Sometimes it's not your kids or your traveling partner that make your vacation plans expensive; it's your dog.
Traveling with a dog — and 80% of respondents to a recent Petplan Pet Insurance survey say they want to travel with a pet, an increase of 10% from 2012 — doesn't just call for patience and planning. It requires a great deal of flexibility as well.
That same survey might also suggest it requires cash: Nearly 7% of respondents said they would spend $1,000 or more to take a pet along.
Bowser, apparently, can be hard on a budget.
We're on the road with ours full time, and we're learning how to roll with the punches and make the most of certain types of venues without breaking the bank. Here's what we've found.
Bunking down at a resort: I'll admit that I've been slow to embrace the idea of resorts as an appropriate choice for canine travel, but they can be affordable and they offer advantages.
Affordability begins with the magic words "off season." Usually rates are lower.
At the Wyndham Orlando, for example, rates can drop to less than half during the warm Florida summer. The family fun suite can cost as much as $220 a night, but midweek prices during the warmer months can drop to as low as $89.
The room is big enough for a family of four plus a dog, with smooth flooring that reduces allergen buildup.
The on-site bar extends to the outside and incorporates a pergola with sturdy posts ideal for holding a plus-sized pooch. Similarly, the resort's outdoor restaurant has umbrella bases that a miniature pony couldn't lug away if it tried.
Pet bag stations are located throughout the property, and free shuttle service is provided to a number of area theme parks, making it easy for a mid-size family to meet everyone's needs.
Sometimes resorts have outdoor restaurants where your dog will be welcome as well. Plus, they finally legitimize the request for a doggy bag.
Cozying up in a cabin: We've actively incorporated pet-friendly vacation flats and cottages for some time now, but we've recently had a chance to check out a few woodsy cabin rentals while we've been on the road. They're a surprisingly affordable option and offer our furry child the chance to relax and be herself.
Besides the extra space and home atmosphere, which make her calmer than standard hotel rooms, the more isolated location gives her with room to explore without impinging on anyone else's space. She loves the chance to roam and enjoy the textures and scents of whatever leaves, twigs and plants are in the immediate area.
At a recent cabin stay at Smithgall Woods State Park in Georgia, this worked to our advantage. The extra enrichment and physical activity resulted in a restful night, free of the pacing and confusion that have become typical during her senior years.
The cabin also came with a glass-front wood stove, which kept her fascinated during the evenings while we were working or preparing dinner. The small on-site hot tub allowed us to relax with her nearby in a way that a typical communal tub would not. She didn't have to be left alone in the room while we went out and had fun. She could simply rest next to where we were, and feel secure that her family pack was within eyesight.
Dining out — out of doors, we mean: Picnic areas are a godsend, especially if they have tables. They offer a way for us to enjoy takeout food that lets her get out of the room for a bit.
If there are outdoor grills, think about preparing your meal and maybe grilling a special treat for the dog (but don't overdo). A picnic lunch or dinner is one of the first rules of budget travel and a win-win all around.