Opting for a road trip instead of air travel this summer because of COVID-19? You might consider inviting your dog, just like John Steinbeck did in 1960 when he drove from Sag Harbor to California with his French poodle, detailing his trip in a classic memoir, ''Travels with Charley.''
Not all pets are as willing to travel as Charley, and you probably know if you already have one of these. Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Cabral of the North Fork Animal Hospital in Southold says that in general, “cats do not like change and are happier in their own households. Even rearranging the furniture can stress them out.” Likewise, dogs who are particularly nervous about car rides might be better off with a pet sitter.
But lots of dogs are content to ride shotgun. For 15 years I included my mini poodle Mila, who suffered from extreme separation anxiety, in my travel plans. “Do whatever you need to do to make your dog as comfortable and safe as possible,” says Cabral. Indeed, packing for Mila and getting her ready to travel often took longer than packing for myself. But these preparations allowed me to enjoy a canine-friendly Vermont beer trail, the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, a windjammer cruise around Bar Harbor with my very best friend. Here is some advice, gleaned from experts and my own experience, to help you vacation with your own pup:
Visit the vet: Before departing, check in with your vet to make sure your dog’s immunizations are up to date. Cabral notes that campgrounds require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and it’s also good idea to have one if you are crossing state lines. More good advice from the doctor: Ask for copies of your pet’s medical records if he or she has past or ongoing health issues and get an ample supply of any necessary medications. Inquire about carsickness and anxiety remedies, even if your dog has been fine on shorter rides, just in case. Try out those medications ahead of time to see how they respond.
Consider having a tiny microchip, about the size of a grain of rice, implanted in the scruff of her neck. The procedure is painless, inexpensive, and allows him to be scanned and identified if he is lost and then loses his ID tag. It’s also a good idea to research 24-hour vet clinics along your route and near your destination, just in case.
Pack a doggie bag: Essentials include food, water, bowls, treats, poop bags and leash. Depending on the types of activities you have planned, you might also include Frisbees, balls, and other outdoor toys, towels, dog shampoo, and paw wipes. Cabral suggests bringing comfort objects as well. “A familiar blanket or bed will provide that continuity,” she says. Make sure your dog has a well-fitting collar with a current ID tag and a cellphone number where you can be reached during your travels.
A crate or carrier is also essential. “Dogs need to be trained to travel,” says Gay Snow of Bridgehampton, who has taken Latte, her 11-year-old Havanese across the country several times. “I Ferberized her,” she says, referring to the technique of training babies to self-soothe, popularized by Dr. Richard Ferber. “I put her in the carrier for five minutes, and then gave her a treat. Then I repeated the process, extending the time she spent inside until she had no problem being there for a couple of hours.”
Drive safely with Fido: Amtrak only allows pets on select trains, and Greyhound restricts ridership to certified service dogs. In any case, driving is safer when it comes to avoiding COVID-19. Confine your dog to a crate or carrier that’s been anchored to the vehicle with a seat belt, or secure in a doggy car seat. The back seat is safest. If an air bag deploys while your dog is in the front seat, it might cause injury or even death.
It’s OK to let your dog hang his or her head out the window on local rides. But driving on the highway where there’s a lot of debris is another story. “Think of your windshield getting cracked when a pebble flies into it,” says Cabral. Ouch. Stop often for exercise and bathroom breaks. When possible, travel with a friend or family member, so you can take bathroom breaks of your own.
Finally, never leave your pet alone in the car. According to the Humane Society, a car’s interior can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes, when it is 85 degrees outside, even with the windows cracked open. Left to sit even briefly at a high temperature, dogs may suffer irreversible organ damage or death.
Pet-friendly resorts within driving distance of Long Island
There are pet-friendly hotels, and then there are resorts that go the extra mile to make dogs part of the vacation experience:
Ian and Mindy McCormick, owners of Emerald Glen Getaway (emeraldglengetaway.com) in upstate Morris, about a 3½-hour drive from the city, welcome dog-loving visitors to their 120-acre property from May through September. The spacious grounds near Oneonta allow dog owners and dogs get to know each other while social distancing. “It’s the ideal spot to get away from things and relax without feeling like you are on top of your neighbor,” says Ian. Reserve a cabin, tent, or RV and prepare your food on a grill at the communal “Hound Hub.” Well-behaved dogs can roam off-leash, exploring 4 miles of trails with entries into a creek for cooling off. During downtime, owners relax in hammocks and zero-gravity chairs around the property.
Pampered pooches will enjoy glamping at Firelight Camps (firelightcamps.com) in upstate Ithaca, where deluxe tents with king-size beds can also house four-legged guests for a $25/dog/night fee. Hike Buttermilk Falls (accessible from Firelight), enjoy the dog-friendly Cayuga trail, which features a dog park and farmers market. Visit some of the dozen pet-friendly Finger Lakes wineries, or have dinner delivered to the glampground from one of Ithaca’s fine dining restaurants, to eat around your private fire pit.
Beach-loving pets and their owners might check out the INNcredible Pet Package offered by the Inn by the Sea (innbythesea.com) in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where there is never an extra pet fee. Your dog will be welcomed with an Inn by the Sea dog bowl, a personalized L.L. Bean dog bed, an L.L. Bean dog toy, a nightly selection from the inn’s pet menu, and nightly turndown service including seasonally flavored dog treats. The Inn works in collaboration with the local animal shelter to foster about 45 dogs a year. Guests are welcome to walk and play with the foster dogs, and many guests have fallen in love and adopted a pooch during a stay at the Inn.
The Wilburton Inn (wilburtoninn.com), in Manchester, Vermont, is a historic hilltop estate with 16 dog-friendly rooms and vacation homes ranging from a two-bedroom cottage to a 15-room mansion. The inn is not just dog-friendly, it’s “dog-celebrating,” says owner Melissa Levis, who also owns Jetson, the inn’s “canine concierge.” Along with Jetson, your dog can roam the 30-acre property off-leash, go on supervised strolls through town, and enjoy “doggy and me” massages. Organic dog biscuit are provided by Wagatha’s, a local dog bakery. There is a dog-friendly bridal suite, for couples who want to spend their wedding night with their pet.
Reserve pet-friendly lodgings: Many hotels will accommodate pets these days, but never assume. Inquire when you reserve about rules and restrictions as well as pet fees. Bring a blanket to cover furniture and avoid cleaning charges. Most hotels stipulate that pets not be left alone, and will go as far as evicting you if other guests complain about barking. So plan on doing a lot of picnicking, walking, and dog-friendly sightseeing at local promenades, parks, and beaches.
Many pet owners prefer the convenience of renting a pet-friendly home. Search airbnb to find listings that allow pets. Check each listing’s house rules to see if there is a limit on the number of pets allowed and if there are other restrictions, such as keeping animals off furniture. Always contact the host before booking, to make sure that the listing rules are current.
Owners of high-end properties renting for longer periods may take some convincing, says luxury specialist at Brown Harris Stevens in Bridgehampton. “Owners are more inclined to say yes to a dog if you can truthfully describe it as non-shedding, mature, and well-behaved.” While a standard security deposit is 10 percent, expect to shell out 15 percent to 20 percent in security for a pet-friendly rental.
Consider the great outdoors: Rules about dogs vary at campgrounds and national, state, and local parks. So before settling on a site to pitch your tent or park your RV, make sure your dog will be welcome.
Add a few items to your usual packing list: flea and tick repellent, dog brush or comb for removing burrs and knots, a dog-friendly first aid kit with tools for removing splinters, ticks, and thorns, a towel for cleaning up before bringing your dog back into the tent. Bring extra food for increased activity.
Most campsites require that dogs be leashed at all times, to keep them from chasing squirrels and stealing hamburgers from a neighbor’s barbecue. Obey leash rules on trails. No matter how good your dog is, she or he will surely be tempted to run off at some point if not properly restrained. To keep your dog hydrated during hikes, carry a water bottle and collapsible water bowl. And pack some pet snacks along with granola bars or trail mix for yourself. Carry poop bags and pick up after your dog wherever you go, because dog poop is a pollutant and a source of parasites.
At night, keep your dog safe from nocturnal animals by cozying up together inside your accommodations. Consider buying her a doggy sleeping bag and pad if you expect the weather to be chilly.