Are you looking to take a vacation with your dog, but you’re afraid of what it will cost? Let’s face it, with inflation on the rise, everything is getting more expensive. Including going away on a dog friendly vacation. But, there are ways to go on a budget friendly vacations with a pet dog on the cheap.
Unfortunately, when you have a pet like a dog, the cost of taking a vacation increases, regardless if they come along or not.
In fact, it may be cheaper to bring your dog with you rather than leaving them behind. We will explore this more in a moment.
Since pet fees can increase the cost of dog friendly travel, we have been taking budget friendly (read cheap) vacations with our dogs for years now,
In our post “Cheap Vacations with a Pet Dog: Budget Friendly Ideas” we will show you ways to save on a vacation and also where to look for a cheap pet dog friendly vacation destination. We will even guide you to some inexpensive places to go and stay.
Should you take your dog on vacation?
First, before we get into how to take a cheap vacation with a pet, let’s discuss whether you should bring your dog on a vacation.
The decision to take your dog with you when you travel is both an emotional and financial decision. Emotionally, we are as attached to our pets as they are to us. Leaving them behind can leave us with feelings of guilt and worry. Especially, if you need to leave them at a kennel or pet sitter.
It can also cause stress to your dog. Remember, dogs are pack animals. Leaving their pack means leaving their safe place.
Unless you have someone, who will take care of your dog for free, leaving your dog home comes with a cost.
Whether it is for a kennel, pet-sitter or dog walker. That cost can add-up when going on a week-long trip. For the last trip we took without our dog a few years back, the cost was around $600 for her to stay with a pet-sitter.
But traveling with your dog is not free either. Most hotels and vacation rentals charge a pet fee. These fees can be either per day, per dog or a set fee for the stay. If you plan on switching hotels often on the trip, the pet fees can really start to add up.
For the most part we try to plan vacations that our pup can come with us. But in reality, our dog did just fine the one time she stayed with a pet sitter that she already knew and trusted.
First time traveling with your dog?
If you have never traveled with a dog before, you might not know where to start or what to bring. To help you we have put together a couple of posts with our best tips for traveling with a dog and also tips on hotel stays with a dog.
Information in this post is subject to change without notice. Please confirm with all places listed here that pet dogs are still allowed prior to visiting. Also, the mentioning of a business in this post should not be viewed as an endorsement.
While we strive to insure accuracy on Happyoodles.com, it cannot be guaranteed.
How to Plan Cheap Vacations with a Pet
The biggest cost factors evolved with taking a vacation tends to be lodging, and eating. We will tackle both of these items with our best budget friendly vacation tips.
The earlier you start to plan your vacation the more options you will have when it comes to vacationing on a budget with a pet.
Regardless of whether you are planning to camp or stay in a pet friendly vacation rental the best options will always go first.
Some dog friendly hotels only have a few rooms that dogs are allowed to stay in, this means you can be locked out of your preferred location if you wait too long.
The same this goes if you plan to fly or take a train with your pet. Both options restrict the number of pets allowed to be onboard on any given trip. To make sure your pet can join you, book early.
How soon should you start to plan your budget vacation?
I start looking for a dog friendly vacation spot about seven months out from when I plan to take the trip.
If there is limited availability and I have finalized my travel plans, I will book our accommodations about six months in advance. I have waited longer at times but too often I have missed out on the best deals.
If you are looking to travel to a national park you will need to start planning more than a year in advance. Popular parks like Yellowstone National Park allow you to book their campsites or lodges more than a year in advance.
With the popularity of the national parks and limited pet friendly accommodations in the park you will need to book your stay sooner that 6 months to get the best locations.
Some state-run campsites can also be booked as early as eleven months in advance.
Of course, there are risks with booking early. Sometimes plans changes and you need to be able to change them.
When booking, pay careful attention to the cancellation policy. Some places will allow you to cancel a few days before the trip but other places may not allow cancellations at all.
You also may want to look into travel insurance. We had to use our travel insurance years ago when my husband became hurt a week before a trip. The travel insurance saved us thousands of dollars.
Just remember to always read the fine print and fully understand what is covered.
Cheap Places to Stay on Vacation with a Pet Dog
Camping is generally considered the cheapest way to travel. You can find a dog friendly campsite that is close to the water at Carolina Beach State Park for as low as $23 a night. That’s a hard price to beat. Though, you will find that most campsite the fees will be higher.
You also need to consider the cost of camping gear, which can add up if this is your first-time camping.
One step up from camping is Glamping. Glamping is a cross between camping and something more glamorous. Amenities will vary based on where you stay.
At a minimum your glamping spot will feature a tent with a bed already setup. Most places will also have some kind of toilet and fire ring.
For glamping spots that take it up a notch, you can expect to find a full bath, partial kitchen and heating. Of course, the price goes up as well, but they are generally less than a typical vacation rental.
That is unless the Glamping Company really goes all out. Then the sky is the limit when it comes to amenities and price.
Here you will find a two-bedroom tent that includes comfy beds, electricity, a kitchen and small bathroom all for less than the cost of a budget motel. They even include towels and linens.
If you don’t want to incur the all cost of camping gear, many parks offer a limited number of pet friendly cabins.
Some of the cabins can be very rustic. Rustic cabins may have just a few bunk-beds and no running water, but you can also find cabins with lights, running water and maybe a small bathroom.
How rustic you go will determine what camping supplies you will need to bring.
Near the dog friendly Shenandoah National Park, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club rents both primitive and modern dog friendly cabins starting at just $35 a weeknight for a primitive cabin and up to $100 for a weekend night at the modern Cliff House Cabin. Membership may be required for some rentals.
Check out these other dog friendly accommodations in and around Shenandoah National Park
Private Park Cabins
Another option for a budget friendly pet vacation is to stay at a Campsite or RV park that offers private cabins. These cabins are generally no frills, but many do offer basic necessities like a kitchen, bathroom and heat/air-conditioning.
An example is the Seneca Lake Resorts on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes of New York. Here you can find a pet dog-friendly, lake-view cabin with a bathroom, kitchen and space to sleep up to 6 people for under $1,500 for a week. They also have pontoon boats for rent if you want to take a ride around the lake. But you need to book early. When I checked the rates, the cabins were already booked 8 months in advance.
Recreational Vehicles (RV) are a popular way to travel with pets these days. With a RV you don’t need to worry about finding a pet friendly hotel, plus you have the ability to cook in the RV to help keep cost down.
RV’s are a good option if you want a camping style vacation but you don’t want to have to actually camp out. You can rent an RV with amenities like a bathroom, kitchen, generator for lights, heating and air-conditioning.
An RV can also be a good option for anyone that does not want to switch hotels or who has a dog that does not fit the requirements of nearby hotels.
Yet, another reason to try an RV is if are visiting an area that only offers hotels with high nightly rates, pet fees or even hotel tax. For example Connecticut has a 15% lodging tax on hotel stays, but does not tax campsite only rentals.
You can rent a dog friendly RV at these companies:
But RVs may not always be the cheapest dog friendly vacation. In addition to the nightly RV rental fees and campground fees, there may be a mileage fee, and pet fee, plus extra fees for linens, and dishes if you don’t bring your own.
Another thing to think about before hitting the road in an RV how you will get around once you are at the campsite.
If you plan to drive to destinations in the area, you will need to either drive the RV everyplace you want to visit, which means having to leave your campsite. Or you will need to have access to a car, either by towing one or renting one. Both options will probably cost extra.
Saving money on hotels
If staying in a hotel is more to your likely you can still have a relatively cheap vacation with a pet with these cost savings ideas.
Stay at a hotel with no or low pet fees
Before booking your stay, make sure to scope out the pet fees. These days most hotels will have a pet fee but how much and how they are charged will vary by hotel. Some will charge a flat per stay fee, while others will charge a daily rate per dog.
I have found that the more expensive hotels charge higher pet fees and have more restrictions.
However, the six hotels listed below do not charge a pet fee.
- Red Roof Inn – over 600 hotels in 36 states.
- Motel6 – which was named the Best Budget Hotel Brand In The US By USA Today Readers in 2022
- Kimpton Hotels – this hotel has one of the best pet policies out of all the hotels listed here
- Aloft by Marriott – you can find a Aloft Hotel through the U.S.
- Element by Westin – there about 79 element hotels in the U.S.
- Virgin Hotels – has locations in New York City, Nashville, Dallas Chicago and more.
Pet fees are not the only add-on that you might encounter when booking a hotel room. While most states charge some type of tax for a hotel stay, there are some states that have a high lodging tax. Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Michigan and Hawaii all charge more than 10% lodging tax.
Stay in one location
If you are staying in a hotel that charges a flat pet fee regardless of how long you stay there, you are better off not switching hotels on your vacation.
If you are planning a touring vacation where you only stay one or two nights before moving on, look for hotels that either have low pet fees or a per day pet fee to keep costs down.
Travel off-peak times
One way to have a cheap dog friendly vacation is to travel when no one else is.
Millions of families are forced to travel during the same two months thanks to school calendars. If you are not one of them plan your dog friendly family vacation in the shoulder season.
Shoulder seasons are the few weeks before and after the peak season. By doing this you can save money on the cost of the hotel. Plus, the weather is generally still pleasant in the shoulder seasons and there will be less crowds to deal with.
This also works if you plan your trip around the busiest times of the week. Some hotels that mainly get business-related traffic during the week, will reduce their nightly rates on the weekends.
Same thing goes for places that see most of their rooms booked on the weekend. The mid-week rates are generally lower.
Take advantage of rewards programs by staying within the same family of hotels. Many loyalty rewards programs like the Marriott Bonvoy Program are free to join. Once you join, you have the chance to earn points with each paid stay at participating Marriott properties. Overtime these points will earn you free hotel nights.
You can take the rewards program up a notch by getting a credit card that is attached to the Marriott Rewards Program. Then you will not only earn points on your stays but also on your qualifying purchases. We have taken a few short trips thanks to our points from the Marriott Rewards Program.
But the credit cards do come with an annual fee so you need to use your points before they expire to make it worth the cost.
Also, if you start holding a balance on your cards, the cost of interest on your debt will wipe out any savings on hotel stays.
Before getting a rewards credit card please do your research to make sure it is the right decision for you.
Money Saving Tips on Dog Friendly Vacation Rentals
Book during the shoulder seasons
Reserving a vacation rental for the shoulder season will not only save you money on the rental, but you may be able to score a nicer place. In some cases, vacation rentals are only available in the off-season when the owners are not using it.
We once rented a dog-friendly beachfront home in early June on Cape Cod for the same price as a non-beachfront home would have cost in July. The weather was better too.
Share a vacation rental with friends or family
Another way we have saved money on a vacation rental is to rent a larger home but split the cost with friends or family. Typically, a larger home costs less to rent per square foot than a smaller home. In most cases the two families will pay less for their share of the house then if they rented a smaller house on their own.
Larger homes also generally mean more amenities, like extra bathrooms.
While we would all like some space to spread out, determine if you really need that extra bedroom or bathroom. Keep in mind you may not be at the rental much anyway.
There is a fairly large premium for a second bathroom. If you could do with only one or even settle for one full and one-half baths you will save a lot of money.
Choose private communities over private waterfront
Waterfront homes also come with a large premium. You can save money by choosing to rent in a private dog friendly beach or lake community instead. Waterfront communities typically have shared access to the water, but you will only be sharing with the people that are staying in the community.
You may even find you have the beach or dock all to yourself during the week, if the community is filled with homeowners that only come on the weekend.
An example of a dog friendly private community with access to a shared beach is the Manomet Beach Shores in Plymouth, Ma. Here you will find pet friendly vacation rentals with a beach that your leashed dog can join you on.
When you rent a vacation rental you can often receive a discount on the nightly rates if you stay at least a week. You might also be able to score a greater discount for booking multiple weeks in a row.
Ways to Save Money on Food When on Vacation
The best way to save money on your food bill while on vacation is to eat out less. But that doesn’t mean you need to cook all your own meals. Here are a few ways to reduce the cost of food while on a cheap vacation with a pet.
- If you can, try to pack your dog’s regular food from home. Buying food at your destination will not only cost more since you will be buying a smaller amount, but small dog supply stores in vacation destination will often charge more.
- Stay at a hotel that includes breakfast – many hotels offer a free hot breakfast. By taking advantage of this option you can save yourself $10 to $20 per person per day.
- Book a hotel room with a kitchenette and full-sized refrigerator. Even if you don’t plan to cook in the hotel, you will still be able to store easy to fix items for breakfast and lunch. Plus, you will have a table to eat at and kitchen supplies to use.
- We found that looking for a dog friendly place to have lunch took up too much time during our vacations. So now, we pack our lunch before we leave the hotel and eat wherever we are when we get hungry.
- We generally reserve a few nights to eat out. But also spend a few nights buying fresh, prepared meals from the local food store. These meals may come heated or may need to be popped into the microwave for a few minutes.
Ideas on Cheap Vacations with a Pet?
Thank you for reading Cheap Vacations with a Pet: Budget Friendly Ideas
If you are looking for more ideas on pet friendly vacations, please check out our other posts:
- Block Island – Dog Friendly Things To Do and Places to Eat
- Newport, RI: Dog Friendly Things to Do and Places to Stay
- 11 Dog Friendly Spring Vacation Destinations
- Dog Friendly Island Vacation Ideas in the USA
- Dog Friendly Albany NY -Things to Do, Stay & Eat
- Saratoga Springs – Dog Friendly Things to Do
- Dog Friendly Fall Getaways in the Northeast