Pet-friendly travel and transitioning to a nomadic lifestyles comes with some unique challenges. From Uber ride-shares and car rentals, to couch-surfing and dog-friendly hotel accommodations, here are 5 pet-friendly travel tips for nomadic living to make the journey with your four-legged friend a little easier.
I’ve always considered myself more the “caretaker of a dog” than an “owner of a dog.” Since starting our journey to nomadic living last December, every decision I make revolves around ensuring I’m providing the best care possible for my dog, Mila. I’m always a little worried whether or not I’m giving her the best possible life I can.
Four years ago, when I got her, providing for Mila was much easier. We lived in an apartment in San Diego, walking distance to the dog park. As well, then, I owned a car and we were a short, 15-minute drive to Ocean Beach dog park.
Times have changed, and now I’m most definitely in a transitional stage of my life. These days, we split our time between staying part-time at my parents in Orcutt, California and traveling when I can afford to do so (hence why I say I’m currently only “semi-nomadic”).
Pet-Friendly Travel and Nomadic Living
No longer owning a car, when Mila and I do travel, all my plans revolve around finding pet-friendly accommodations. From dog-friendly hotels and couch-surfing with friends to getting Uber/Lyft drivers who will accept dogs and renting cars for long-distance trips, I make all of our travel plans based on her happiness, safety, and well-being.
It may not appear like the most ideal life for a dog, but we seem to be managing just fine. As it turns out, as long as she’s with me, she doesn’t seem to mind where we are – as long as it’s together. When traveling, I bring her bed, a few toys, and plenty of food. We head to the nearest dog park often and take hikes regularly – she’s still getting plenty of exercise.
We haven’t had any major incidences yet, but I’m sure a time may come when a significant issue could require a trip to the vet. Until then, our travels are planned around her regular veterinary visits in Palm Springs, CA (when it’s time to schedule a checkup).
Below are five useful tips from lessons I’ve learned during our transition to a nomadic living and our travels (without owning a car).
1) Dog-Friendly Rideshares with Uber (or Lyft)
If you’re going to hail an Uber (or Lyft) on your smartphone for a ride with your four-legged companion, the most important advice I can give you: As soon as you request your ride, call the driver. Tell the driver you’d like to bring your dog and ASK them if they mind.
Most drivers don’t seem to have a problem with pets, though some do. Just give them the option to decide first. They have to keep their car clean for their next passengers, so dog hair could be an issue. At worse, the driver will say no and cancel the ride. Just keep trying until you get a dog-friendly driver.
Depending on the state, California for instance, rideshare companies are mandated by state law to provide accommodations for service animals. As such, most Uber drivers prepare by bringing along a blanket for the back seat. Again, just call the driver in advance to make sure they don’t mind your dog riding along.
Finally, as soon as your request the ride, make sure to call within the first five minutes. If you wait much longer, and either you or the driver ends up having to cancel, you’ll end up getting charged a cancellation fee by Uber/Lyft.
2) Car Rentals and Traveling with a Dog
Some car rental companies don’t allow dogs in their cars; pet policies vary from one company to the next. Regardless of where online you reserve the car, be sure to check the rental company’s website for their own pet policies.
Enterprise, for instance, is pet-friendly. You just have to make sure ahead of time you call the location you’re renting, each site’s policy differs. In our case, when Mila and I are going to take a rental car, I usually give her a bath first and brush her with the FURminator brush to remove excess long hair. Lastly, before returning the car, I go ahead and clean the vehicle myself. That way, I’m less likely to get charged any additional cleaning fees.
3) Pet-Friendly Couch-surfing With Friends Who Have Pets
If you’re traveling to, and couch-surfing with, friends whom also have a dog, when you arrive and BEFORE you and your dog enter the house, plan to have your friend meet you outside with their dog(s). Even better, and if it’s safe to do so, go for a walk off their property.
Remember, dogs are territorial and pack animals. Therefore, when introducing your dog to your friend’s home for the first time, note their dog could be defensives, or at worse, become aggressive causing possible danger to themselves, each other, or you.
So, before you enter the house, introduce the dogs to each other. As their pack leader, show them the other dog is no threat to you. If it’s safe to do so, this often better done off leash in a contained, outdoor, environment (not on your property). If a contained, outdoor area is not an option, take the dogs for a short walk together allowing them to “sniff each other out.”
Once you and your friend’s dogs feel more comfortable with each other, then enter your friend’s home. Mila and I did not do this when we first got to my parent’s house, and it’s taken the last three months for their chihuahua, Louie, to get comfortable with Mila. Three months later, they are just starting to get along with each other.
4) Dog-Friendly Hotel Accommodations
After traveling with Mila the last few months, I’ve found getting pet-friendly hotel accommodations are not that difficult. In fact, most sites such as Trivago, Booking.com, and Travelocity include “pet-friendly” in their filters. Be sure to check the filter before beginning your search. Also, once you’ve made your reservation, it’s a good idea to call ahead to the hotel and ask about any specific amenities or restrictions they may have.
So far, we’ve been fortunate, Mila doesn’t seem to mind staying in hotel rooms. Bringing along her bed, toys, and other treats, she seems to be right at home. Again, I think as long as she’s with me; Mila doesn’t seem to care where we are. As a golden retriever mix, she has the temperament and gets along with pretty much everyone. So we are fortunate in that regard.
5) Try to Maintain a Routine/Daily Schedule
Traveling, of course, can be unpredictable from one day to the next. But, dogs are creatures of habit – they crave routine. So far, during our transition to nomadic living, our routine hasn’t changed all that much.
I feed Mila twice a daily, once in the morning after she’s been out to potty and again in the evening. While our morning feeding time isn’t necessarily the same time every day, it’s pretty close. As far as the evenings, I try and do my best to feed her at about 5 pm every night.
I am blessed to be able to spend most of the entire day with Mila. As such, her and I can go outside regularly throughout the day. And, while she rarely barks, she’s great at communicating when she wants something. We’ve spent enough time together now, that depending on the time-of-day,most of the time I know what she wants – usually, it’s just lots and lots of love!
The Challenges and Benefits of Living Nomadic and Pet-Friendly Travel
I’m sure for some people, the circumstances of transitioning to nomadic living and caring for a pet, are less than ideal. Mila and I have a strong bond and have been together going on four years – there is a lot of love between us. I take my responsibility for caring for her, even when traveling, very seriously. Pet-friendly travel presents some unique challenges, for sure, especially without owning a car.
From hailing a rideshare with Uber (or Lyft) and renting a car to couch-surfing with friends or finding pet-friendly hotel accommodations, the best advice is to plan ahead. And yes, as a digital nomad and because she’s not a service animal, we face limitations and restrictions on where we can go and what we can do. But, the benefits of having a constant companion on the journey and traveling with a pet are immeasurable – I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!
Have you ever thought about downsizing to a nomadic life while caring for a pet? Share your comments below and thank you, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!