LOS ANGELES — When the Eubank family plans a trip, airplanes are usually out of the question. That's because the family's oversized dogs – a Great Dane and a pointer – are coming, too.
"Our dogs are part of the family. That's why they go everywhere we go," said Mike Eubank, 51, of Overland Park, Kan., who piles the dogs, his wife and three kids into a motorhome for trips to a lake where Eubank keeps a boat.
Nearly a quarter of pet owners have taken a vacation with their animals in the last two years, according to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.
Seventy-five percent found the trip more enjoyable than stressful.
Randall Balmer, 56, of Woodbury, Conn., considers the best part of his vacations playing with his 12-year-old yellow Lab, throwing rocks and watching Dakota chase them.
The worst part? Watching Dakota get wet, then get in the car.
"He's just kind of part of the family. We like to have him with us," Balmer said, even if Dakota is getting too old for the trips.
Although more hotel chains now allow pets, 70 percent of those who vacationed with their pets recently said they have stayed with relatives, 55 percent with friends and 52 percent in a hotel. Four in 10 said they have taken their pet to a campsite and 34 percent took an RV trip.
Dog owners (31 percent) were more apt than cat owners (19 percent) to bring their pets along, and among those who have only cats, only 7 percent included them in trips.
Karen Miles, 66, of Altoona, Wis., takes both.
Fletcher, a pug-dachshund mix, and Snuffleupagus, a Himalayan cat, make the trip when she and her family hook up their trailer and go camping or visiting, usually about twice a month. Both pets travel well and just need bowls, food, toys and a litter box for Snuffy, Miles said.
Most of those who have had a good experience traveling with their pet plan to do it again. But such dedicated pet-vacationers are a rare breed: Just 22 percent of all pet owners said they were extremely or very likely to include their pet in a future vacation. Seventy-four percent of cat owners said they were not at all likely to take their pet along.
Hotels and campgrounds have changed a lot in the last five or 10 years, so that traveling with pets can be as luxurious as any owner wants it.
At The Peninsula Beverly Hills, dogs are treated to ultrasuede beds, a monogrammed towel, a bowl, designer water and Iams dog food, spokeswoman Sharon Boorstin said. A bellman will walk your dog, sit your dog or arrange a massage, training, grooming, transportation or appointment with a vet.
There is also a room service doggie menu that includes an aperitif called a "tail shakin' not stirred martini" and a disclaimer: "No hooch for your pooch." (The martini uses beef bullion.)
Based on registration forms, between 55 percent and 60 percent of campers at Kampgrounds of America Inc., the largest network of campgrounds in North America, travel with pets, said spokesman Mike Gast. That's up from around 45 percent eight years ago.
"Pets are something people aren't willing any more to leave home without," he said.
Peter Furgis, 74, of West Jordan, Utah, said trips are more fun with his dog Charlie, "just like everything else is more enjoyable."
Furgis has a cabin in Wyoming and heads there often with Charlie, a 6-year-old Yorkshire Terrier. But he concedes his travels with Charlie aren't always easy.
"Last time I went it was in July and quite hot," Furgis said. "It was quite inconvenient. I couldn't leave him in the truck and we had to stop at drive-ins to eat. We were both hot."
Traveling with Hercules, a mixed Pekinese and poodle, added some stress to Vickie Lojek's last car trip because she wanted to impress her in-laws and it required a bit more coordination and time.
Lojek, of Richmond, Va., wanted Hercules to be a compatible guest, not a "barking knucklehead."
In the end, Hercules was a big hit with all three generations at the family reunion and he'll be more than welcome on the family's next trip, Lojek said.
The AP-Petside.com Poll was conducted October 13-20, 2010, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,000 pet owners nationwide, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.
Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.