San Diego-based travel journalist Maggie Espinosa recently published a book titled The Privileged Pooch: Luxury Travel with Your Pet In Southern California. The 206-page, full-color guide profiles unique pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, and shops from San Diego to Santa Barbara, with 21 pages devoted to the Santa Barbara/Ojai area. I recently contacted the author to find out her inspiration for writing this book.

What made you write a book about luxury travel with your pet? I felt there was a need for such a book. According to the American Pet Products Association, approximately 45.6 million households in the United States own dogs. Of those homes, 21 percent travel with their canine. An increase in pup pampering has fueled the travel industry to embrace these scruffy scions. Pooch parents no longer must compromise their blissful luxury resort vacations in order to accommodate the hound. Hotels are rolling out the red carpet for Fido.

In your research for this book, did you research traveling with pets in other states? Did you find that California had more hotels and restaurants that allowed pets than other states? I didn’t research any other states … yet. I would like to have The Privileged Pooch become a series. The Privileged Pooch in Northern California, The Privileged Pooch in NYC, even The Privileged Pooch in Paris!

Even though this book is on luxury travel, did you find any affordable options for people who are traveling with their pet on a budget? The Sheraton Hotels are pet-friendly and affordable. Numerous Sheratons, such as the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, do not have a pet fee, while others are minimal—$25 to $40. Also, Internet deals can be found for other types of hotels and resorts.

What was the swankiest hotel you found that allowed pets? Wow, it’s difficult to choose the swankiest. Marcel (my bichon frise) and I stayed at 73 hotels while researching the book, and many of them were swanky. I did find that, like many things, tastes in hotels vary from person to person. Some people like small, uber cool, contemporary hotels, while others like sprawling Mediterranean resorts. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

What are some activities that people can do with their pets while on vacation? I listed 56 activities in the book. San Diego offers pups and their people carriage rides around the Gaslamp Quarter, an Old Town walking tour, kayaking in Mission Bay, and numerous pet-friendly Temecula wineries. Palm Springs welcomes pets on a desert adventure tour and an architectural tour. Gondola rides in Long Beach and art walks in Laguna are fun as well. All the activities that Marcel and I loved are in the book.

Were any of the pet friendly hotels worried about guests staying at their hotel who don’t like pets or those who have allergies? Thankfully, it was quite the contrary. Fellow hotel guests gravitated to me because of Marcel. They wanted to love on him and tell me about their dog. Some hotels designate a pet-friendly floor such as the Sofia Hotel and Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. The Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara has one entire building devoted to pet-toting guests. This alleviates having people who are not fond of dogs or have allergies being around pets.

Did you come across any hotels that “rented” pets while you are staying with them? I’ve heard of hotels that have fish and other small animals that you can keep in your room with you to make you feel less lonely if you were unable to bring your own pet on vacation with you. Funny you should mention this. While we didn’t come across it while researching the book, I know it is offered. In fact, years ago when I was writing a magazine article on Ensenada, Mexico, I was offered a goldfish for my room to keep me company. I loved the idea! And it was a lot of fun having that little fish in my room.

Do you find it to be more expensive to bring your pet with you on vacation or to hire a pet sitter? Many times hotel pet fees are more cost effective than leaving Fido at home, and several let pooches stay for free. Even better, food bowls and a cushy dog bed are usually included.

Do you have any helpful tips for people who are flying or driving with their pets? Researching the book didn’t require Marcel and I to fly because I live in Southern California. But, I have flown with Marcel. I use a Sherpa bag large enough for him to stand and turn around. Make sure to purchase the Sherpa about a month prior to your flight. Let it sit open in your house so the dog can go in and out of it and become accustom to the bag. Then it will feel like a safe place for him/her when you’re flying.

Also, there is a pet only airline—Pet Airways. They only take pets. A “flight attendant” is on the plane to give water and watch the pets. Owners meet their pooch at the destination.

When driving with a pet, I recommend a pet seat. It is strapped in the back seat with a seat belt and the dog is hooked into the pet seat. In the event of an accident, or even slamming on the brakes quickly, the dog is secure. Plus, take water for Fido to have during pit stops.

How is it traveling with your own pets? I only have Marcel. I would love to have more, but it is easier to travel with one dog instead of two or three. He is a good little traveler because he’s accustomed to being on the go. When I got Marcel nine years ago at eight weeks of age, a trainer told me to make sure he sees at least 500 people and is held by many people in the first six months of his life in order for him to be well socialized. It was great advice, because he is very comfortable in all situations. Although, maybe not baths.

For more information on The Privileged Pooch: Luxury Travel with Your Pet In Southern California, visit


Speaking of traveling with your pet, on August 27, Disney World will go to the dogs when the park plans to open Best Friends Pet Resort, a hotel exclusively for pets. The resort boasts 50,000 square feet of space, half of which is outdoors, and has room for 270 dogs, 30 cats, and other animals such as birds and small mammals like hamsters (no reptiles allowed). Rooms start at $37 for dogs. You can always get your pet upgraded, too: have them join a play group, have bedtime stories read to them, and even rent a villa where they can watch movies on a flat-screen TV or a 226-square-foot suite with private outdoor play areas. Pets can also be left for the day without overnight boarding, so you can drop your pet off on the way to the park. The chain operates 40 such places around the U.S.

Adoptable Pets of the Week

Veronica and Violet

Veronica is a two-year-old spayed female diminutive Aussie mix, 27 pounds, visually impaired but don’t tell her that; she doesn’t know. Violet is a two-year-old spayed female beagle/terrier mix, 15 pounds, who fancies herself as being Veronica’s seeing eye dog. Both pups are sociable, confident, good with dogs, kids and cats, love to play, love to snuggle and are self-entertaining. Life-long buddies, they need to go to the same home together.

These dogs are in foster care off site, so best to contact DAWG ahead of time at 681-0561, or via email

DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) is a no-kill not for profit dog rescue/ adoption organization located at 5480 Overpass Road in Goleta. For more information, call 681-0561. You can view more adoptable dogs at The public is invited to stop by and look around every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

DAWG relies on volunteers to take care of all the dogs, so if you love dogs, think about volunteering. Students are able to fulfill their volunteer community service requirement by volunteering. Volunteer orientations are generally held every other Saturday at 10 a.m. Contact DAWG for the next meeting.


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