I’ve never seen the movie “The Shining” but even I know about the Overlook Hotel where the movie is set. So here are my thoughts on staying in hotels with dogs.
On one hand, hotels offer many of the comforts of home. I mean there’s running water, often a coffee machine and fridge, and even *gasp* TV! What could possibly go wrong? Well let me tell you…
I stopped at one motel that was supposedly a dog-friendly two-star. It was barely a half star and there was a sign right at the front that said dogs weren’t allowed. Fortunately the man at the front let me stay anyway. Mostly because he did not seem to care what went on there. That should have been the first sign of trouble. This was one of my first road trips and I was exhausted so I didn’t look around before I unpacked and cracked into the bottle. It was when I was sipping my drink that I actually looked at the room. It was one of the worst motel rooms I have ever seen. It was so bad that I called up Hotwire to complain. Well wouldn’t you know that there were no other dog-friendly hotels or motels close by in anything close to the same price range. This was one place that I was happy to leave but it did teach me a lot.
And then there’s the whole “pet friendly” label. After some issues with a couple of hotels, I decided to do a bit of digging and called two major chains: Motel 6 and Red Roof Inn. Both chains market themselves as being pet friendly but as I learned this past trip, there can be some fine print to go through.
So here’s how it works: each hotel is independently owned and in order to buy into the franchise, the owner has to accept pets at no additional cost but the size and number of pets is up to the owner. When I asked more about it, the reason usually boils down to minimizing noise and damage caused by the animals. I half expected it to be because of cleaning which is why there are some rooms specifically for pets or they put you in a smoking room. But no; the main reason is because people have brought their dogs and the dogs just sit there and bark their heads off thereby irritating every other guest. Or they leave for hours on end and the dog destroys the room.
The best way to avoid any pet-related drama? Call before you book. You can’t even trust what’s on Expedia because I have seen quite a few times where there is conflicting information. My favourite is “pets not allowed” and then you scroll down two lines and read “pets allowed”. It’s the best way to avoid any surprises. It took me a loooooooooong time to figure this one out.
Take a few minutes to read the reviews. It doesn’t matter how nice a place is, people will still complain about it but read on to see if there’s a trend to the complaints. Are these things that you care about? If you have no intention on using the pool, don’t let that dissuade you from staying there if everything else sounds good.
While you’re reading the reviews, take a second to look at the area around the hotel. Is this the kind of place that will have you worried about your car being there in the morning? Or are there some good places to eat close enough that you won’t have to get back into the car? Is it far from your route or is it setting you up for getting to your next stop?
My hotel routine is very similar to my camping routine: I go check in, declaring right off the bat that I have three dogs with me. In most cases I probably could sneak them in but why bother? I think every hotel has had some clause that they will charge a sizeable amount if you don’t declare your pets. And since they have your credit card in hand, they could do it easily enough. They will also have you sign a waiver that you will not leave the dogs alone in the room. While I’m signing all the documents, I’ll ask the front staff if there are any good restaurants that they recommend that are not chains and preferably deliver.
Once we get our room, I’ll carry as much up to the room in one trip. This is easy in the case of a motel when I could almost toss everything from the trunk into the room. I’ve trained the dogs to stay inside when the door is open until I have told them that they can come outside. Partly for the convenience but also for safety’s sake. I’ll put a towel down on the floor where it’s tiled and fill up their water bowls so they can have a drink if they want. As you can see from the photos, my dogs are very good with staying in hotels and will make themselves at home as soon as they walk in the door.
While they have their drinks, I look around the room to see if I’ll be loading the car up again. One of the first things I do is pull back the sheet on a corner of the mattress that is closest to the wall and shine the light from my phone onto it. This is the best way to look for bedbugs: they naturally scatter from the light and you’ll see them as little specks. I have yet to find any in the hotels that I have stayed at. And yes I do know what they look like so it’s not that I don’t know what to look for.
If it isn’t raining or too late or dark, we go for a walk and check out what’s in the vicinity. You get a better appreciation for the area when you’re out on foot and it gives them a chance to sniff and stretch. I don’t take any complicated routes and make sure that I know how to get back to the hotel.
Once we get back from our walk, I’ll pour out their food, then pour me a drink as I hop onto Yelp to find food. If the front desk staff recommended something, that gets bumped towards the top of the list but I still read reviews before I decide. If I go with delivery, it’s usually pizza and I’m OK with that since it’ll give me at least two meals and it travels very well. There has been the odd time that I missed all of the restaurants (Strasborg I’m thinking about you) but that’s when I put my MacGyver skills to the test.
I don’t try to bring my camp stove inside because that would be just stupidly dangerous and by this time, I’m usually too tired to pack the pups up and cook out in the parking lot. If the room comes with a coffee maker, then you are totally set for all kinds of things from instant oatmeal to ramen noodles. Just put those in the carafe, add your water, and hit the go button. If there’s a selection of tea bags you can add something to the basket where the coffee would go for a hint of flavour or drop the entire bag into the carafe for a stronger kick. This is a lot harder if there’s no carafe but if you have anything that can fit (like the small pot from your stove kit or your stainless steel mug) then you’re in business. You’ll just have to be careful if you’re using a metal container because it will get hot. Sometimes I bring a plastic bowl with me and if the room has a microwave, then I’ll use that to prepare food. With a selection of dried fruits, nuts, and a honey packet or one of those jam portions that always come with toast, you can make really good oatmeal. Sounds a lot like the camping menu doesn’t it?
In the morning, we’ll go for a walk then when we get back to the room, I’ll pour out breakfast for the dogs as I plot out mine. I’ll often try for a hotel with a complimentary breakfast because it saves me having to try and find one in the morning. I mean, I’ll still look but it’s nice to have it as an option. They often consist of waffles, cereals, yogurt, fruit, and muffins with vats of horrid coffee. My go-to breakfast at this sort of breakfast offering is to toast up or make a couple of waffles then smear them with a couple of packets of peanut butter, smoosh a banana between them and voila: wafflewich! If it’s a hotel that I’m eager to leave behind, I’ll have the room packed up and the dogs in the car before I make my wafflewich and go check out. A quick run to the car and that place will be far behind by the time I’m done eating and looking for a coffee place. If we are going to have a more leisurely start to our day, I’ll sneak out while the dogs are eating, pile up Mount Plate, then burn back to the room to eat. I also grab a few extra things for the upcoming day’s travels, like some fruit or a granola bar
It’s when I’m stuffing my face that I usually settle on a route, making the most of the wifi while I can. I’ll often do a little bit of reading before going to sleep but the real planning is done before we leave. Then load up the dogs and gear, check out, and as the wifi fades, we head out onto the road.