By Trip Styler, on August 7, 2014

Dog-friendly San Francisco

Seven years ago Mr. Trip Styler and I adopted our dog, Mr. Nacho King, from a county animal shelter in Washington State. When I found him online I knew we had to be together, and when I met him face-to-face it was kismet: I cried and he peed his fur-pants.

Since then, he’s become internet-famous—he has more Instagram followers than I do!—and he accompanies us on all local getaways. This has enabled the pooch to gather a long list of fans from hoteliers whom he woos with his perma-smile to store clerks whom he impresses with his will-fist-bump-for-treats talent. (Seriously!)

When we veered down the path of pup-in-tow travel, we were worried it would be incredibly limiting. Would we be able to find pet-friendly hotels? If so, would there be a wet-dog scent? Would the pet fees be exorbitant? What about eating out, shopping, or going for drinks; what would we do with our furry plus-one? It was all very daunting. That is, until we researched, hit the road, and started rocking to the have-pup-will-travel beat.

The bottom line: Mr. Nacho King has not cramped our travel style. Au contraire, he’s broadened it.

Since he came into our lives, we’ve camped and glamped, stayed in boutique and big hotels, and even taken him to the posh, Wickaninnish Inn, a Relais & Châteaux property on the western edge of Vancouver Island. He’s seen the one- to five-star gamut, though his five-paw reviews hinge on which properties pony-up the highest treat-count, and the coziest corner in which to curl up.

Viewfinder Tip: Using Expedia’s hotel filter tool, you can view a list of pet-friendly hotels for most major cities. San Francisco has more than 125.

Road tripping from Vancouver to San Francisco 

Our most recent jaunt with our fur-ball took us down the open road from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Francisco, where we mixed it up with a campsite stay and a series of last-minute, pet-friendly hotel bookings that I found on-the-fly with the Expedia app for my smartphone.

Because traveling with dogs has become so common—especially in canine-loving cities such as Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco—throughout the trip, Nacho accompanied us on almost every outing from boutique-browsing to coffee shop-sipping to restaurant-hopping. 

Case in point: When we had lunch in Seattle we found a pet-friendly and chic market-come-eatery in Pioneer Square. Not only does The London Plane layer take-out bar, flower shop, boutique, and sit-down service into one cool concoction, it’s also pet-friendly because the owner is a dog-lover. Bark woof! 


Our pack at Cannon Beach

After a road trip break bounding through the sand at Cannon Beach (three hours south of Seattle), we thought we’d try our “pup luck” a second time for dinner in Portland. The dog gods were on our side because the first restaurant we visited, Tasty n Alder, had an outdoor table available, so our pack sat together. The humans munched on buttery hush puppies while Nacho chowed down on kibble of sweet potato and lamb. 

When we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and arrived in San Francisco the next day, the weather was cool and cloudy but brightened by a few bursts of sun—ideal for pounding the pavement with Mr. Nacho King.

Nacho came prepared for the City by the Bay’s always-in-flux weather with his pewter-toned dual-coat, a natural ninja-cool covering capable of responding to desert and mountain temperatures. (We non-furry humans without a built-in heating and cooling system had to don a few layers.) The climate proved perfect for a warm-me-up coffee crawl, lunch, and shopping along Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights with our smiling tail-wagger by our side. Props to San Francisco for welcoming our four-legged family member with open arms.


Nacho in front of Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco

Frequent dogger program

It’s too bad Nacho doesn’t qualify for a “frequent dogger” loyalty program at the more than 50 hotels at which he has stayed at throughout Canada and the United States. At minimum he should get his own coffee card, since he joins us for java—literally, he once consumed half of Mr. Trip Styler’s mocha when we weren’t looking—wherever we cruise along the coast. In case you’re wondering, Nacho’s sophisticated snout always leads us to Stumptown Coffee Roasters on 12th Avenue in Seattle; they allow his kind inside.

It’s when Nacho can’t come inside that things get a little hairy. As (bad) luck would have it, his most hilarious and embarrassing travel moments always happen when we’re crossing the border between Canada and the United States.

In his ever-enthusiastic, kibble-forward worldview, going through the border is just another dive-thru (for him, a glorious place where generous workers often give him treats). Without fail, every time we roll down the backseat window to show we’re traveling with a pooch, he flashes a smile and tries to fist bump the border guard in hopes of securing a treat. He has yet to receive a bone from Canada or U.S. customs officers, but his behavior certainly has garnered a few chuckles.

What’s your strategy for traveling with pets?