If the old adage “It’s a dog’s life” holds true, sign me up. Luxury travel for those with four-legged companions is booming. Canada is home to roughly 5.9 million dogs, and most of them are found in households with higher incomes. The result? A population of pets that live really, really well. Tourism is leading the pack with offerings that make travel with pets easier (and cuter) than ever.
Carol Martin founded Carmel, Calif.based Sit ’n Stay Global in 2006 specifically to meet the needs of well-heeled clients with pets flying on private jets. Initially focused on in-flight safety for pets, she soon rounded out services for travelling animals to reflect the level of luxury of her human clients. “We are all trained in pet nutrition as well as human nutrition and food preparation, and we present our carefully prepared pet meals with the same elegant flair that their humans enjoy on china with spring water,” she explains. They introduced a “Pet Nanny” service for busy clients, wherein staff joins a trip as a nanny to the pet and sources the best pet friendly offerings at the destination, spends the day with the animal, and sends pictures and updates to let pet parents know all is well.
“Clients are demanding more and more that their pets are accepted as any other family member would be. They are seeking out locations where they will have the freedom to enjoy their travel adventures with that valued member of their family,” she says. Beach and mountain destinations are increasingly popular, as well as options to take pets along when dining out. “Our clients feel valued by resorts and properties that treat their pets with dignity and respect.”
Getting there is part of the adventure and two major airlines are welcoming pets in a big way. In 2009, JetBlue introduced JetPaws, a travel program for pets that includes a customized carrier, pet-specific promotions and extra airline points for pooches, and in August of this year, American Airlines announced the introduction of Cuddle Class, a first-class section for pets for cost of the standard $125 carry-on pet fee.
‘Clients are demanding more and more that their pets are accepted as any other family member would be’
Fancy the ocean over air? Your pooch can get his or her sea legs in San Diego on Hornblower Cruises. The Bow Wow Brunch is a special two-hour boat cruise that treats two-legged guests to a decadent Champagne brunch and four-legged guests to a pet buffet and special dog sun relief area of the yacht.
And hotels are keen to attract pet-attached travellers, too. A dog’s breakfast sounds like heaven at the iconic Istanbul hotel, Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah. Here, pet guests dine on a poached fillet of salmon or chopped fillet of beef, and all meals are prepared without any seasoning or bones to ensure a petfriendly nosh.
In St.Petersburg, Fla., the Loews Don Cesar offers gourmet room service menus for cats and dogs — beef tenderloin with eggs and brown rice, perhaps, or pumpkin pup cakes — prepared by the hotel’s award-winning master chef, as well as poolside dog massages by a professional canine massage therapist.
Even the old guards of luxury hotels are down with dogs. The doggie room service menu at New York’s Waldorf Astoria features German shepherd’s pie and Pekingese’s duck. Pups can unwind on luxury pet beds, dine on fancy dishes, and lap and see the sites of the city during a complimentary dog walk during their stay.
For travellers who prefer scenic mountain terrain over poolside pampering or urban energy, Hotel North Woods in Lake Placid is ideal. The 92-room historic hotel offers guests the “Outward Hound” experience. It includes use of their signature, custom pet beds, pet dining stations, as well as a complimentary, homemade nutty maple bacon dog treats (made with Adirondack maple syrup). Dogs are encouraged at the property, the hotel’s two restaurants welcome dogs in their outdoor seating areas, and guests are provided with a guide to pet friendly locations and hikes in and around Lake Placid. A portion of every pet fee charged in the Outward Hound program is donated to the Joshua Fund, a local not-for-profit organization that places dogs in loving foster and permanent homes, and helps Lake Placid residents cover vet bills that they might not be able to afford.