The Ultimate Pet-Friendly Hotel Groups

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. ( MainStreet) -- For anyone who travels with a four-pawed friend, navigating cumbersome hotel pet policies can be labor-intensive investigation that, done wrong, can have you and your pet on the curb. And some national chains that insist they're pet friendly can still let member properties have their own policies -- inconsistent weight restrictions that limit any dog above 30 pounds, requiring owners to never leave a pet alone inside a room or simply not allowing pets at all.

Industry leader Starwood Hotels & Resorts ( HOT) operates an array of pet-friendly brands that deviate in the details. Its Westin Hotels brand clearly states most pet policies in the announcement area of each hotel's landing page, including perks such as a Heavenly Pet Bed or dog bowl and mat provided upon check-in. (Those with dogs larger than 30 pounds should call properties directly to see each hotel's restrictions -- which can often be waived by the general manager, albeit with owners often required to be with pets at all times when inside the room, and with and dogs rarely allowed inside restaurants or lounge areas.) While websites such as advise of a generous 80-pound weight limit at Starwood's W Hotel & Resorts, a look at individual properties yielded different policies at its W South Beach and W Hoboken, which have a 40-pound limit, and W San Francisco, which has a 50-pound limit.
Kimpton Hotels set "no restrictions and never require an extra charge, fee or deposit" -- making it likely the most friendly and fun hotel group in pet travel.

As for the major luxury brands, Four Seasons has a doggie door open in various dimensions at its top U.S. hotels, including its Biltmore Santa Barbara, which has a generous 50-pound weight restriction but a requirement that guests with pets stay in their Cottage Rooms (although those come in a wide variety of categories). In Los Angeles, where pet ownership is virtually a city mandate, the pet policy at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills isn't so generous -- there's a 15-pound weight restriction, since it's a high-rise hotel in an urban setting not conducive to larger dogs. At the Four Seasons Boston, however, they won't even charge you a pet fee or put you in pet-designated rooms, like even the most liberal pet-friendly brands, although they will require a pet waiver and insist that your companion be under 25 pounds.

Ritz-Carlton Hotels offers its Posh Pooch program at properties such as The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, where dogs of all sizes are welcomed with a hand-painted water dish, fluffy bed and chew toy of five-star caliber. But such luxuries come with a $50 boarding charge per night and hefty $150 one-time deep-cleaning fee for after pets vacate their select first-floor rooms. There's a $125 charge assessed at the Ritz-Carlton Dallas, which also maintains a 25-pound weight restriction, while the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta Peachtree requires its own $125 deep-cleaning fee, 40-pound weight restriction and that passage through common areas be kept to "an absolute minimum." It also insists that all guest rooms be inspected upon departure.

At The Peninsula Chicago, the welcome sign is only yay-high, but it's an impressive one -- a 25-pound weight restriction with no additional fee. Guests should advise the front desk of the arriving pooch, not merely to sign a waiver but to score the doggie amenities, which include a plush bed and bowl as well as a free bone and mat delivered to the room. At The Peninsula Beverly Hills, the hotel's newly upgraded suites offer private patios and no weight limit for dogs, but a $35 charge is assessed each night during a pet stay.

Pet policies at luxury competitor Mandarin Oriental Hotels also vary by property, with its starry Mandarin Oriental New York offering a generous open-door policy for all dogs (owners need to sign damage waivers) that demands no nightly pet fee and brings generous amenities free to your room. Upon advising the front desk of a 160-pound Neapolitan Mastiff named Sherman, a gap in conversation and long hold was followed by, "While all dogs are welcome, they cannot be unaccompanied in the room, because if any barking or complaints arise employees would not be able to enter the room." But sizable Sherman was indeed welcome at Mandarin Oriental New York.

Joie de Vivre Hotels and boutique hotelier Kimpton Hotels have maintained very pet-friendly policies even through national expansion. Kimpton boasts its own hosPETality program that includes "any number of pets regardless of size, weight, kind, or breed" at more than 50 hotels in more than 24 cities. Hot spots such as San Diego, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., even offer a doggie happy hour with four-legged "directors of pet relations" that include a loveable lab named Timmy in Portland's Hotel Monaco and Posh Parker in San Diego. Kimpton also offers complimentary dog beds, drool-proof bowls and gourmet pet treats. The hotels set "no restrictions and never require an extra charge, fee or deposit" for what could be the most friendly and fun hotel group in pet travel.

Of course, calling a hotel directly when making a reservation is essential, and it doesn't hurt to get a name to refer back to if difficulties arise at check-in.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.