Driving from CA to IA with a cat. Halp.
September 13, 2011 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Help me plan my drive from Oakland, CA to Clinton, IA. Complication: cat.

In October, I'll be driving from Oakland, CA to Clinton, IA in my Toyota Camry. I'll be doing it by myself - with my cat. This is the quickest route according to Google.

Ideally, I'd like to keep my driving to around 8 hours a day. By my calculations, that would mean something like:
Oakland to Elko, NV;
Elko, NV to Rawlins, WY;
Rawlins, WY to Grand Island (or Lincoln) NE;
and finally to Clinton, IA.

Complication: I'll be wanting to stay in motels along the way, and I will have my cat, so I would need to stay in places that are cat-friendly. I also have points to use with Marriott Fairfield, and as far as I can tell, none of the places in the aforementioned route have cat-friendly Fairfield Inns. I could change my route to hit major cities and do something like an Oakland to Salt Lake City (which would push me into 13 hour territory) to Denver to Omaha to Clinton, in which case I would be more likely to be able to use my Marriott points. It isn't critical that I use the points, but it would mean free stays as opposed to paying for motels, so it'd be a major bonus if I could work that somehow.

This is the database I'm looking at to find pet-friendly Marriott Fairfield Inns. I really don't know if it is accurate or comprehensive.

So, questions:

1) Bearing all this in mind, do you have a route recommendation?
2) Do you know anything about cat-friendly motels, and specifically cat-friendly Fairfield Inns anywhere (even tangentially) along the way?
3) If there are Fairfield Inns on the way that are not ostensibly cat-friendly, how sketchy is it to sneak my cat in? (He can be pretty vocal in unfamiliar territory).
4) Any must-see things along the way that wouldn't require much time, as I don't want to leave kitty in the car?
5) Any other general suggestions regarding this car trip?

Thanks Hive!
posted by Lutoslawski to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: La Quinta hotels are also cat-friendly.
posted by gyroscope at 11:36 AM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Just coming in to say: DON'T SNEAK YOUR CAT IN TO A NON-CAT-FRIENDLY HOTEL. Sorry for the caps, but some of us are very, very seriously allergic to cats and look for places that don't accept cats to prevent visits to the emergency room.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:37 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: how sketchy is it to sneak my cat in?

Very totally sketchy. Bad karma. Don't do it.

I've traveled across the country with a cat before and my two pieces of advice are

1. have the cat in some sort of a harness so that you can clip a leash on them any and all times you open a door to the car
2. have a small lined cardboard box with kitty pan in it and some litter so the cat can pee on the road. Do not be concerned if the cat doesn't pee while you're driving. Also have an open cat carrier that they can chill out in. You can decide how comfortable you are with the cat free roaming or locked up in the carrier.

I'd specifically call the motels on your route and see if they have pet friendly options. I also second what gyroscope said La Quinta is often pet friendly, have reasonable rates and have sort of undergone a PR/Marketing revitalization so their hotels are pretty clean and decent and sometimes downright terrific. I'd consider them. Changing your route to hit Fairfield Inns is going to obliterate any cost savings that you get from shorter routes.
posted by jessamyn at 11:45 AM on September 13, 2011

Response by poster: how sketchy is it to sneak my cat in?

Very totally sketchy. Bad karma. Don't do it.

Noted: not taking the cat into non-pet-friendly hotels.

some of us are very, very seriously allergic to cats and look for places that don't accept cats to prevent visits to the emergency room.

This will make me sound like an ignoramus, but I didn't even think of that.

Changing your route to hit Fairfield Inns is going to obliterate any cost savings that you get from shorter routes.

Good call. And I didn't know about La Quinta. Great suggestion!
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:52 AM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Super 8s are pet-friendly. I've stayed in them with my cats many times and am always impressed at the cleanliness and overall quality.
posted by something something at 11:57 AM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Also, I just looked at your route. I have personally stayed at the Red Lion in Elko Nevada which lists itself as pet firendly. Apparently there is a $20 fee for bringing a pet but this fee is waived if you belong to the Red Lion R&R club which is free. It's one of those hotels attached to a casino, but I found it totally clean and decent and the people who worked there were quite friendly.
posted by jessamyn at 11:58 AM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Red Roof Inn is pet-friendly and cheap. The rooms are ugly, but clean.
posted by shiny blue object at 11:59 AM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Travelodges are also cheap and generally pet-friendly. The ones in Elko, NV; Rawins, WY; and Lincoln, NE are pet-friendly according to the Travelodge website.
posted by purpleclover at 12:10 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: I used the website you linked to (petswelcome.com) to find pet-friendly hotels when I did my own long-distance cat-inclusive driving trip earlier this year. For both nights, I also tried calling hotels that were not explicitly listed on petswelcome.com, but was invariably informed that they did not allow pets. So in my experience, at least, the website is pretty exhaustive.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:55 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: I've stayed in the Super 8 in Grand Island with a cat--it was adequate but not particularly nice/clean. Too much $, but not many options in that area. The La Quinta there is supposed to be nicer but fills up frequently, so we'd do a reservation ahead of time if we went that way again.

The Hampton Inn in Rawlins is pet friendly and very nice. Good breakfast, very clean--we've stayed there with our cat twice. Sometimes the hotel is full, so maybe call ahead if you can.
posted by BlooPen at 1:57 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: I've moved cross-country twice now with two cats. I've always stayed at La Quinta. A lot of hotels will claim to be "pet friendly," but they have a pet fee. It's like they want you to just throw away your money so your cat can cower in the corner for a night. La Quinta, on the other hand, has no pet fee. That's why I'm loyal to them. They also have a rewards program, if that might be something worthwhile for you.

You may already have a cat carrier, but if you're in the market, I likeThe Pet Tube. For car travel, it's perfect.
posted by meese at 5:09 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I take it your cat isn't an outdoor cat? Ours spends many nights out, even in freezing weather. You might make a cozy cave by padding a carrier with fleeces, and the cat's doubly snug.

I'd also recommend taking the cat in the car a few times, on practice runs. That'll make you and the cat more comfortable during the trip, and give you a chance to make any needed adjustments.

Note that a new hotel room may have the cat pacing and investigating, and possibly vocalizing. A sleepless night when you've got to drive the next day is no fun.

That Pet Tube meese recommends looks great. If you don't want to spend that money, I'd have a shoulder harness on the cat so I can be sure he/she won't bolt when i open the car door, and if the cat digs in under the seat, at least I can hold the leash and be sure he/she won't get into traffic.
posted by at at 5:31 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Motel 6 is also pet friendly. Along your route, stayed at the one in Laramie and it was ok and cheap, but I don't have much good to say about it. My cat could obviously smell previous pets. The rooms are tiny and open directly to the outside, and if I have my cat I prefer to have the door open to a hallway just in case she decides to bolt out of the room. It would be totally out of character for her to do that, but ...

Have also stayed at the La Quinta in Cheyenne and it was the worst La Quinta I'd been to. Probably on par with a mediocre Super 8. Perhaps they've hired better staff and better maids, but the place wasn't clean and a lot of the furniture was damaged.

So of the hotels I've stayed on your route with a cat, I'm sure my cat would vote for the Hampton Inn in Rawlins. She actually seems to like it there.
posted by BlooPen at 7:50 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: I did a similar route with my two cats two summers ago, except we drove longer days and stayed in different towns, and continued on to Massachusetts. I also drove from MA to California and back this summer with the cats, so I have a lot of experience doing road trips with cats!

Most motels on interstates will allow pets, usually with an extra fee of $5-$20. About half the time the desk person didn't charge me when I said I had a cat.

I do not recommend Motel 6 or America's Best Value Inns. For just a little bit more money you can stay in a much nicer place, often including breakfast. We had good luck with Best Western and Howard Johnson, and also with non-chain motels that I found on Google maps then called.

My cats just conk out in their carrier. I leave the door unlatched so they can get out and use the litter box, or just stretch their legs and look out the window. I tried harnesses but they got out of them, so now I just latch the carrier when we stop the car.
posted by apricot at 7:59 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Apparently meese and I are the same person -- I came in to recommend La Quinta and the Pet Tube!

I recently drove cross-country with two cats and one of the places I stayed was the La Quinta in Lincoln NE. It worked out great. We stayed exclusively at La Quintas because of the no pet charge policy. I would really recommend using your Marriott points another time (hey, you'll need a vacation after toting your cat across the country) and go with La Quintas.
posted by imalaowai at 9:58 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Have you and your cat been in a moving car together for more than half an hour? I'd recommend going on a few test runs (drives around town) to see how your cat reacts to being in the car for a prolonged period of time. Notice where they go, do they like to hide under the seat or watch the semis on the freeway? If your cat is nervous (meowing, pacing, hiding) the whole time you might consider talking to a vet about mild sedatives. This worked wonders for one of my cats on a trip across the US. The sedatives should not knock out the cat, but rather help them stay calm. A litter box in the back seat is always courteous as well as an open carrier (for napping). I would not recommend having toys or catnip in the car, but a familiar toy could help your cat adjust to an unfamiliar hotel room. Good luck on your trip!
posted by carnivoregiraffe at 10:24 PM on September 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers guys! La Quinta seems to be the popular choice. I'm looking into all of these places. I really appreciate the recommendations.

you might consider talking to a vet about mild sedatives

I do plan on talking to my vet about that actually. The times I have driven with my cat across town, he pretty much hates it and screams the whole time or he hides. It's going to be a rough few days for him I know.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:07 AM on September 14, 2011

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