On a recent trip to California, Jen Reeder chose a hotel for one specific reason: the room-service menu. For dogs.
"It was called a 'Yappy Hour' menu," says Reeder, who is president of the Dog Writers Association of America and frequently travels with her dog, Rio, a 6-year-old Labrador retriever mix. She selected steak and vegetables from the menu for Rio, and when it arrived, his meal was served on a proper dish with a lid, just like human food.
"It's sort of spoiled him," Reeder says. "Now, every time we get room service in a hotel he expects that he's going to get his own special plate."
Reeder isn't alone when it comes to her travel priorities. According to research conducted by the American Pet Products Association, dogs and road trips go together like, well, Kibbles 'n Bits. In 2006, 19 percent of dog owners took their pooches with them on a road trip. In 2014 (the most recent data available), that number nearly doubled to 37 percent.
Hotels are responding with open arms and chef-made treats so doting pet parents such as Reeder know to look for pet-friendly brands when they travel. The pet policy at Kimpton Hotels is among the more liberal, welcoming pets of all shapes and sizes to stay with no fee. Others, such as Motel 6, La Quinta and Red Roof Inn, don't generally charge a fee but have rules regarding number, type and size of pets. And a whole host of properties welcome pets for a fee - Loews, Drury Inn and Best Western, along with most Sheraton and Westin properties, for starters.
As pet travel becomes more common, the amenity bar gets higher. Seemingly fancy amenities of years past, like fluffy dog beds and branded dog bowls, are practically a given at higher-end, pet-friendly properties today - all the ones highlighted below offer those and more. To stand out, hotels are offering over-the-top perks such as elaborate room-service menus, dog butlers, dog spa treatments, bacon-infused water and so on. Seeking a doggy destination? Keep reading.
Dining for doggies
With the Loews Loves Pets program at Loews Hotels and Resorts, bakery-made treats are doled out on arrival, and pets eat as well as humans when ordering room service. In-house chefs collaborate with veterinarians to create gourmet menus for dogs and cats.
At Loews Chicago Hotel, that means all-natural beef with brown rice, peas and carrots for dogs; poached salmon or chicken terrine for cats. At the ART hotel in Denver, two-legged guests get plain-old water, but four-legged guests receive the bacon- infused variety. San Diego's Hotel del Coronado invites dogs and their owners to a weekly Yappy Hour (Sundays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.) where dogs can lap up Evian and snack on "yappetizers" as their human compatriots sip Salty Dogs and other drinks inspired by canines. At Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego, in-room doggy tapas include Shepherd's Pie, Rin Tin Tin Tartare and Morning Risers with scrambled eggs and potatoes.
Throughout the year, Top-notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., seeks to soothe your pup's aching muscles and offers a 25-minute, in-room Rover Reiki or traditional massage. This summer, the hotel will open its tennis court to fur babies and fur parents alike, offering a "Serve, Fetch, Love" package that includes a tennis lesson or court time, canine spa treatment and other amenities. The Betsy-South Beach in Miami Beach, Fla., offers a "Pamper with Pooch" spa treatment, in which owners and pups are massaged side by side in an outdoor cabana while breathing in the scent of the ocean.
Doggie massage, a bath and blow out? It's all there (along with turndown service that includes a rawhide bone) at the Pines Lodge, a RockResort in Beaver Creek.
Outdoor adventures are a given in Aspen even for dogs. The St. Regis Aspen Resort has plenty of gear for the whole family, including jogging strollers for smaller dogs and "doggles" to protect canine eyes from the mountain sun. If you get delayed on the slopes, a dog butler is available to take Fluffy for a walk or play a quick game of fetch.
Over in Vail, activity trackers are all the rage at the Arrabelle at Vail Square. Guests can check out a dog-bone-shaped Fit Bark, which tracks a dog's activity levels, calories burned and even the animal's sleep while snoozing in one of the hotel's plush beds.
At some hotels, animals are loved so much that they are given a regular home. Watch your feet at the Village in Breckenridge, or Bozi, an enormous, beautiful brindle, might sit on them. The Cane Corso mastiff/Great Dane mix is the house hound, and he shares his toys and treats with all of his visiting furry friends. Maddie, a.k.a. the "Resort Pup," is a sweet and fluffy Labradoodle who has educated the Ritz-Carlton staff in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on what dogs want: room service, a comfy bed and lots of treats. She's usually on hand to give guests a welcoming sniff. Sammy - an eager Australian Shepherd mix - is "director of pet relations" at the Waldorf Astoria Park City in Utah, where she oversees quality control of the house-made, bone-shaped treats that are printed with the names of guest dogs.