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, the entire Wander Woofs section of this blog is devote to his little adventures. Because Harry has little puppy adventures. (Aww!)
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 or trip, I researched dog-friendly places online, assuming that’s where I’d find the most up-to-date information.
We went to countless restaurants and breweries that were “dog friendly,” but our definitions of the term varied greatly. To them, dog-friendly means chaining your dog up on the sidewalk while you eat on the patio, or tying your dog to an outdoor bench while you sample beers inside. Sure, 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.
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 the weather was warm enough to eat outside, but we were lucky. 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 up-tight 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, never questioning a thing. 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 fit in. 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 was well worth it for some adventurous quality time with my little boy, Harry.