Pet travel tips from 'The Privileged Pooch' author Maggie Espinosa

Courtesy Maggie Espinosa

The author of a new book exploring southern California's upscale pet travel scene offers advice to help travelers on any budget, no matter where they're going.

Maggie Espinosa, author of a new book titled The Privileged Pooch: Luxury Travel With Your Pet in Southern California, answers BT's questions below.

Say you're in an unfamiliar town, exploring with your dog, and you'd like to find a pet-friendly restaurant. What would your advice be? Are there signs a traveler can look for to tell if a restaurant is pet-friendly?

Maggie Espinosa: When my Bichon Frise, Marcel, and I are traveling and we need a food break, the first thing I do is Google local restaurants to see which ones have an outdoor patio. Canine culinary superstars will promote dogs welcome on their websites, as does Park Beach Cafe in Huntington Beach, California. They have a menu just for man's best friend, which includes "Rover Easy" scrambled eggs, "Hot Diggity Dog" all-beef wieners minus the bun, and other selections. Restaurant terraces are common, and the majority are pet-friendly. State Health Departments forbid dogs (except service animals) to enter indoor eating areas of any establishment, whether it be a restaurant, hotel, store, etc. Ask the hostess before entering the courtyard; some places require the pup to be leashed outside the patio. As I state in my book, the only bistros considered pet-friendly are the ones that allow dogs to accompany their owner on the patio.

Do you have a preferred airline for flying with your dog? If yes, what is it, and why?

ME: Marcel is small enough to fly inside the airplane cabin with me, which alleviates any trepidation I would have about flying him in cargo. Airline websites have a long list of requirements for pets flying in the cargo compartment. There are blackout dates when it's either too hot or too cold for the safety of the animal. Short-nosed breeds such as the Boston Terriers and Bull dogs are to take heed, as they are prone to respiratory problems that can be exacerbated under the stress of flying in cargo. Certain breeds are prohibited due to their aggressive reputations. Airlines are required to divulge the number of pet deaths they've had within one year. You can call the specific airline for this information. Marcel and I have flown on Southwest and Continental. Prior to our flights, Marcel has access to his Sherpa carrier at home. He's comfortable in it, and it becomes his safe haven when flying. His Sherpa is placed under the airline seat in front of me. I can see him, and he can see me. I also carry a health certificate from Marcel's veterinarian.

Do you have a preferred brand(s) of hotel when traveling with your dog? What are they, and why?

ME: Any hotel that allows pets is my preferred hotel. Certain chains have a blanket pet-friendly policy making it easy to choose where to stay when traveling from state to state. Starwood is one of those companies. They offer a range of hotel options -- Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, W, and Four Points -- to name a few. All welcome coddled critters with open arms. Their pet fees are either minimal or non-existent. If a hotel's pet regulations are too stringent with weight limit, access in the hotel or exorbitant fees, I didn't include them in the book because those properties are considered "pets permitted," not pet friendly.

What are the toys, food, meds, or supplies you're always sure to pack when traveling with your pet?

ME: A few accessories are imperative when traveling with pets. Most hotels require vaccination records confirming up-to-date inoculations. Take along any medications. While bowls are usually provided, it's smart to pack one, just in case. Eco-disposable sugar cane pet bowls or nylon collapsible bowls are convenient. Make sure to take plenty of drinking water and your dog's usual kibble, in case the hotel's pet menu fare disagrees with his sensitive stomach. Deviating from a pet's usual diet can have drastic consequences. A collar, leash, and waste bags are mandatory. Your pet's ID tag should be imprinted with your cell phone number in case the dog wanders while traveling. Last but not least, pack your dog's manners. Barkers, chewers, and growlers will be more comfortable at home.

Do you ever use kennels, dog sitting services, or doggy hotels when traveling? If yes, how do you find services that are good and trustworthy?

ME: I have not used kennels or doggy hotels when traveling, but I have used a number of pet sitters. Marcel and I stayed at 73 hotels when researching The Privileged Pooch, which warranted a sitter here and there. The hotel concierges or front desk staff have licensed pet sitters on call. The service is not cheap, sometimes running $15 an hour with a four-hour minimum, but it's worth the peace of mind. I was extremely happy with every sitter. Most hotels don't necessitate a caretaker because pets are welcome throughout the property. Often, furry sidekicks are permitted to stay in the room alone, but it's not recommended. Being separated from owners in a strange location can lead to all sorts of "nasties."

Finally, what are the most over-the-top accommodations or services you've heard of that cater to the pet travel market?

ME: That accolade must go to Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego. They are the proverbial poster child for pet-friendly hotels and are rumored to be the catalyst for the canine travel craze. A "Loews Loves Pets" welcome letter familiarizes guests with the resources, such as pet-sitting, a "Did You Forget" service providing forgotten items such as leashes and collars, and a "Do Not Disturb" sign that lets housekeeping know a dog is in the room. Food bowls, treats, and biodegradable poop bags are standard.


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