Recent travel surveys by Livability.com and another by Victornix (yes, the luggage/pocket knife people) report that Americans have visited an average of 12 states and just 3-4 countries.
Our dog, Brighton, on the other hand, has been to 19 US states and he’s visited 7 countries (besides the US): Canada, France, Monaco, Italy, San Marino, Andorra, and Spain. He’s even got an EU pet passport! If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, he would have also have picked up at least another 4 countries: Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria.
Closer to home, Brighton has been to more than twenty US National Parks and National Monuments, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Big Bend. Though National Park rules restrict his visits to parking lots and paved paths, when we visit National Forests (and we’ve visited dozens of them) we always take advantage of National Forest rules which allow well-behaved dogs to be off leash.
Traveling with a Dog is Easier Than You Think
Traveling with a dog has plenty of challenges. Fortunately, the world recognizes that there’s lots of money to be made catering to people traveling with pets, so some things have gotten easier. Also, some countries are just a lot more laid back about dogs than the US. Canada, for example, allowed us to take him on their National Park trails. France and Italy are so dog friendly, we could even bring Brighton with us to archaeological sites, or into any store or restaurant. (We were disappointed that Spain’s views of dogs are akin to what we see in the US.)
Finding places to stay. Even in the US, TripAdvisor and Booking.com both now offer “pet friendly” filters. Check out the Expedia commercial below, that just happens to star a whippet that is almost as handsome as Brighton. Several US hotel chains are straight-up pet friendly (e.g., Ramada and most Best Westerns) as are many high end chains, like Kimptons. US hotels often have an additional deep clean fee (anywhere from ~$25 one-time fee to $40/night). If you stay in mid-range hotels, don’t be surprised if you are assigned to a wheelchair accessible room (often, these rooms don’t have carpeting). One thing we really appreciate about European hotels: you are allowed to leave the dog alone in the room. In the US, you usually have to sign an agreement saying that you won’t leave the dog alone in the room, you’ll deal with any barking, you’ll clean up after the dog, yada, yada, yada.
Restaurants and such. In the US, you typically can’t bring dogs into restaurants, though most restaurants are copacetic with dogs on the patio as long as you can get to the outdoor seating without going through the restaurant. In France and Italy, unless there’s a sign specifically forbidding dogs, you’re golden. (Even if you’re not a retriever.) Because Brighton is so skinny and bony, we always carried his roll-up bed so he’d have a soft spot to hang out while we ate a meal or visited a site.
Italy went a step further in dog-friendly policies. Some grocery stores offered “dog friendly carts”!
In our recent European adventure we often took Brighton with us when we visited archaeological sites. You’d never be able to do that in the US!
Pro Tip: If you’re visiting a site with lots of stairs, like the ancient Roman theater in Orange, France, it’s good to remember that your dog is twelve years old before you start climbing all the way to the top row!
Dog Travel Challenges
Although the world has gotten dog friendlier, there are definitely still challenges. I often thought of the Peanuts cartoon (below) when we’d want to go some place and see the “no dogs” sign.
When we’re traveling, we like to visit museums, churches and other interesting cultural sites. Even in France and Italy, dogs aren’t allowed in those kinds of places (which we agree with). So, we’d trade off. One of us would stay outside with Brighton and the other person would visit and report back on whether it was worth it. If the site was exceptional, we’d trade places. Museums, in particular, could be a challenge, as I like to spend hours in a museum. We usually tried to schedule museum days when we could leave Brighton in the hotel.
Even in Europe public transportation can be a challenge. Airlines, in particular, can be difficult if you have a normal-sized dog rather than one you can stick under your seat or inside your purse. Joy described the process of getting Brighton to Europe in her Paperworks and Logistics post.
Some transportation services explicitly state that dogs must be muzzled. We never saw that enforced, but we did muzzle-train Brighton and always carried his muzzle and EU pet passport with us, just in case.
The overnight ferry between mainland Italy and Sardinia was fairly dog friendly (there were lots of dogs on the ferry) though we were pretty underwhelmed by the onboard “dog park”. It literally turned out to be a box of rocks. Brighton refused to to use the box. The walnut-sized rocks were swimming in liquid (which I hope was from splashing waves). Instead, like most of the other dogs we saw, he just used the water-proofed deck.