Kelly E. Carter, who’s visited more than 40 countries on six continents, has serious travel cred. She also loves dogs, especially her long-time companion, Lucy. Lucky for her, she’s able to indulge both passions. Lucky for us, she writes about them in her newest book, The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel. Recently, she took time to answer a few questions—actually, a lot of questions!
Q: What kinds of changes in dog-friendly travel have you seen in the past 10 years?
A: It has gotten easier! The quarantine rules in the United Kingdom and Hawaii are among the biggest changes. Two years ago, the UK brought its procedures into line with the European Union, thus allowing pets to enter or re-enter the UK from any country in the world without quarantine as long as they meet certain requirements. Hawaii, the only rabies-free state in the U.S., still has a 120-day quarantine but several years ago, implemented a five-day-or-less release program that allows people to take their pets with them after they arrive. But you must start the process more than four months in advance, and it isn’t cheap. Australia also just reduced its quarantine from 30 days to 10 days, which is still long, but it’s a start.
Another difference is the level of amenities lavished on pets at hotels. Doggie room-service menus, massages and canine concierges are just some of the perks for four-legged guests. Guest-room phones at the Hotel Palomar, a Kimpton hotel in Dallas, even have a “pet concierge” button for pet-related requests. While it used to be very hard to find a dog-friendly hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas, now, you have quite a selection—the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Four Seasons, THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, Vdara and six hotels under the Caesars Entertainment umbrella boast pet-friendly status. All have designated outdoor areas for dogs, which is a necessity in a place like Las Vegas, where the Strip is often crowded (plus, dogs are only allowed there between 5 a.m. and noon) and there isn’t an abundance of grass.
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Q: What do you look for when you fly with Lucy?
A: I always check seatguru.com before I purchase my ticket to find out if a particular aircraft has reduced legroom. If I’m flying business or first class, I make sure Lucy is allowed as well. Many airlines with lie-flat beds in their premium cabins only allow pets in coach because of rules that require all carry-on bags to be stowed for takeoff and landing. Some airlines, such as American Airlines and Swiss Air, will put pet carriers elsewhere for takeoff and landing, which is great.
I haven’t put Lucy in the cargo hold and would try to avoid doing so, but I know many people have no choice but to transport their pets this way. While it helps that the Department of Transportation requires airlines to file monthly reports on incidents involving the loss, injury or death of animals, the reports don’t prevent uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous situations. I always advise people who want to take their pets with them to research all their options.
Q: What do you look for in a dog-friendly hotel?
A: While cute dog dishes and plush beds are very much appreciated, what I really value is printed information on local pet services, such as veterinarians and groomers, dog boutiques, dog-friendly restaurants, and dog parks. I’m also grateful when hotels have a designated area for dogs to take care of their business, with pick-up bags and a trash receptacle. Some hotels pride themselves on not having trashcans throughout the common areas, and I’ve ended up taking a poop bag back to my room.
Q: What’s been your most memorable stay?
A: Domestically, it was at Palm Springs’ La Quinta Resort & Club, where Lucy and I enjoyed a “Me & My Best Buddy” massage, a side-by-side treatment in the Canine Suite. What a terrific bonding experience that was. We were there during the holidays a couple of years ago, and there must have been at least 20 other dogs staying at the hotel. There were dogs everywhere, and I had a ball playing with pooches of all sizes. It warmed my heart to see so many dogs included in families’ holiday travels.
Internationally, it was at the Palais Hansen Kempinski in Vienna. I was blown away by the attention showered on Lucy. The staff found her photo online before we arrived. When we checked into our suite, there was a brochure with Lucy on the cover, listing an array of local dog services, boutiques and an in-room doggie-dining menu. She had turndown service, which included fresh bottled water in her bowl and a personalized note card with pink hearts wishing her sweet dreams. When we checked out, the hotel surprised me with a framed gallery of photos that included Lucy and several of Vienna’s top attractions, as well as a note thanking Lucy for her stay. These perks are standard for all pet-toting travelers.
Q: What separates a four-star from a one-star stay?
A: Although one-star hotels can’t offer the pet amenities and services that four-star hotels do, they can offer the same love to canines. Pats on my dog’s head from the housekeeping staff and a smile from the front desk clerk when I take Lucy out for a walk go a long way in brightening my stay at budget hotels.
These days, travelers can expect a lot at four-star hotels. Pick-up bags should be at the front desk or bell stand. The concierge should know where the closest dog park is, be able to tell me the name of the closest pet boutique without looking it up and suggest a few dog-friendly restaurants and pet sitters. Bonus points for sharing info on dog-walking and dog-sitting services.
Q: What was one of your most important lessons about traveling with dogs?
A: Know the law before you go. As just a small example, if you’re accustomed to feeding your dog from the table, you may be surprised to find that some cities require dogs to be on the outside of a railing of a dog-friendly restaurant, not at your feet, and that feeding dogs at some pet-friendly restaurants is a no-no.
Q: When you’re in another country, does having a dog make it easier or more difficult to navigate?
A: Carrying an American passport may not endear you to foreigners worldwide, but walking a dog often does. Assuming you’re able to communicate in some form, a dog gives you an excuse to strike up a conversation with a local pet person by asking about dog parks or where to buy food.
Not long after Lucy and I moved to Italy in 2003, I met a British woman who had moved into my apartment building in Florence a couple of days before I arrived. A few weeks after getting settled, she and I went out to lunch. Everybody on the street stopped to say hi to me, which shocked my new neighbor. She hadn’t met any locals and couldn’t understand how I had become so popular in such a short time. I told her it was Lucy’s doing. People stopped me so they could play with her. I’ve gotten in good with hotel management because of Lucy as well. Hotels in Nice, Martinique and Amsterdam offered to keep her at the front desk while I left the hotel to work for extended hours.
Q: Have you always had a dog?
A: When I was growing up in Los Angeles, there was never a time when our family didn’t have at least one dog. Over the years, we had a couple of Poodles, a German Shepherd, a St. Bernard, a Husky/German Shepherd mix and three Pit Bulls. Because dogs have always been part of my life, I’ve been keenly aware of their loyalty and companionship for as long as I can remember. I always knew that I would have a dog and would name her Lucy (a family name); “have kids” was never on my to-do list. Timing was the big issue. Ironically, I traveled too much to get a pet when I began my journalism career. I was a sportswriter and on the road all the time, including four years as a beat writer covering the Lakers, every game, home and away.
When I switched to entertainment writing, my travel slowed down just enough that I could get a small dog to accompany me. Though I didn’t plan on it, Lucy served as the icebreaker when I interviewed Hollywood’s biggest celebrities. To this day, every time I see Denzel Washington, he looks inside my purse for Lucy though it’s been 12 years since he first met her. I’ve been in a relationship for the last three years, but before that, I was a die-hard singleton who came home to an empty house and was always alone in hotel rooms until I brought Lucy into my life. Although she’s as aloof as a cat, she’s such a hoot—her tiny stature is paired with a big personality and a high opinion of herself. Sometimes I think I’m going to squeeze her to death because I hug her so hard.
Q: Have you ever had a larger dog?
A: Four years before getting Lucy, I had a Sheltie named Deena for a couple of months. A friend gave her to me, then took her back. That’s another story! I didn’t have her long enough to take any trips with her, but she accompanied me plenty around LA. She was so sweet and beautiful. I’m still partial to Shelties. Maybe I’ll get one at some point! But for now, I get my fix as a volunteer at Pets Unlimited’s animal shelter in San Francisco. Every so often, there’s a big dog at the shelter and even if I’m not scheduled to walk it, I find time to socialize with the pooch.
I’m so jealous of people whose four-legged friends can keep up with them during outdoor activities. I know some small dogs can do it, but my Lucy is not one of them, especially at 13. I take her to Alta Plaza Park in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights almost every morning just so I can gaze at the big dogs playing fetch. Then I power walk at Crissy Field, where I smile at the big dogs running in the water and playing on the beach with their guardians. One day, that will be me, I think to myself.
Kelly’s (Off-the-Beaten Track) Picks
If you travel with your co-pilot, you know that Carmel, Provincetown and Taos are among the top go-to destinations. We asked Kelly for tips on places with charms that were perhaps not quite so well known, and she shared a few of her discoveries.
Savannah, which has grown in popularity in recent years, has dog fountains in some of its squares and welcomes dogs in some museums. And a few of its pedicab drivers will double as dog sitters so their people can sightsee. (More here.)
Colorado Springs has an unbelievable number of dog-friendly attractions, not to mention Bear Creek Dog Park, one of the best.
Washington’s Yakima Valley has a slew of dog-friendly wineries. Lake Placid is heavenly for dogs all year long. A dog will never grow bored in Banff. And I was surprised to find what a terrific place Huntington Beach is for dogs.
Pick up or download a copy of Kelly’s new book, The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel, for more places to explore. To learn more about Kelly visit kellyecarter.com or go to TheJetSetPets.com for a host of great travel tips and resources.