Tired, hungry and … lodgeless.
I was far from home, road tripping the Oregon coastal highway with my two dogs. It was 4 o’clock on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon of a 3-day holiday weekend.
And it was Valentine’s Day. Were we going to find a hotel room for the night?
On Being Flexible, Getting Lucky and Finding the Right Tools
I parked the van, sucking down caffeine. The dogs, bless them, sat quietly with noses to the cool breeze. And I was using my smart phone to frantically search for a last minute pet-friendly hotel room for the night.
Ha! I laugh at my audacity, now!
Of course every single hotel room on the Oregon Coast was booked full on Valentine’s. What was I thinking?!
What happened, do you ask? I lucked out, that’s what!
I was tediously trying to find a room, one town at a time, via the BringFido mobile app when I accidentally pressed a button and the phone started ringing. I was astonished when a BringFido travel agent answered the phone. She was patient and courteous, and didn’t even snort at my frantic desire to find a coastal (aka romantic) hotel on a long lover’s weekend.
I told her where I was and which general direction I was headed. She found a room just south of Portland, 2 hour’s inland. I mentally adjusted my travel route and begged her to book the room right away. She did and BAM! Just like that, we had a very nice room for the night! Phew, what a relief!!
Playing It By Ear
I played it by ear with pet-friendly lodging that whole trip, making reservations only within hours of stopping for the night.
A trip goal was to determine how long is ‘long enough’ to be in the car. Nailing down a specific hotel beforehand would have spoiled this Time vs Mileage experiment.
The biggest advantage to playing it by ear is being carefree.
Suddenly they throw noses high in the air to a new, enticing scent. They change direction to solve a mystery, an undiscovered delight. I love that about my dogs, their uninhibited openness to following a curiosity. It was high time I tried it myself.
The disadvantage to last minute lodging is the need to search for a place at the tiring end of a day. With the possibility that all pet-friendly options for many miles are fully booked. Or just plain not existent.
But with flexibility and a bit of planning beforehand, we can avoid having to sleep in a parking lot.
Last Minute Pet Friendly Lodging Tips
Here’s what I learned:
1. Avoid High Season in Popular Areas
Holidays and Valentine’s Day, too.
2. Cyber-Scout Regions Ahead of Time
Is the region through which we’re traveling generally pet-friendly?
If not, we may have to compromise our carefreeness to assure ourselves of lodging ahead of time. Or, be ready to sleep in the car.
I used these resources to scout, basically just looking at the density of any pet-friendly places (hotels, parks, restaurants, etc) in a given area:
- GoPetFriendly and BringFido each have different features and formats, I suggest trying both.
- If short on time, I’d just use GoPetFriendly.com to cyber-scout. Their “Travel Search” page (not shown below) not only lists dog-friendly stuff around a given town, but also offers geographically related stories written during their extensive road tripping.
- “Search nearby” a town or area for “pet friendly accommodation”.
- Hover over a result’s name on the map and see what you get.
- Use Satellite view to spy on a lodging’s grounds (do they look dog-walk friendly? Rugged? Industrial?)
I almost reserved a room until I saw via Satellite view that the hotel was surrounded by shipping yards and a commercial railroad, ugh.
- Non-internet resources are handy, too. Having a few 1-800 Numbers of pet-friendly hotel chains in the area of travel is a good alternative.
- Even handier is having actual hotel chain locations booklets. Especially if you don’t have a cell phone (or in a dead zone.)
- A few of the hotel friendlies include: La Quinta, Best Western, Choice hotels, Motel 6, Red Roof Inn, InterContinental.
3. Use Travel Tools to Reserve a Room
There’s a big difference between finding a pet-friendly hotel and nabbing an actual available room when you need it.
Use a Mobile App
The only good pet-friendly mobile app I found (at least on my iPhone) is BringFido. It’s free, includes more than just hotels, and has a contact button for calling a real live friendly travel agent.
Use Travel Websites
There are plenty of websites that find and reserve rooms for you. And many of them have free mobile apps. Some of the popular ones include: Expedia.com, Hotels.com and Travelocity.com.
However, these websites are not geared specifically towards pet-friendly lodgings. Many have a ‘Pets allowed’ filter, but that’s as robust they get (e.g. you can’t filter out hotels that have pet size and number restrictions, and you have to go to each hotel’s website to hunt down their pet policy.)
Ha, it’s true: I found my favorite two hotels by calling a number on a billboard I was driving past! I think Oregon is just super pet friendly but both hotels I called were more than happy to allow my two big dogs.
The Next Trip
I’m itching to go dog road tripping again. Although, I will probably opt to camp and/or make lodging reservations ahead of time, and stay put for a few days in a row.
The play-it-by-ear-each-day adventure was wonderful. I learned how to be less controlling in my every day life and am still reaping benefits from that lesson. But I’m eager to see what else unfolds when I travel … slower.