Gays winning the right to adopt was a major LGBTQ milestone, and disproved the myth that gay men curdle in the presence of children. Kinda.
Call it the gay equivalent of insider information, but there is that segment of the homosexual population, men and women both, that do not want to have kids. At that same time, they still want to love something, and be loved in return, by something in addition to (or, let’s be honest, as a substitution for) significant others. Enter pets. Fido and Tigger are finally getting their due as full-members of a family in the larger national mindset, but they have long held that status for LGBTQs because for most of American history, they were the only option we had.
The ASPCA estimates 70 – 80 million dogs and 74 – 96 million cats are owned in the United States. That translates to approximately 37 – 47% of all households in the United States having a dog, while 30 – 37% have a cat. That’s a lot of chew toys. But it is also represents a huge, and largely untapped, market to which hotels, parks, B&Bs, pools, and cruises can persue. But as human children have their own considerations for travel, so do pets. For many, it means a kennel or a best friend. Yet a growing number of pet-owners see no reason why they can’t bring their best friend on a vacation; as pets become seen as family, the idea of leaving them behind becomes irreconcilable.
I sat down for a Q&A with Melissa Halliburton, Founder and President of BringFido, perhaps the definitive guide for pet-friendly destinations (dogs mostly; sorry to all you cat-people) and includes tips along with a booking function so people can find a hotel and a room all on one site. According to her estimates, BringFido has helped over 10 million (!) pet owners find destinations that satisfies across the diversity of the species. She is also author of Ruff Guide to the United States, a handy quick reference book with “365 of the best places to stay and play with your dog” she wrote after contacting every hotel in the USA. Every. Single. One.
Why did you create BringFido?
In January 2004, I adopted Rocco, a Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix. From the very beginning, we were inseparable and I always included Rocco in my travel plans. But I quickly frustrated by the lack of accurate hotel pet policy information available on hotel websites. Since leaving Rocco in a kennel was NOT an option, I launched BringFido in 2006 with the simple goal of making life easier for dog owners. Now, in addition to displaying information on pet friendly hotels, BringFido also features pet friendly vacation rentals, attractions, restaurants, events, and other resources.
What should pet owners consider when traveling with a pet?
Always plan ahead. Traveling with a pet means fewer lodging options, and many pet friendly hotels fill up in advance, especially during peak travel periods. So, we recommend that you book early. Customers who book with BringFido are guaranteed a pet-friendly room, and we confirm all hotel reservations in advance, so there are no surprises at check-in.
In your research, what were some of the biggest surprises?
“Pet-friendly” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, and this can be a big surprise to some new pet owners. Sometimes a hotel will market their property as being pet-friendly, but they will only accept very small dogs or may only allow one pet per room. Others may have only one or two pet friendly rooms, and those can sell out very quickly. We pride ourselves on maintaining accurate pet policies containing the detailed information customers need when choosing where to stay with their pet. That means including any weight limits, restrictions on number of pets per room, and pet fees for each property on our website.
How big is the market?
We don’t have figures on the size of the pet travel market, specifically. However, the American Pet Products Association estimates the overall pet market to be worth $63 billion. According to a recent TripAdvisor survey, over half of all US dog owners now travel with their pets, and the demand for pet friendly hotels and vacation rentals is greater than ever before.