Planning fun family trips is an important part of our desire to strengthen bonds with and provide happy memories for our children. Okay, now add a pet or two to the mix. Is it possible to travel with kids and pets and still find a great place to stay? The answer is yes! A surprising (and growing) number of lodgings that welcome families with kids and a dog or cat is making it much easier to take everyone along for the trip.
It's important to note that not all kid-friendly hotels allow pets. Nor is it a given that if your poodle is welcome, your toddler must be, too. Some charge a fee for the privilege and some do not. Others go out on a limb with perks like in-room dog treats, dog parks and pet sitters on call. Here's some of our favorite family-friendly hotel chains, and a few individual properties, that allow pets.
Affinia's urban properties offer a comprehensive suite of services geared to children. Its "Kid-Tested, Parent-Approved" package at Affinia Gardens in New York includes a one-bedroom suite with kitchen, fridge stocked with healthy snacks, extra sheets for tent making, Nintendo Wii, board games a Diaper Genie and outlet covers. The chain is known for its alliance with American Girl; the Affinia Chicago includes shops, events and keepsakes associated with these popular dolls.
Properties in New York and Washington, D.C., including the Liaison Capitol Hill, Affinia Dumont, Affinia Shelburne and Affinia Manhattan, welcome pets and offer a number of amenities including food and water bowls, litter boxes, dog and kitty treats, dog walkers and a list of nearby dog parks. Can't read your dog's mind? Reach enlightenment through a pet psychic.
From Canada to Hawaii, The Fairmont has a nice array of family packages that emphasize either savings or special amenities. At The Fairmont Algonquin in eastern Canada, a winter package called "Marshmallows and a Movie" offers discounted rooms during February and March along with roasting sticks and a bag of marshmallows so parent can "teach 'em how it's done" at one of the fire pits near the beach. Afterwards, go in and get warm with a movie and popcorn. In Maui get a "Suite Ride" with a discounted one-bedroom suite and a rental car with unlimited mileage. The hotels provide children 5 to 12 with 50 percent off a la carte restaurant items, while kids under 5 eat free off the kids' menu.
Many of the Fairmont properties in North America welcome pets; some of them even have dogs of their own. The Canine Ambassadors are lucky dogs that live at the hotel and offer their companionship to anyone who wants to pet or walk them. Pets receive treats, bowls, waste bags and a free copy of Bark! Magazine. The Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C., offers a fun "It's a Dog's World" package that provides a room with handmade dog treats (by the chef!), walking map of pet-friendly places throughout the city (including restaurants) and a special "Do Not Disturb" sign. Other select properties, like The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, welcome pets and offer hiking trails, walks and suggest nearby dog parks. Each property has its own distinct policy and fees, as low as $25 or as high as $250, so be sure to call first.
You won't find the word "Kimpton" in any of their hotel names but you will find a chain that treats little guests, both two-legged and four-legged, with as much pampering as the grownups. "Kimpton hotels manage to be fun and luxurious at the same time," comments Jamie Pearson of Travel Savvy Mom. "Little extras like trinket toys on arrival, cookies and milk at bedtime and pint-sized animal print bathrobes make kids feel excited."
The 57 hotels across 17 states, including California, Illinois, New York, Oregon and Virginia, offer babysitting service for children and dog walking and pet sitters for pets. Little extras like a loaner goldfish, outlet covers, toilet latches and nightlights make a child's stay extra special, while pets enjoy treats and special beds.
You know when a hotel website has a special tab for families and kids, it means business. Loews' "We Love Kids" program offers a variety of helpful services and fun amenities, according to location. Healthy dining options are available for kids, as well as special camps, tours and programs. For special treatment, a "Kids Kloset" is filled with an extra car seat, stroller, nightlight, potty seat and baby bathtub for parents needing an extra hand.
Ask The Vacation Gals and they'll tell you that the Loews Lake Hotel in Henderson (near Las Vegas) is ideal for traveling families: "It's the only property (in the city) that allows parents to leave the resort property while the kids are in the facility's care (so go pop a few quarters into a machine at Mandalay Bay or watch Bette Midler sing her heart out)," the Gals say.
If your dog happens to surf, head to Loews Coronado Bay Hotel in San Diego. Their annual Surf Dog Competition awards a free stay to the dog that can hang 20. Most other Loews properties have amenity-packed programs for pets including gourmet treats, dog-walking areas and even dog massage therapy. Pets across the country receive bedding, bowls, treats, and even grooming.
Children under 12 stay free at virtually all of the 4,000 Best Western properties around the world; many up that age limit to 18. And good news for the computer and iPad users in the family: all Best Westerns have free WiFi.
There are 1,900 Best Western hotels and motels deemed pet-friendly in the U.S. Since all Best Westerns are individually owned, what that actually means will vary widely. The biggest advantage here is that even very small towns often have a Best Western property, so if you're driving cross-country or just visiting family in the country, there's a pretty good chance you'll find something. The Best Western Ramkota in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for example, allows dogs, cats, even exotic animals at no extra charge (with only walking areas offered as an amenity).
Choice Hotels International
While they don't offer much in the way of fancy extras, Choice Hotels offers two very important kid-friendly amenities: size and price. You can hardly pass through a town that doesn't have one of their banners, and children under 18 always sleep for free.
Comprising about a dozen well-known budget and mid-scale lodging brands (including Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites and Mainstay), Choice Hotels is a convenient choice for families, and it makes a big deal about its pet-friendly policy. There are about 2,500 options in the U.S. allowing pets, with varying fees and policies. Various search options make it easy to find a couple of locations in most major towns and cities.
Adventure Suites, North Conway, N.H.
This unique themed hotel offers 17 different ways to hit the sack. From the Tree House (sleeps 8) to Motorcycle Madness (ride your bikes straight into the Harley-themed rooms), Adventure Suites is custom-made for kids and critters. Large Jacuzzi tubs in every room, access to more than 1,000 DVDs and walking/hiking opportunities in the nearby White Mountains add up to something for everyone. Families can bring a dog that is at least one year old (no cats). There is a backyard for walking and dog sitting is available. Look for the rooms with the Family-Friendly and Kid-Friendly icons in the description.
Sandpiper Beacon Beach Resort, Panama City Beach, Fla.
Surprisingly it's not easy to find Florida hotels that are both kid- and pet-friendly. The Sandpiper Beacon Beach Resort boasts that it is one of the few that welcomes all members of the family. Children will certainly welcome the abundance of water fun, including slides, pools, and lazy river rides. Call ahead to check on fees and weight restrictions. The resort will honor any free night stay coupons by letting your pet stay free, too.
The Simmons Inn, Hyannis Port, Mass.
Headed to Cape Cod this summer? Calling itself the one place that "truly reflects the spirit of old Cape Cod," The Simmons Inn in Hyannis Port opens its doors to parents, kids and dogs who want to get away from it all. Owner Bill Putman is a story in himself and runs a loose ship the kids will love. Dogs are welcome (not cats) and after 4:30 in summertime they can enjoy the local beaches. This rambling old hotel is a cross between a bed-and-breakfast and a classic seaside resort. Don't go here if you are in any way antisocial -- early evening wine on the front porch with all the other guests, communal breakfast and plain old neighborliness are the orders of the day.
Trump International Hotel, Las Vegas
Whatever your opinion is of Donald Trump, his hotel in Las Vegas openly welcomes both kids and pets. Located on the Strip, this high-rise, non-gaming property provides amenities for children such as a book, game and DVD library and cribs with "plush linens." Ask the Trump Attach (concierge) for anything you need, such as a custom-stocked refrigerator for picky snackers. Pets enjoy special bedding, treats and toys; ask your Attach for a list of dog-friendly parks and dog-walking services.