland Marina in St. Augustine, FL, one of the facility's dogs awaits your arrival on the pier and can point out a great beach where your pup can play in the waves. Nantucket Boat Basin, MA, Fort Pierce City Marina, FL, and Safe Harbor Zahniser's in Solomons, MD, have pooch treats at the ready and offer convenient areas where dogs can run off pent up energy. And you're likely to see a lazy hound taking an afternoon snooze in their marina offices.
Prudent travelers seldom hit the road without doing up front research on their destination. With pets on board, boaters can avoid catastrophes by looking ahead at animal amenities, restrictions and recommendations. The good news is the internet's filled with websites that can steer you in the right direction. Here are a few standouts:
If you plan to leave the country, Pet Travel (pettravel.com) is the go-to site for domestic and international adventures with four-legged friends. You can search through its database of 35,000 pet-friendly hotels, parks, restaurants and stores. The site also offers invaluable info on everything from pet passports and microchips to quarantine rules and entry requirements in more than 240 countries.
Looking for an island escape with Fido? Then consult The Caribbean Pet (thecaribbeanpet.com). This source offers All that's entailed for getting paws to paradise. Info includes a list of pet-welcome marinas and yacht clubs in the area, along with lodging, health certificates, veterinarian services, and more.
For those heading to coastal New England, Pets Aboard! (pointseast.com/pets-aboard) is a must-read article. In addition to covering regional travel issues with cats and dogs, it provides links to pet-friendly sightseeing tours, harbors, parks, nature trails, places with doggie poop bags on docks, and other amenities.
After ironing out basic travel logistics, you might wonder what activities you can do with your pet when you're away from home. Nobody wants to visit a new place just to stay on the boat tending to a furry shipmate and miss opportunities to explore the location. Local newspapers, pet owners and humane societies can give good leads for everything from dog parks to reliable pet sitters, but the internet is emerging as an indispensable resource for pet-centric entertainment.
One of the best websites in this arena is Bring Fido (bringfido.com), which connects you with more than 200,000 pet-friendly beaches, nature trails, hotels, restaurants, groomers, vet services, kennels and more. Its Events Calendar lists happenings across the globe such as pet parades, yappy hours and festivals. Download the app to find activities such as the Dachshund Parade in Key West held on New Year's Eve, Speed Dating with your Dog in Chicago, Wiener Dog Races in Knoxville, TN, and Barks, Brunch and Brews in Jacksonville, FL. It's fun for everyone, and most raise bucks for local rescue shelters.
It's easy to go overboard with pet products such as toys and cute outfits. But some practical items can make traveling with pets easier.
We recommend the following:
Sure, most dogs can swim, but when you do active water sports, such as kayaking, rafting or surfing, it's nice to know your pup is safe. The jacket's strong handle lets you easily yank them out of the water, and its reflective trim enables you to spot them quickly. ($79)
This 50-piece kit prepares you for any canine emergency. It includes a variety of useful items from sting relief pads and tweezers to gauze pads and thermal foil emergency blankets. ($30)
Lightweight and durable, this ladder helps dogs get in and out of the water with ease. It attaches to the back of a boat, then folds up for convenient storage when everyone's finished with their swim. ($199)
When somebody's gotta go but you're not close to land, pull out the pet porta-potty. Its synthetic grass mat is easy to clean, and a special powder turns urine into a gel upon contact, making disposal a breeze. (small $69.95; large $119.95)
For dogs who like to tag along when you're on a paddleboard, this pad prevents them from sliding off and protects the board from dings and scratches. It cuts easily so you can customize it to fit your board. ($31.95)
Perfect for small dogs whose little legs can't always keep up with the crew, this attractive and durable bag sports a cutout for the head, a hook to attach to the collar and a zip top to keep pups securely inside. ($49.95)