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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.

Mission Beach San Diego
Mission Beach San Diego

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.

Belmont Park San Diego
Belmont Park Roller Coaster

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. 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 , 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 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.

Pet Friendly Restaurants San Diego
San Diego With A Dog

Other amazing eateries we encountered were , an organic juice bar that was great for grabbing something to-go on a doggie walk, , a Mission Beach institution with outdoor dog-friendly seating, and , a waterfront spot in Ocean Beach that has a pet-welcoming patio, raises money for the local humane society, and even had 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 , 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 , the only other off-leash dog beach in San Diego proper (there are many more further afield). There’s also 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 , 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 and , 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.

San Diego Pet Travel
San Diego With A Dog

Where to Shop

Granted, I’m not much of a shopper. But I couldn’t resist popping into the two 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.

Luv Surf Shop San Diego
Luv Surf Shop San Diego

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 . 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!

Luv Surf San Diego
San Diego With A Dog

Pet Friendly Mission Beach San Diego Rental
Pet Friendly Mission Beach San Diego Rental

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 , 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.

Pet Friendly Mission Beach San Diego Rental
Pet Friendly Mission Beach San Diego Rental

Luv Surf San Diego
Luv Surf San Diego

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.

Luv Surf San Diego
Luv Surf San Diego

Luv Surf San Diego
Luv Surf San Diego

Conclusion

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.

Luv Surf San Diego
Luv Surf San Diego

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!

3-devide-lines
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49 Comments...
  • Sonja Riemenschneider
    April 27 2016

    Love it! Looks like San Diego is a great place for a pupcation! šŸ˜‰ 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?
    Sonja Riemenschneider recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      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.

  • Jen
    April 27 2016

    Seriously though… enough with the dog. No one cares.

    • Sarah
      April 28 2016

      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!

      • Meihoukai
        April 28 2016

        Thanks Sarah, I appreciate hearing that!

    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      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 šŸ™‚

    • Danica Jacobsson
      April 28 2016

      I care

    • Tori
      May 4 2016

      People who have dogs care. This is an extremely helpful post to those dog owners wanting to travel. Every single blog post that Meihoukai 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. šŸ™‚

      Meihoukai- 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. šŸ™‚

      • Meihoukai
        May 7 2016

        Hey Tori! I’m sure I will find myself in San Diego again — I LOVED it there. Thanks for the tip!

  • Marni
    April 27 2016

    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.
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    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      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.

  • Gina
    April 27 2016

    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. šŸ™‚
    Gina recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      Thanks for the tip Gina! I have a feeling we will be back.

  • Kelly
    April 27 2016

    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!
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    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      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.

  • Shannon Olona
    April 27 2016

    I love Patio on Lamont! It’s one of my favorite brunch hang outs. Glad you had a great time.

    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      Oh, brunch! I will definitely be back to try that out!

  • Kacy
    April 27 2016

    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 šŸ™‚
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      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!

  • Cate
    April 27 2016

    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!

    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      Let me know where you decide to go, Cate šŸ™‚

  • Angie Away
    April 27 2016

    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?
    Angie Away recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      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.

  • Justine
    April 28 2016

    The photo of Tucker with the tennis ball is perhaps the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. He looks like he’s in paradise!!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 28 2016

      That dog LOVES a tennis ball. People can never believe he’s eleven! He still acts like a puppy.

  • Dad
    April 28 2016

    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 Meihoukai?”. 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.

    • Meihoukai
      April 29 2016

      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.

  • Brittany
    April 28 2016

    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 šŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      April 29 2016

      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 šŸ™‚

  • Rachel Elyserac
    April 28 2016

    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!
    Rachel Elyserac recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 29 2016

      Sounds amazing Rachel! Definitely adding to my California to-do list!

  • Carmen's Luxury Travel
    April 28 2016

    Your photos are lovely and so colorful! San Diego is one of my favorite places in Southern California. Thanks for sharing.

    • Meihoukai
      April 29 2016

      You’re so welcome Carmen — thanks for reading!

  • Dominique
    April 29 2016

    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! šŸ™‚ We take her out for dinner quite often, I live by the beach so most places allow dogs which is great!
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 29 2016

      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!

  • LC
    April 29 2016

    Seriously want to cuddle the heck out of your dog.
    LC recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 29 2016

      Me too! Can’t wait for puppy snuggles in June!

  • Eva Casey
    April 29 2016

    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! šŸ˜€ Can’t wait to check out your recommendations, as always!
    Eva Casey recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      April 29 2016

      Ah, enjoy Eva! Love love love SD and can’t wait to return, hopefully soon!

  • Jen (a different one!)
    May 2 2016

    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 šŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      May 3 2016

      Ha ha, I laughed out loud at your name in this comment — thanks for the giggles šŸ™‚

  • Ashlyn
    May 3 2016

    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 Thanks in advance!! Safe travels!

    • Meihoukai
      May 7 2016

      We all start from somewhere šŸ™‚ Good luck with your blogging, Ashlyn!

  • Kate
    May 3 2016

    Great overview! Thanks! Can’t wait to travel with my dogs. Always thought it would be complicated!

    • Meihoukai
      May 7 2016

      I’m sure in some places it is… but San Diego makes it easy!

  • Chris
    May 29 2016

    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 šŸ˜‰
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    • Meihoukai
      May 30 2016

      I don’t remember the last time I saw an Ikea looking so cute šŸ˜‰ Granted, I haven’t been in one in a long time but I recall them being quite stark and minimalist!

  • Meihoukai
    June 23 2017

    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! šŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      June 24 2017

      Hey Meihoukai! 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 šŸ˜‰ Enjoy your trip!