I think I’ve had a pretty wide breadth of experience when it comes to travel. I’ve traveled alone, I’ve traveled with friends, I’ve traveled with family, I’ve traveled with flings and serious boyfriends. But until recently, I’ve never traveled with the love of my life: my eleven-year-old cocker spaniel, Tucker.
Regular readers know that Tucker is an important fixture around Wanderland HQ. Still, especially with his recent relocation to California, I don’t get nearly enough time with my little man. So when I decided to do a week-long road trip to San Diego and Palm Springs while in California, I knew Tucker would be coming along.
Traveling with a dog, especially one that is thirty-five pounds and therefore cannot fit in a purse, requires a certain amount of research and planning, and ideally, a destination that is already dog welcoming. I quickly realized that for my first big pet project, I couldn’t have asked for a more pet-friendly destination than San Diego. Tucker, my friend Kat and I spent four nights and five days in San Diego, mostly based in Mission Beach — and my other guy Ian joined us for the last night.
Tucker already filled you in on the kick off to our road trip, but I thought I’d chime in with a human perspective and a few tips for those who might want to bring their own four-legged besties to the beach.
Where to Eat
I love going out to eat when I travel, and so this was a big concern for me. Staying in a pet friendly rental (more on that below) was crucial — we were able to eat breakfast and some lunches and dinners at our beach houses, which made life a lot easier than if we had been at a hotel and had to worry about sourcing three Tucker-approved restaurants per day. Bring Fido was a great resource for doing so, as was the detailed list of area restaurants provided by our Luv Surf rental.
Our favorite find of the trip was The Patio on Lamont, a chic restaurant with an inspiring menu, a gorgeous atmosphere, and an attentive wait staff. They also provided a water bowl, homemade dog treats, and waiters who coo-ed over our cutie. Tucker was one of three dogs in the restaurant that night!
For breakfast our final morning, we wanted to head somewhere special, and so we set off for Swell Coffee Co. Acai bowls and egg white garden omelets made for happy humans, and more water bowls, dog biscuits and attention from the staff made for a very pleased pup.
Swell is owned by the same management group as The Patio on Lamont, and had we had more time in San Diego, we would have worked our way through even more of the Patio Group’s portfolio, as all their restaurants are pet-friendly.
Other amazing eateries we encountered were Juice Wave, an organic juice bar that was great for grabbing something to-go on a doggie walk, Saska’s, a Mission Beach institution with outdoor dog-friendly seating, and Shades, a waterfront spot in Ocean Beach that has a pet-welcoming patio, raises money for the local humane society, and even had a menu for dogs! Tucker was all about the bacon flavored pupsicle we ordered for him.
What to Do
Where we stayed in Mission Beach, dogs were only allowed on the sand between 6pm-9am (starts at 4pm in the winter) and must be on a leash at all times. We did take Tucker to watch the sunset with us one night on our beach chairs — which he loved! — but otherwise sought out more dog friendly options.
And oh, there are amazing ones! Our big beach day was to Ocean Beach Dog Beach, which is simply the most beautiful dog beach I’ve ever encountered. A sheltered peninsula with plentiful parking, we couldn’t believe how many playful dogs and their friendly humans were here even on a weekday morning. If you or your pup gets peckish, Shades restaurant is just moments away. Had we had more time, I would have also checked out Fiesta Island, the only other off-leash dog beach in San Diego proper (there are many more further afield). There’s also several dog parks around, but who needs a land-locked park when there’s a beach nearby?
If you’re driving from Los Angeles or anywhere else north, I highly recommend making a stop at Huntington Dog Beach, which I — er, Tucker — wrote about as well.
Have an activity you need or want to do without your pet? We were pretty eager to go diving in San Diego (post to come!) but were concerned about leaving Tuck unattended for such a long stretch. Enter Rover, a dog walking app that allowed us to schedule a mid-day walk and play session from my iPhone, with detailed instructions for the pre-screened walker. I even got a photo of Tuck and a map of their route upon their return!
For other shorter activities that we did sans-dog, like amazing classes at CorePower and Bird Rock Yoga, we felt comfortable leaving Tucker guarding the house as he was surrounded by a cozy home with filled with dog toys, treats, and a bed.
Where to Shop
Granted, I’m not much of a shopper. But I couldn’t resist popping into the two Luv Surf boutiques in Mission Beach. While primarily stores for people, there are some cute pet accessories (I snagged Tuck a cute bandana!) on offer and your four legged fashion advisors are warmly welcomed to join you for shopping.
Where to Stay
While there are plenty of pet-friendly hotels across California, I knew that for this trip we wanted to focus on finding vacation rentals instead — both we and Tucker could feel more at home, and we would be able to prepare some meals with a cocker-spaniel shaped shadow following us around.
Enter Luv Surf Vacation Homes. They are not a property management company — they personally own and maintain each home in their portfolio. I had the chance to check out two in my four nights in San Diego. First, we checked out their cute Island Court home, and next, we moved over to their showpiece Zanzibar Court property.
Let me tell you, that house on Zanzibar Court? It might just be one of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed. Around the corner from the boardwalk, filled with squeal-inducing adorable details, and coated in a thick veneer of beachy charm, we felt like the luckiest girls — and pup — in San Diego while staying here. I have vowed to return again for a full week someday!
Yes, you can filter for pet-friendly properties on sites like Airbnb (in fact, this is what we did in Palm Springs.) However, you’ll have to go into each individual listing to see what kind of extra charges pets will incur, and it can be hard to determine exactly how pet-friendly the property will actually be.
With Luv Surf, there’s no guess work. There are no extra charges, and in fact each and every rental is stocked with the stuff of doggie dreams: dog beds, dog toys, food and water bowls, dog treats, and even dog food. They also come with guides to the area’s pet friendly restaurants and beaches, and the insanely hospitable staff are never more than a phone call away for questions.
And there are plenty of amenities for humans, too: beach cruiser bikes, beach towels and chairs, a garage, and a shed full of boogie boards.
Tucker has been on the road with us often, but in very specific circumstances: to our beach house in Martha’s Vineyard, to visit my sister in Rochester, to visit me in New York City (I snuck him into my Pratt dorm once or twice!) and back and forth dozens of times between my mom and dad’s home bases in Philadelphia, Boston and Albany. But I have to admit, I was always super intimidated by the idea of traveling — actually traveling, not just shuffling between family and friends — with my canine cutie.
Tucker loves being in the car and is never happier than when accompanying us on human errands and tasks (my dad pretty much exclusively gets his hair cut at dog-friendly establishments.) So I wasn’t really worried about how he’d handle being on vacation. I was worried about me. Would I feel limited in my activities? Would I be stressed about where we could eat? Would I be resentful of having to spend so much time and energy on someone else?
Well, let’s just say I didn’t know it was possible to love my overweight cocker spaniel any more than I already did. But traveling with him for a week cracked my heart open a million times with happiness. And all those logistics I was worried about just melted away. The transition to traveling with a leash in hand was pretty seamless — you got to the dog beach instead of the human one. You pick restaurants that allow four-legged friends. You plan your days around dog walks and puppy snuggles. You smile at watching the world through your dog’s eyes. And, if you’re anything like me, you love every second of it.
I can’t wait to plan my next dog-friendly California adventure! Any tips on that, or general traveling with pet tips? Leave ’em in the comments — Tucker and I will both say thanks. (Or in Tucker’s case, arf arf!)
Up next, Palm Springs!
Many thanks to Luv Surf and the Patio Group for their wonderful San Diego hospitality. I can’t recommend them more highly!
Love it! Looks like San Diego is a great place for a pupcation! 😉 I was just in southern California and LOVED Temecula, which isn’t too far from LA or San Diego. It’s set back in the mountains a bit and there are lots of vineyards you can visit that are dog-friendly. Think Tucker could live the vineyard life?
Actually funny you mention that, we were thinking Santa Barbara for a little wine weekend away in June! But I’ll check into Temecula too — it looked super cute when I passed through between San Diego and Palm Springs last trip.
Seriously though… enough with the dog. No one cares.
But part of the charm of this blog is that it’s an extremely personal one, it’s not just ‘best bits’, ‘top things to do’ and all the regular stuff you see on most. ‘The dog’ is part of the brilliance of it, I’m probably not gonna be visiting San Diego with my pooch but this was still great fun to read. Passionate subjects are key for blogs!
Thanks Sarah, I appreciate hearing that!
Alright, alright, we get it Jen, you’re a cat person! Okay but seriously, I’m sorry that you’re disliking this free content about San Diego enough to leave three negative comments about it. Since I cannot offer a refund, might I suggest that from here forward you skip any and all content that might involve my beloved canine companion — just to warn you, that involves an upcoming post about Palm Springs as well — and rejoin us when I start my coverage of Southeast Asia where, I’m personally sad to report, there are far fewer dogs involved 🙂
People who have dogs care. This is an extremely helpful post to those dog owners wanting to travel. Every single blog post that Alex writes is not going to be directed to everyone as a whole. Leave your negativity behind and read the posts that could be helpful in your life. 🙂
Alex- If you ever find yourself in San Diego again, be sure to check out the dog beach in Coronado. I love taking my pups there! It’s also fun to walk around the island with them. 🙂
Hey Tori! I’m sure I will find myself in San Diego again — I LOVED it there. Thanks for the tip!
I clicked this article specifically for dog friendly info so yes, people care about the dog
This post is awesome! Plus, the Zanzibar Court house looks heavenly. As far as traveling with pets, I’ve heard San Francisco and Lake Tahoe both offer excellent pet-friendly options.
Ooooh, Lake Tahoe! I do follow a girl on Instagram who lives there and she is always hiking, paddleboarding and hanging with her pup there. That sounds like a great idea.
I think that first image may be my all-time favorite picture of Mission Beach! Del Mar Dog Beach is another good spot if you visit again with Tucker. 🙂
Thanks for the tip Gina! I have a feeling we will be back.
Tucker is just so freaking adorable! That face <3 This post is also great timing for me, since I'm going to San Diego for a quick trip tomorrow! Sadly I don't have a dog to bring along (just my boyfriend lol), but this post made me excited nonetheless. Can't wait for some beach time!
Ahhhh, enjoy! I definitely recommend a spin on the Belmont Park coaster, sneaky wine on the beach at sunset (applies anywhere, really), and meals at Patio on Lamont and Swell.
I love Patio on Lamont! It’s one of my favorite brunch hang outs. Glad you had a great time.
Oh, brunch! I will definitely be back to try that out!
I’m always happier when my dog can come along when we travel. Brazil was the furthest we’ve taken him, and the most complicated, but he’s an amazing little traveler and loves to go along. When we leave him behind I may or may not spend the majority of my evenings looking longingly at pictures of him on my phone (I’m definitely a crazy dog lady), so needless to say I have a lot more fun when he’s in tow. San Diego looks like a puppy paradise! I love how much Tucker seemed to enjoy the beach 🙂
I truly admire that dedication, Kacy! I might do the same if Tucker weren’t so content living the Cali bro life with my dad in LA, ha ha. But after this trip I am definitely looking forward to stealing him away for more trips in the future!
This was super cool and informative- you’ve inspired me to think about a pup road trip for my dog snowball! Have fun in Brazil!
Let me know where you decide to go, Cate 🙂
Tucker! This pup gets more handsome with every adventure. I am wondering if he should get his own spinoff… Or at least a children’s book of his journeys?
Don’t think I haven’t considered his own Instagram account! I do think he’s probably more traveled than the average American dog… though Ella might give him a run for his money.
The photo of Tucker with the tennis ball is perhaps the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. He looks like he’s in paradise!!
That dog LOVES a tennis ball. People can never believe he’s eleven! He still acts like a puppy.
As Tuckers agent I reviewed your post about your trip with him to San Diego. Your CONCLUSION paragraphs were touching, however Tucker was most concerned about how few pictures included him. His expression said, “Wasn’t this a post about Tucker going to San Diego with Alex?”. We trust future posts centered on Tucker will have his image in the majority of the photos. On another matter Tucker has offered, at no cost to you, to go bark at Jen’s cat.
Please tell Tucker that the majority of his portraits were used in the PREVIOUS post that appeared under his pen name. In the future we will have to work in more photoshoots.
I will be saving this. I’ve been too nervous to travel with our dog for the same reasons-didn’t want to feel limited to certain things but this was encouraging. Although we just got a new puppy so two is even more intimidating than one for vacation! San Diego is on my list though so maybe we will have to try it out with the pups 🙂
I think San Diego — and one of the Luv Surf rentals in particular, since they are SO accommodating — would be a great place to give it a go! Let me know how it is if you do 🙂
I will definitely have to try the Patio on Lamont and Swell with my little guy! He’s actually been on 3 cross-country road trips with me (moving from Maryland to Vegas and back and now in San Diego) and it’s never been a problem because he’s so tiny and usually well-behaved! It helps that SD is so dog friendly too. If you come back to San Diego or you end up checking out the wineries in Temecula, come a little further south and check out my favorite winery in Escondido- Orfila. Dog friendly, great wine, beautiful patio and live music and a food truck on weekends!
Sounds amazing Rachel! Definitely adding to my California to-do list!
Your photos are lovely and so colorful! San Diego is one of my favorite places in Southern California. Thanks for sharing.
You’re so welcome Carmen — thanks for reading!
Aww I wish my little Shiva would still be able to travel. Unfortunately, the only places she can go is where her wooden cart can take her. She would’ve loved this in her good days though! 🙂 We take her out for dinner quite often, I live by the beach so most places allow dogs which is great!
That is wonderful. Having spent time with Tucker in a lot of places that are so shockingly NOT dog friendly (Boston, Albany, ugh) I love that California is pretty pup-able!
Seriously want to cuddle the heck out of your dog.
Me too! Can’t wait for puppy snuggles in June!
I am actually going to San Diego tomorrow, so this is perfect timing!! Unfortunately my dog won’t be joining me, but it’s good to know humans can have fun in San Diego as well! 😀 Can’t wait to check out your recommendations, as always!
Ah, enjoy Eva! Love love love SD and can’t wait to return, hopefully soon!
I’m so not an animal person, and even I think Tucker is adorable! And the “dlog” posts are so creative and well-done, I really admire them. Ignore the other Jen, keep it coming 🙂
Ha ha, I laughed out loud at your name in this comment — thanks for the giggles 🙂
Wow! You went into so much detail! I love learning about all your adventures and getting some travel tips. I’ve just started my own travel blog, it’s definitely not as big as yours, but maybe one day! I’d love it if you could check it out at https://theblondetraveler.com Thanks in advance!! Safe travels!
We all start from somewhere 🙂 Good luck with your blogging, Ashlyn!
Great overview! Thanks! Can’t wait to travel with my dogs. Always thought it would be complicated!
I’m sure in some places it is… but San Diego makes it easy!
Such a useful post for people on the US west coast!
I’d go as far as saying one of your best in a long time…
Cute pad, but they’ve probably taken the beach theme a little too far for me and made it look a little too much like an Ikea showroom 😉
I don’t remember the last time I saw an Ikea looking so cute 😉 Granted, I haven’t been in one in a long time but I recall them being quite stark and minimalist!
This was so helpful! We are planning a trip to San Diego with our dog and it’s great to hear there are so many pet friendly places. Is there anything you would recommend differently for a 107 pound dog? Are dog friendly patios ok for larger dogs? Many times we run in to places having a weight limit. Our dog is just a lab, he’s just extra big! 🙂
Hey Alex! Wow that’s a huge dog — I bet he’s adorable! I saw plenty of big dogs at the dog park. Most of the ones we saw at restaurants were small to medium, but I didn’t see any posted weight limits. I would just perhaps think to request a table by a wall so no one trips over your big guy 😉 Enjoy your trip!
What a beautiful city to have dogs!
Right? Anywhere near the ocean should be!
I love reading about your travels! My husband and I will be visiting San Diego for the first time at the end of september. We reached out to Luv Surf but they don’t have property available then. We don’t know the area well but are wanting to spend a lot of time at the beach. Do you have any places you would recommend we stay?? They don’t have to be pet friendly. We just enjoy memorable nice places close to the beach! Thanks for your help and suggestions!!!
Hey Amy! Unfortunately I don’t really know the area very well since sadly this was my one and only trip! Perhaps Luv Surf can give you another suggestion? Personally I tend to comb Airbnb — I’ll pop on a movie and just meticulously comb through the area I want to be until I find something perfect. Good luck!
Can you tell me what beach that is whereyou are sitting in the lounge chair and your pup is under you? We want a beach the dog can go to but where we can stay and lay in the sun too!
That was the San Diego dog beach! Plenty of folks had chairs out 🙂 Enjoy!