When they check in, hotel staff greet them by name and shower them with gifts. Their rooms are outfitted with special beds, hand delivered in preparation for their arrival. Their days are spent oscillating between walks on white sandy beaches and private tours of the local area. When night falls, they dine on the patios of chef-driven restaurants, ordering off customized menus.
No, these experiences aren’t reserved for royalty — well, not human royalty, anyway. This is how pampered pooches vacation in the increasingly pet-friendly world of luxury travel. Of the roughly 85 million Americans who have pets, half of them travel with their furry friends. Related businesses (think boarding, grooming and the like) have been raking in billions of dollars in recent years, and the travel industry has wisely taken notice, as evidenced by developments like the new $65-million ARK Pet Oasis terminal at New York City’s JFK airport, complete with microchip services, a pet spa and a pool in the shape of a bone.
Similarly, savvy hoteliers around the world have built an extra layer of lavishness into their offerings: extravagant pet programs. “We know that dogs are a very important part of the family,” explains Luis Ruiz, guest relations supervisor at Mexico’s W Punta de Mita. “A dog is a normal guest for us. We take all of their needs into consideration in our preparations for them.”
Here, canines are allowed almost anywhere on property save for the pool and inside restaurants, although each eatery has a patio where pooches are invited to dine. Dogs order from a special menu, a staple of the resort’s PAW (Pets Are Welcome) Program. From beef and potatoes to the catch of the day, no expense is spared when crafting doggy dinners at the W.
Plus the must-love-dogs mantra goes beyond simple policy; the W staff is thrilled when pups show up. “When dogs arrive, we normally go out to see them and ask to pet them and take photos with them,” Ruiz says. “All the pets
are welcome, which is the most important thing — that people can share their vacation with their pets.”
Although properties like this make it hard to imagine a time when you’d have to choose between a glam getaway and quality time with Fido, the world of luxury travel hasn’t always been so doggy-driven. While the phenomenon dates back to the maiden voyage of the RMS Britannia in 1840, throughout much of history, pet travel was largely reserved for famous pups like Rin Tin Tin and Elizabeth Taylor’s pooches, who boarded the RMS Queen Mary in the 1950s. That elitist approach turned more egalitarian in the late 1980s, when flight attendant Gayle Martz began lobbying commercial airlines to allow pets in plane cabins. She went on to design the ubiquitous Sherpa pet carriers seen in airports the world over.
Today, pets are welcomed at properties around the globe, celebrity status not required. They can even travel on the modern-day version of the ship Taylor’s pups took, Cunard’s RMS Queen Mary 2. Committed to transporting all its guests in comfort and elegance, the ocean liner is the only passenger vessel that carries cats and dogs across the Atlantic. In addition to its 2,691-guest capacity, it’s equipped with 24 kennels and a dedicated kennel master responsible for feeding, walking and caring for animals based on their personal preferences.
Those traveling with their furry friends get access to an exclusive owners’ lounge as well as an expanded outdoor area. And true to Cunard’s reputation for detail, the dog walking area is decked out with an English lamppost from Liverpool and a fire hydrant from New York City to ensure pets from both sides of the pond feel right at home. Guests are welcome to visit, walk and play with their pets at any time during the voyage. Once inside their kennels, four-legged travelers experience the same level of luxury that their people do, enjoying paw-picked furnishings (think beds, blankets and toys) as well as freshly baked biscuits at evening turndown.
Also in the business of pampering pets is the Cypress Inn in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. In fact, the entire city is exceedingly dog-friendly, brimming with beaches, boutiques and other businesses that not only welcome pups but boast offerings like pet surf lessons, massage therapy and more. Co-owned by animal-rights champion Doris Day, the landmark boutique hotel welcomes not only dogs and cats but domesticated critters of all kinds. Traveling with your potbellied pig? No problem.
While many properties enforce a size limit or restrict the number of pets that travelers can bring, the Cypress Inn allows up to three of any size to stay in any of its 44 individually decorated rooms. This is perhaps why the hotel’s storied bar is known for hosting more animals than humans at any given time. As The New York Times puts it, “In a town known for being dog-friendly, the Cypress Inn takes the cake” — thanks no doubt to unique features like its crowd-drawing afternoon tea service.
Another city that’s gone to the dogs? Aspen, Colorado. “Aspen is a real dog town,” says Carol Hooper, head concierge at the Little Nell. “Dogs get the royal treatment here, and they deserve it.” Staff are available to take four-legged guests on walks around the grounds and about town. The kitchen prepares peanut butter–laced treats in-house. And all visiting pets receive a Puppy Jet Lag Kit upon arrival, complete with a branded leash and a curated list of dog-friendly establishments and activities. The Little Nell even provides access to specialized gondola cars that transport pooches to the top of Aspen Mountain.
If you’re feeling inspired to check out these properties but have some hesitation about the actual travel process, never fear. Gone are the days of dogs having to travel in the cargo hold. Jet setters in the United States and Europe can fly with supremely pet-friendly global charter PrivateFly, which lets animals travel in the cabin with their people. All guests utilize private terminals and enjoy personalized customer service.
Not only are pets now flying alongside people, but they are also racking up rewards in the process. With Korean Air’s SkyPets program, four-legged travelers can earn airline loyalty points traditionally reserved for humans. Any dog, cat, bird, guinea pig or other domesticated animal that can fit in a Sherpa bag is welcome aboard. The stamps they earn can then be used toward waiving future pet fees. Now that you know how to travel in style with man’s best friend at your side, the world is your — and Fluffy’s — oyster.