My top dog travel tips from our recent pet-friendly adventure through Portland, Maine.
As you probably know, I have an absolute, undying love for my (adorable!) dog, Harry. I mean, I plan trips around him and basically quit my job so I could be home with him (and travel the world and all that stuff, but I mean… #Harry.)
While Harry and I frequently take day trips, we just experienced our first pet-friendly overnight vacation this past weekend in the lovely town of Portland, Maine. I read time and again that this city is filled with dog love, so Harry and I put Portland and its pet values to the test.
Portland itself was a lovely city – particularly the surrounding coastal towns – and the reviews weren’t lying about its dog-friendly values. But here’s what I realized on my first big pet trip:
Dog travel is tough.
Earth-shattering revelation, I know. But seriously – it takes way more foresight and planning than I anticipated. The trip itself was absolutely worth it, and it’s something we’ll definitely do again, but next time around, I’ll keep these dog travel tips in mind.
Double Check Dog-Friendly Listings
To map out our trip, I researched dog-friendly spots online, assuming that’s where I’d find the most up-to-date information.
We went to countless restaurants and breweries that were truly dog friendly, but for others, “dog friendly” meant chaining your dog outside while you went in to eat or drink. Yeah, no. Some dogs may go for that, but not Harry. He gets way too nervous (and the feeling’s mutual).
After our first few encounters with these “dog-friendly” (but not dog friendly) spots, I tweeted or called every spot to ensure they allowed dogs, and boy did that save us some hassle. Some of my favorite dog-friendly spots in Portland were Allagash and Maine Beer Company.
Summer is the Best Time for Dog Travel
Most dog-friendly restaurants only allow dogs on the patio (which makes sense for food safety!), but that means you have to be there when the patio’s open and comfortable. And that means you have to visit during or surrounding summer.
We went to Portland over Memorial Day weekend and while the weather was warm enough to eat outside, we were lucky. New England can get pretty chilly, and we would’ve been eating PB&Js on the couch had it been raining or sub-60.
Plan ahead, and always have an option B like frozen pizzas to offset your hunger if the weather doesn’t hold out.
Avoid an Overheated Dog
It may be easiest to travel in the summer, but with warm weather comes, well, warm dogs. Harry got crazy hot on the one 80-degree Portland day, so we spent most of the afternoon dodging the sun and blasting my car’s air conditioning.
Fortunately, we brought along his little water bottle to keep him hydrated. But, had I thought about it, I would have packed a puppy cooling pad to keep him comfortable.
Choose Dog-Friendly Destinations Wisely
The fancier and more uptight a place is, the less likely they are to allow dogs. Portland was a great example of this.
In the relaxed areas surrounding downtown Portland—Peaks Island, Cape Elizabeth, Freeport and South Portland—people welcomed Harry with open arms. Heck, Harry even got to visit the LL Bean store!
But in the more upscale downtown Portland, Harry was turned away more places than I anticipated. Now, I can’t accurately say it was due to the type of businesses or the neighborhood, but it was definitely a noticeable (unscientific) trend.
The lesson? Be on the hunt for chill, relaxed neighborhoods where you and your pup can easily get in. Come to think of it, those are the places I want to be anyway!
Dog-friendly travel is not for everyone. It requires a lot of patience and preparation, but for me, those extra hours calling restaurants and tweeting breweries were well worth it for some adventurous quality time with my little boy, Harry.