Tag Archive | summer vacation

Preparing Your Pet for A Lodging Experience

Amanda with checkin

Remain calm during check-in for a smooth transition.

By Jen Ashenfelter

In early June I posted tips for finding the best pet lodging facility for your dog or cat (click here). As you get ready for your vacation, make sure you prepare your pet for the resort experience. I’m the marketing coordinator for Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holiday House Pet Resort in Doylestown, PA, so I’m lucky to work for a terrific medical team and professional lodging staff who offered these helpful tips.

It’s an exciting day—you are ready for vacation and it’s time to drop your dog or cat off at the lodging resort. Even though you are looking forward to your trip, the moment you have to leave your pet in the care of others can be stressful.

Planning is essential in managing anxiety. Previously we looked at tips for choosing the best lodging facility for your pet. Now it’s time to consider a few final steps that will make the check-in process easy for you and the lodging experience fun for your pet.

  • Vaccinations – When you make the lodging reservation, ask the staff which vaccinations are necessary and suggested for your pet’s stay. Contact your veterinarian to make sure your dog or cat is up-to-date on vaccinations, and make an appointment if necessary.
  • Activities – Be sure to choose an activity package for your pet when you make the reservation. Staying active is important for health and happiness.
  • Medications – If your pet is on medication, be sure to provide enough medication to last the stay. Package and label according to the directions given by the staff.
  • Food – Many resorts will serve a veterinarian-approved food but will serve your pet’s regular diet if you provide the food. Be sure to measure, package and label plenty of food for the stay. It’s also a good idea to supply extra food, especially if your pet is involved in lots of activities.
  • Contact information – Provide an up-to-date list of contacts and emergency numbers as requested by the facility.
  • Remain calm – This is the most important tip for ensuring a smooth check-in to the lodging facility. Pets can sense when we are upset or stressed and will mirror our energy. The best thing you can do is remain calm and confident so your dog or cat will have a positive experience.
  • Going home – A smooth transition when returning home is also important. If the resort offers a grooming option before check-out, a nice bath and pampering is a great way to end the lodging experience. If you are lodging a puppy or young dog, then return to basic housebreaking to reinforce good behavior now that he is back home. It’s also recommended not to feed your pet a big meal after coming home. Pets who are kept busy and happy at lodging—much like a child at camp—will be sleepy, so provide small amounts of water and food for several hours until their energy returns.

    These brothers enjoyed time in the play yard during their resort vacation.

    These brothers enjoyed time in the play yard during their resort vacation.

Lodging is your pet’s vacation from the regular routine. Remember to research lodging resorts well-ahead of your vacation. Choose a resort which provides the best activities, level of safety, and personal care you expect for your pet. When you are organized and calm during the check-in process, you and your pet will less stressed and ready for a good time.

Tips for Finding the Best Lodging Resort for Your Pet

By Jen Ashenfelter

Pets can enjoy a summer vacation too!

Pets can enjoy a summer vacation too!

Hopefully our recent post Dreaming of Summer: Vacation Tips inspired you to choose an exciting destination for your summer vacation or maybe you’re anxiously awaiting your annual week at the beach—and unfortunately Fido or Fluffy can’t join you this time. What are your pet care options?

I’m not saying a relative or neighbor shouldn’t be your pet sitter—you know what’s best for your dog or cat and how solid your relationship is with the person caring for your pet. Just be careful of well-intentioned offers that may not work out the way you expected—I know from experience.

Fortunately, I’ve been working for Holiday House Pet Resort & Doylestown Veterinary Hospital in Bucks County, PA for several months, so I’ve learned a lot about pet lodging. A full-service pet lodging facility is a reliable and convenient option offering the most benefits and security, but how do you know which place is best for your dog and cat?

Finding the right boarding facility for your pets is just like considering schools for your children. From preschool to college, what do you feel are important considerations? At the top of your list might be: amenities, safety, staffing, or location.

Here are tips for finding the appropriate lodging facility for your pets.

  • Tour the facility. This is a must-do when looking at different resorts to board your pet. You should be able to tour the entire facility with a representative at any time, no restrictions. Ask to see the space where your dog will be lodging. Knowing that you are seeing a true picture of how the facility operates and not a staged presentation will give you confidence in the care your pet is receiving.
  • See the pet’s accommodations. The best situation for your dog is having a private, spacious suite that offers access to an outdoor run. Just like children, having the opportunity to go outside for a little recess is healthy for your dog. You might think a covered run to shelter your dog from the weather is best, but sunshine not only keeps your dog happy, but the warm and powerful rays naturally kill germs and bacteria in the outdoor run. Reading about the size and details of an enclosure is one thing but seeing the actual enclosure where your pet will spend the majority of time is important.

    Cats can enjoy time outside of the kitty condo in the rocking chair or playing with a toy.

  • The facility should be warm and inviting but not necessarily look like home. Carpeting and wallboard is great for home but at a lodging facility those porous materials can harbor bacteria, bugs and germs that are not good for your pet. Hard surfaces like tile and concrete aren’t like home but they are durable and easy to clean regularly. If you think about schools, the walls are probably cinder block and the floors are tiled for reasons of safety and cleanliness. Don’t be fooled by cosmetic appearance—you want a clean facility where your pet’s wellness, health and safety are priorities!
  • Ask about bedding. Even though the hard surfaces are the best for cleanliness, the facility should offer bedding options to keep your pet comfortable when resting.
  • Understand how the facility is kept clean. Ask about the cleaning routine and disinfecting processes for the animal suites and community areas. The cleaning products should be effective and safe for the animals. Does the facility use environmentally “green” cleaning products?

    Nature walks are one of the activities offered to lodging clients.

    Nature walks for dogs are one of the activities offered.

  • Find out what activities are offered. If your dog is used to going for a walk, playing with other dogs or getting lap time, why should their routine change while you’re away? You don’t want your dog to remain in a suite without proper exercise and activity for the majority of its stay. The same applies to your cat—what activities does the facility offer to cats?  Studies have shown that pets with activities during a lodging stay are much happier so choose an activity package that fits your pet’s level of daily exercise and social interaction.
  • Climate control. Does the facility have a climate control system for the comfort and safety of the clients?
  • Review safety policies and procedures. Would you send your children to a school that did not have a nurse or professional staff trained in first aid and safety? It’s not pleasant to think of your pet feeling under-the-weather, but having a veterinarian available and staff trained to identify and handle medical problems is necessary for the animals and reassuring for you. Discuss the policies and procedures for medical and safety issues.
  • Emergency plans. Hopefully an emergency never happens but if it does, there should be plans for handling any situation. Does the facility have:
    • On-site staff or night checks
    • Security and fire protection systems
    • Backup power
    • Evacuation/emergency plans
  • Ask about staff training and facility accreditations. OPC University is now setting the industry standards of practice for pet lodging facilities. Does the facility follow these standards? A great facility will require all personnel to receive formalized training about:
    • the facility and business practices,
    • industry standards, and receive
    • on-going training in pet first aid and medical issues, animal behavior, and customer service.

You want everyone at the lodging facility to be passionate about their work and to love spending time with the pets, especially your dog or cat. A happy atmosphere = a happy pet!

What has been your experience with pet sitters or a lodging facility? What’s most important to you when considering who will care for your pet while you’re away?

Dreaming of Summer: Vacation Tips

By Karen Hendricks

Every year around February, it hits me. The winter blues. Time to start thinking about summer and reminding myself that it’s right around the corner—hopefully—before any more snowstorms hit. Planning and dreaming about a summer vacation help to get me through the winter blahs! That is traditionally the time our family plans, makes reservations, and marks the calendar for our summer destination(s).

When Memorial Day weekend comes, “the unofficial start to summer,” we know those vacation plans will soon be here, whether we’re headed to the beach, mountains, cities or amusement parks, and whether travel is for a day trip, weekend and/or vacation week. I loved fellow writer Jennifer’s post earlier this week about “Summer Fun in Your Own Backyard.” Lots of great, money-saving tips! I realize not every family has a vacation budget, but there are some wonderful, thrifty ways to “get away” without breaking the bank. My husband and I feel that taking a vacation is a priority so even during times when finances were tight for us, we found a way to make getaways a reality. We even keep one specific scrapbook specifically for vacation highlights through the years—and they are some of our fondest memories.

I recently conducted a family poll and we made a list of some of our favorite, family-friendly destinations through the years. Hopefully some of our tips and ideas will inspire you! (Please note, as is the case with every article on Off the Merry-Go-Round, we do not accept compensation for reviews or endorsements—of products, services, events, other websites, etc. All ideas and suggestions are truly our own.)

Footprints in the sand, in Bethany Beach, Delaware

Footprints in the sand, in Bethany Beach, Delaware

1. Bethany Beach, Delaware

This family-friendly beach has everything we love: clean beaches, a boardwalk, cute shops and plenty of activities nearby such as mini-golf, restaurants, museums, etc. The beach is not a huge sprawling beach, which we like because you don’t feel lost in a sea of people, and it’s easier to keep track of the kids. We like to stay in South Bethany, which is quiet and mostly residential. There’s a good mix of affordable rental houses just a short walk to the beach, and we always come prepared to cook dinner in-house several nights so that we can splurge and go out to dinner several nights as well. Entertainment and dining options are close-by in two larger beach towns–Rehoboth Beach, DE and/or Ocean City, MD. The town of Bethany is simply charming, with a style similar to Cape May, NJ. (Click here to visit the Delaware Tourism website for more info on Bethany).

One of our favorite spots in Bermuda: exploring Horseshoe Bay

One of our favorite spots in Bermuda: exploring Horseshoe Bay

2. Bermuda

We splurged and took the family on a cruise to Bermuda several years ago to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We chose Bermuda on the advice of our travel agent at AAA and it turned out to be excellent advice. Bermuda is not only beautiful, but very family-friendly with numerous gorgeous beaches and things to do. The cruise itself was wonderful—I highly recommend Norwegian Cruise Lines. Leaving out of New York City was an awesome experience! We took the train from PA directly into NY (and avoided parking fees), then cruised out of Manhattan past the Statue of Liberty and other NYC landmarks. It started the vacation with a bang! We stuck to our budget as planned and did not opt for add-in packages such as additional guided excursions; we still had plenty of fun, both on-board the cruise and during our stay in Bermuda. We purchased 3-day bus passes (for pink buses!) to get around Bermuda, which was an ideal, affordable way to travel and see the entire island, visiting different beaches and landmarks every day. My son was thrilled to enjoy at least one (sometimes two) ice cream cones a day on the cruise ship… that was one of the highlights of the vacation for him! (Click here to visit the Bermuda Department of Tourism’s website… the photos are breath-taking.)

I think it’s important to plan a “big” trip every few years, especially to celebrate milestone moments. We celebrated our 15th anniversary with a family trip to Disneyworld which was incredible and still very affordable. That will have to be a separate blog post for another day!

Family pic after climbing to the top of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Family pic after climbing to the top of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Racing down the sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park, Kitty Hawk

Racing down the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Kitty Hawk

Learning how to ride the waves along the Outer Banks

Learning how to ride the waves along the Outer Banks

3. The Outer Banks, North Carolina

From Duck to Kill Devil Hills, Cape Hatteras to Ocracoke Island, the Outer Banks are dotted with lots of family-friendly beach towns. Prices for vacation rentals and/or hotels vary widely but there are plenty of affordable options. When our children were younger, I preferred staying near beaches that were patrolled by lifeguards; lots of the smaller beach towns do not have lifeguards on duty. Cape Hatteras is an example of one beach where lifeguards are present. There are plenty of things to do nearby, if you have a rainy day or if you need a break from the beach. One excursion I highly recommend is Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Kitty Hawk, where you can not only learn about the Wright Brothers taking flight, but you can trek across and run down the huge sand dunes. Fun and great exercise! There are plenty of great restaurants and touristy areas, but many of the towns along the Outer Banks also retain their quiet, residential status for a true “getaway.” (Click here for the official Outer Banks tourism website.)

The Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah National Park

The Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah National Park

4. Shenandoah National Park

Renting a cabin for a week at Shenandoah was a great way for my family to experience “camping” without truly roughing it with tents, etc. (We have stayed in cabins/lodges at a number of national and state parks and both are fun, affordable options.) Located in Virginia, the Skyline Drive through the park is literally beautiful at every winding turn. We saw plenty of deer and even several bears during our trip a few years ago. Our family really enjoys adventures such as going on nature hikes and there are plenty of trail options at Shenandoah. One specific hike will remain a topic of conversation for years to come, because mid-way through a 10 or 12 mile hike one day, it began raining. A gentle shower turned into torrential rains and a “shortcut” trail turned out longer than our original route. Once we reached a key road, my hero of a husband ending up running two miles (still in the rain) to the car in order to pick us all up. We were drenched, several times over, but we can laugh about it now. Events like that are never “planned,” but they sure do make memories… and we can laugh about it now. (This link will take you to the National Park Service’s website for Shenandoah.)

The classic carousel at Hershey Park is the one pictured at the top of our website!

The classic carousel at Hershey Park is the one pictured at the top of our website!

5. Hershey Park / Knoebel’s Grove

It’s hard to imagine summertime without a trip to an amusement park! Two options in our “backyard” are Hershey Park located in Hershey, PA and Knoebel’s Grove located in Elysburg, PA. Our family has enjoyed a day trip to Hershey every year for as long as I can remember—it must be 15 summers now. We always spend a full day there, from opening to closing. There are plenty of kids’ rides, family-friendly rides such as the park train, and then thrill-seeking rides (for the teens and brave adults). When the kids were younger, we especially enjoyed taking a break from rides by visiting the zoo that’s located in the park for a change of pace. There are also performers here and there throughout the park—my family really enjoyed a rhythm performance similar to “Stomp” a year or two ago. There is also an entire section of the park devoted to water slides which we’ve enjoyed on super-hot days. Since it’s an expense for those of us with larger families, we usually look for discounted tickets available through area grocery stores, and we usually pack a lunch (picnic facilities are available near the parking areas) but purchase dinner inside the park. (Here’s the link to Hershey Park.)

You're never too old for a photo with the Hershey's characters!

You’re never too old for a photo with the Hershey’s characters!

Knoebel’s Grove is the quintessential old-fashioned amusement park with lots of charming rides. A huge, old-fashioned ferris wheel at the park entrance sets the tone. Mixed in with plenty of kiddie rides for younger family members are thrilling rides to keep teens on the edge of their seats. They offer a twist on admission and pricing: Admission to the park is free, with several options available for ride tickets. There are special days when you can “pay one price” to enjoy all/any rides, or you can purchase ride tickets in batch quantities to use them as you go through the park (but don’t put the tickets in a shirt pocket and ride an upside-down roller coaster as your first ride of the day… as one of my family members learned, you WILL lose your tickets… oops). There is a large picnic grove where you can enjoy lunch or dinner if you’d rather pack your own meals. Knoebel’s is especially a good option if you have family members who want to join you for a day at the park, but really don’t enjoy riding rides. Since admission is free, it’s easy for them to still get “in” on the family fun. (Click this link to visit the Knoebel’s Grove website.)

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Knoebel’s classic ferris wheel lights up the night

What are some of your family’s favorite vacation destinations? Feel free to share your ideas and tips below and join the conversation. Wishing you a fun-filled summer!