Valentine’s Day ‘Petaways’

 MSNBC.com

Pet-friendly destinations, hotels with pet perks, wedding tips for Fido

By Sandy Robins

updated 11:18 a.m. PT, Wed., Jan. 2, 2008

0080207-pampered-pooch-hmed-11a.grid-6x2Valentine’s Day is coming up, but it’s not too late plan that romantic getaway you’ve been dreaming about—and there’s no reason why Fido and Fluffy can’t come along too.

John Clifford of International Travel Management in San Diego, Calif., suggests checking out pet packages offered by some of the country’s leading pet-friendly hotel chains if you don’t have time to research a romantic hideaway in close proximity to where you live.

“Chains such as Kimpton Hotels or W Hotels“, specialize in a boutique hotel concept designed to pamper and cater to your every whim, and are renowned for their pet-friendly attitude. Often their pet packages are surprisingly affordable,” says Clifford.

And he should know. As one of America’s A-List travel consultants, he belongs to an elite group known in the travel industry as Virtuoso Travel Consultants, comprising the top one percent of agents with worldwide connections. Pet packages and romantic destinations are one of his specialties.

Because this year Valentine’s Day falls on a Thursday, Clifford suggests planning a romantic weekend getaway instead.

“Many hotels tend to have lower occupancy rates over weekends and sometimes discount their rates as much as forty percent,” advises Clifford. “It’s definitely worth it.”

Check into Kimpton’s Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge Mass., with your feline and upon arrival, you’ll receive ‘A Finicky Feline Pampering Kit’, which includes a scratching post, fleece blanket and a lunch box of gourmet kitty treats.

At the Hotel Allegro in Chicago, Ill., the doggie goody bags include bottled water, snacks, a keepsake toy and poop bags. Cats are treated to a similar package, while pet parents get a copy of a whiskers-to-tail guide on how to massage your furry companion.

The Monaco Hotel in Portland Ore., invites pets and pet parents to meet renowned pet psychic, Faye Petrowski on the last Friday of every month during the hotel’s daily wine hour to indulge in some hairy confessions.

To further welcome furry guests, some of these hotels actually employ four-footed ambassadors to meet and greet. Amongst the most famous of these real canine concierges is Rose, the black Labrador who works at the Cypress Hotel in Cupertino, Calif. Stevie Nix, a Lhasa Apsho-Terrier mix is Director of Pet Relations at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Chicago and Lily Sopris, a svelte Jack Russell Terrier meets and greets at the Hotel Monaco, in Denver Colo.

Clifford also points out that Kimpton hotels don’t charge for pets and there are no size restrictions.

The W Hotels’ Woof-Meow program operates in all its properties around the country, as well as Canada.

On check-in, your pet will receive a welcome package that includes toys and, a luggage tag and an extensive list of pet-friendly establishments and services in the area.

Hotel rooms are set up with a customized comfy pet bed, a food and water station, and furry guests can expect a turn-down treat at bedtime.

“Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada is definitely worth considering as a romantic petaway,” says Clifford. “There are over 20 off-leash parks and seven off-leash beaches to romp on. Also many of the ferry companies allow pets to travel to Victoria on Vancouver Island.”

Clifford also points out if you’re heading to Massachusetts, there are also pooch-friendly ferries to Cape Cod, The Vineyard or Nantucket, and dogs are welcome on the beaches at Block Island too.

 

Whether you’re heading to a Las Vegas-styled chapel on the Strip, or a more traditional chapel in your home town for a quickie Valentine’s Day wedding or renewal of vows, and plan to include a pet in your ceremony, be sure to check their pet policy first.

“We welcome canine ring-bearers and bridesmaids,” says a spokesman for The Chapel of the Flowers in Las Vegas, Nevada, a well known tourist destination that has been featured in many movies and TV shows.

Unfortunately, all the well known hotels on the Las Vegas strip are not pet-friendly (the same applies to Reno) so you will once again have to look for accommodation at a hotel chain.

If you’re including fur kids, make sure you are well groomed in wedding petiquette. Here are a few tips on bow vows and doggie I do’s:

  1. •Apart from checking the venue’s pet policy, be sure to discuss Fido’s role in the ceremony with other key players to ensure no one is scared or allergic to dogs. Some dogs are well trained enough to come down the aisle on their own. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to have them walk on a leash with someone they know.
  2. •If you are planning to entwine fresh flowers on a leash or add a garland around your dog’s neck, avoid flowers that are toxic to animals such as lily-of-the-valley, daffodils, narcissus, sweet peas and tulips. For a full list go to:www.hsus.org/.
  3. •Make sure canine members of the wedding party go for a walk and a potty break before the ceremony begins! When the ceremony is in progress, keep treats handy — just in case you need to distract an exuberant pup.
  4. •After the wedding vows, an elderly pet may be tired and prefer to be taken home rather than party. However, if you plan to let your pet be present, ask guests to refrain from slipping any tidbits under the table. And be sure to have special pet food or treats available too.

And don’t forget to pack a camera for those magic moments!

Sandy Robins is an award-winning pet lifestyle writer. She is the recent recipient of the Humane Society of the United States’ Pets for Life Award. Her work appears in many national and international publications.

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