Staycation? It Need Not Be a Bummer for You and Your Dog

Staycations offer the perfect excuse to spend gobs of time with your dog. Here's how to plan one that doesn't suck.


There’s no place like home. It took Dorothy a trip over the rainbow to learn this. (Toto surely knew it all along.) But in this economy, it’s an easy sentiment to grasp. With gas up, jobs down, and credit cards maxed out, many people are passing up traditional vacations and opting for staying home and enjoying what their own backyards have to offer. This makes dogs very happy.

During a staycation, the idea is that you don’t venture very far. Instead, you take advantage of what’s around you. Maybe you drive an hour or two away for a day or two, but nothing too distant.

This is fantastic news, as far as your dog is concerned. Your dog doesn’t have to kiss you good-bye as you run off and have fun without him. He doesn’t have to hang in a kennel or stay with a pet sitter. He gets to have his best pal right beside him for days at a time. It’s a dog’s dream vacation, er, staycation.

Remember, for a dog, it’s not the destination. It’s the journey. And as long as you’re together for the journey, life is very good –- even if that journey is just around the corner.

Below are some ideas for how you and your well-behaved dog can make the most of your staycation. For each category I list, there are many guidebooks about dog-friendly places that can help you identify specific staycation ideas. My favorite book for my area is the 1,000-page tome The Dog Lover’s Companion to California. (Did I mention that I wrote this, and it’s now in its seventh edition?) You can also turn to the Internet. Keep in mind that even if a place is listed as dog-friendly, you should call ahead and ask, as rules can change quickly.

Now pack that leash, and bon voyage!

1. Walk

Have you tried all the parks and trails in your local area? What about branching out a bit and taking your dog for a stroll or hike in a new place? Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and it’s fun to check out new outdoor realms during your time off. Even dogs can get bored of the same old walkies.

2. Dine

Many restaurants these days allow well-behaved dogs to dine at their outside tables. Some restaurants even offer dogs water and treats. Dogs love the attention they often get from other diners and passersby, and revel in hanging out around so many good food smells. Make sure you dine at a time of day that’s not too crowded or hot.

3. Wine

Wineries are popping up everywhere these days. (I recently had a really tasty wine from Nebraska, of all places.) Many wineries welcome dogs to join you at their beautiful picnic areas, and some will even allow dogs into tasting rooms, although they can’t officially announce that because they could get in trouble with health departments.

4. Listen

During the summer months outdoor concerts abound. Many are fine with having dogs in the audience. Turn your staycation into a picnic and enjoy the music. It’s a good idea to stay far from speakers so the music doesn’t bother your dog’s ears.

5. Shop

The number of dog-friendly businesses is rapidly increasing as shopkeepers realize that most dogs bring good customers with them. Many pet-supply stories welcome dogs, and dogs love shopping when surrounded by delectable treats and fun toys. But there are plenty of other shopping options. In one afternoon, my dog Jake and I recently visited a department store, a gift store, an antique store, and a shoe store. He was warmly greeted at all of them. (Just make sure your boy dog doesn’t do a leg-lift on the merchandise. Doing that kind of business in a store is never good.)

6. Go

If your dog likes to go for rides in the car, there’s no better time than a staycation for taking a day trip to a nearby destination you’ve been hankering to visit. A drive of an hour or two can transport you worlds away.

7. Stay

Just because you’re sticking around your area doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the fun of staying in a hotel for a night or two. Room service, anyone? Dog-friendly lodgings abound these days. Many hoteliers think dogs make great guests. (After all, dogs don’t steal towels or get drunk and trash the room, and they usually come with people who are very grateful for the privilege of bringing a dog into a hotel.) There’s a lodging for any taste and budget. With a little sniffing around, you’ll find economy motels, luxury hotels, quaint bed-and-breakfast inns, hip boutique hotels, rustic cabins, and everything in between.

8. Chill

You can have a wonderfully refreshing staycation by taking the most relaxing approach possible: just hanging out and chilling at home (with good walks, of course). Fire up the barbecue and have a feast with your beast and some other pals. Snuggle up with your dog as you get through your reading list. Whatever you do –- even if it’s just taking extralong naps and tending to household projects — your dog will be over the moon simply because you’re together.

Have you ever planned a staycation with your dog in mind? Let us know in the comments!

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