If you’re an emotional support animal (ESA) owner, you know that one of the best parts is being able to take your pet with you when you travel. Since ESAs are there to provide you with comfort and support, they can be ideal travel companions. They’re often able to alleviate symptoms of mental illness (including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.), so they can work to make traveling an easier experience for you.
Because emotional support animals can help with your symptoms, they’ve been recognized by several federal regulations so that you can avoid any kind of discrimination. For example, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows you to fly with your ESA in the cabin with you (without having to pay extra fees). Additionally, the Federal Housing Act (FHA) requires landlords to allow you to have your emotional support animal in your home without the typical restrictions in place for regular pets. These laws work to give equal access to ESA owners. Even though the FHA doesn’t always apply to vacation rentals or Airbnbs, there are still a lot of options for pet-friendly accommodations across the country. Make sure to research the airline you’ll be flying with (each company has specific regulations regarding ESAs) and your place of lodging before you book your trip. That way you’ll know what plans to make to ensure you and your ESA are covered while on your travels – and you won’t have to worry about logistics once you begin your trip.
Here are some awesome vacation ideas in the U.S. for ESA owners.
1. San Diego, California
This beach city offers tons to do for your ESA. Because San Diego is so pet-friendly, you’ll find plenty of options for outside terrace dining, as well as more than 15 dog parks around the city (like Nate’s Point Off-Leash Dog Park at Balboa Park) to help your ESA burn off some energy. If your dog is a little more adventurous, consider checking out doggy surfing lessons at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort! No matter what activities you decide to do, don’t forget to soak up some of that California sunshine on your vacation.
2. Austin, Texas
With tons of trendy restaurants and hip hangouts, Austin is quickly becoming one of the most exciting cities in the US. It’s also very ESA-friendly, with many outdoor eateries allowing dogs to dine alongside their owners. Many businesses are also quick to offer water and treats as you walk by. If your dog loves running around and swimming, the Red Bud Isle peninsula has some great opportunities for fun in nature too.
3. Washington, D.C.
Our nation’s capital offers tons of educational opportunities, but your best bet is The Jefferson Hotel, where they’ll provide you with walking itineraries that are filled with dog-friendly locations for you to check out. There’s even a “Famous Dogs and Animals in American History” walking tour so you and your ESA can gain some knowledge too! Along with numerous historical sites, DC also has lovely parks to explore. ESA owners and their pets are sure to love the designated dog run on the waterfront at The Yards Park. Or you can just snap a pic of them outside the White House for a great photo op!
4. Portland, Oregon
Portland is another blossoming city in the U.S., with a growing restaurant scene and gorgeous scenery. Emotional support animals will find plenty to do there with over 32 off-leash parks to explore (that’s more dog parks per capita than any other major city in the US!). There are also lots of hiking options, such as Powell Butte Trail, Chimney Park, and Mt. Tabor Park. Looking for something a little quirkier for your ESA? The Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Portland has a pet psychic to help you get some insight into the mind of your ESA!
5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
If you’re interested in traveling to a desert climate, Albuquerque is a great option. Plenty of sunshine means you can take advantage of hikes in the Rio Grande Triangle Park and Coronado Park, along with dog parks like the North Domingo Baca Dog Park or Montessa Dog Park. There are also many hotels in the area that are pet-friendly so that your whole trip can be a relaxing one.
6. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
While not as well-known as some other ESA-friendly vacation spots in the U.S., this reservoir is definitely a hidden treasure. With truly remarkable natural beauty, it’s also got golf courses, wineries, and tons of water sport opportunities to keep you busy. Many of the vacation rentals also approve of pets, so you’ll be able to find amazing accommodations (oftentimes with a waterfront view!). And your ESA is sure to love a leisurely boat ride along the lake.
7. Seattle, Washington
Planning on hitting up the West Coast? Seattle is one of the more popular ESA-friendly vacation spots that allows you to see the sights along with your emotional support animal. It’s really easy to get around with your ESA since the city allows dogs on their bus lines, ferries, light rail, and some local seaplanes. There are also tons of ESA-friendly businesses (including fun activities like puppy yoga and dog-friendly bingo games!). Your pet will also love strolling around Washington Park Arboretum or the off-leash section of Warren G. Magnuson Park.
Don’t forget to do some research before you book your tickets anywhere – this will allow you to have proper accommodations reserved before you leave, as well as help you make the perfect itinerary with plenty of fun activities for both you and your ESA.