guy with esa dog in hotel lobby chair

Guide to Hotels and Emotional Support Animals

Traveling with your furry friend who doubles as an emotional support animal? You’re not alone. As more travelers choose to bring their support animals on trips, the topic of hotels accommodating these special companions has become hot. But let’s face it, navigating hotel policies on emotional support animals can sometimes feel like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded.

From understanding the nitty-gritty of hotel policies to tips on making your stay as smooth as peanut butter, we’ve got you covered. So, buckle up and prepare for a journey that ensures you and your emotional support animal have a paws-itively fantastic travel experience.

Emotional Support Animals and Rights

Emotional support animals (ESAs) play a key role in the lives of their handlers, offering not just companionship but also emotional comfort and support. Unlike service animals, which are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities, ESAs provide therapeutic benefits through their presence. Recognizing the distinct roles of ESAs helps navigate hotel accommodations more effectively.

Legal Recognition and Rights

Federal regulations, such as the Fair Housing Act, recognize the importance of ESAs and mandate reasonable accommodations in housing. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not grant ESAs the same public access rights as service animals. This distinction means hotels aren’t legally required to accept ESAs but many choose to for customer service reasons.

Hotel Policies on ESAs

Hotel policies on ESAs vary widely, with some hotels welcoming them as part of their pet-friendly policies, while others might have restrictions or not allow them at all. It’s essential to check a hotel’s pet policy before booking to ensure it aligns with your needs.

Preparing for Your Stay

Preparing to stay at a hotel with your ESA involves a few key steps:

  • Verification: Some hotels may request documentation or verification for your ESA, so having a letter from a licensed mental health professional is beneficial.
  • Inquiring About Fees: While some hotels may not charge extra for pets, others might, so it’s key to ask ahead.
  • Communicating Needs: Clearly communicating your needs and any accommodations your ESA may require with the hotel in advance ensures a smoother stay.
young guy with esa dog in hotel lobby

Hotels and Emotional Support Animals

Navigating hotel stays with emotional support animals (ESAs) isn’t as daunting as it might seem, provided you’re well-prepared. Unlike service animals, which are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ESAs get a mixed reception due to varying state laws and individual hotel policies. Knowing the ins and outs of these policies ensures you and your ESA have a smooth experience.

It’s important to understand that hotels are not obligated by federal law to accommodate ESAs as they are service animals. This means each hotel has the autonomy to set its own rules regarding ESAs. Many hotels, especially those branded as pet-friendly, often welcome ESAs but may require advance notice, proof of the animal’s status, or charge additional fees.

To ensure a hassle-free stay:

  • Confirm the Hotel’s Policy: Before booking, check the hotel’s stance on ESAs explicitly. Look for any mentioned fees or restrictions, such as weight limits or breed-specific bans.
  • Provide Documentation: Have your ESA’s verification letter from a licensed mental health professional ready, as some hotels might request to see this.
  • Communicate Your Needs: Let the hotel know about any specific accommodations you and your ESA might need. This could include a room on the ground floor to make bathroom breaks easier.

Bear in mind, while pet-friendly hotels are more likely to accommodate your ESA, this isn’t a guarantee. If a hotel can’t accommodate your ESA due to their policies, they might still offer alternatives or suggest nearby lodging that can meet your needs.

Practicing good ESA etiquette — such as keeping your animal under control, being mindful of other guests, and ensuring your ESA doesn’t damage the property — goes a long way in making your stay enjoyable for everyone involved. With the right preparation and a clear understanding of policies, staying in hotels with your ESA becomes less of a challenge and more of a pleasant experience.

Challenges Faced by Guests with Emotional Support Animals

Navigating accommodations with emotional support animals (ESAs) presents distinct challenges for guests. Understanding these hurdles can prepare you for a smoother hotel experience.

Locating Pet-Friendly Hotels: Despite growing awareness, many hotels still don’t accommodate ESAs. Finding a pet-friendly option that truly welcomes your ESA involves diligent research and could limit your choices.

Understanding Varied Hotel Policies: Policies regarding ESAs can vary widely from one hotel to another. Some establishments might require extra fees, while others have strict weight or breed restrictions, adding another layer of complexity to your booking process.

Providing Documentation: Unlike service animals, ESAs often require documentation to validate their status. This includes letters from healthcare providers, which need to be updated and available upon request. Ensuring you have the necessary paperwork adds an administrative task to your travel preparations.

Managing Guest Reactions: Your ESA might be well-behaved and essential for your emotional well-being, but not all guests understand the importance of ESAs. Dealing with curious stares or unwelcome questions can add stress to your stay.

Dealing with Restricted Areas: Even in hotels that welcome ESAs, there may be areas where your companion isn’t allowed. This could include dining areas, pools, or fitness centers, potentially limiting your use of hotel amenities.

Anticipating Extra Fees and Deposits: Some hotels impose additional fees or security deposits for guests with ESAs. These unexpected costs can affect your travel budget, making it key to inquire about all potential charges when booking.

Best Practices for Traveling with Emotional Support Animals

When you’re traveling with emotional support animals (ESAs), knowing the best practices ensures your experience is smooth and stress-free. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

Research Hotel Policies in Advance

Always start with thorough research on hotel policies regarding ESAs. Since policies vary widely, it’s key to confirm that your chosen hotel accommodates ESAs and to understand any specific requirements or restrictions they might have.

Prepare the Necessary Documentation

Hotels may require documentation proving the need for an ESA. This usually includes a letter from a licensed mental health professional. Make sure this documentation is up-to-date and readily available during your stay.

Communicate with Hotel Staff

Prior to your arrival, inform the hotel staff about your ESA. Providing this information in advance allows the hotel to make any necessary accommodations to better serve you.

Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Familiarize yourself with the legal protections under the Fair Housing Act and any pertinent state laws. However, also be aware that hotels, unlike residential properties, are not always required to accommodate ESAs under the same laws. Knowing the difference helps manage your expectations.

Consider the Well-being of Your ESA

Travel can be stressful for animals too. Pack familiar items like their favorite toy or blanket to make them feel more at ease. Also, plan for regular breaks and exercise during your stay to keep them calm and happy.

Be Mindful of Other Guests

Not everyone is comfortable around animals. Keep your ESA on a leash or in a carrier in common areas and ensure they’re well-behaved. It’s also polite to manage any noise to avoid disturbing other guests.

Spotlight on Accommodating Hotels

As you’ve learned the ropes on how to prepare for a hotel stay with your ESA, knowing which hotels welcome you both with open arms is the next step. Fortunately, several chains and boutique hotels stand out for their exceptional ESA policies. These accommodations understand the importance of your ESA to your mental health and strive to make your experience as welcoming as possible.

Kimpton Hotels are pioneers in pet-friendly accommodations, allowing ESAs without any additional fees. They even offer amenities such as plush pet beds, water bowls, and complimentary treats to make your ESA feel as pampered as you.

Fairmont Hotels also boast pet-friendly policies that accommodate ESAs. With a small fee, your ESA can enjoy the luxury and comfort alongside you. Some locations provide special services, including pet-sitting and dog-walking.

Loews Hotels takes pride in their Loews Loves Pets program. It’s designed to ensure every guest, whether two-legged or four, experiences the utmost comfort. From gourmet room service menus for pets to local pet walking routes, they’re prepared to meet your ESA’s needs.

When booking, always highlight the presence of your ESA and inquire about specific accommodations or amenities available. Each hotel’s policy might vary slightly, including potential fees or restrictions on sizes or breeds, so it’s key to iron out these details ahead of time.


Traveling with your emotional support animal doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By staying informed about hotel policies and preparing in advance you’re setting the stage for a smooth journey. Remember the importance of open communication with hotel staff and the need to consider the well-being of your ESA alongside your own. As the hospitality industry evolves expect to see even more accommodations that cater to the unique needs of individuals with ESAs. With hotels like Kimpton Fairmont and Loews leading the charge the future looks bright for travelers seeking support and comfort from their furry friends. Embrace these changes and you’ll find that exploring the world with your emotional support animal is more enjoyable than ever.