Travel Ideas for Animal-Loving Families

My family and I are huge animal-lovers. We have two rescue dogs that only travel with us on road trips (see my post Tips for Traveling with Dogs) so we love interacting with animals of all types when we travel to fill that void of missing our dogs. Over the years we’ve had many different encounters with animals. When our daughter was very young we would sometimes visit zoos when we traveled but that seemed to get less and less. Now we prefer to visit places that are rescue centers or see animals in their natural habitat when possible.

Our interactions with animals during our travels have run the gamut, with some places more positive experiences than others. My list of top places includes mostly dogs, exotic birds, bears, moose, butterflies, sting rays, and iguanas. I’d like to share some of the places that stand out more than others here.

When I was planning our trip to Utah, a co-worker who has been to Utah a few times recommended a place called Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. I looked it up and it did indeed look like a place my family and I would be interested in visiting. Not only did we visit there, but we had lunch upon arrival, stayed in one of the cottages on-site, toured the facilities with a guide, volunteered with some puppies (PUPPIES!), and even got to have a sleepover with one of the puppies in our cottage. It was even better than I could have imagined. I highly recommend staying here if you’re in southern Utah. You can read my full post on Best Friends here:  Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, “Save Them All!”.

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Walking a puppy at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

San Diego, California is one of my favorite places in the world. Not only is it beautiful but it’s absolutely full of things to do. When we were there a few years ago, we stopped to visit a bird rescue just outside San Diego called Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary. This is a place my daughter and I still talk about because it was such a unique experience for us. We had been to animal shows before where birds perform silly tricks and such, but we’d never been allowed to touch and interact with exotic birds before. One of our most memorable interactions here was with a bird called “Peanut,” who serenaded us and made us laugh. You can read my blog post on Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary here:  Off-the-Beaten Path Things to Do in Del Mar, California.

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Some of the birds from Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary

Many people visit Alaska to see bears, moose, puffins, and many other animals. When we visited Alaska, we definitely saw our share of many different types of animals. One of my favorite places to see animals was at Denali National Park. We went on a bus tour (an on-and-off bus where you could get off and hike then catch another bus to get back out of the park) one day and saw tons of bears, many different kinds of birds, caribou, and dall sheep. You can read about Denali National Park here:  Denali National Park in Alaska. Another animal encounter we had while in Alaska that turned out to be my daughter’s absolute favorite is when we went to Seavey’s Sled-Dogs in Seward, Alaska. What’s not to love about getting to hold adorable Alaskan Husky puppies? Going on a sled-ride pulled by some eager dogs around the grounds was a ton of fun as well!

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One of the puppies from Seavey’s Sled Dogs

Ostriches and butterflies probably aren’t the first things you think of when you think of Aruba. Many people visit Aruba for the powdery white sandy beaches and while they certainly didn’t disappoint, we also discovered a couple of places for animal-lovers. Simply known as The Butterfly Farm, this is one of my favorite butterfly farms I’ve been to anywhere. There are hundreds of butterflies here from around the world as well as caterpillars. A guided tour is included in the entrance fee, and the guide will show you how to safely handle butterflies when they inevitably land on you. We also visited the Aruba Ostrich Farm and loved it here. In addition to the tour of the ostriches (which you can feed and even go on a short but wild ride if you’re little and lucky enough like our young daughter was), you can eat lunch here, and view their African art pieces. There’s also a souvenir art shop full of local art work.

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My daughter feeding ostriches at the Aruba Ostrich Farm

Charleston, South Carolina is another one of my favorite places to visit, and I’ve been there many times over the years. On a recent visit, I discovered The Center for Birds of Prey, which is just outside Charleston in a city called Awendaw. Here, we took a guided tour and saw many different types of birds, watched a flight demonstration, and saw newly-hatched baby owls. Many people think of historical sites, gourmet food, and beaches when they think of Charleston, but The Center for Birds of Prey is also a great place to visit if you’re in the area and are an animal-lover.

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One of the beautiful birds at the Center for Birds of Prey

The next place I’m going to mention is definitely touristy, but a lot of fun nonetheless. As they say, some things are popular for a reason. When we were recently in Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean, we went snorkeling with a tour group that took us to Stingray City. Here, we were able to touch these gorgeous creatures as they glided past us on the shallow sandbar. Our guides offered to let people hold or even kiss a sting ray (it was said to bring you good luck), but I was content to just gently touch them as they swam past me. We also thoroughly enjoyed seeing the endangered Blue Cayman Iguana on our guided tour of Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. While you can’t touch the iguanas on the tour (they bite), you get to see them up-close on the behind the scenes tour of the breeding and recovery program. You can read my blog post on stingrays (and more) here:  Grand Cayman Island- Beautiful Beaches, Bioluminescent Water, Stingrays, and More and my post on the botanical garden (and more) here:  Exploring Grand Cayman Island on Foot-Crystal Caves, Botanical Gardens, Hiking a Trail, a Historical Site, and Hell.

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A Cayman Blue Iguana at Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in Grand Cayman Island

The final place on my list where my family and I interacted with animals is Hawaii. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii (a.k.a. The Big Island) multiple times and I’ve seen many different kinds of animals like huge turtles both in the water and on beaches on the Big Island, peacocks in Kauai, and whales off the coast of Maui. However, one of my favorite animal experiences was when we visited the Kauai Humane Society and took one of the shelter dogs on a field trip. At the Kauai Humane Society, you get to choose a dog from their best-behaved dogs and take them for a walk or wherever else you’d like for the day after paying a donation and getting some items for the day. The dog we chose, Priscilla, was extremely well-behaved in the car and on her leash. Taking Priscilla on a field trip that day was one of the highlights of my vacation in Hawaii and given all of the amazing things we saw and did in Hawaii, that’s really saying something! You can read about my vacation in Kauai here:  Rediscovering Kauai, Hawaii and Some of My Favorite Things.

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Sweet little Priscilla from the Kauai Humane Society

Are you an animal-lover? Do you try to incorporate visits to animal rescue centers or otherwise interact with animals when you go on vacation? What are some of your favorite places to visit animals?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

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Tips for Traveling with Dogs

I have two lab-mix rescue dogs that are the sweetest dogs in the world. I also love to travel. Since my family and I miss our dogs when we travel, whenever possible, we’ll bring our two dogs with us when we go on a road trip. They’re way too big to fit in a carrier under an airplane seat and I would be terrified to put them in the cargo section, so they’ve never flown. Plus, the price for bringing them along for a 2 or 3 week vacation would be outrageous and silly. So I’m just going to talk about bringing your dogs along with you on road trips.

Before you ever leave your house, you’ll want to pack several things for your dog. Here’s a packing list of things that I bring:

1 bowl for water, 2 bowls for food (they can share water but not food)

dog food

dog treats

dog blanket

dog towel

leash

waste bags

dog brush

dog toys

dog crate

I don’t bring a dog bed (or in my case two dog beds). Beds for large dogs take up a ton of space. My dogs can “rough it” for the time they’re away from home and just sleep on the floor.

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Chile and Libby

I always check Airbnb for dog-friendly places but I also check BringFido for dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and activities. One really nice feature about BringFido is when you type in an area and look at hotels, you can see at a glance if there’s a pet fee, if big dogs are allowed, and if there’s a limit on number of dogs. You can also choose which site you want to book through, like Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, or directly through BringFido. You can also see BringFido Traveler Ratings, as well as TripAdvisor Traveler Ratings. A similar website that I haven’t personally used is Official Pet Hotels.

You don’t want to feed your dog a full meal then have them go on a long car ride so keep feeding to a minimum until you get to your final destination. The same goes for water, though you can offer them small amounts of water along the way if you’re traveling during hot summer months or driving a long way.

When you stop for gas, have someone else walk the dog to stretch their legs and let them go to the bathroom.

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Libby and Chile taking over one of the beds in a La Quinta hotel room

Make sure your dog has an identification tag with current information.

If you need to stop along the way for a meal, just remember you either have to stop at a place you know for sure is dog-friendly or you’ll be limited to drive-thru. Leaving the dog in the car while you go inside for a sit-down meal is not an option.

Be sure your dog doesn’t get car-sick by taking them on a short ride (or even a couple of short rides) before you plan a longer road trip. The last thing you want is to have to clean up dog vomit when you have a 4 hour drive planned and are only 30 minutes into the trip.

Although I don’t personally have any, a car seat tether or car harness is a great idea especially if you have a dog that wants to move around in the car.

When you reach your hotel or Airbnb house/apartment you’ll want to make sure your dog uses the bathroom before entering your accommodations. If they get muddy paws on the way in, here’s where your dog towel will come in handy, so you can wipe off their feet and not leave muddy tracks all over the place. Help them get settled by getting their food and water as well. They’ll want to sniff and check out the place and you can let them know that’s OK, but keep an eye on them.

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Did I mention my dogs are a bit spoiled?

If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure the front desk has your cell phone number so they can call you if your dog is barking or there’s another issue while you’re away. This should all be done at check-in when you make it clear you’re traveling with a dog. At many places, even dog-friendly ones, if you omit the fact that you’re traveling with a dog, you can be charged a hefty fee for not being up-front with them.

Also, even if your dog doesn’t bark much at home, they sometimes hear other dogs or people in the hotel and bark more because it’s a strange environment to them. Fortunately I’ve never had anyone complain about our dogs barking and the front desk has never had to call, but you never know.

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Here’s why I bring a dog brush when we travel with our dogs

Your dog will need to be walked during your vacation, so make sure you factor that time in when planning things to do. This may mean stopping whatever you’re doing mid-day and going back to your hotel to walk the dog, but that’s just part of being a good dog owner. If you know your dog can make it through say five hours without having to be let out at home, then you can plan for four hours away on vacation with them to be on the safe side.

Traveling with dogs is a bit like traveling with children. As long as you come prepared and bring the right supplies along with some patience and understanding for their needs, you’ll be glad you brought them. While our dogs have a wonderful dog sitter that they love when we fly somewhere, I know they’re happiest when they’re with us, their family so we bring them along when we can.

Do you have a dog that you travel with? Do you have any advice for others traveling with their dog? Anything I left out here?

Happy travels!

Donna