The SATURDAY SIX Looks at Taking Your Pet with You on a Disney or Universal Vacation

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at bringing your pet with you on a Disney or Universal vacation! For many, pets are considered part of the family. The thought of traveling without our furry friends is almost unthinkable. Luckily, when taking a vacation to Walt Disney World or the Universal Orlando Resort, there are several options for our beloved cats and dogs so that they can be with us. Today we are going to look at the onsite options, starting with…

# 6 – Best Friends Pet Hotel

Until relatively recently, pets were not allowed to stay at any of the Disney onsite hotels. However, there was an option for overnight boarding at Best Friends Pet Hotel, which is conveniently located almost directly across from Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter. Best Friends offers both boarding and supervised day camps along with grooming and training services. The boarding is available for dogs, cats, and pocket pets. I personally had never even heard of the term “pocket pet” until we were at Best Friends and the family in front of us was checking in a sugar glider (very similar to a flying squirrel). So for those who want to travel to WDW but don’t want to leave behind the hamster, hedgehog, or Stuart Little in your household, there is a place on site for you.

Best Friends Pet Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The outside of Best Friends is adorned with characters from Lady & the Tramp.

Best Friends Pet Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Best Friends Pet Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Best Friends Pet Hotel.

The check-in area of Best Friends Pet Hotel as a variety of merchandise and food available, in case you forgot anything from home.

Best Friends Pet Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)

For those who love to spoil their canine companions, there are usually themed snacks to buy.

Best Friends Pet Hotel cookies. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Best Friends Pet Hotel exclusive scents. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Best Friends also has interesting offers during special occasions throughout the year. One of our trips took place during Labor Day, and a themed meal was available to purchase (surprise, surprise, we bought it for our pampered pup).

Labor Day offering.

Here is a peek into one of the indoor play areas at Best Friends.

Best Friends Pet Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)

As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat.” – Ellen Perry Berkeley

This hallway leads to Kitty City, where all the cats at Best Friends Pet Hotel stay.

Kitty City. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Best Friends has a large area for you to walk your dog or let them run around. When you leave the building to go to the play area, the first thing you’ll see is a large Pluto topiary.

Pluto. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The play area at Best Friends Pet Hotel.

Best Friends Pet Hotel play area. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Here we have Bacini (Maltipoo) running around in the area.

Best Friends Pet Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Best Friends Pet Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)

There is also a place dedicated to dog walking, and all dogs must be leashed and controlled in this area.

Dog walk area. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Here’s a view from inside the dog walking area.

Best Friends Pet Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)

When it comes to boarding, there are several options that Best Friends has available. For the value-conscious, there are indoor and indoor/outdoor suites, available for less than $50 per night. With these rooms, guests can’t visit the rooms directly, however access to your pet is available 24 hours a day. After our family stayed until Magic Kingdom closed at midnight, we went over to check on our dog. A Best Friends employee went and got our puppy so we could spend some time with him outside in the play area. Each stay includes potty walks, but you can also add on a variety of activities including play time and group play time. We signed our pup up for some playtime, and while we were at the Magic Kingdom that day, I received an email from Best Friends with a picture of our puppy playing outside.

For those concerned, Best Friends also separates the puppies and senior dogs. While he didn’t look it, our Yorkshire Terrier was 16 years old and was boarded with the puppies and senior dogs. The staff seemed to have meticulous notes on our dog’s behavior during his stay, and there always seemed to be plenty of employees around. Highest possible recommendation for those looking at places for your pets to stay.

Sebastian at Best Friends.

 

# 5 – Staying in a Best Friends Villa

The other classification of room that Best Friends Pet Hotel offers is a Villa. For these suites, owners are allowed to visit their pet at any time of the day. The picture below shows our Maltipoo, Bacini, checking out his next door neighbors.

Hallway for Best Friends Villas. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Outside each room there is a “mailbox” where you can store items for your dog, including leashes, special treats, etc.

Best Friends Villa. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Here is a look inside the room of a Villa. It includes several places to sleep, an outdoor area, a flatscreen TV, and a “turn down biscuit” at night (like I could make that up!)

Best Friends Villa. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Here is a picture of the TV in the room. Every time I stopped by the TV was playing either a Disney animated movie or a live action movie that featured cats or dogs.

Little Mermaid on TV. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Bill Murray : It was my bad. I was never a very good practical joker.

Little Rock : So do you have any regrets?

Bill Murray : “Garfield,” maybe.  – Zombieland

Here is a shot of the TV playing the movie Garfield. The scene involves a bunch of animals surround the bad guy trying to take a cat.

Best Friends Villa.

Here we have Bacini inside his Villa with us on the outside.

Best Friends Pet Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The outdoor section lets the pets have a little fresh air during their stay. They are blocked from interacting with any neighboring animals.

Best Friends Pet Hotel.

We didn’t check the square footage, but thinking this may compare favorably to the size of  a room at the All Star Resorts. Will check to see if Best Friends accepts humans on next trip.

Best Friends Villa.

Another neat feature of the villas is that each room is equipped with a PetChatz webcam. The camera is located directly underneath the TV. PetChatz has an app available for your smartphone, and upon check in you are given a username and password to access to webcam in your villa.

Pet Chatz.

We wanted to see how PetChatz worked before we left Best Friends, so I downloaded the app and it worked instantly.

PetChatz in action! (photo by Brandon Glover)

With PetChatz you have the ability to just watch your pet, or you can “FaceTime” with them. When were staying at Gran Destino we checked in on Bacini at night via the app.

PetChatz.

Often times we’d see Bacini walking around the room.

PetChatz

We definitely felt better seeing him snooze away at night. We liked the value on a standard pet suite, but for our piece of mind we will probably always get a villa when we use Best Friends. Each villa stay also comes with a potty walk and play time. During our stay we decided to pop on by to see Bacini, and he was outside playing with one of the Best Friends employees at the time.

PetChatz

We even got a “report card” on how Bacini’s stay went.

For more information on Best Friends Pet Hotel, or to book a reservation, visit bestfriendspetcare.com

 

# 4 – Dog Friendly Resorts at Walt Disney World

As we said before, for a long time the only way you could be with a pet on a trip to WDW was to stay at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. Hey, I like Hoop Dee Doo and Trail’s End as much as anyone, but camping? That’s a Nay Nay. For us, “roughing it” is staying at Pop Century. Thankfully in 2017, Disney made several of their hotels dog friendly. Joining the campgrounds would be Art of Animation, Port Orleans Riverside, and the Yacht Club.

Unlike Best Friends Pet Resort, Disney’s hotels only accept dogs to stay with you (sorry kitties), with a maximum of two per room. The cost is $50 per dog, per night at AOA and Riverside, and $75 per dog, per night at the Yacht Club.

Yacht Club. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Yacht Club. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Upon check in, guests are given a copy of WDW’s dog policies.

WDW dog policies. (photo by Brandon Glover)

One thing I have learned over the years is that non-pet owners are afraid they are going to get a room that a pet has been in. For both Disney and Universal, the dog friendly rooms are only used for guests staying with pets and are grouped together. For the Yacht Club, the rooms were in a wing far away from the lobby and were on the side close to the Swan/Dolphin resorts.

Yacht Club dog friendly room. (photo by Brandon Glover)

At check in, each dog is given a complimentary Pluto’s Welcome Kit. This includes a placemat, bowls, diposable underpads, a bandana, and a dog waste bag holder.

Pluto’s welcome kit. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Because Disney’s resorts weren’t built with the intention of ever being pet friendly, the pet relief areas can be “interesting.” For the Yacht Club, the pet relief area was located behind a quiet pool area.

Yacht Club. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Pet Relief area at Yacht Club. The map we were given showed another large pet relief spot to the left of this area, but there was no way to get to it as the area was blocked by waist high hedges.

Pet relief area. (photo by Brandon Glover)
dog-friendly
Potty walk done, time to go back in. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Turns out that dogs enjoy the filet mignon and fries from the Yacht Club’s Ale & Compass.

“Give my compliments to the chef!” (photo by Brandon Glover)

There is a loop at the Fort Wilderness Cabins that is dog friendly. Here we have Caspian enjoying some “pool time.”

Fort Wilderness Cabins. (photo by Jennifer Wells)

Everyone likes a Mickey Waffle, including pups.

Puppy’s first Mickey squeak toy at Fort Wilderness. (photo by Jennifer Wells)

Caspian at Port Orleans Riverside.

Port Orleans Riverside.  (photo by Jennifer Wells)

Here we have cute little P.D. dressed up for a Fort Wilderness dog parade

P.D. (photo by @HelenMc8620)
P.D. is a winner!

For those of us who live in Florida, one thing Disney does during hurricane evacuations is allow pets at all hotels. This includes cats. Here we have Romeo enjoying a little walking time at Saratoga Springs.

Romeo at (photo by @BayLakeSpence)

 

# 3 – Pet Friendly Resorts at Universal Orlando

Across I-4 it’s a different ballgame for pet owners as the Universal Orlando Resort (and its partner Loews Hotels) is extremely pet friendly. Like Disney, each pet friendly room will only accept two pets, but the cost is just $100 per room for the entire length of stay. Also like Disney, Universal offers four pet-friendly resorts on site with the Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino Bay, and Sapphire Falls. However, each of Universal’s properties were built with pets in mind, so the areas dedicated to them are much better.

Bacini, checking into Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The pet relief area at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is massive, with a lighted walking path and a gigantic area to play in.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The entrance back into the hotel is behind the trees and bushes in the center of this picture.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Here’s a look at just one stretch of the grassy area for pets.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Here’s a picture looking at the opposite view. The length seems to be as long as a football field.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

“So much room for activities!” – Bacini, probably.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Plenty of lighting for nighttime walks.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

During our stay we saw several pet owners taking their dogs for a walk along this stretch of pavement on the other side of the building. It faces the water and is also landscaped beautifully. Here we have Spencer taking a relaxing stroll outside.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by the newly engaged Ashley Marie)

Over at the Royal Pacific they have an area playfully called the Loews’ Royal Pet Resort.

Bacini at the Royal Pet Resort.

One of the things I love about the Royal Pacific is the overall theming. There are exotic statues throughout the resort, including the pet area!

Royal Pet Resort.

This is part of the overall area for pets to enjoy.

Royal Pet Resort.

Bacini was a big fan.

Royal Pet Resort.
Spencer enjoying the Royal Pacific’s incredible water feature outside the lobby. (photo by Ashley Marie)

 

For those who haven’t been, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is just massive in size. But while the resort size is sprawling, it’s never overwhelmed with thousands upon thousands of guests, so you always get the feeling like you’re in some quaint Italian village during the off season (even when the hotel is sold out!). The back side of Portofino is home to another massive area for owners to bring their pets.

Pet area at Portofino Bay. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Pet area at Portofino Bay. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Pym enjoying the incredible waterfront at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.

You can’t take a bad photo at Portofino Bay. “It’s unpossible.” – Ralph Wiggum (photo by @krismeetsworld)

While Disney hotels are dog-friendly, Universal’s are pet-friendly, which means our feline friends can enjoy a staycation when they need it as well. Here we have Tiny looking out onto a million dollar view.

Portofino is “purr-fect.” (photo by Tom Prioli)

The Woodstock lawn is the pet-friendly area for the Hard Rock Hotel, and this area connects to another very large grassy spot for dogs to play in.

Woodstock Lawn at Hard Rock Hotel. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Right near the Woodstock Lawn is the gorgeous and tranquil Butterfly Garden, which can provide some great photo ops with your furry friends.

Pym at the Hard Rock.  (photo by @iHiccupTooMuch)

 

# 2 – Loews Loves Pets

On our stay at the Yacht Club we were given the Pluto’s Welcome Kit at check-in, but there was nothing in the actual rooms that was pet friendly. Universal is home to the Loews Loves Pets program and the rooms were equipped with a dog bed and other goodies. While Yacht Club had the hard wood floors, Sapphire Falls had carpet that was steam cleaned after every stay.

Pet friendly room at Sapphire Fals. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Dog bed, place mat, and dog bowls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Yes, the dog drinks better water than I do!

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

“Hits the spot.” – Bacini, probably.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

There was a Loews Loves Pets branded dog waste bag holder, and dog treats stuffed inside a Sapphire Falls souvenir cup.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

There was also a Loews Loves Pets dog tag.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Cute door hangers.

Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Sapphire Falls. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

# 1 – Pet Room Service

From 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Loews Loves Pets offers in-room dining for pets. That’s not even the most shocking part. The prices are downright reasonable! There are different menu options to choose from for both cats and dogs, with nothing being above $10. Each entree also comes with a pet dish AND a bottle of Fiji water. There is also complimentary cat litter, pet bowls, dog balls, and can covers available.

Bacini carefully choosing his options. (photo by Brandon Glover)

What a life.

Room service has arrived. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Can you believe this is real?!

Chicken puppy bites. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Dinner is served!

Chow time! (photo by Brandon Glover)

The room service meal came with a bottle of Fiji water, salt and pepper shakers, a dog bib (bandana), another dog waste bag container and another Loews Loves Pets dog tag. If human room service had this type of value I might never leave the hotel room! On a more serious note, for us the room service also helped keep our puppy on a normal eating schedule as he had a lot of distractions and new smells on our vacation. The food was so yummy that he had no problem digging in immediately at the time he is used to eating at.

Honorable Mention: MCO’s PAW PILOTS Program at the Orlando International Airport

Traveling to Orlando can be stressful, but America’s Best Airport just made it a little bit easier. Orlando International Airport – who just happen to have the best social media account of any airport in the world with @MCO – recently debuted the Paw Pilots therapy dog program. Paw Pilots allows guests to “pet before you jet” and interact with several adorable dogs. The dogs will be located in the main terminal building and available throughout the week as volunteer schedules allow.

The pups in MCO’s Paw Pilots program. (photo by Attractions Magazine)
Glamour shots of the Paw Pilots themselves. (photo by Attractions Magazine)

Here we have Woody, who has been a therapy dog for two years. Just try to be stressed out while cuddling with this cutie.

Woody. (photo by Attractions Magazine)
Woody’s photo. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Daisy, an official Paw Pilot Princess.

Daisy. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Daisy knows how to pose! (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Cradling Fifi in your arms can make all your troubles disappear, if even just for a short while.

Fifi. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Farley is the only male Paw Pilot, and this border/bearded collie mix has soft fur you’ll want to cuddle up next to.

Farley. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

 

Double Secret Honorable Mention: Service Animals

One thing that is “hidden in plain sight” at both Universal and Disney is areas set aside for service animals. That way there is a place for these animals to relax and relieve themselves at all the places people want to go, including the parks, Downtown Disney, Universal CityWalk, and Volcano Bay.

Volcano Bay.
Volcano Bay.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been inside the various Disney and Universal parks and just not noticed the pet areas despite being near them a million times, including the one in Universal Studios Florida outside KidZone.

Pet relief area in Universal Studios Florida. (photo by ace photographer Michael Carelli)
Pet area at USF. (photo by Michael Carelli)

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX looks at bringing your pet on a Disney or Universal Orlando vacation! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

Pets Are Universal, (photo by Michael Carelli)

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

The Dos and Donts of Disney’s DOG FRIENDLY HOTELS (featuring David and Derek)

SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: An in-depth look at theme park photography

6 Great Details of the Cars wing at Disney’s ART OF ANIMATION RESORT

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2019 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it?That’s right, ANOTHER NEW ONE EXCLUSIVE TO THIS EDITION!Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!

“Are you still here?”

For those of you sticking around, you’ve probably figured out by this point that we here at the SATURDAY SIX are big fans of dogs (and cats, and fish, and birds, and…we’ll you get it.) In fact this week on Twitter, Your Humble Author had a large thread answering the question on everyone’s mind: Which DOG Are You?

Represented in this thread were people you’ve come to know and love in this fine blog series, including @bioreconstruct in his usual spot: 3,000 feet above the parks.

And we have Bob Chapek, fresh off his announcement of Disney’s partnership with Target.

Who doesn’t love sailing on a Disney Cruise? The official go-to guy that answers all of our high seas questions is none other than Scott Sanders of The Disney Cruise Line Blog.

This very article features photos from my personal protege Hunter Underwood (@elvenage) and we have seen his beautiful fiancée @caitlizgrace in many a SAT 6 article as a hand model off camera.

Faithful editor in chief of the SATURDAY SIX (and super Potterhead) Megan Stump.

The grand poohbah of all things TouringPlans, Len Testa, along with his Disney Dish podcast co-host, Jim Hill.

 

And of course we have the original Dog With A Blog…

One thought on “The SATURDAY SIX Looks at Taking Your Pet with You on a Disney or Universal Vacation

  • September 21, 2019 at 10:58 am
    Permalink

    Who in their right mind pays WDW prices for a dog to dine on filet & fries?!?!
    I too am available for adoption. JS…

    Reply

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