Travel More With Your Dog and Quit the Excuses!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the travel industry is suffering these days. Apparently, we all have less money to spend on the perceived luxury of travel. Yet, the truth is, for many of us, not being able to afford travel doesn’t stop us from wanting to do it. In fact, I believe that apart from world peace and a cure for cancer, travel is likely one of the most universal wishes. After all, there has to be a reason why Google identifies “travel” as one of the most popular terms used in search engines.


Sailing in Greece. A Fantastic experience to be repeated! Seen here with Mom on a Bavaria Sailboat.

It is not all that surprising really.

Never before have humans been able to get such a thorough look at what the world has to offer. Just with TV, Facebook, Flickr and other social media websites, we’ve “seen” more of the world than any other generation. There are thousands of books and millions of online images, not to mention advertising campaigns all showing us our diverse and extraordinary world. The more we see, the more many of us want to explore the world for ourselves.

Although so many people want to travel however, many never do. Let alone with their pet! I’ve overheard people make numerous excuses for not travelling: the expense, the kids, the pets and careers are all commonly used to explain why folks can’t travel right now.

Travel more with your dog and quit the excuses!

But I say where there is a will, there is a way.  What’s the point in deferring your travel dreams? You can scratch the travel itch even if you have limited funds, a growing family, multiple pets or a demanding career. All you need to do is change your focus, make travel one of your top priorities, and then get on with it.

The bipeds and I did some brainstorming and put together some ideas to help you travel more.

1. Start Local.

If you think about it, the purpose of travel is to see new things, freshen your thinking and, if possible, experience new cultures. Many people seem to think that in order to do this, they need to travel to faraway lands. But I assure you, this is not true.

Start local (by local I mean nothing more than an 1 hour drive from your home) and explore your own neighbourhoods. I can’t tell you how often I’ve met people who don’t even know what their own city has to offer. We show up as tourists with our “To See List” only to learn that people living within easy distance are unaware of these gems. Everything from little hidden museums to hikes in national parks with waterfalls, caves, lakes, and picnic areas with breathtaking views remain unseen by locals. Many are accessible to pets, and a quick local phone call can confirm this.

Montecristo and funny sign in Wakefield

In Wakefield: Only about 25 minute drive from our home! (great coffee shops and pet friendly patios! – Quebec)

Consider what else you might discover just a little further afield. Anything within a 3-4 hour drive is fair game for a weekend trip. If you’ve got longer, you could extend your range to 5-7 hours out. You’d be surprised at what you might find.

I’ll give you an example. We live near the Gatineau Hills, a 15 to 20 minute drive across the river from Ottawa. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard folks from Toronto (4 hours away) or Montreal (2 hours away) ask, “Oh, what is it like? I would love to go some time!”  I say, get in your car and check it out!

It’s so easy to tempt your exploring urges. Use a search engine like Google and see what the internet can teach you. Wikipedia can also be interesting. Or, if you prefer browsing through paper, head to your local library and find books and travel magazines that reference your area. There are bound to be some beautiful surprises just waiting for you to discover. Go ahead and be a traveller in your own backyard!

2. Accommodation.

When it comes to figuring out where to stay, especially with a pet in tow, think outside the box. Although it would be nice to indulge, travel isn’t only about staying in boutique hotels or luxury spas. Travel is primarily about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing things you’ve never tried before. (At least that’s what we think!) So with that in mind, be creative about finding inexpensive accommodation. Consider options such as:

  • Camping/Glamping
  • House Swapping
  • Couch Surfing
  • Bed and Breakfasts
  • Motels
  • Renting a small apartment or studio
  • Staying with friends
  • Visiting distant relatives

Most of these options will cost you next to nothing, if anything at all. Especially off season!

So many people have camping gear they rarely use. I’ll bet you could even borrow it. Or, if you don’t want to camp, organize a house swap with out of town friends. Find someone in an area you’d like to visit and swap away. The added bonus with this option is that it will motivate you to clean out your house. (Think about how you could build your travel funds by selling your little used stuff!)


Super cute little apartment rental in Zagreb.

Friends and family are often happy to have you visit and stay in exchange for the cost of a dinner out or a small gift of appreciation. Go ahead and reach out. Let everyone know you want to travel with your pet and you might be surprised by the invitations you’ll receive.

For longer stays, we like to rent a small studio apartment.  You can often find one (We like Trip Advisor) that will cost you the same for a week as what a fancy hotel would have cost you for a single night. You could also get together with friends and share the rent for a larger place. This is what we did in Florence and it worked out beautifully.

3. Food.

We never eat in 5-Star restaurants. Heck, we don’t even eat out at fast food joints. Not only are they terrible for your health, but they also “eat” into your precious travel budget. Plus, in North America most fancy hotels don’t even allow pets on the patio to dine with you. The truth is, with a little planning and some basic gear, you can feed yourself twice a day for a minimal cost. Here’s how we do it.

We travel with a sort of mini picnic backpack complete with a thermal area for keeping water cool. Our pack includes some plastic plates, goblets, cutlery and even cloth napkins. It includes a picnic knife that comes with a cover so it won’t pierce a hole in the bag. (The knife doesn’t come with us if we have to fly. We only travel with carry on and the knife will not clear security.)

For breakfast, we pick up some local seasonal fruit, muesli bars and some hard boiled eggs. One of the healthiest breakfasts is a thin layer of almond butter on rye bread.  You can’t get much easier than that. Just buy a plastic jar of almond butter to carry round with you and pick up bread, chapatti, rolls or even fresh waffles from a street vendor.


Always room for a tiny bit of Ice CREAM!! (with Mom) local to our home is La Cigale in Chelsea  a 15 minute drive.

For lunch, we do something fresh and simple such as a combination of fresh bread, tomatoes and cheese, cold cuts such as salami and ham, cucumbers, olives and hummus. Since we tend to travel when the weather is nice or to countries with pleasant climates, eating outside is a real pleasure. We also have more time to explore because we aren’t stuck inside waiting on service or limited to visiting sites with restaurants. Another favourite are food trucks and street vendors. Best way to really get into the local flavours!


Don’t forget FOOD TRUCKS and street vendors. Here I am in Split, Croatia enjoying a local treat!

If you are staying at a hotel, ask if they can include breakfast (often a buffet) at no extra charge. The fruit, rolls, hard boiled eggs and cheese you couldn’t eat at breakfast could be discreetly packed as a lunch or snack. We did this in Switzerland where costs are VERY high.

When it comes to the evening meal, don’t head straight to the touristy restaurants and main squares. Instead, watch where the locals eat. Again, street food can be excellent and extremely affordable not to mention ALWAYS pet friendly. If you are afraid of getting sick, just pick stalls that are popular with the locals; watch what they order and get the same.

If you are renting an apartment, then have dinner (and wine) at home. If you do eat out in order to taste local culinary delights, do so at lunch. Lunches are often exactly the same quality as dinner but for nearly half the price.  If you really want to save costs, never order alcohol with your meal when eating out.

4. Sight-Seeing.

We’re always surprised by how many people travel with a check-list of the standard, big sights. We find there’s a lot of energy put into seeing those sights. You know the ones, right? Taking the trip up the Eiffel Tower or visiting the Guggenheim Museum. Certainly, there is often a reason why these sites are so popular, but they tend to be expensive and sadly, they are rarely pet friendly. We try and limit ourselves to one or two of these biggies per trip (I am often left at the apartment for those).

Some of the best things we have seen have no entry charge. And there are plenty of lesser known attractions which may be free or low cost.  And because they need the business they are often pet friendly or willing to make an exception for a small dog in a bag. Visiting the Tuileries in Paris, sipping a Tuscan style hot chocolate in a tiny café way on the top of a hill overlooking Florence, and walking up and down the Art Deco Revival of South Beach in Miami were all fun, interesting and easy on the budget. No matter where you’re going, don’t feel you have to spend big on the main tourist attractions. Honestly, we have found that you can learn more by hanging out with the locals.


Maple Fest in Perth, Ontario is about an hour and a half drive from home! Bonus: Maple syrup tastings!!

Promise me that you’ll stop trying to tick things off just for the sake of it. For example, if you do make it to Paris, then visiting the tourist attractions needn’t be your top priority. After all, you won’t see many French people paying to climb the Eiffel Tower. They’re all sitting in the cafés having a short black coffee (the cheapest option) and people watching. Join them wandering free of charge around the parks, visiting the local markets, and walking along and over the many many bridges of the River Seine. (Besides, instead of climbing the Eiffel Tower, enjoy it for the beauty it is and see how many views you can get of the Tower instead of off it!)

5. Dependents.

If you have kids or pets you can’t travel with (too large for in-cabin flying or elderly), you can, with some planning, have someone else take care of them. I know. My Grandma in France has 3 dogs, 2 birds, fish, 4 hens and more. Yet, she still found a way to come over to Ottawa (where we live in Canada) to visit for 2-3 weeks. She left her hubby behind and a trusted friend to check-in on him and lend a hand. What was the key to her enjoying her vacation? She relaxed and trusted them.

Have kids? When my Mom was a little girl, she (and her younger brother) would be sent off to the Grandparents – alone, on cross-Atlantic flights, no less – to spend 3 weeks with one set of grandparents and 3 weeks with the other. She remembers those summers fondly and is grateful for the quality time she had with her grandparents.  Especially since they have passed away. She also learned to deal with being away from home – a life lesson she really appreciated when she moved out as a young adult to go to college. As for her own parents, they enjoyed 6 weeks every summer without the kids. They rested and travelled, just the two of them as a couple.


Another option is to do a swap with a friend.  Something along the lines of, “I’ll watch your pets/child this weekend if you return the favour next month”.  I have seen this work very well among our friends.

If you have a small dog, well … take your canine friend with you! I will keep shouting it off rooftops: travel more with your dog and quite the excuses!


Enjoying the end of fall in the Gatineau Park. This trail is a 30 minute drive from our home.

SO GO! Go out of town for 2-3 days. Travel! Travel is really about going with the flow and allowing a little spontaneity into your life. So get out your calendar and red circle a weekend for travel. My next trips will be to Kingston, Almonte, Quebec City to see Grandma, or to the awesome Upper Canada Village only an hour away.

What is your next trip (weekend or more) going to be? I would love to hear what you have planned!

33 Comments on “Travel More With Your Dog and Quit the Excuses!

  1. Oh Monte! It’s so true, you don’t need to go far or board a plane to travel!!! There are many great places within an hour or two of home to visit. Kingston, Merrickville, Manotick and Wakefield to name but a few.

    You should head to Prince Edward County. Mom and dad would enjoy the wineries and amazing food (which are part of the “taste trail”), and you would enjoy the pet-friendly beach at Sandbanks!(with sand beaches as white as any Caribbean island) Driving in PEC is beautiful, it reminds me of Europe with it’s winding roads, orchards and wineries and quaint towns along the way. Fun shopping in the small towns too with many unique items, and beautiful Inns. We are planning to go there again this summer. It’s a 3 hour drive there, but it can be done round trip in one day if you wanted to. Otherwise, many of the Inns are pet-friendly (call beforehand), including Huff Estates winery ( They also have an art gallery/store (Oeno Gallery) there that the bipeds would really enjoy since they love art so much. PEC is also home to artisanal cheese makers, bakeries, fresh local produce, homemade jams and jellies and antiques. You can find treasures at every bend in the road!

    There are so many “day trips” that can be done around here. If anyone has a special place close by they’ve been to, I would love to hear about it as we are looking for new places to explore.

    • Great suggestion Roxane and Pepito! Once the weather is warmer we might just have to take a long weekend and set off and explore!! THANK YOU! We will also feature some more small local towns and hopefully a few of them will be new to you and you’ll head off on your own adventure! You don’t have to go far to have the feeling of being “abroad”. Just going to Manotick 20 km away does that!We will be looking at a map soon and just looking to see if we find some lovely little towns we have yet to review!

      • When I moved to Canada in 1967, I moved to Montreal. I loved Montreal then, and I still love it now. Each time we visit, I feels great to be back. Next: Niagara-on-the-Lake. I love the area for its flowers, the wine, its restaurants and, of course, the Shaw Theatre Festival. Quebec City is another favourite spot of mine. Haven’t been back for quite a number of years. It is on our travel list for 2013.

      • Oh, and the Laurentians, and the Gatineau area…. So much to see, so many places where to be happy and where to relax and take in all that beauty…

  2. Great advice! I love your writing!
    I’d like to try apartment swapping. It would have to be with someone I know and trust of course.

  3. Awesome, Monte, we are soulmates, even the knife covered with cloth is almost always with me, and of course i travel within Ukraine with my 5 furbabies, where else can i get with my pretty “luggage”, thank you for sharing travel spirit, 😉

  4. Love It !! It really invite us to go for it!! Go out and travel. Thankz for your hints are great and easy to follow .

    The four of us ( Emma, Frida, MIA and Me ) need to start doing so soon.
    Waiting MIA to have the whole pack of Vaccines
    and we will start. We will let you know dear Monte. Kiss kiss sweetie traveller.

  5. Our farm is our local little gem and get away place to go. We haven’t been there for about two months and our souls, bodies, minds and even paws are sooo missing it. We need so hard that contact with nature. But this article is inviting us all ( our family) to go further, locally and more 😉

    Again us the pack ! 😉

      • At the Municipio de la Cumbre, Valle del Cauca, Colombia: 45 minutes up the mountain, leaving the valley were I live ( the capital of it is Cali). Our family has a property with a 100 years old house at this region. This is the place were I have taken all the birds and flowers pictures that I have share on my profile ;).

        One of the million lovely places our country has.
        I am so sure you three will enjoy a lot ..a trip to South America.. Someday this will be your next adventure to experience. I am very sure my sweet friend Monte. Kiss kiss little chi with the huge heart.

        • Oh and what an amazing time it will be!! To meet you and others and to finally see South America!! So much beauty … I can not wait!

  6. Those are great tips! I once took a road trip that meandered from Seattle to Texas and back. I had a great time but I also learned that I live in one of the most beautiful places in the US. I realized that I had hardly explored my own back yard. I was in college so time and money didn’t permit me to travel to exotic locations so I made it my mission to see as much of my state as possible.

    • See? THAT is what I am talking about! Everywhere is exotic to someone! I see that all the time when we have visitors from Europe or Asia. They see our forests and rolling hills and large river and stand in wonder. I am reminded that they (and their countries) are exotic to us – but WE are exotic to them! So all you need to do is shift your lens to see things as they would and Voila! You have your very own exotic backyard!

  7. This is a great wake-up call, Monte! Thank you for all the helpful tips and suggestions! 🙂

  8. Monte, Dude, your bipeds sure have great travel insights to share with other bipeds who might need some guidance. And now I’ll turn this comment over to my own personal biped who better get a move on because I would like to go out. Your phurry Philly phriend, Dino

    Excellent piece and a must read for people who think they don’t like to travel because they get antsy if they’re too far from home. Your ideas for local travel should inspire them. I also totally agree with your suggestions for ways to make travel more affordable. My father was a public school teacher, but he managed to take us to live in Mexico for a year (when I was 9-10) and to live in England for a year where he was an exchange teacher. After the school year ended in England, my parents borrowed a tent and the five of us camped around France, Italy and Spain for 7 weeks — even though my parents had never camped before. We hardly ever ate in restaurants, but we had some really fine picnics.

    My husband and I travel as much as possible, usually with me as a trailing spouse on his work trips. When our children were young, my parents were willing to move into our house to take care of them so we could travel together. I guess this isn’t surprising given how much my parents valued travel. I wish we had traveled more with our children although when I actually count up the trips, we did travel with them a good deal — enough that one of them inherited the family wanderlust and has come up with location independent ways to support himself so he can travel.

    And then there’s Monte’s phurry Philly cyber phriend, Dino. We trade canine care with our old neighbors when we can’t travel with our respective quadripeds. Dino is too big “to fit under the seat in front of you”, so he doesn’t fly around the world with us, but he is excellent in the car and comes along when we visit the sea shore in New Jersey.

    Write on!

    • Suzanne my friend: I love this comment because no one can argue that a school teacher isn’t exactly rich financially. I love that he found ways to get his children to see some of the world and … as followers of your blog … that wanderlust has been passed on not just to the next generation but the one after that. What an amazing and wonderful gift! Education comes in many many formats!

      Dino my friend: Perhaps one day airlines will allow canine passengers on the seats. When that happens … you and me amigo… you and me we shall travel together! You are lucky to have such caring bipeds.

  9. We are so starting to follow your travelling advice .. Today we took MIA on her first trip; other than the vet. We went to visit our best friend Vicky and her two children; Maria and Takeo. They live 30 minutes up in the mountain of Dapa. In the countryside. Is a lovely little Switzerland type of house with rabbits, parrots, chickens, a dog and our sweet friends. It was fun for all of us. Relaxing and fun.. so many things to explore, smell, look and listen. Nothing like nature to awaken our senses.

    Thanks again Monte for inviting all of your fans to follow your in your steps.

    Emma, Frida and MIA

    PS – Carmen helped type this 🙂

    • OH congrats!! what fun! Oh this makes me SO happy!! Thank you for sharing. This is why we write this blog. You just proved it works! YAY!

  10. Once again, another fine piece of writing. Living here in the great State O’ Maine, there’s lots of opportunities for short getaways. I like to camp in one of the state parks. There’s nothing more serene than sitting around a campfire and enjoying the nighttime sounds of nature. Getting away doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Day trips work just as well.

    • Indeed! In fact we plan on starting a new series to illustrate this on our blog called “Local Treasures”. I have never camped … cottage yes but not a tent. The bipeds worry I would be easy pickings for wildlife. What do you think Brad? Maybe you’ll take me one day and tell me ghost stories before bed?

  11. Hey Monte,
    great tips. I like the picknick basket idea. But how do you travel with a carry on only?
    My Puppy always counts as my carry on and I’m only allowed a personal (tiny) ( ok, huge purse) on the plane?

    • Hey Simone! What Mom does is she makes sure her purse is small enough to fit in my carrier while we go through registration and security. Then she takes it out. SO she has my carrier as her “purse” and then her carry-on. Does that help? We are about to post some “how to travel light” tips maybe you will find some useful information there.

  12. Pingback: With Dog Travel - 2013 in Review and a Spoiler Alert!

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