Travels with the pet set

No need to leave furry or even feathered members of the family home when there are so many pet-friendly hotels.

In the course of my extensive travels over the years, I’ve met a variety of passport-carrying pooches. Among the better-behaved ones I remember is Lydia, a delightful Dachshund staying at The Twelve Apostles in Cape Town. Then there was Achilles, a Saluki, at The Westbury in Dublin and a very dainty Fox Terrier named Betsey Trotwood lV, on a “Wagging Tail Escape” at the Knob Hill Inn in Sun Valley, Idaho. As they like to say at Knob Hill, staying at home is ruff for your best pal, so bring your four-legged friends along.

Of Garibaldi, the Schnauzer, vacationing with his overindulgent parents at a grand hotel in one of the smarter resorts in Liguria, Italy, I will say nothing. I appreciate that not all pets have inherent good manners, even as I congratulate myself, rather smugly, that mine always have. Take Eric, our beloved golden English Cocker Spaniel, now alas in canine Valhalla. Trained to lie on his back, swaddled in a scarf and pillow-case, staying still as a statue in my wife’s arms, we occasionally tried to smuggle him into hotels in Spain and England, (which in those days could be resolutely dog-unfriendly,) disguised as a sleeping infant. “Lady,” said the much put-upon reception manager of The Westin Palace Hotel, Madrid to my wife on one memorable occasion, “if that’s a baby you’re holding, then I am the Holy Roman Emperor.” 

These days, hotels tend to be less uptight. Traveling with pets has been simplified by the airlines and since happy owners make contented guests, many luxury hotels have extended the art of hospitality to serve the needs of our furry friends.

If you’re headed for some late-season skiing in Colorado and don’t want to leave your hound at home, think about staying at the famous Little Nell in Aspen, where two complimentary ski passes are offered for each day you stay. Here, epicurean dog treats await, along with a Puppy Jet Lag Kit to help young Rex (or Regina) get used to the high altitude. You’ll pay $125 registration plus $25 a night for the amenity.

At the Mediterranean-inspired Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, set in 45 acres of lush gardens and olive groves in rolling country an hour north of San Diego, there’s a $200 flat fee for dogs, regardless of size or length of stay. A custom-made dog bed and in-room dining menu are a part of the allure.

With its perfect sidewalks, inviting palm trees and great window shopping at the low, four-legged level, Beverly Hills is a veritable pet paradise and, as you might expect, lots of top hotels are pet-friendly here. At the sparkly new Waldorf Astoria, checking in with your dog is something of a bargain, adding a mere $150 to your bill regardless of the length of your stay. But be warned: This being Southern California, where they’re all extremely weight-conscious, dogs must check in at under 25 pounds. 

I saw so many dogs during my recent stay at the wonderful Belmond Charleston Place — featured in this magazine and without doubt one of the loveliest places to stay in Charleston, South Carolina — that I wondered if I had run into some sort of canine convention. I subsequently discovered that owners pay $150 per pet per stay, for up to two pets, but that pooches may not be left unattended in the guest rooms. Perhaps that explains all the dog socializing in the lobby. 

Need some sunshine? The Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club in North Miami Beach — which used to play host to Noël Coward, oodles of Kennedys and the Rat Pack — has now been gloriously revived under the Four Seasons banner. Right on the ocean, the hotel boasts the only branch of the glamorous Le Sirenuse restaurant from Positano, where Italian chefs and white- jacketed waiters cater to your every (gastronomic) whim, as well as Thomas Keller’s only Florida restaurant. Doggies — and I use the term advisedly — stay free, so long as they weigh less than 15 pounds, which is even more size-ist than Beverly Hills. On an up note, it’s a good reason for smaller dogs who are on the cusp to slim down.

At the charming XV Beacon in Boston, pets get a personalized plate of peanut butter treats upon arrival and doggie-bed turndown service each night, while for walkies, there’s neighboring Boston Common. A $25 pet donation per stay is suggested, 100 percent of which goes to various animal charities. Bravo, XV Beacon.

In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, your choice would have to be The Jefferson, the landmark 1920s Beaux Arts hotel, where up to two dogs of any size are permitted, for a modest fee of $50 per pet. It may be dog eat dog these days on Capitol Hill, but in The Jefferson’s lobby — such a social place — it’s more like dog meet dog. And when it comes to taking a stroll, the concierge will fill you in on the “Famous Dogs in American History” walking tour. Seriously.

The prize for the most pet-friendly accommodations, however, must go to Kimpton Hotels. Not only do they welcome dogs, they retain a (canine) director of pet relations at many of their properties. Pets are greeted by name on arrival and a list of local pet-friendly restaurants is shared. Best of all, there is no extra charge for dogs — no deposit, no limit on number and no size constraints: if your pet fits through the door, say the friendly people at Kimpton, then your pet is welcome.

Traveling internationally with your dog brings its challenges, but if you do get to Europe with your loved one, let me recommend The Milestone Hotel & Residences in London’s Kensington district, where pets can expect a tailor-made welcome hamper, along with special menus and turndown treats. In the French capital, the grande dame hotel, Le Meurice, has always been pet-friendly. Salvador Dalí stayed here in the 1960s with his pet ocelot, Babou. And there’s no booking fee, not even for ocelots apparently. That would be far too vulgar for the elegant Meurice.

Lastly, if you’re traveling overseas and missing animal companionship, why not stay in a hotel where animals are, so to speak, already part of the furniture. Rosewood London, apart from welcoming pets with its Pampered Pets Program, has an in-house retriever, Pearl, who loves being petted by guests. Pearl is quite a star in the neighborhood and even has her own Instagram account. Over in Paris, a seductive white Burmese, Fa-raon, is the resident cat at Hotel Bristol, often found stretched out on the concierge desk. (Evian water and a monogrammed rug are among the many perks for actual pet guests at the Bristol.)

If you fancy something more exotic, iguanas cruise hotel properties all over Mexico and the Caribbean, but nowhere do they seem quite so chill and laidback as at the jaw-droppingly lovely Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort in the Florida Keys. You can chirp along with 11 kinds of exotic birds at the Hilton Aruba Resort and there are vervet monkeys to cozy up to at the newly-opened Belle Mont Farm, in Basseterre, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. 

Best of all though in the on-property pet department may be the giraffes that make themselves at home (at least from the neck up) in the dining room at Giraffe Manor, a luxury boutique hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Not the best table manners, perhaps, but let’s face it — with eyelashes that long, you can get away with anything.

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