BringFido.com allows travelers to determine which hotels are truly pet-friendly.
Melissa Halliburton’s inspiration for creating a global resource for travelers with pets in tow came from personal experience. After graduating from college, she settled on a petite Jack Russell-Chihuahua mix called Rocco. But taking him on the road proved to be a challenge in the Boston metropolitan area where she lived. “I called several hotels and even though signs said ‘pet friendly’ much of the information was incorrect,” she lamented.
Her solution was BringFido.com, a site with detailed information on hotels, restaurants and events in more than 14,000 cities in 91 countries.
Halliburton, 36, sees a golden age for pet-friendly travel around the bend: Her company estimates that more than 30 percent of pet owners in the United States now regularly bring their companions on family vacations, weekend getaways and even business trips. Her recent book, “Ruff Guide to the United States,” is illustrated with postcard-style photos and features 365 places to stay with a dog. Following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Halliburton.
Q: How did this all get started?
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A: The tipping point was when I arrived late to my best friend’s wedding in a tow truck (with my dog, Rocco, in a tux) because my car had a flat tire: The only pet-friendly hotel I could find was more than an hour away from the wedding destination. I spoke about my dilemma to fellow MIT graduates who helped me call dozens of places to help determine parameters that travelers with their pets would consider before bringing their dog on a trip.
So the site not only offers up-to-date information on global hotels and beyond, but also the opportunity to directly book online.
Q: What areas in the hospitality industry do you think could use some improvement for travelers with pets?
A: I won’t lie: Europe makes traveling with pets a lot easier. Even restaurants there will welcome dogs, but, thankfully, changes are afoot in America. More airports now have pet-service areas, and hotel brands like Kimpton and Loews are catering to four-paw types with canine spa services and even in-room pet menus.
There are limited options for safely transporting pets by air. Traveling by train is an area for improvement, but Amtrak is currently testing pet-friendly carriages in four markets. That option will hopefully expand nationwide.
Q: You now have two dogs: Roxy and Ace. How do you get them comfortable on a flight?
A: I try not to take Ace — a domineering Labrador-greyhound who clocks in at over 60 pounds — flying too much because it involves putting him in cargo. If I have to do that, I’ll throw in a T-shirt I’ve worn so he can sense my presence even if we’re not together. It’s smart to accustom your dog to being in a carrier well in advance of the trip. Since Roxy is fairly small — a pug-Chihuahua — she travels under the seat in front of me. I bring ice cubes on the flight to hydrate her.
Q: What are some of the fun activities you’ve done with your dogs while traveling?
A: We often go to Yellowstone Under Canvas in Montana, which has a nice “glamping” setup: It’s a hybrid of being indoors and outdoors. The property is also fenced in to keep bears out, so I knew my dogs won’t run away. My pooch loved the doggy surfing lesson at Loews Coronado Bay in California; it was also great to hear the soft crunch of leaves when we went on a midnight doggy snowshoe hike at the Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe in California.