Eight years ago, I brought home a tiny, squirming cockapoo puppy named Lola. She had — and still has — the most soulful brown eyes I've ever seen, and a personality that's truly twice her size. In the years to follow, my relationship with her has become one of the longest standing friendships in my entire life. We do everything together: we curl up in bed with our favorite things at night together (a book for me, a stuffed toy duck for her), and we even go on early morning Starbucks runs together. She knows my schedule and even recognizes my moods; if I'm ever tearful, for instance, she'll jump in my lap and put her paw in my hand. As a single woman living in New York City, my bond with Lola is priceless, and something that I cherish every day. But there's one thing we haven't done until now — and that's travel together. Last fall, I finally took my dog on a vacation, and I'm proud to say that it was the best trip either of us has ever taken.
If you're a dog parent considering taking your fluffer on a fun adventure but are feeling apprehensive about it, rest assured, I totally get your concerns. For starters, my Lola rarely spends a night sleeping outside of my apartment. How would she do sleeping in a strange place? She's also a bit of a hall monitor, and she tends to bark whenever she hears an unfamiliar sound in our hallway. If I were to take her to a hotel, would she make a lot of noise and disturb other guests? And what about any unpredictable accidents? There are a lot of questions a dog parent asks themselves before taking their dog on a trip, and in my case, it took me a long time to feel comfortable that Lola would be comfortable enough to go on vacation with me.
But, we both stepped out of our comfort zones recently, and took a weekend road trip from our home in New York City to Newport, Rhode Island, a New England beachside town that's about three hours away. Not only was the car trip actually super comfortable for both of us — Lola had her own space to stretch out and enjoy the ride, and the vehicle served as a home base throughout our entire vacation — but it even helped us bond more in ways that I didn't think possible. Before the end of the weekend, I was already searching for other pet-friendly vacations for 2019 right from my hotel bed!
If you're thinking about taking a little road trip with your furry bestie, here are the best tips I learned from my trip with Lola:
Choose A Vehicle That Allows For Extra (Four-Legged) Leg Room
A car isn't much of a necessity where I live in New York City, thanks to a transit system that will pretty much take me anywhere with a swipe of a Metrocard. When I do travel with Lola to visit family, I will usually rent a car or hitch a ride with a pet-friendly cab. So, suffice to say, cars aren't really my thing. So, before heading to Newport, I was really focused on finding a vehicle that was safe to drive long distance, as well as one that would have enough room for Lola to stretch out and fall asleep. We opted with the 2018 Chevy Equinox, which had more than enough space for our luggage, and for Lola to lounge to her fluffer heart's content. The seats were also super durable, so we didn't have to worry about any muddy paws or unfortunate accidents.
Bring A Human Co-Pilot If Possible
My initial plan was to drive to Newport with just Lola, but in the end, my mom ended up tagging along too. This ended up being a great addition, since my dog thinks my mom is the best thing since sliced bread, and she was great human driving company for me. While I drove us all to Rhode Island, Lola nestled herself in my mom's arms in the passenger's seat, a spot that allowed her to peek out of the window and grab some fresh air. My mom and I were also able to tag team taking Lola on her walks. All in all, I'd definitely recommend embarking on your road trip with a human friend, because the extra set of hands and conversation are just priceless when traveling long — or even short — distances.
Choose A Pet-Friendly Hotel (Not Just "Pet-Friendly" On Paper)
Sure, you can take a hotel concierge's word that it's truly pet friendly, but it's truly important to research and check out reviews to make sure you've found one to truly fit your pet's needs. Hotel Viking, the luxury hotel in downtown Newport that Lola and I called home for a few days, fit this bill and so much more. My curly-haired cutie looked more like Eloise than a dog when we entered, as doormen happily greeted her at the entrance. She even received cookies from the concierge at check-in! After a day, it seemed like everyone knew her by name, and they were excited to see her. Since we did arrive after a storm and we weren't able to have our dinner on the outside patio, the hotel welcomed us to have dinner with Lola in the hotel dining room. Having New England lobster in a luxe hotel while your pupper nestles under your fancy table? A weirdly specific experience everyone should have at least once.
Accidents May Happen, And That's OK
While we got an initial tour of our digs at Hotel Viking, Lola had a "wee" problem. While I was worried, our hotel guide did not blink twice — she simply said things happen, and the mess was cleaned in a flash. It's important to remember on your road trip, that your dog is a dog (just as you are only human), and things may not always go as planned. But usually, it's nothing that a Clorox wipe can't fix.
Make Sure There Are Pet-Friendly Activities At Your Destination
Vacations are meant for exploring, and your four-legged friend should experience nothing less! You don't want to be confined to your hotel room, so be sure to research the nearby activities that you can both enjoy. The beaches in Rhode Island allow pets after Oct. 1, so we got to stroll along the sand and pick up seashells. The hardened sand made the journey easier on Lola's paws, and her face in the breeze as she took in the ocean's waves was just priceless.
Bond With Your Pupper In A Fresh New Way
The most memorable experience for me, was simply taking morning walks with Lola in the New England fresh air, in a park just a couple of blocks from our hotel. Since the sidewalks are way less crowded than anything Lola's used to, she was able to explore and ruffle up piles of leaves all on her own, without having to share with all of the dogs cooped up in apartment buildings. After our daily park stroll, we'd take a trip to Starbucks (where Lola was sweetly welcomed), and then head to the pier for some quiet time by the water. There was no entry fee needed, no extra pet supplies, and it ended up making me feel closer to my eight-year-old buddy, and feeling grateful that I could give her such a sweet New England view.