Staying With Your Dog in a Hotel – Top Tips 2024!

A smiling french bulldog on a hotel bed

Traveling with your dog can be a rewarding experience for both of you, creating great memories, and new experiences. But staying with your dog in a hotel can come with its own set of challenges, and many people shorten their travel or don’t travel at all because they are worried about their pets. This guide is packed with tips to ensure a smooth, stress-free, and happy hotel experience for both you and your canine companion.

Lucky for you, and your dog, the majority of hotels in the U.S. and Europe are now dog-friendly! Dogs have become part of the family, and hotels from budget to 5-star recognize this fact and want to accommodate four-legged guests. Some hotels do limit the number of pet-friendly rooms, so make sure to book early and let the hotel know you’ll be bringing your dog.

Before You Go:

  • Choosing a Hotel: Not all hotels are created equal when it comes to canine guests. The most user-friendly resource I’ve found for booking pet-friendly hotel rooms is Booking.com. They have a filter you can select that says “pet friendly” and it will narrow your search to include only the accommodations you’re looking for. You can also view a street map of the property to look for dog parks, walking paths, green spaces, or parks nearby. Images of the room will give you an idea of its size, and what the bathroom is like. And most of the time you can choose an option that allows you to cancel with no penalty until right before your stay. So book that room!
  • Prepping for Success: Ensure your dog is healthy, up-to-date on all vaccinations for your home and wherever you are traveling. And don’t forget flea/tick protection. 
  • If you are flying with your pet there’s more you need to think of. You can read details about veterinary requirements, how to pack, and about domestic and international travel in my article: How to Fly With Your Dog In Cabin.
  • Feeling Familiar: Some hotels are really great about welcoming your dog. They may provide a pet bed, and food and water bowls. Sometimes they’ll even give you a dog biscuit or other snack. But don’t count on it. It’s best to bring familiar items like their food and water bowls, pet bed or blanket, and favorite toys if you can. Sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, or eating from a strange bowl may add unnecessary stress. I’ve had to save a couple hotel pet beds from certain death from my french bulldog by hiding them on the top shelf of the closet!
  • Practice Makes Perfect: If your dog isn’t used to hotel life, consider practicing beforehand. Visit a friend’s house or a dog-friendly AirBnB overnight for a trial run. This helps your dog adjust to unfamiliar environments and reinforces good behavior.
  • Ask for What You Want: Every time I make a booking for a pet-friendly hotel, I tell them this: “Hello! We will be traveling with a small french bulldog, and would like a quiet room away from the elevator and foot traffic if possible. Thank you!” That’s the kind of room that works for us. You could also ask for a room on an upper floor (if your dog gets triggered by things at street level out the window) or a lower floor (if a quick trip outside for potty time is more important).

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Packing List:

Every pup is different, and what you are able to bring will depend on whether you’re flying, or on a road trip, but here’s our Master List of things we bring for Helga when we are staying in a hotel:

  • Dog carrier: Ours meets airline guidelines and is easy to carry. We always put it in the living room for a while before we travel so Helga can mentally prepare. She usually gets right in it!
  • Food and water bowls: If we can, we bring the ones she’s used to. If space or weight is an issue, there are collapsible ones available.
  • Food: Whatever you do, don’t switch up food when you travel. A sudden change in diet can have extremely unwanted side-effects, especially in a hotel room! Keep their digestive system happy by bringing what they are used to. If it’s a lot to pack, you can hopefully take a trip to the grocery store or pet store and get what your dog needs.
  • Treats: I always bring a little container of tiny training treats to reinforce and reward good behavior, and make hotel time a positive experience.
  • A licky mat or Kong toy: Licking not only calms your dog, but a licky mat or Kong will keep them occupied for a while. Remember that if you use the can of filling, you won’t be able to bring it in your carry-on.
  • Bed or sleeping mat: If you have the room and ability, bring their familiar bed. If not, you can use a mat or some nice soft blankets. Make sure they are familiar and smell like home and aren’t brand new.
  • Toys: Helga has one particular favorite travel toy in the form of an ancient kind of disgusting sheep. It’s her little travel friend. Also, chew toys will keep dogs occupied but make sure they are tough and pieces won’t come off and create a choking hazard. Bring a ball or other fetch toy if you plan to visit a dog park, or want a little game for the room.
A french bulldog chewing a toy on a hotel bed

  • Harness and leash: Think about bringing a backup of each if you have room. We’ve left leashes behind by accident and it’s not good!
  • Poop bags: Self explanatory! Often dog-friendly hotels that have a green space will have a bag dispensary and trash receptacle, but don’t count on it. Always have poop bags!
  • Pee pads: Some people use them for emergencies, and others make them a way of life. Bring a few either way. They are absorbent and make good cleanup cloths if your dog has an accident too.
  • Bleach wipes: If your dog has an accident, be a good hotel guest and sanitize after your cleanup.
  • Other plastic bags: I bring a gallon Ziploc bag with a bunch of other plastic grocery bags inside. They can serve multiple purposes and I’m always glad to have them.
  • Litter box, plastic bags, and litter: Yep, a litter box. I said it! Helga was trained to use a litter box as a puppy and we lived in Alaska at the time. So, there was no way I was taking a teeny puppy outside at -40F and it just stuck. She loves to go outside, but the litter box is a great Plan B. And in a hotel room, we’ve found it to be indispensable!

Here’s our setup:

We start with a large-size collapsible litter box that opens up to be a suitcase. Then we wrap the flap around to the back and put the whole thing inside a big black trash bag. Then a gallon sized Zip-loc full of wood shavings goes inside. We bring a gallon for every 3 days we’ll be at a hotel. If she poops, we just pluck and flush with toilet paper. If she pees, we use one of her poop bags to scoop out the wet area and tie the bag up.

At the end of our stay, we simply take the black trash bag, turn it inside out with the litter inside, and tie it up. Then the clean suitcase can be used to pack up all her things!

Tiny dust pan and brush: The litter box method is great but is bound to leave some wood shavings you’ll have to sweep up at the end. We always leave the bathroom clean and tidy when we go.

  • Medications: Obviously, don’t forget these! You don’t want to have to be hunting down a vet on your trip. If your dog has a serious medical condition, always check with your vet to be sure they can travel safely.
  • Outerwear: Helga has a rain coat, a snow coat, sweaters, and boots. Make sure your pup is prepared for whatever Mother Nature may dish out on your trip – especially if they are small and don’t have much fur!

Checking In to the Hotel with Confidence:

  • Be Honest: Don’t try to sneak your dog in under the radar. Believe it or not, 10% of pet travelers report having smuggled their pet into a hotel room in their luggage! About 75% of US hotels – ranging from budget to luxury – accept pets these days. So you really don’t have to be one of those 10%!
  • Review the Rules: Read and understand the hotel’s pet policy thoroughly and make sure you follow it. Some hotels have size restrictions, or limit the number of dogs you can have in the room. Occasionally, they will have designated pet areas, or no pets allowed in the lobby, or restrictions on furniture use. This is usually not the case, but make sure you know going in. And if a hote’s policy seems too restrictive, look for an alternative choice.
  • Fees: Almost every hotel will charge you extra for your dog. Sometimes it’s a daily charge, and sometimes there is a flat rate for your entire stay. Know what that is ahead of time so you are not surprised.
  • Check your room!: As soon as you arrive, look under the bed with your phone’s flashlight, and all along the edges of carpet and furniture for things that may have been overlooked by a previous guest. We’ve found prescription pills (yikes), vitamins, straight pins, food remnants, and other stuff… even in otherwise very clean and well-managed hotels. You’d be surprised how often it happens, so be your dog’s advocate and make sure they don’t find potentially dangerous stuff on the floor.

Exploring:

A dog explores the green space around a hotel
  • Walkies! Tire your dog out with a good walk before entering the room if you can. They’ve probably been in the car, a pet carrier, or on an airplane before your hotel stay. Let them stretch their legs and get out some of that pent up energy before presenting them with a whole new enclosed environment.
  • Sniffing Safari: Take your dog on a sniffing safari! Visit any designated pet areas and the area around the hotel, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the smells. Did you know that dogs actually gather most of their information about their environment from their noses? Sniffing also helps calm their nerves, and understand that this new territory is “safe.” Don’t hurry your dog, but let them take their time and sniff to their heart’s content. Helga’s dog trainer said sniffing is the dog version of checking Facebook!

Make Your Dog Comfortable in the Hotel:

  • Alone Time? Most hotels don’t mind if you leave your dog in the room, as long as they aren’t barking. My dog is definitely not “restaurant friendly,” but I ended up in a hotel once where it was strictly forbidden to leave dogs alone in the room. It was a struggle to find suitable outdoor cafés where she could be away from people. And some of the sites I wanted to see, like churches and museums, don’t allow dogs inside. Everybody ended up a little stressed out. So check ahead. 
  • Your plans: Make sure you don’t leave your dog alone too much. You know how long they are comfortable without you, so plan walk time, and play time, and hanging out time on a schedule they are used to. Also research fun things you can do with your dog in the area! On the reverse side, if being out in the world with you overstimulates your dog, and they start to become reactive, plan to bring them back to the nice quiet low-stimulus environment of the hotel room for a nap, or relaxation.
  • Always check that your hotel room has air conditioning. Many hotels in Europe do not. Always leave your dog in a temperature controlled room that is comfortable for them.

Be Considerate:

  • Doggie Condo Method: Always clean up after your dog, both inside and outside the hotel. Most dog-friendly hotel rooms will not have carpet, so if your dog has an accident cleanup will be easier. Or turn the bathroom into a fabulous dog condo with their bed, a pee pad or litter box, a licky mat, chewies and toys, and food and water. Some dogs feel more secure in a cozier space rather than having the whole room to patrol.
A dog in a hotel bathroom with dog bed, food bowls, and toys
The doggie condo is ready to go!
  • Leash up: Keep your dog on a leash at all times, even in designated pet areas. Be mindful of other guests, their dogs, and their comfort levels with an animal. Remember, your dog is in a completely new environment, so they may be more stressed out than normal, or get triggered by things they could normally handle. You want to have control of your dog at all times.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Pack a small dog first-aid kit, just in case of cuts or scrapes. It’s also smart to look up contact information for a local vet, and a pet ER before you arrive, and have it on your phone.
  • Always leave your room neat, clean, and sanitized!

Staying With a Reactive Dog in a Hotel? Here are the Hacks:

Is your dog reactive to sights, sounds, other dogs, or people? Yep, mine too. Here are some tips to help make your hotel stay less stressful.

  • White noise machine: This does the same things for dogs as people – blocks out jarring noises. And if you’re one of those people who needs a fan on, or ocean waves, or rain to sleep your best, you’ll know what I mean. Get a small portable white noise machine for your hotel room and your dog will thank you!
  • Television: Leave the TV on when you are in the room or when you go out. It will also help block out unfamiliar noises. Sometimes hotels will put TVs on a timer, so a white noise machine will be more reliable.
  • Request a quiet room: When making your reservation, always request a quiet room. You can use the chat feature to communicate with the hotel if you go through booking.com.
  • Crate: Bring your travel crate or carrier into the room. Your dog may use it as a familiar and secure place to hang out, or sleep. Leave one of your used shirts or a sock in there to bring a sense of calm.
  • Window to the World: Look at the windows in the hotel room when you book it. Do they go down to the floor? Will your dog be able to see all the activity happening outside? Can you request a room looking into a garden or courtyard instead of a busy street? Request a room on an upper floor away from street noise and passers by. Or consider booking a different hotel with higher windows.
A dog looking out a hotel window
  • Door hangers: Always use the Do Not Disturb sign! Some hotels will also provide a “Dog in the room” sign. Use both door hangers if that’s an option.
  • Safe Space: Consider using the doggie condo method mentioned above.
  • Aromatherapy: Does your room have a bathtub? Does your dog like baths? If so, a nice lavender soak might be just what the doctor ordered. Be sure to get lavender salts that are the real thing with essential oils, not artificially scented.
A happy dog in a hotel bathtub
  • Massage: A nice doggie massage is a good relaxation technique to take the edge off your dog’s jangled nerves. Here’s a link to how to give your dog a massage from Chewy. There are lots of others online as well that you can investigate. They like it as much as we do!

By following these tips and being a responsible pet parent, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable hotel experience for both you and your dog. Like anything, the more you do it, the better your dog will adjust, and the more seamless your experience. You got this!

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