How to Be a Pet-Perfect Guest

Vacationing with your pet can add a wonderful dimension to a family vacation – not having to kennel a dog or arrange home visits for a cat can take a huge burden off of travel planning – but there are still arrangements to be made to travel smart when hitting the road with your animal.

Both our vacation rentals Donner Bliss cabin in Truckee, Lake Tahoe​​ and our charming pair of jewelbox cottages in Pacific Grove welcome pets. We've had both dog and cat families stay, and almost all of our pet guests have been exemplary.

These tips are from what guests have done to make their animal low-impact, what we've learned on travel with our own dog and tips from across the Internet.

1. Pack for your pet​​

Just like you have on-the-road must-haves, like a water bottle, magazine or the travel size of your favorite shampoo, your pet has needs on the road. Even if your rental is pet-friendly, you should arrive with the things your pet will need to feel at home.

  • Bowls – Having a set you use regularly when traveling will help your pet acclimatize to a new place. One that works in the car, too, is helpful.

  • Food, water, meds – Your pet will get thirsty on the road and trails, so get a specialty pet water bottle. Bring enough of your pet's food, because you may not be able it at where you're going…or it could be very expensive. If your pet is on meds, remember to bring them. Also be sure to bring treats, because your pet will need lots of encouragement on the road.

  • Bed, crate, blanket – This is especially important if you’ll be leaving your pet alone at your vacation home. Many vacation homeowners would like to know that your pet is crate-trained, because this gives them confidence your pet get destructive or disruptive when you’re away, like claw the furniture or bark excessively and disturb the neighbors. Or worse yet, get out.

  • Toys – A set of favorite toys are important to help keep your pet entertained and occupied. Traveling comes with its own stresses, and your animal can use all the comfort you can provide to keep them as stress-free and occupied as possible.

  • Clean-up kit – Accidents happen, and you’ll want to be prepared with a travel-size pet cleaner. Each pet has its own unique brand of wear and tear, like shedding. If you know your pet loses a lot of hair, consider bringing the brushes and tools you use to keep your home tidy, so you don’t have to pay for extra laundering and cleaning at your vacation spot.

​​2. Manage your pet

  • Keep a watchful eye out – A new home with new smells and things to explore can lead to behavior you’re not expecting, so make sure your best buddy isn’t getting into trouble. You may also need to go through a mini round of training at your new home. Because your pet may not realize this living room is just like your living room, they may not realize that piddling in the middle of it is not okay. If you’re doing homesharing and your host also has a pet, be on the watch out if they don’t get along together. Even if they make nice the first time, it’s unpredictable and you want to be able to step in, both if your pet is the aggressor or getting threatened.

  • Watch the barking – If you’re leaving your pet alone at your vacation home, make sure to contain them to minimize barking. Use a crate if they’re crate-trained. And don’t leave them to manage themselves in the yard. There are too many smells and stimuli, like people walking by an squirrels. And there’s the danger they can get out.

  • Use a local kennel for an afternoon – If you’ll be spending a day out, for example after check-out, don’t let the car be your pet-sitter.​​ Many local kennels offer day-rates.

  • Be up-to-date on flea and tick meds and shots – Your travel destination is a new ecosystem. It could be tick season there, even though it isn’t at home. And the fleas and ticks there could carry different diseases than your home-grown ones do. Prevention is the best way of keeping your pet flea- and tick-free.​

  • ​​​​Know where to go – Many restaurants, trails and event spaces at your new location will be pet-friendly, so steer toward those for this trip so you can keep your pet close to you. If your vacation homeowner is pet-friendly, they may have a list of places to go in the area. Your host can also help you figure out the local pet culture. In Truckee, for example, many dogs roam local neighborhoods during the day. This can be a surprise for you and your pet, if you’re used to always walking with a lead. It can also be a lot of fun, but don’t let your pet off-lead if they’re not used to it, even if everyone else is.

  • Don’t leave bombs behind – Even if your pet is doing their business in the rental home’s yard, make sure you pick up afterwards. Nothing’s grosser than stepping into a pet pile, and it could end up getting tracked into the house, which could wind up in extra cleaning and fees.

3. Clear it with your host​​

It can be disheartening when you check your booking engine’s “pet-friendly” button and the pool of available houses shrinks down to just a handful. But never bring your pet without clearing it with your host first. It may not be that your host doesn't like animals, it could be that their pet marks when they get the scent of another animal. The hosts could be allergic. Or the home furnishings may not be set up well for pets. For any of these reasons, you should never try to secret your pet into a vacation home, or you could end up losing your security deposit.

Vacation homeowners are often reluctant to allow pets to stay because there’s a wide range of preparation and management that has to happen for it to work out well for everyone. By being a model pet guest, you’ll help increase the pet-friendly karma for the vacation rentals everywhere.

Places to go and things to do with your pets in Truckee and Tahoe:

Hiking with your dog:

Tips on pet travel:

Air travel with your pet:

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