Taking a Pet-Friendly Vacation to Florida

By: Susan Finch

Leaving your pet at home with a sitter or at the kennel can put a big damper on your vacation while you wonder and worry if they’re having fun, so why not turn it into a dog-friendly adventure? After all, pets deserve their own little vacation too. But before you pack-up the car or book the airfare for your pet-friendly vacation; here’s how to help plan your next trip to Florida with pets.

Must Do Visitor Guides Pet Friendly Florida Vacation ideas. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. | MustDo.com
Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

Think Safety

Just like with any family member, safety comes first on a pet-friendly vacation. Start with the basics by asking your vet if there’s anything to consider before traveling with your pet like their age or any health complications. For example, according to PetSafe, pets should generally be at least eight weeks old and up to date on any vaccinations to travel by air. Meanwhile, an older dog with poor eyesight may be fine for both air or car travel, but require safe and secure accommodations where there’s no risk of falling off stairs or a balcony. Whatever method you prefer to travel, keep your pets’ medical records handy and, whenever possible, frequently stop to allow for a stretch break and fresh air.

Stay and Play in Pet-Friendly Accommodations

Although not every place is pet-friendly, there are plenty of hotels that allow dogs and welcome them with open arms. For starters, La Quinta Inn and Suites, Residence Inn by Marriott, The Ritz Carlton Golf Resort, and Naples Bay Resort in the Naples area are all quality hotels that allow dogs. Meanwhile, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, La Quinta Inn, and many other accommodations to traveling pets in Fort Myers. The Aloft, The Westin, Comfort Suites Sarasota-Siesta Key, and Holiday Inn Lido Beach are among some of the pet-friendly hotels in Sarasota. 

Just make sure to ask about any weight limitations of the pet, extra charges, and if there are on-site or nearby areas to take your pets to stretch and play. Hopping onto VRBO or Airbnb is also an option for pet-lovers looking to spread out and enjoy a yard for their vacationing pets.

Enjoy a cold beer, cocktail, or wine under an umbrella with your toes in the sand or under the open-air , waterfront Tiki Hut at O'Leary's downtown Sarasota, Florida. Dog Friendly too! Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com.
Photo credit Lauren Ettinger

Enjoy Pet-Friendly Dining

Florida’s warm, breezy climate and laid-back atmosphere makes it a haven for travelers with pets. Finding dining options are relatively easy to come by, with plenty of places to dine with your dog in tow. In Sarasota alone, the site Bring Fido shows nearly 150 pet-friendly restaurants that welcome dogs at their outdoor tables like the Old Salty Dog, O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill, and New Pass Grill. Over in Venice, Florida, TJ Carney’s Pub & Grille and Original Word of Mouth are just some of the restaurants that won’t bat an eye if you bring your dog along for outdoor dining. When in doubt, call your restaurant of choice in advance and remember to ask if it’s okay to bring along a water bowl or special treats.

Dog beach in Bonita Springs near Fort Myers Beach and Naples, Florida is a pet friendly beach. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

Find Pet-Friendly Beaches

The beach is a big draw for pets and their human travelers alike when it comes to a pet-friendly vacation. Finding dog-friendly beaches is a rewarding way to spend the afternoon with your favorite furry friend. Need ideas? Here’s a quick round-up of some places to try:

  • Fort Myers/Sanibel area – Bonita Dog Beach, Causeway Islands Park, Lovers Key State Park, Lighthouse Beach Park, Gulfside Beach (aka Algiers Beach) are all wonderful dog-friendly beaches for travelers.
  • Naples/Marco Island area – None of the beaches in Naples or Marco Island are dog-friendly, but canines on a leash are welcome on the eight-mile-long barrier island of Keewaydin Island.
  • Sarasota/Venice area – The Sarasota and Venice area has lots of dog parks and spots for outdoor fun. Sarasota County’s only dog-friendly beach is Brohard Beach and Paw Park which is in Venice and offers great amenities for your pooch.
Dogs run and play on the beach at Lovers Key State Park near Fort Myers and Naples, Florida. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman
Man with his dogs at pet-friendly Keewaydin Island in Naples, Florida. Photo by Debi Pittman Wilkey. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

Go Beyond the Beach

Florida and their dog-friendly beaches are overwhelmingly welcome to pets, but not all beaches are off-leash, and some don’t allow dogs at all. Plus, some dogs need a break from heroically chasing waves and playing in the warm sand all day. Look for the multitude of dog parks on your next pet-friendly vacation like Bayfront Park in Sarasota, Naples Dog Park, Canine Cove, and more.

Of course, if you want to do something totally different and your pup requires his own sightseeing tour, try Beach Buddy Tours. Enjoy a dog-friendly sightseeing tour of some of Florida’s most beautiful habitats with local wildlife. They even host a Four-Legged Friends Cruise with a stop for a swim at Bonita Dog Beach complete with water toys, a doggie water dish, and sailor bananas. And after a long vacation, you can even help your dog channel their inner zen at BKS Yoga Studio Doga where dogs and their humans stretch together, breath deeply, and relax together in harmony.

Must Do Visitor Guides Planning a pet-friendly Florida beach trip. Dog-friendly southwest Florida beaches, hotels, restaurants, and more! Photo by Debi Pittman Wilkey. | MustDo.com
Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

Remember a pet-friendly vacation should provide an opportunity to relax and have some fun with your pet and loved ones. So plan your pet-friendly trip with some structure like a romp at the beach and some relaxing doggie yoga before an evening of outdoor dining. But leave plenty of room for flexibility, too, for a chance to indulge in some spontaneous adventure. Keep some time open for a play date at the pup park with a new friend or an opportunity to sprawl out at a park to listen to live music. The point is not to over plan. After all, regardless of where you go, your pet will be happy if you’re right there with them.

Plan your pet-friendly Southwest Florida vacation at www.MustDo.com.

Written by: Susan Finch | Author Website

Susan Finch is a travel writer and content marketer for the tourism industry who spends her time obsessing over the latest travel trends, wrangling her small kids, and planning her family's next big adventure.