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Traveling with pets can seem like a daunting task. Hotel pet policies are complicated, inconsistent and full of gotcha fees. But with a bit of preparation and an understanding of how the policies work, you can avoid these costs and headaches.
Here's the basics of staying at hotels with your pets.
What 'pet-friendly' means (and doesn’t)
A pet-friendly hotel is generally one that allows some animals on the property under some conditions. However:
Many pet-friendly hotels charge an additional fee. Sometimes this is a flat per-stay fee, sometimes it varies by the number of pets or number of nights stayed.
Not all pet-friendly hotels allow all pets. Most allow dogs only, and many of those have size and breed restrictions.
Most hotels don't allow pets to be left unaccompanied.
Each individual hotel, even within the same brand, often has its own pet policy. Staying at one pet-friendly Marriott, for example, doesn't mean all Marriott properties are pet-friendly.
Make sure to check the specific policy for the hotel property you’re considering before clicking “book.”
How to find hotel pet policies
Generally, each hotel property has its own pet policy. There is no blanket pet policy for, say, every Holiday Inn. Every Holiday Inn location has its own policy.
These policies have become so complex, a mini-online industry has sprung up around providing clear, easy-to-understand information about specific policies. Sites such as BringFido and Petswelcome host individual pages for each hotel property with reviews from pet owners and a simple summary of the pet policy. Here’s an example from BringFido:
These sites are a great resource. The only drawback is that they are updated manually, so if a property changes its pet policy, it may not be immediately reflected. To ensure you’re getting the correct information:
Use a site like BringFido or Petswelcome to check the basics.
Search the name of the property plus "pet policy" to find the official policy and make sure the details match.
If there is any discrepancy or confusion, call the hotel.
Go-to hotel brands for pet owners
Although individual hotel properties often have their own pet policies, some hotel chains and brands are generally more pet-friendly than others.
IHG hotels, including Holiday Inns, are pet-friendly, though many carry a fee. Kimpton Hotels, which are part of IHG, allow all pets — no restrictions on size, species or number of pets — and carry no fees.
Aloft Hotels, part of Marriott, allow dogs up to 40 pounds for free, but the number of dogs allowed varies by each hotel.
Red Roof Inn allows one pet up to 80 pounds for free.
Motel 6 allows up to two pets weighing 150 pounds combined for free.
Which major hotel brands have the lowest pet fees?
As traveling with pets becomes more common, more hotel brands are pitching themselves as pet-friendly while charging exorbitant pet fees, which are often buried in the fine print. To shed some light on these fees, we compared dozens of properties within seven major hotel brands to see which charged the lowest pet fees.
» Learn more: Which hotel brands have the best (and worst) fees?
Keep in mind that these are average fees, and the actual rates vary significantly from property to property. Still, it gives travelers with pets a good understanding of which brands to target and which to avoid altogether when planning where to stay.
Tips and best practices during your stay
Inform the staff during check-in that you've brought a pet. Some properties have specific pet-friendly rooms set aside, and others have special amenities for pets.
Keep your dog on a leash while inside the hotel. Your dog might be well-behaved, but it could encounter another guest’s dog that isn’t, leading to barking or fighting.
If you must leave your pet unattended for a short time, bring a crate. Nervous pets can wreak havoc on an empty room, racking up expensive damage fees. If your dog barks when left, don’t leave it by itself for other guests’ sake. Some hotels won't let you leave your pet unattended at all — so have a plan if you're heading to a museum, show or restaurant that also won't allow pets.
Inform housekeeping if your pet has an accident. You could face a fee if you don’t, and most hotels have specialty cleaning supplies that can take care of the mess in a hurry.
Pets are part of the family, so why board them when you go on vacation? Although hotel pet policies can seem like a complex maze, they are easier to understand and navigate once you know the basics.
Use a third party website to check individual property pet policies, target brands like Kimpton and Aloft that are truly pet-friendly, and watch out for sky-high pet fees from some big-name hotels.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card