Sunday, May 15, 2016

Can You Travel and Have Pets in Retirement?

Hello again everyone! My new schedule is working much better and giving me more quality time, I just need to get that two day blogging schedule back on track.  This week I've been intensively quilting a large quilt (one of those large projects I was talking about), working on summer decor and crafts for my homeless shelter, working on a class project and shopping for a new patio dining set. Imagine my shock when, after going to Sears, Target, Walmart and a few other stores, Walmart had the best mid range set at the best quality!
Courtesy of Walmart, I did not want glass. Just need to get the umbrella in.

Last fall, I took a vacation to the South Dakota Black Hills, where I explored the Badlands at length, saw Mount Rushmore, visited the Crazy Horse memorial, met all kinds of animals at the Custer State Park, explored a huge winery (yes, in the Dakotas) and much more. It did not feel like fall of course, being that it was almost ninety degrees at the start of October. Along with us on this trip were two family members of the canine variety.

Said canines went pretty much everywhere with us, except for one indoor dining experience, and the interior of the winery. They saw Rushmore and Crazy Horse up close. When not with us, they remained in the hotel room (not in a cage, although we brought one). They went through a wild animal park (with the windows only half down), ate outside on a patio for one evening, and had a pretty darned good time. We were able to sight see both walking and in the car, eat at decent restaurants, and yes, dare I say it, stay at non smelly, good hotels. All with dogs. In fact neither of these dogs have been left (in the three plus years we have had them) except with another family member.

This is in direct opposition to the two dogs that were previously part of our family, both of whom lived to be over seventeen years old and were transported from DC to Europe and then to Texas. European travel involved cruising, barging, regular and speed train travel and more-never mind the fact that we were usually four people in a small car. This meant that our dogs were boarded fairly regularly (no family nearby) and truth be told, the darned dogs loved it. They would go off wagging their tails and never look back, knowing that they would have fun with their "friends" and the people who took care of them. Once back in Texas, the dogs went to doggy day care and were boarded depending the travel and location.

So while I am neither an expert on dogs or travel, after innumerable years of various types of travel (all while having two or more canine children), I have learned a few things about travel, dogs and even spontaneity.

My first observation would be that boarding dogs is neither cruel nor unusual, if you plan ahead for it. I do know certain people that can't imagine leaving their dogs with someone else, but then again I also know folks who never had a date nite because no one else was qualified to care for their children, even for a few hours. So I do understand the fear, I guess. Just like with kids, we need to give our dogs time to bond and be comfortable, and find a boarder (or sitter) that works with us dogs. (We never had a house-sitter/dog-sitter because our dogs preferred to go and play with others, but that certainly is an option). 

In both cases, the places we took our dogs were also daytime doggy day care locations, so before we boarded them for even a night, we started at the daycare slowly but surely, so that they knew the staff and location. One location had doggie cams where we could observe the common areas every day, and even gave us pictures upon our return (and also were never offended if we called to check how they were doing.). For older readers who remember Magic and Elvis, I still have a picture of them curled up together on blankets and a bed on one overnight (they were inseparable). There are multiple options for dog boarding these days. My daughter in Texas who has two beagles uses a fellow who runs a daycare/boarding facility out of his home.

My second main observation would be simply that travel with dogs is not what it used to be. No longer do you need to stay at a cheap motel or at the last room at the end of the hall near the door-unless you want to. My regular stop between Denver and the Texas coast or Dallas happens to be a very nice Drury Inn-a nice upper mid range hotel that even has a happy hour and free snacks and food at dinnertime. There are no dog specific rooms, and dogs wander freely. Amtrak trains have begun experimenting with allowing dogs on train trips (although only small ones).

This year, I'm only planning on two vacations as I want to spend more time on one and two day local trips, with one being a city trip and one being a road trip to the beach and back. In both instances, I have found hotels as well as nice Airbnb and VRBO locations that are dog friendly.

What about the cost and busy work of traveling with dogs? Obviously that depends on how you travel, and the type of dog you have. I now have an SUV, but my dogs are not put in the trunk. I lay a blanket in the back seat, and put suitcases or coolers in between the back seat and the front seat (to avoid the dog falling in that proverbial hole should I have to slam on the breaks). They spend much time (just as at home) just curled up on the blankets, occasionally perking up depending on where we are in our journey. I stop every three hours at a minimum for myself to stretch out and or eat my picnic lunch, and they do the same.

I do have a dog that is sort of a barker, if you are wondering about that issue. I keep the windows closed, and sometimes turn on music. I also travel with a crate, but not usually to put the dog in, if you will. I use it at the end of the so called entrance area of the hotel room, or the narrow space by the bathroom, and block that off so that the dogs cannot go right next to the door. And that's it. If I didn't have a crate, I would simply use luggage and a luggage rack or not even use it.

I also end up paying, depending on my location, for my dog's stay. Does this up my frugal retiree travel cost a bit?  Yes, but no more than boarding would, and the cost is relative. Some places charge a flat fee, some a refundable deposit. I have no problem paying for this, even though my dogs are fully trained. Why? First because I have family members with allergies and asthma and know the challenges, and second because I don't want to have to stay in a designated "dog room" where dogs who are less trained may level permanent evidence. The average cost of a mid to upper level hotel motel room seems to be around twenty bucks. Obviously those who are campers or travel via RV don't have this specific cost.

In the next few months, I hope to get Wilson, the coon dog, into dog day care. He is very shy and possibly was abused before he came to me, and big as he is, is terrified of dogs his own size and prefers small dogs. My primary reason for dropping the pup of is good old socialization. I also know I cannot take him with me on a plane to say, the Cayman Islands, so this is pre-boarding training and comfort as well. So, looking forward to my planned vacations for the next year and a half (longer vacations that is), the dog will go with me to Texas Hill  Country  and Padre Island Seashore. He'll stay with my son or daughter on my train trip to San Francisco (25 pounds he is not!!!), and hopefully be ready to go away to "camp" by the time I fly to Grand Cayman.  

And there you have it. Me traveling with the dog, and me traveling without the dog. In other words, it all works!


  1. How interesting to see the ways you have worked out enjoyable travel with and without your dogs. When we travel one of our adult children house sits and cares for our pets.

  2. We got a dog just over a year ago and he is with us almost 24 hours a day. We have boarded him at his previous owner, a lady who owns his mom and dad and who is a full time dog groomer/part time dog breeder. He lives in her house with her while we are gone and I know he is in good care and gets a haircut right before we pick him up. The last time he lost weight but I think that is because he was playing so much versus not eating. We are taking our first trip with Buddy in a few weeks to Ucluelet/Tofino where I have rented a dog friendly cabin and we shall all hike/frolic on the beach. I am sure he will have a great time there!

    1. Sound like you have the perfect medium.

  3. The key for me in this great post is the word dog is singular. I have three and two of them are a large breed, bloodhounds. I've tried traveling and have tent camped with two basset hounds and a bloodhound in June 2015. They did well and we traveled 3,300 miles in 9 days.

    My problem is the cost to board three dogs, it's more than I want to spend. Another issue is their breed. Those two breeds have the best noses in the world so they smell more and want to track those scents more. They become unconscious when locked in on a scent.

    I'll never give them up but I have decided to wait to travel, possibly full-time, until the number of hounds I have decreases naturally to one or none.

    It's great to hear that traveling with dogs worked out for you. With my two hands and three leashes hooked to two large breeds ... not so well for me.

    1. I was wondering how the heck you even walk three dogs with one person! I had a beagle and a lab for many years but I'm down to just one and he's becoming my dogs fog slowly day by day.

    2. I blog about them multiple times per day. Yet at home they can walk the 7-10 acres behind my house without a leash. This past January the combination changed when I lost one of my bassets due to an injury. So I currently have 2 bloodhounds and a basset hound. They all love riding in my Toyota FJ.

      Last summer when traveling I used the standard 6' leashes instead of the 25' retracting leashes. I would walk the two basset hounds with one hand and the bloodhound with the other. Sometimes at rest areas I'd walk the bloodhound alone and then the basset hounds.

      We tent camped only one night in a State Park. That is where I found it to be the most inconvenient traveling with that many hounds. The loved the tent, which we tested at home before attempting the trip. They had plenty of new scents to follow but with three leashes and them going in three different directions ... not good LOL


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