On joining a few social media pet friendly groups the past year I have realised that many people find it very difficult to search for the right accomodation for themselves and their furry travel buddies. So I thought to share a few tips for making bookings that I have learnt over the years.
1.When travelling with your dog you cannot leave the booking to the last minute! It's not the same as taking your husband or friend along. The majority of people are restricted by school holidays, so these are peak travelling times and you need to be organised. For Chirstmas and Easter holidays book at least 2-4 months in advance. I have just booked our Easter weekend spot, now in January, and most places were full already, even bearing in mind people are travelling less now during the pandemic. Booking early is especially necessary when visiting the Western Cape, because the weather is so good things book up really fast. Further to the north east places seem to fill up a bit slower, what with it being hot, stormy and wet. But I would still recommend you be ready months in advance - especially if you're hoping to link up a few places in your road trip.
2. The more restirctions/filters you have, the earlier you need to book. Using us as an example, my main filters are - pet friendly, self-catering, max R500 per person per night and hiking trails nearby, plus the more out of the way the place, the better. So this is quite restrictive and I normally book up to 4 months in advance. The same goes if you are looking for a pet friendly, coastal spot where you can take your caravan. Obviously in summer these places book up really quickly and the bigger parks probably won't allow dogs in peak season because it's just not pleasant for anyone. Also a caravan is restrictive in itself, as not every camping spot has space or can be reached by caravan. But if you are just looking for a pet friendly place in any area, price not an issue and you don't mind what type of accomodation it is, tent, hotel, anything, then you can leave it a lot later. Requiring a fence to keep your dogs in is also a big restriction, as many pet friendly places are more farm style and don't have fences. You may need to hire someones' holiday house if you reqire a fenced garden.
3. Be understanding and don't give up. Some places have rules about the size of the dog or don't allow pets at certain times of the year. They obviously have these rules for a reason, not just to piss people off. They are not pretending to be pet friendly, they are pet friendly, just with restrictions which are valid in the context of their business. Be prepared for this and don't get upset. If you have a Boerboel and the place only takes teacup dogs, is that really the type of place you and your big guy would enjoy anyway? I think not! So just carry on looking, don't give up because some places have rules. For example I won't even bother with a place where the dogs must be on leads all the time, my guys have good recall and would not enjoy that sort of place. If you are looking far in advance you should have lots of time to find the perfect place. I personally have never been turned away, because of the size or hairiness of my dogs, but maybe that's because I book those in-the-middle-of-nowhere places. But I have seen many people getting very frustrated and angry when trying to book a spot 5 weeks before Chirstmas, and no-one can accomodate their giant dog. Then maybe book that holiday area for Easter when you can be more organised and find something easier for Christmas. Don't get upset and bad mouth the places that can't take you.
4. Always confirm the type of dog, how many, and their behavior when you enquire! This is so important and maybe why I have never had an issue being turned away. You can use something like this: "We will be holidaying with our 2 very well behaved, trained and well travelled Border Collies." Since you are travelling with your dogs and love them, it is safe to assume you have done the right thing and taken the time to train them properly, so they know how to behave when out and about. The more information the host has, the more comfortable they will feel allowing your dogs. Always make sure they respond to your note in the email or message, so you are sure and have proof that they said it was all good.
5. Use booking sites with filters, but don't book through them. There are a lot of easy to use booking sites with a huge variety of listings, such as budgetgetaways.co.za, petfriendly.co.za, afristay.com, safarinow.com, savenues.com Use them! You can set dates, price, pet friendly, type of accomodation, area, and so much more. Look through the listings and find a few places you like and Google them, most places have their own websites or at least a facebook page. Then you can book and discuss your fur kids with the host directly and make sure there are no problems when you arrive. Plus you can be sure that no middleman is taking part of you payment and all the bucks go to the awesome spot you have chosen.
6. Don't be scared to ask. Some places don't advertise that they are pet friendly, but they are, I'm talking farm type places here, not a hotel in the city. So if you find a nice spot and it's doesn't say that pets aren't allowed, then ask. I have just booked a long weekend at a place that didn't say it allowed dogs, but also didn't say it didn't allow dogs. And since I saw dogs in the photos on the website, I asked. The same goes for restaurants and wine farms. If a place has an outside area they will probably let you bring your dogs if you ask. We love doing wine tastings and 99% of the time the dogs have come along, just because I asked to bring them in. Places want your business, so if it's not a disruption they are more than happy to have the doggos lie at your feet. The only times we have not been able to take the dogs is if there are farm dogs that are a bit territorial. For restaurants, just ask if you can get the outside table in the corner and make sure your dogs are not disruptive, and put them on a lead if it makes people feel more comfortable.
7. Be respectful to future guests. Make sure you clean up after you dogs, stop them from killing chickens and don't let them on the furniture. These are the main reasons why places will change their pet friendly policy and have loads of rules. So don't be that person who has a wonderful time and then tells everyone about the spot, only for them to find it no longer allows dogs because yours ate a couch and the garden was full of stinky poop. When you decided to get a dog, you decided to pick up dog poo.
8. Put the effort in. Your doggy baby deserves the best holiday, so take your time and plan it right. Chances are you will find the best place in the world and will never need to look for anywhere else.
9. Invest in a seatbelt harness. This could save your dogs life. It also means they are less crazy in the car. Plus thay really enjoy putting it on, because then they are sure they are going on an adventure.
Enjoy and safe travels!