Digs with the bow wow factor

<em>Illustration: michaelmucci.com</em>
Illustration: michaelmucci.com

"Can I order room service, please? I'll have the soup and my dog would like a bow wow burger."

Don't laugh (well not at me, anyway). This is a scene being played out in some of the world's best hotels, with four-legged friends being actively catered for.

Pet-friendly travel has moved on from holiday cottages and caravan parks, with five-star hotels and boutique properties recognising demand for different species of room-mates.

A Skyscanner survey of 255 Australasian travellers found pets were second on the list of what people missed most when away.

Pets were only outranked by "my own bed" and ranked well above family or friends, at fifth and eighth.

The general manager of Travel.com.au, Renee Welsh, says the company receives several calls a week from travellers wanting to know where they can take their pet on holidays.

Welsh says the majority are looking for family accommodation but there are also singles and couples wanting to take their pets to luxury hotels.

"Thankfully there are a number of hotels at either end of the budget spectrum that cater for such travellers," she says.

One top-end Sydney hotel that welcomes pooches is The Langham, Sydney (formerly The Observatory), which has dedicated pet-friendly rooms and services including a "Scooby Doo" room service menu and a pet minding service.

A spokeswoman for the hotel , Vanesa Monteviros, says it caters for about 130 pets a year with the majority being dogs.

Guests with pets are charged a $60 fee for steam cleaning of the room when they check out and pets are not allowed in areas where food is being served.

Another luxury Sydney hotel welcoming "domesticated canines" is the harbourside Sebel Pier One, which says it welcomes any size or breed of dog for a charge of $60 an animal a night.

The Fairmont MGallery in the Blue Mountains takes it one step further with a pamper package including a pedicure and grooming (for the dog, that is) followed by a professional photography session in the grounds of the hotel, so guests can take home a souvenir portrait of their furry friend.

The hotel created one pet-friendly room as part of its recent refurbishment, with a tiled floor and a large courtyard.

Rates for the pet-friendly room start at $259 a night during the week and $309 a night on weekends.

For those looking for more modest pet-friendly lodgings, there are several websites and guidebooks dedicated to pet-friendly accommodation.

Some mainstream accommodation websites, such as Wotif.com, Quickbeds.com, Stayz.com.au and Takeabreak.com.au, are also starting to incorporate pet-friendly sections into their sites, although it can take a bit of searching.

The Best Western hotel chain lists "pet-friendly" among standard selection options such as pool, internet and fitness centre, in order to help travellers locate animal-friendly stays.

One option in Australia is the Quarterdecks Retreat in Hervey Bay, where all villas have a secure, shaded courtyard and some of the services on offer include "pet nannies" and grooming.

Manager John Orning says most people bring cats, dogs or birds, but he has had among his guests a chicken and a snake ... presumably not in the same room.

For those who might be concerned about allergies or hygiene implications, the property also has dedicated pet-free rooms.

While most options in Australia involve pet-friendly rooms, some hotels and resorts in other parts of the world have on-site kennels or "doggy inns" instead.

Many properties in Britain offer heated kennels so guests can bring their dogs and board them in comfort without bringing them into the hotel.

Guests are allowed to take their dog for a walk or an outing whenever they wish to and some of the kennels offer daily servicing just like a regular hotel room.

For those who do prefer to have their pets in the hotel with them, Travel.com.au consultant Stephen Ross says travellers need to be aware that pets cannot be left unattended in rooms.

Those wanting to go shopping or exploring without their furry friend need to speak to the hotel in order to organise a dog sitter or minding service, he says.

Ross says hotel guests also need to come prepared to clean up after their pets.

While taking four-legged friends overseas is impractical, flying with pets is quite simple within Australia.

Qantas allows pets that fit into small- to medium-size pet packs to be counted as part of your free baggage allowance, while Virgin Australia charges between $55 and $240 depending on the weight of the animal and container.

Pets in the US get a better deal, with Pet Airways allowing animals to travel in the cabin of the aircraft, watched over by "pet attendants".

The airline has flown birds, rats and even a pig.

This story Digs with the bow wow factor first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.