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Sharing the Disney Magic with Your Pet: Tips from a Dog Mom Turned Disney Dork

By Lea Jaratz

Are pets welcome at Disney World?

Young or old, there’s no place like the happiest place on earth. It has a little bit of magic for everyone. Did you know your pet can experience the magic too? No, your dog can’t walk down Main Street USA or ride along on It’s a Small World, but at least they can be near the family during your Disney adventure.

There are dozens of pet-friendly accommodations in the Orlando area, at independent hotels as well as those for other theme parks and attractions. But, with all the perks that come with staying at a Disney resort, let’s talk about how you can stay on Disney property in a pet-friendly way.

Option 1: Booking a Pet-friendly Disney Resort

When I first heard that Disney offered pet-friendly accommodations, I thought, “it’s a big gamble letting pets stay in those highly-customized rooms.” If you’ve ever stayed at a Disney resort, you know that the bedding, wallpaper, even shower curtains are specially-made for the Disney theme. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the damages if my dog chewed the ears off of a Mickey Mouse end table. And Disney is playing it safe, for now. Most Disney resorts do not allow pets on the property. (Assistance animals are a different story!)

But, as of October 2017, four Disney resorts now allow up to 2 dogs to stay in your room. These resorts offer green areas for exercise and pet relief, and each pet gets Pluto’s Welcome kit, with dog bowls, mats, and the other essentials. But, as with anything Disney, this doesn’t come cheap, with fees starting at $50 per night per room. That fee includes room cleaning, but no additional pet care.

While 3 of the 4 pet-friendly resorts are traditional hotel-style resorts, the 4th is the Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. This sounds the most pet friendly to me. Firstly, rather than having to take my dog on elevators and worry about barking bothering the people we share a wall with, I’d much rather have our own independent quarters. Secondly, what dog wouldn’t rather sniff the trees and exercise in their off-leash area? Even if it’s glamping, this camping experience is going to be much more relaxing to a pet than sharing space with all the tourists and cheer squads that tend to gather in the other resorts. They’ve even got Waggin’ Trails Dog Park to help your dog burn off some energy. (Though, I was secretly hoping the park was called the Hoop Dee Poo Review.)

Regardless of the accommodations, Disney has a partnership with Best Friends Pet Care, so you can arrange for someone to help with walks and kennel breaks while you’re in the parks, which brings me to...

Option 2: Boarding Your Pet Near Disney Property

As I mentioned, Disney has partnered with national chain Best Friends Pet Care to provide a variety of pet care needs, including in-room visits, walks, doggie day camp, grooming, and overnight boarding. When I talk about boarding, I’m talking about VIP Luxury Suites and Vacation Villas, complete with TVs and private patios. A pet concierge can walk your pet twice a day, take them to play group, and even read them a bedtime story. Rates are discounted for Disney guests and, in some cases, might be less than your nightly pet fee at a resort.

Best Friends is located within a 10 minute walk of Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside resort (pet friendly), or less than a 10 minute drive from Port Orleans French Quarter (not pet friendly) and the Campsites at Fort Wilderness (remember, the one with the dog park) so you might want to consider these resorts if you’ll be utilizing their facilities.

Okay, let’s have a little magic real talk. I’m not a travel agent, but I am a pet parent as well as a parent to two princess-loving little kids. We’ve done Disney a few times and, in case you have never been, let me let you in on a little secret. You get so tired. So. So. Tired. An average guest can walk up to 10 miles per day. If you go crazy with park hopping and so forth, you could easily put in a 12 hour day of travel, eating, riding, lines, and parades, not counting lots of walking around your resort for meals or catching buses. That means that your pet will likely not be with you for 12 hours at a time. And, when you’re back in your room, you’re checking your itinerary or putting your sore feet up. So, while you’re vacationing together, you’re not really together.

I am sure there are instances where a pet really would rather stay in the room than visit a dog resort. However, your dog is not in the parks, enjoying a frosty dole whip, meeting Goofy, and making magical memories. If you’re going to travel with your dog, it seems more fun for your pet (and practical for you) to let them at least stay the day, if not the night, at Best Friends. If they play all day in the splash pools and chase other dogs, they’ll come back to the room as tired as you are and ready for a good night’s sleep. Or, you can trust that someone else is taking excellent care of your buddy, (or check in on their webcam) and head back to your room to crash and start fresh the next morning.

A few more pro-tips from the Dog Mom/Disney Dork:

  • Amazon Prime Now delivers groceries and pet supplies to your resort within about 2 hours. If you’re flying with your pet, just have their food delivered. It’s as easy as using the app, even before you check in.
  • You can also have your dog stay in a sitter's home, away from all the pixie dust and parades. We’ve had great experience with here in Ohio and they have sitters listed in Orlando.
  • Make sure your pet’s microchip and ID tag are current. It never hurts to have more than one cell number listed on their tag, just in case of an emergency.

So, would you do Disney World with your pet in tow? What would your plan be and what do you think your pet will like best about the happiest place on earth?

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