How to Plan a Dog-Friendly Florida Vacation
When it comes to family vacations and fun-in-the-sun experiences, it’s hard to beat Florida. The sprawling ‘Sunshine State’ state has something for every member of the family, including those on four legs.
America’s vacation capital boasts everything you’d need to enjoy a fantastic trip with your canine, providing plenty of dog-friendly lodging, activities, and more. With so many options available, it’s important to plan out your trip ahead of time to ensure you and your pooch have a truly unforgettable experience.
Hotels & Accommodations
The hotel industry has been embracing dog-loving travelers more and more throughout the years. Nowadays, there are a plethora of pet-friendly policies in place that make finding the perfect accommodations for you and your dog much easier.
Exact protocols vary, however—so be sure to check beforehand.
Here are some great pet-friendly Florida hotels:
The Ritz-Carlton has dozens of locations throughout Florida, permitting small pooches at several, including Sarasota, Orlando, and Miami Beach. Guests can bring a pet, 25 pounds or smaller (limit one per room).
Epic Hotel allows any pets, with no restrictions on number, weight, or size—for no extra charge. It even features pet pampering amenities such as bowls and beds, leashes and plastic bags for walks, grooming, walking, and pet-sitting services.
The Atlantic Hotel & Spa is known for its large room sizes, great customer service, and pet-friendly policies. The hotel charges $125 per dog.
Mandarin Oriental Miami is a luxury, five-star waterfront hotel that welcomes pets weighing up to 25 pounds. It features pet-focused amenities such as plush beds, special menu options, behavior training from a certified instructor, and free daily walks.
If you’re looking for an alternative to a hotel, Florida is home to a collection of fantastic Airbnb offerings you can share with your dog, too. Guidelines are determined by the hosts of each Airbnb property, so contact them ahead of time to find out specific details regarding pets, house rules, and any associated fees.
Florida is a large state with a wide, expansive layout, so when it comes to getting around, nothing quite beats driving. Whether renting a car or hiring a driving service such as Uber or Lyft, it’s important to be aware of the pet policies in place.
Both Uber and Lyft allow service animals, but it’s typically up to your driver’s discretion whether or not they welcome non-service animals. Therefore, if you’re planning on using these services, be sure to call your drivers after they accept your request to confirm whether pets will be permitted in the vehicle.
If you’d prefer to rent a car yourself, here is a list of pet-friendly rental services:
Alamo permits crated pets, and requests customers clean their vehicles of any fur before returning them.
Avis grants pets only at certain locations. Be sure to call ahead to check yours.
Budget welcomes pets at no additional cost, but customers will be charged for any damages or cleaning services.
Enterprise likewise accepts pets that are in crates and asks customers to keep the car free of fur or mess to avoid any fees.
National allows crated dogs, and won’t charge a fee if the vehicle is returned clean.
The following guidelines pertain to public transit:
Amtrak accepts one small dog per passenger, as long as they are in carriers that can fit under the seats. The combined weight can’t exceed 20 pounds, and the trip can’t last longer than seven hours. Amtrak also charges a small onboarding fee.
Florida - Tri-Rail (Southeastern Region) provides access to major airports and communities from West Palm Beach to Miami. With the exception of service animals, large animals are prohibited on the trains, however, small pets are welcome if in proper carrying cages.
Miami-Dade Transit supplies bus and train service throughout Dade County, including to Miami. Pets can board only if they’re within properly enclosed carriers. They must not interfere with operations or passengers.
Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) service offers bus and streetcar access to the Tampa area. Pets can ride, as long as they’re in carriers and small enough to fit in their owners’ laps. Animals are discouraged during peak, crowded times.
Parks & Beaches
When it comes to fun-in-the-sun destinations, Florida has just what you need for a great day out with your four-legged friends. You can let Fido run around and socialize at a dog park, or trek along one of the many dog-friendly beaches scattered throughout the state. With so many fantastic options, it’ll be easy to find a spot to lounge with your buddy by the sand and sea.
Here are some of the best dog parks and beaches in Florida:
Fort De Soto Dog Beach Park has a large fenced area for dogs both big and small. With picnic areas, a huge Paw Playground, and more than 300 acres of beach to enjoy, this is one of the best dog parks on Florida’s West Coast.
Jupiter Beach offers a 2.5-mile stretch of beachfront to enjoy off-leash fun with your buddy. Parking is free and visitors are asked to do their part to keep the beach clean.
Davis Island Dog Beach is a 1.5-acre dog paradise, with two fenced-in areas for unleashed romping and frolicking. It features 200 feet of waterfront access, with a 1-acre dog park.
Key West Dog Beach is a small strip of soft-sand beach where your dog can have a good time playing while you can enjoy a drink at the neighboring bar, Louie’s Backyard, a popular pet-friendly, oceanfront Victorian home-turned-restaurant.
Miami Beach’s Bark Beach is a great spot for a stroll by the ocean. There are also plenty of outdoor, pet-friendly restaurants nearby, although visitors will be required to pay a daily permit fee of $25.
Panama City Beach Dog Playground offers more than 400 feet of beachfront for leashed dogs to enjoy. There are also a number of outdoor, pet-friendly restaurants in the Pier Park area.
St. George Island boasts 28 miles of serene, pet-friendly beachfront. With crystal-clear waters and beautiful marshes for wildlife viewing, it’s no wonder it’s frequently ranked as one of the best beaches in the country.
Fun, Dog-Friendly Florida Experiences
If you’re looking to have a more interactive dog-friendly experience, these unique adventures and tours are perfect:
Lazy Dog Adventures in Key West boasts pet-friendly kayaking excursions across the channel and down the canal with your dog. Groups of dog lovers can scoot their pooches to a sandbar together to enjoy an entire private island dog park.
SUP PUP Kids Paddleboard Tour is a pet-friendly Airbnb experience featuring a tour of the world-famous Las Olas canals. This is a great outing option for families, as each tour can accommodate up to six guests.
Dinosaur World is an outdoor museum in Plant City with more than a mile of outdoor walkways to view more than 150 life-sized dinosaurs. Dogs are more than welcome, and there are plenty of activities for families, including a fossil dig where children can sift through sand in search of fossils to take home, and educational opportunities in the indoor Prehistoric Museum.
Naples Botanical Garden is a 170-acre, world-class, pet-friendly paradise. Enjoy a walk among the beautiful gardens, and bask in the restored natural habitats. It also hosts an annual Dog Day in the Garden event, designed for pups and owners to enjoy pet-friendly vendors, canine-focused demonstrations, and even a dog fashion show.
We can all agree dogs make everything better, but there are many additional factors to consider when traveling with your canine companion.
You need to ensure that your furry friend is up-to-date with all shots and vaccinations, and remember to bring a copy of their health certifications. Check all identification tags, collars, and tracking chips, too.
If you plan on traveling by air, verify flight procedures and requirements for transporting your dog ahead of time. You don’t want to be blindsided by unfavorable pet policies at the airport.
It’s also important you take note of where the nearest veterinarian is located, in case of emergencies. The last thing you want is for your dog to get hurt or sick while abroad, but if the worst happens, it’s crucial to know where to go for aid.
Pack plenty of food and drinks for long car rides, so your whiskered buddy doesn’t go hungry or get dehydrated during the day’s activities.
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