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Dog jaunt: Visiting Colonial Williamsburg with a dog

I hadn’t visited Colonial Williamsburg since I worked there for a summer in college, so when I returned last fall to drop my niece off at school, I feared the magic might have worn off. How wrong I was! We had a great time, even in the heat and humidity, and I long to go back. [Please note that we did, in December 2012; here’s the post about our winter Williamsburg week with Chloe.]

Photo by Tony Alter

Photo by Tony Alter

Two of Colonial Williamsburg’s hotels accept dogs as guests: at one end of the price scale is the Williamsburg Inn, and at the other is the Cascades Motel. The Williamsburg Inn is a grande dame of a hotel, with high-end restaurants, a lovely pool and beautiful grounds. The Cascades Motel has a funky 50’s motor-lodge charm of its own, and guests have access to the Woodlands Hotel pool and continental breakfast. (I don’t have a link to give you for the Cascades Motel because, strangely, there isn’t one.) To make a reservation in either of the pet-friendly Williamsburg hotels, call the Reservation line at 1-800-447-8679.

The Williamsburg Inn accepts dogs up to 60 lbs. for a $50 per day fee, and requires a $500 refundable deposit. If you leave your dog in your room while you step out, she must be in a crate and she must not bark. You must give the hotel a phone number where you can be reached, in case an issue arises with your dog while you’re gone. The Cascades Motel, by contrast, has no weight limit requirement and requires no deposit. Your dog must be in a crate, however, while you’re out of the room.

Both hotels are on the edge of the historic district. You can walk into the colonial village if you want, or take a quick shuttle ride. Leashed dogs are allowed on the Colonial Williamsburg shuttles (the driver of a crowded bus may ask a large dog to wait for a bus with more room).

There are some advantages to staying in a Colonial Williamsburg hotel, including walking access and a discount on your admission ticket, but the Visitor Center has ample parking and you could instead stay at a nearby hotel and drive to the historic area for the day. Local hotels that accept dogs include (in descending order of popularity in TripAdvisor ratings): Residence Inn By Marriott Williamsburg (757-941-2000), Crowne Plaza Williamsburg at Fort Magruder (757-220-2250), Days Inn Colonial Downtown (757-229-5060), Patrick Henry Inn (757-229-9540), and Clarion Hotel Historic District (757-229-4100). The La Quinta Williamsburg (757-253-1663) also accepts dogs, but doesn’t seem to have a popularity rating; the TripAdvisor reviews to date for the La Quinta Williamsburg, however, are darned positive.

Dogs are allowed in the historic area (though not inside any of the buildings), but they must be leashed. It’s not clear whether dogs are officially allowed on the outdoor tours that are offered (the tour of the gardens behind many of the houses and shops is not to be missed, by the way). I suggest putting your dog in a discreet carrier for those.

Keep in mind that Williamsburg’s heat and humidity can be brutal, and be sure to carry a bottle of water and a travel bowl (or a Gulpy) to keep your dog hydrated. Give her some of the ice from your drink. And consider putting her in a jacket designed to keep her from overheating (e.g., the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler vest, or the ChillyBuddy Canine Cooling Jacket).

You may eat with your dog at the outdoor seating areas of the King’s Arms, Chowning’s and Christina Campbell’s Taverns, according to the Dining Reservations representative I spoke with.  (Mention that you will be accompanied by your dog when you make your lunch or dinner reservations, and ask for an outdoor table.) [8/12/14 Alas! Per Michelle’s comment, below, that policy has since changed, and your pet dog is no longer welcome in those outdoor dining areas.] We ate last fall at Christina Campbell’s and were very impressed; the so-so Williamsburg food of my youth is a thing of the past, at least at that tavern. The King’s Arms also gets good reviews. To make dining reservations, call the same number: 1-800-447-8679.

As an alternative, I like getting sandwiches and picnic fixings from The Cheese Shop (on DoG Street, in Merchant’s Square) and finding a shady spot to sit and munch (though you may not share my enthusiasm for the graveyard of Bruton Parish Church as a picnic spot).

The Cheese Shop
410 W. Duke of Gloucester Street
Williamsburg, VA
T: 757-220-0298
Open Mon. to Sat. 10 am to 8 pm, Sun. 11 am to 6 pm

Traveling by NYC public transit with a small dog

Under Section 1050.9 (h) of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (“MTA”) Rules of Conduct, pets may travel on NYC buses and subways if they are “enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers” (as always, the container requirement does not apply to service animals).

The link to this provision changes from time to time, so I’ve taken a snapshot of it for your quick reference:


Similar provisions allow dogs in carriers on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), where your dog must be “properly confined for shipment,” and the Long Island Bus system (LIB), where “small pets may be brought on board if they are confined to an approved carrier.” [2/24/12 LIB is now operated by Veolia Transportation, and is called Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE). The customer service rep I spoke to told me that NICE has the same pet policy.]

I couldn’t find any definition of  “an approved carrier.” Practically speaking, however, it surely means a carrier similar to those required by the airlines, with sufficient ventilation panels and a waterproof bottom. It should be small enough to sit on your lap and not take up another seat.

I also couldn’t find anything written about Metro-North Railroad‘s pet policy (MNR), but the representative I spoke to said that pets under 70 lbs. are allowed as long as they are in a carrier or on a secure leash and do not cause a disturbance or pose a threat to others. The conductor is the final arbiter, if a discussion arises about your pet. [May 2011: The Metro-North web site has been updated since I wrote this post to include a pet policy: “Small domestic pets are permitted provided they’re carried in kennels or similar containers, or are securely controlled on leashes throughout the trip and do not annoy other customers. Pets should not occupy seats and are subject to approval by the conductor.” Chloe and I recently traveled on a couple of Metro-North trains.]

The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) allows dogs in carriers on its trains: “Unconfined animals except seeing eye dogs or other assistance animal are prohibited.”

The New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) operates bus, light rail and commuter rail services throughout New Jersey and into New York City and Philadelphia. Its pet policy states that “Only service animals accompanying customers with disabilities or their trainers, police dogs, and small pets in carry-on travel cages are allowed on-board NJ Transit trains or buses.”

Based on the comments I’ve seen on forums where people have discussed the hazards of NYC subway and bus travel with pets (see, for example, UrbanHound’s “Hound Talk”), I strongly recommend putting your dog completely into her carrier and closing the top before you enter the subway, and keeping her contained in her carrier for the entire journey.

I also suggest printing out the relevant passages from the MTA, LIRR, LIB or PATH rules and regulations, and tucking them in a pocket of your carrier, for those maddening times when you encounter a driver or employee (or fellow passenger) who’s not aware that small dogs in carriers are acceptable. If you don’t prevail, though, consider the practical advice of a fellow traveler: “I just waited for the next bus.”

[6/12/11 Carol Vinzant from pointed me to a post she and her husband wrote about taking their two dogs, a combined 60 lbs. of lively Beagles, on several modes of NYC-area transportation, including taxis, the subway, the LIRR and the Fire Island ferry — good tips, useful info!]

For other posts about traveling with dogs on public transit, take a look at Dog Jaunt’s handy guide!

Dog jaunt: Staten Island Ferry (NYC)

Photo by Biskuit

Photo by Biskuit

The Staten Island Ferry is a delightful way to get a harbor cruise view of lower Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty — for free! And dogs are allowed on board (click on “Rules of Conduct”), as long as they are in a carrier or muzzled.

The trip takes a half hour each way, and although you cannot stay on board for a round trip, it is just possible to disembark and re-embark on the returning ferry (otherwise, you’ll spend a half hour on Staten Island, waiting for the next returning ferry).

On the way to Staten Island, you’ll want to be on the starboard side. Hurry up to the top deck (the ferries seem to have either two or three decks) and snag either a seat on the bench (you can park your tush on the back of the bench to see over the people at the rail) or a place at the rail.

Take a good look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, because this is as close as you can get to them with your dog: pets “are not permitted on…Liberty and Ellis Islands (documented service/assist animals are exempt from this policy)” or on the ferry service (Statue Cruises) that brings you there.

To make the returning ferry in good time, wiggle out of the crowd on deck and head downstairs just before reaching Staten Island. The last few minutes coming in to Staten Island aren’t wildly interesting anyway, so you won’t be missing much.

On the way back to Manhattan, you’ll want to be on the port side (unless you’re done with the islands and Manhattan and want to see Brooklyn from the water instead).

The Whitehall Ferry Terminal (also called the South Ferry terminal) is accessible by the M1, M6, M9, M15 buses and the 1, 4, 5, N, R, W, J, M, Z subway lines.

Staten Island Ferry
Whitehall Ferry Terminal
1 South Street
New York, NY 10004

Traveling by Amtrak – dogs not allowed

Since Chloe was a puppy (and for many years before that), this post was accurate. But a year or so ago, Amtrak launched a pilot program in the suburban Chicago area, trying out the experiment of allowing passengers to travel with pet dogs and cats, and recently the company announced a wonderful expansion of its pet travel pilot program. Keep your fingers crossed, be polite pet travelers, and let’s all hope that the expansion continues!

Amtrak’s pet policy bans all pets except “trained service animals accompanying passengers with disabilities in all customer areas in our stations, trains and Amtrak Thruway motorcoaches.” Some of you have been traveling on Amtrak for a long time, and may remember when dogs were allowed on board (either in the sleeping cars or, in carriers, in other cars). That policy was changed in 1976.

I had planned to bring Chloe east to see my niece during the long weekend we’re spending in NYC, but since my travel plans ultimately included three short train trips, I left Chloe in Seattle. Instead, this weekend was a reconnaissance mission, to see whether I want to risk traveling with her on future Amtrak trips.

I’ve taken the Adirondack, which only has coach cars; the Empire Service, which has coach and business cars; and the Acela Express, which has business cars and a First Class car (and is Amtrak’s high-speed option). On all three trips, it would have been easy to bring a dog, even one Chloe’s size, as long as the dog is reliably silent in her carrier (and the carrier looks like a purse or a computer bag). Bags are not x-rayed, and the boarding agent who checks your ticket before boarding has a crowd to deal with. As long as you meet Amtrak’s general baggage requirements (number and size of bags), the contents don’t seem to be an issue.

Silence is key, though. Avoid “quiet” cars (meant for travelers who want to escape cell phone users and other extra noise) and choose a regular car, so you have at least some sound cover. The regular cars weren’t a hive of activity either, though — it’s a quiet way to travel, and any vocalizing from your dog would be audible.

On the Adirondack and Empire Service trains, there is a bit of room under the seat in front of you. To use it, your carrier must be no bigger than 9″ tall and 13″ wide (any wider, and you’ll impinge on your neighbor’s underseat space). Amtrak, however, doesn’t require that the space beneath your feet be kept clear, so I could have tucked Chloe’s messenger bag between my legs and the seat. (If you plan to put your dog’s carrier under your legs, please note that there is significantly more leg room in business class than in coach class. Coach, however, is survivable even with a carry-on on the floor.)

The Acela has essentially no underseat space, so you’d need to put your dog’s carrier under your knees. There is a ton of space behind your seat, but I wouldn’t use it for a pet — if someone else slung their suitcase in too vigorously and jostled her, you might hear an exclamation of surprise (besides, she’d probably prefer being closer to you). The Acela also has the most uncomfortable seats I’ve ever encountered on a mode of transportation: bring a lumbar pillow, and get ready for a numb bum.

You would also, of course, need to assess your dog’s bladder capacity, and travel only as long as she can be comfortable. The station stops are too brief for a bathroom break. And keep in mind that if you are changing trains and have a layover, you’ll need to find a grassy spot far enough away from the station that her exit from her carrier and her re-entry aren’t noticed by Amtrak staff or other travelers.

Please be aware that this is a risky maneuver! You are, in fact, breaking the rules, and the penalties for being caught may include a fine or being asked to leave the train. On balance, the risks (for me) outweigh the benefits. Who wants to find themselves in Prince, WV, suddenly looking for alternate transportation?

Airplane carriers for in-cabin pet travel

Please note that this post refers to maximum carrier sizes accepted for in-cabin pet travel by the leading U.S. airlines.

Chloe in her SturdiBag (Large)

Chloe in her SturdiBag (Large)

We bought SturdiProducts’ large-sized pet carrier in the belief that it was just barely acceptable to most airlines. We now know that it’s too big (12Hx18Lx12W). On the bright side, its support struts are very flexible, so it does, in fact, fit under every seat we’ve encountered (and Chloe’s been fine — the carrier has a lot of headroom). Also on the bright side, it’s a beautifully-made product, with great features like top ventilation panels (with privacy blinds) and a small top hatch that zips open to allow pats. It’s very light (the large size is 2 lbs., 10 oz., and the small size is 3 oz. lighter), which helps with the airlines’ weight limits. It also has built-in loops through which a seat belt can be buckled, making it an excellent car carrier. If you have a dog that fits into the small SturdiProducts carrier (which, at 10Hx18Lx10W, is pretty close to the major airlines’ maximums), I recommend it unhesitatingly.

I will keep on using our large SturdiProducts carrier, because it’s worked on every trip we’ve taken and Chloe’s comfortable in it. If you have a non-compliant carrier, I suggest keeping dog and carrier out of the ticketing agent’s line of sight as you check in for your flight — put your dog and carrier on the ground between your feet and the ticketing desk, not up on the counter. If you’re questioned about the size of a soft-sided carrier, point out and demonstrate its flexibility. An upbeat-but-anxious tone will go a long way towards persuading the ticketing agent to let the flight crew deal with the problem. (None of this will be of any use, ultimately, if your carrier does not actually fit under an airline seat, so don’t try bending the rules with an oversized hard carrier or a soft-sided carrier that really won’t flex sufficiently.)

Sherpa makes a very popular line of carriers. The small size (8.5Hx15Lx10W) will satisfy all the U.S. airlines Dog Jaunt lists; the medium (10.5Hx18Lx11W) is officially too large for all of them except Alaska/Horizon and Midwest. Although Sherpa suggests that their large size is acceptable for some airlines, at 11.5Hx20Lx11.75W it’s even larger than Chloe’s carrier. [2/21/11 Looking at the Sherpa site just now, I notice that the current dimensions for the large Sherpa bag are 11.5Hx19Lx11.75W — if the company has shortened the bag by an inch, that’ll make a difference in its workability. A carrier 18 inches long fits comfortably left-to-right under most airplane seats we’ve encountered; 19 inches is riskier, but possible, especially if you take the stiffener out of the bottom of the bag and trim a half inch off of it.] I’ve bought the medium and large sizes, and returned the large right away (if I’m going to break the rules, I’ll do it with the SturdiProducts carrier, which is better-designed and better-made). I hesitated over the medium, because I’d bought the rolling version and on the trip I used it I loved being able to wheel Chloe behind me. If she were slightly smaller I would have kept it (I gave it to a friend with Papillons). I don’t love the product, though. The only mesh openings are on the sides and end, so you can’t see into the bag when it’s in its usual spot under your feet. The privacy panels roll up, but where they’re secured in the SturdiProducts carrier with velcro straps, the Sherpa panels are secured with fiddly clips. Though the Sherpa and SturdiProducts carriers are in the same price range, the Sherpa bags feel cheesy.

Please note that this is the one time you won’t hear about Chloe’s beloved PetEgo messenger bag, since at 13Hx20L10W it’s substantially over the airlines’ limits and its wedge shape doesn’t make the best use of the space available. We pack it in her suitcase, for use when we arrive at our destination.

For smaller dogs, as always, there are far more choices, and some are very well-designed.

Creature Leisure, the maker of Chloe’s travel crate, sells a very nice carrier called the Carry-Den. The medium size (9Hx17Lx10W) is pretty close to the major airlines’ maximums, and the product is well-thought-out and well-made. The Carry-Den XT converts to a backpack. The same company offers a cleverly-designed rolling carrier called the Pet Pilot XL. In its normal configuration (14Hx19Lx9W), it’s within shouting range of the airlines’ maximum sizes (it lies horizontally under the seat), and it has a gusset that can give your dog several more inches of breathing room. It has useful external pockets, and it rolls. It’s for dogs who can be comfortable in a interior space measuring 12Hx17Lx7.5D (12” deep with gusset expanded).

PetEgo’s Jet Set Carrier, in the small and medium sizes, is worth considering. It can also be bought as part of a JS Travel Kit that includes two small suitcases (one rolling). I can’t get enthused about that option, because the suitcases seem small and fussy to me (and at least one of them would have to be checked), and would provide me with wheels only at the point I no longer really need them (I need them on layovers, to get out to pet relief areas, not at the end of my trip, when I can loop Chloe’s carrier ‘s handles over my own suitcase’s handle). The JetSet Carrier itself is a very nice product, though.

Teafco Argo’s Petascope Airline Approved Pet Carrier (Small) is chic, well-made and, at 9.25Hx16Lx11.5W, credibly close to the airlines’ maximums. I don’t love their regular carrier because it has small ventilation panels, but it’s certainly comparable to a Sherpa bag and is better-made. Here’s the Amazon link, if you want to check it out for yourself: Teafco Argo Aero-Pet Airline Approved Pet Carrier (Small). If you have a truly tiny dog, consider Teafco Argo’s Petaboard Airline Approved Carrier (Extra Small). It’s well-made, has plenty of ventilation, and includes a built-in sleeve/pocket that can be slipped over a suitcase’s handle. Fascinated as always by rolling carriers, I want to love Teafco Argo’s rolling option, the Tally-Ho Wheeled Pet Carrier (Medium), but I can’t, again because the ventilation panels are small.

Also suitable for a tiny dog is the very cool Sleepypod Mini. The base can be used as your dog’s everyday bed; add the mesh dome, and the bed is ready for car travel (pass the seatbelt around the base and through the top handle) and, potentially, air travel. Both sizes of Sleepypod exceed the airlines’ height allowances (the regular is 13.5″ high; the Mini is 11″ high), and I fear that the 17″ diameter of the regular size would allow too much of the carrier into the area that flight attendants yearn to keep clear. The Mini, however, would likely work as an airplane carrier: the mesh dome is flexible, and it’s a more modest 13″ in diameter . Remember to subtract a couple of inches for padding when you eye your dog; she’ll need to fit in an interior space measuring 9″ high, 11″ diameter.’s Brody Bag is equally cool, but with a different vibe — the Mini (8.5Hx14Lx8W) would satisfy any airline, and the Medium (9.5Hx16Lx10W) is within spitting distance of the airlines’ requirements.

Here are three more rolling carriers for your consideration. FetchDog’s Travel Easy Tote is 10.5Hx16Lx13W, which isn’t too far off the maximums. Since the tote converts to a backpack and includes wheels and handle apparatus, I wish the company provided its interior dimensions. I’d also like to see the product, to determine whether the back (which will be the bottom, once the bag is under the seat) has enough padding over the handle apparatus.

Pet Gear offers a line of I GO2 rolling carriers that convert to backpacks. The Weekender, at 13Wx17Hx10L (I write the measurements that way, because the bag will be on its back under a seat), is pretty close to the airlines’ maximums. I worry, though, about the 13″ height of the bag, since this particular product is made of less flexible material than other Pet Gear carriers. The carrier does include a pad to cushion your dog from the handle apparatus. It’s too small for Chloe, but would likely do well for a dog under 10 lbs. The Traveler, at 11.5Wx17Hx13L, is a bit roomier, but still within eyesight of the airlines’ limits; the Escort (9Wx17Hx16L) provides a different, and not particularly pleasing, configuration; the Traveler Plus (14.5Wx22Hx17L) is just too big for airplane use.

In the Company of Dogs offers The Clever Trolley as “airline carry-on approved,” but it’s really too large to go under a seat (9.5Wx21Hx15L — this is another product that lies on its back). Though the 9.5″ height isn’t too bad (especially since the ballistic nylon exterior has some give), the 21″ length is fixed and can’t be fudged. That’s a shame, because the trolley is very attractive, provides good ventilation and (as a bonus) can convert to a backpack.

The last carrier on our list is an intriguing oddball: a rolling carrier that can be collapsed (when not in use) to 3.5″ wide. Pawprint Essentials’ rolling pet carrier comes in two sizes, small (9Wx17Lx13H) and medium (9Wx20Lx13H). It has large ventilation panels on the top and three sides (the fourth side has a large storage pocket).  All of the edges are rigid, so there’s no fudging with this one: you’d be safest with the small size. I can’t think of a reason that I’d want the collapsibility feature of this carrier, but maybe you can.

More Amazon links:
SturdiProducts Pet Carrier (Large) — Black
Sherpa Original Deluxe Bag (small)
Sherpa Original Deluxe Bag — Medium
Petego-EGR Jet Set Pet Carrier Travel Kit+Grooming Bag+Trolley Bag
Sleepypod Mini – Jet Black

[I wrote this post early in Dog Jaunt’s history. Since then, I’ve reviewed many more aspiring in-cabin carriers, so please look at the related posts (listed below) and my other blog, called Pet Carrier Reviews, for additional ideas.]

Long Beach, CA dog-friendly hotel: Hilton Long Beach

In February 2009, all three of us (me, husband, Chloe) went to Long Beach for the TED conference and stayed at the Hilton Long Beach. The hotel conveys the impression of having recently been down at the heels (and the plaza below is thin on tenants), but it’s now being renovated and was certainly a pleasant enough place to stay.

Dog’s-eye view: No one made a fuss over Chloe, but housekeeping was very understanding when she peed on a towel. The hotel has chosen to disable the rooms’ mini-bars, so we kept her (well-wrapped) raw bones under ice in the ice bucket. (They got pretty whiffy. This is the source of Dog Jaunt’s checklist entries about asking ahead of time if the room has a mini-bar fridge, and about bringing along an air-freshener.) Just above the plaza was an outdoor mezzanine with lots of grassy areas and trash cans, perfect for quick walks. Reach it from the Hilton by taking the elevator to the 2nd floor, then exiting the building by the outer doors you pass on the way to the pool. Turn right and walk up the outdoor staircase.

What we liked: A good example of an upper-end, big-chain hotel. Pleasant and no surprises. Our room’s decor was nicer than you usually find.

What we didn’t like: When we were there, the facility and amenities were just okay. A lot of improvements were being made (e.g., outdoor lights in the plaza were being upgraded, the landscaping of Chloe’s outdoor mezzanine was being replaced), and in future the hotel is likely to seem better-groomed and more up-to-date.

Next time? We probably won’t return to the Hilton Long Beach, mostly because it was a bit too much of a hike from the conference center.

Hilton Long Beach
701 West Ocean Boulevard
Long Beach, CA 90831
T: 562-983-3400

Longboat Key, FL dog-friendly restaurant: Dry Dock Waterfront Grill

My sun-deprived sister-in-law requested stone crab claws at a waterside cafe, so we went to the Dry Dock Waterfront Grill. The hostess seated us in the outdoor patio and, noticing Chloe in her messenger bag, invited us to let her out (I tied her shortened leash to a chair leg and gave her the pad from the bottom of her bag to lie on) and brought her a bowl of water. Super-nice people, attractive waterside location, good food.

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill
412 Gulf of Mexico Drive
Longboat Key, FL 34228
T: 941-383-0102

Sarasota, FL dog-friendly hotel: Hibiscus Suites Inn

This March, Chloe and I stayed for several days at the Hibiscus Suites Inn in south Sarasota, right on the brink of Siesta Key. Since we were there with my mother- and sister-in-law, we rented the “townhouse” just behind the front desk. The hotel was very reasonably priced, and included a serviceable breakfast of packaged but tasty foods and the usual hot beverages, plus juices. There is a small pool with limited shade, positioned directly off the very busy Stickney Point Road. The rooms were modest but clean, and our townhouse included a full kitchen. The hotel is a vivid pink, and its glory is a stand of venerable, beautiful palm trees.

Dog’s-eye view: There are a couple of useful patches of grass and a dumpster for waste at the far end of the building. The streets in the neighborhood behind the hotel are quiet and pleasant — good and safe walking.

What we liked: Great price, clean, and sufficiently quiet despite its location on a heavily trafficked road. We enjoyed the Old Florida roadside motel vibe of the place.

What we didn’t like: We all brought bathing suits, but never used them. The pool’s location is unappealing (though a couple of families with young kids had a fine time in it) and, practically speaking, the hotel is not really within walking distance of the beach at Siesta Key. I’m not saying a brave person couldn’t walk there, but even in March, Sarasota is very hot and Stickney Point Road is dauntingly sun-blasted. The hotel is a 15-minute drive from downtown Sarasota (which was the focus of our activities on this trip), and the commute became tedious.

Next time? We probably won’t return to the Hibiscus Suites Inn. I’d like to try Rolling Waves Cottages on Longboat Key, which sounds reasonably-priced though again more of a drive than I’d like to downtown Sarasota; in a different price range altogether is the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, which reportedly welcomes pets with open arms and is admirably located for the opera.

Hibiscus Suites Inn
1735 Stickney Point Road
Sarasota, FL 34231
T: 800-822-5247 or 941-921-5797

Find a local vet and emergency clinic (U.S.)

Of course you know where to go in your hometown when your dog is suddenly, seriously ill, but where would you go in Phoenix? Do some research before you leave, and identify a good veterinarian and emergency clinic in the cities you’ll be visiting. It’ll give you peace of mind, even if you never have to use the info.

Emergency vet

Finding an emergency clinic is, it turns out, surprisingly easy: the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (VECCS) has an on-line emergency clinic directory that’s pretty extensive — I was pleased to see that it includes all the emergency clinics I’ve located for our various trips, and the two we’ve used in Seattle.

Other resources include the list of emergency vets in the front of The AAA Petbook: Traveling With Your Pet (11th Edition) and a new book called Pet E.R. Guide. I haven’t bought Pet E.R. Guide, since I’m comfortable with the VECCS directory and my AAA Petbook, so I can’t report on its contents.

Amazon listings:
The AAA Petbook: Traveling with Your Pet (11th Edition)
Pet E.R. Guide: A Directory of 24-Hour and After-Hour Veterinary Facilities in the United States

Local vet

It’s trickier to identify a good local veterinarian open during normal business hours, since there are a lot of veterinarians out there and you don’t always have local contacts to give you recommendations. If you do have a local contact, ask them for advice (even if they don’t have pets themselves, they may have co-workers or friends who can point you to a good veterinarian). Otherwise, a good resource is the American Animal Hospital Association’s searchable directory of AAHA-accredited veterinarians.

Also consider taking a look at user-evaluation websites like Yelp, or Citysearch (towards the top of the homepage, click on “Change City or Neighborhood” to get a list of states; click on a state to find cities), or Yahoo! Local. The quality and reliability of the reviews vary, but you get a more personal view of the vets’ offices and services than a listing can give.

Special mention

24-hour emergency pet ambulance in NYC
Ambuvet’s site has a helpful list of after-hours NYC vets, by neighborhood