Yes, You Can Bring Your Pet To Walt Disney World. Here's What To Know

One of the hardest parts of visiting Walt Disney World is saying goodbye to your best furry friends at home. You can see Mickey's best pals Pluto or Goofy at the parks, but we all know that's not the same. Luckily, Walt Disney World has evolved a lot regarding its pet policies. While pets aren't technically allowed in the theme parks — and not all of the hotels are accessible for canine guests — at least four WDW hotels are dog-friendly. That has not been the case at Disney World for very long, so perhaps more of their hotels will be pet-friendly in the future. Let's be honest: Four out of over two dozen hotels isn't an excellent ratio — and yet it's better than none.

That doesn't mean WDW is a doggie or kitty free-for-all. There are rules around bringing pets that are important to understand before bringing your best friend to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Don't forget to bring pet-friendly ears or shirts to make them feel part of the magic, even if they can't go into the parks. There are a million and one photo opportunities even if your pet doesn't leave the hotel area. There's even an on-site doggie daycare where your buddies can enjoy the day while you eat Dole Whips to your heart's content. And, believe it or not, bringing your pet to Disney World isn't even a significant cost difference from just going with your human travel companions.

Understanding service animals vs. companion animals

The line between service and companion animals can be fraught, especially when discussing emotional support animals. But the difference for Disney World is whether or not an animal is trained for the service. The Americans with Disabilities Act identifies a service animal as an animal that has been specifically trained to help a human with a task related to that person's disability. If your animal has not been specially trained for their service, they are likely not considered a service animal. 

Service animals are allowed in the theme parks and Disney Springs, while ESAs and companion animals are not. While service animals are typically dogs, at Disney World they can also include less traditional animals like miniature horses. Service animals are also allowed in all WDW hotels and park transportation outside the parks. You don't have to worry about explicitly booking a pet-friendly hotel for a service animal because they are not in the same category as pets. However, emotional support and companion animals can only be in places where pets are allowed, such as the pet-friendly hotels, or at a pet condo like Best Friends Pet Hotel. They are not to be brought into the parks.

Not all hotels allow animals

At Walt Disney World, four hotel properties allow animals. Art of Animation Resort, Yacht Club, and Port Orleans (Riverside) all allow dogs. The Fort Wilderness cabins also permit dogs, while their campsites for RV camping welcome cats as well. Pet-friendly hotel rooms are allocated for no more than two dogs per room. Remember that only certain regions of the hotels are designated for pets to help guests with allergies stay safe and healthy.

These allowances do incur additional pet fees. Campsite fees at Fort Wilderness are the least expensive, while the Yacht Club fees are the most expensive. Remember to include these added costs in your budget when making your vacation plans. 

Given the wildlife-focused nature of Animal Kingdom Lodge, it may be surprising to learn that this hotel doesn't allow dogs. But if you think about it, African wildlife on the property could get stressed or scared by the noise made by the pups. So while there aren't many Disney World hotels that offer lodging to pets, the few that do are varied enough that they should suit you if you want to bring your furry friends along.

Dogs need to be up to date on vaccines

For the safety of guests and other on-site pet friends, all dogs need to be up to date on their vaccines. Mandating the vaccination of visiting dogs helps protect everyone involved, especially any other pets your dog may encounter on your trip. The hotels will ask for documentation to prove their vaccination status upon arrival, so don't forget to bring them — at least in digital form, though it is a good idea to have a hard copy on hand.

A WDW trip with your doggie best friend can be an excellent reminder to double-check the expiration dates of your pet's vaccines. You can get a proof of vaccination form from your vet to bring along, often by just calling or emailing them beforehand. Be sure to give them enough time to get back to you, especially if you contact them on a weekend.

Specific vaccines that need to be updated include distemper, rabies, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, and Bordetella. These are often required if you bring your dog to a daycare or grooming salon too. You may also want to have them vaccinated against leptospirosis (or lepto) since it can be passed on to other dogs through their urine. Your dog will use doggie potty areas at the designated hotels, so they will encounter grassy areas where other pups have recently urinated. Since lepto can live in soil for weeks or months, getting the recommended vaccination is a good idea.

Hotel rules need to be followed

When bringing your pup to one of the dog-friendly WDW hotels, several more rules must be followed. For example, Mousekeeping (Disney's version of housekeeping) will not enter a room if the dog is present. You will be given a door hanger at check-in to alert cast members that a dog is inside, and only when this placard is removed will someone come in to clean your room.

Anytime you and your dog are outside your hotel room, they need to be leashed or in a carrier. If the pet is not restrained, Disney can remove it from the premises at your expense. Companion dogs are not allowed in the common areas like pool decks, lounges, food areas, or fitness centers. There are also no breed restrictions for dog guests.

If your dog is overly vocal, consider boarding or alternative plans for your pup. Disney may contact you about your dog if it is reported to be barking excessively, and they will ask that you return to your room as soon as possible to calm them down. You also may not leave the dog in the hotel room unattended for more than seven hours. If you plan to spend whole days at the park without anyone returning to the room to give your pup some lovin' and exercise time, bringing them to daycare instead is a good idea. After all, if they are all alone for the vacation, that won't be very magical for them!

Bring your pal to Best Friends Pet Hotel

WDW's on-site Best Friends Pet Hotel will be helpful if you bring your pup on vacation. They offer doggie daycare and boarding and grooming services if your furry buddy needs them. Best Friends opens one hour before the parks open for the day and close one hour after the final park closes at night. So no need to worry about cutting your day short!

Best Friends Pet Hotel can also accommodate small animals and cats in addition to doggies. While they can house up to 300 animals each day, it's essential to make reservations in advance if you can. For small pets like birds, rodents, or reptiles, you need to bring an enclosure for them to the hotel. Rates for these pets depend on whether the size of their enclosure is small, medium, large, or extra large.

As for their boarding services, Best Friends Pet Hotel has a wide range of options, from traditional boarding with walks, bedding, and bowls, to ultra-luxe options. The extravagant Club Suites package includes a personal concierge, a flat-screen TV, Petchatz webcam, a fresh bath, and so much more. Don't worry if your pup can't handle the regular human hotels; Disney has them covered with plenty of pixie dust of their own. 

Don't forget your Pluto's Welcome Kit

Humans are not the only ones who get pampered at Disney World hotels. Every pup that checks in receives their very own Pluto's Welcome Kit. These kits include an ID tag, potty pads, poop bags, food bowls, a bowl mat, and dog-walking maps. Please keep track of the dog-walking map since it will also show you the potty spots around the property. If you're worried about your doggie needing a closer bathroom area, perhaps consider packing some potty pads just in case.

Some pet-friendly accommodations worldwide have started giving pet families these welcome kits, which is a nice bonus — especially since pet fees can be so high. While Pluto's Welcome Kit is a pleasant little surprise, remember that WDW hotels do not provide pet food in any capacity, so be prepared to bring it with you or have it delivered. To avoid the additional package handling fee charged by the hotel, try ordering food from somewhere like Instacart so you can meet the driver at the front entrance.

Sometimes you can find things like dog or pet treats in gift shops around the WDW property, though it's best to assume there won't be any for sale. Make sure you bring at least some of your best pal's favorite treats along so they can enjoy a good snack while you're devouring the addictive Disney World chicken tenders.

Know your pup

While seeing your best furry pal every day on vacation can make you feel better, it's not always the best option for every pet. Some dogs with separation anxiety will struggle when you're gone all day at the parks, even if they're at daycare. Some dogs are not dog-friendly and can't go to daycare at all. Knowing your dog's demeanor is a crucial element in deciding whether or not to vacation with them at Disney (or anywhere).

For pups with manageable anxiety, there are a few helpful things you can bring along for the trip. Calming treats (with or without CBD or hemp, both of which can make your pup drowsy for a long time), a trusty Thundershirt, or a therapeutic heartbeat toy are easy to pack and bring along. These tools may help your low- or medium-anxiety dog be more at ease in a new space, whether you're with them or away at the parks.

WDW hotels ask that any pet guests be adequately trained and well-behaved. This isn't just for the quality of stay for you and your fellow guests; it's also for the safety of other human and pet guests at the hotel. If your dog isn't properly trained, please don't bring it to WDW.

Stay off-site

Vacationing at Walt Disney World doesn't have to mean staying on property. Since there are so few pet-friendly resorts on the complex, it can be challenging to book one of them during certain times of the year. Fear not, as there are several pet-friendly hotels in Orlando that can give you terrific proximity to the parks, and some even offer a free shuttle to the parks. Many of them are chains you'll be familiar with, like Wyndham or Sheraton, which is good for folks with hotel chain loyalty cards.

Some of these area hotels won't ding you with an additional pet fee, either. The Four Seasons, for example, doesn't have a pet charge associated with their stay. It's one of the most expensive hotels in the area, but at least you won't be paying extra fees for bringing your furry best friend along. So why not let your pup come along and enjoy some time in the lap of luxury?

Be prepared if your pet gets sick

Luckily, Walt Disney World is not so isolated that you won't be able to get veterinary care if your pet needs it during your vacation. Best Friends Pet Hotel has some veterinary services available, and there are several vets near WDW too. If you didn't bring a car, you could always grab a ride-share. Just ensure that it's pet-friendly so you don't get stranded.

If physically getting your pet to a veterinary practice is too difficult, there are mobile vet practices around the Orlando area, like Paws Around Town. One of the area's house-call practices, like Paws Calls, is also a terrific option. Inquire about their ability to access the Disney World property before trying to book their services, as they may not serve the hotels at your time of contact.

By the same token, don't forget to pack your pet's medications if they have any. Disney World hotel rooms have refrigerators too, so if the medicines must stay cold, you won't need to worry. If you arrive at WDW and realize you've forgotten your pet's medications, contact your vet immediately to see if they can transfer your prescriptions to a local pharmacy for pickup or delivery.

Let your pet in on the fun

Even if your pup can't go into the theme parks, they can still dress for the occasion. One of the fun parts of visiting Walt Disney World is donning those Mickey ears and embracing your inner child. If your pet tolerates it, there are plenty of pet-friendly outfits and mouse ears to help them embrace the magic. Character Warehouse, Disney Parks outlet shops with two locations in Orlando, frequently have pet outfits and merchandise for sale — often for a fraction of what you'd pay in a store, in the parks, or online.

When you have a finicky pup, having them keep something like Mickey ears on will be a challenge. Try having them pose for a photo or two in the ears before removing them and rewarding them with some tasty treats for their effort. Or, consider a costume or themed harness instead to keep them comfortable. Just be aware of the weather before sticking your pup in an outfit for the day. When it's 100 degrees in the middle of summer, maybe don't put that spirit jersey on them, no matter how cute it is.

What to bring along for your pet

Disney World will provide some things for you, like food bowls, when you bring pets to the resort. But if you can manage it, you may want to pack some things that will comfort your dog, like their favorite blanket, toys, and even their bed. That last one is important because Disney World allows dogs in some of their hotel rooms, but they aren't allowed on the furniture — sorry, bed-sleeping pups!

Make sure their ID tags are securely attached to their collars just in case they were to get away from you. They'll also need their leash, and you may want to bring extra poop bags in case Disney doesn't give you enough. And if you're driving your pets to Disney, ensure they have all their safety equipment. One excellent option is a car harness and seatbelt buckle, which allows them more free movement than a dog car seat, but with the protection they'll need in case of an accident or quick braking.

Invest in a safe and cozy carrier for your appropriately sized airline-bound pet. These in-cabin carriers will keep your little buddy nestled at your feet. They are also easier to carry than the hard-sided carriers. Just watch out that your pet doesn't claw or bite their way through them — it happens more quickly than you might think.