If you have a dog that you think of as a furry family member and have ever tried to take it on your family vacation, you’ve probably learned that the term “pet friendly” does not necessarily mean “pets welcome.” Sometimes the the reality of traveling with your pet means getting the worst room in the hotel, which smells like a kennel, and the harsh realization that there is a huge difference between hotels that are merely “pet tolerant” and those that truly welcome them.
Thankfully there are also true pet friendly resorts where your dog is not only included, but appreciated. The Resort at Paws Up is the real deal. Pet friendly means just that. The staff is welcoming and enjoys having your dog along on your western adventure. This is one of the reasons I chose Paws Up for my recent family vacation to Montana.
Garnet Ghost Town is an easy drive from The Resort at Paws Up
After my first visit to The Resort at Paws Up three years ago, I knew I’d be coming back. I spent many childhood summers in Montana and still love it to this day. Paws Up is such a great destination. It’s an easy 45 minute drive from the Missoula airport (and airport transfers are included in the rates). There is so much to do at Paws Up– you can try sleeping under canvas in the luxury glamping tents or checking out the unique and memorable activities the resort offers. Where else can you ride a horse on a cattle drive?
At Paws Up, guest with pets must stay in the Luxury Homes instead of the Glamping Tents. The Big Timber home we rented, Glimmerstone, worked perfectly for our group of four adults, three teenagers, and two dogs. We were visiting during a heat wave and the reliable air conditioning was a real bonus. Our house also had a tent on the property, which we used during our stay.
The tent in the yard at Glimmerstone
I was surprised that my nephews, all experienced scouting types, preferred to sleep in the posh comfort of the loft beds instead of the tent. They had two weeks of tents in their future at summer camp and had no problems with sleeping in a luxury cabin. My brother and sister-in-law spent a night in the on-site tent.
A living room in one of the Luxury Homes at Paws Up
My dogs, Scarlet and Zeppelin, enjoyed being ranch dogs during our stay at Paws Up. They joined us on the patio for breakfast and lunch everyday at Trough and the staff was always quick to greet them and make sure they had a bowl of water. I felt the staff was warm and welcoming to them. A few even offered up belly rubs.
Montana style French toast
Traveling with three teenage boys was definitely different for me. I was blown away by how much they can eat. My nephews, beanpoles all of them, can easily put away French Toast for breakfast and be ready for a buffalo burger a few hours later for lunch. Dinner, including dessert, was enjoyed by all. Paws Up’s rates include full breakfast, lunch and dinner for all guests. We only paid extra for alcoholic beverages and guided activities.
The adults enjoyed the great margaritas at Tank
Some of my must have travel gear for pets
I have two 60 pound labs and when they travel with me I always bring the following supplies:
This soft cover canvas crate is easy to break down and assemble. It stores flat and easily slips behind the drivers seat in my car for road trips. They come in a range of sizes for dogs weighing 10 – 70 pounds. My labs each have a 36 inch version.
The Cattle Drive was one of the highlights of our family vacation. It was fun to enjoy the gorgeous Montana scenery while learning how to round up and sort cows instead of taking a nose-to-tail horseback ride. We lucked out and were the only people on our cattle drive… and we kind of sucked.
Left: sorting cattle Right: moving the heads of cattle
We lost six cows along the ways, which was funny, memorable, and made the activity seem all the more real.
Cows and Montana Scenery on the Cattle Drive
The Chuck Wagon dinner was another crowd pleaser.
Scarlet and Zeppelin were big fans of the Chuck Wagon dinner
Draft horses Pete and Re-Pete driving us to the Chuck Wagon Dinner
While meat grilled in the open air is an eternal summer favorite, Dutch oven master Cee Dub was in residence during our stay and made a killer brisket at the Chuck Wagon.
Left: Cee Dub’s amazing brisket Right: Tomahawk steaks on the grill.
We felt the need to taste it all, including the tomahawk steak. No one went hungry on this trip. We made sure to check out Cee Dub’s Dutch oven frittata at breakfast the next day.
Cee Dub and the cowboy poets at the Chuck Wagon Dinner
Scarlet and Zeppelin enjoyed sniffing around the banks of the Blackfoot River
Gorgeous Montana skies on the Clark Fork river
Paws Up offers tons of options for activities. We opted for whitewater adventure through the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork river during this trip, which was a perfect choice since our visit coincided with a heatwave. You can read more about our rafting trip in this post.
Misty Montana morning at Glimmerstone
We also explored nearby Garnet Ghost Town. My nephews had no problem heading to the brand Wilderness Outpost activities center to check out the archery set up.
Gorgeous scenery at River Camp
Every time I return to Paws Up there is something new. This trip I was impressed by the Paws Up app, which made communicating with the staff easy to do from my smart phone. It was really useful for making requests and communicating with the staff during our stay. I was a little bit sad when I deleted it from my iPhone after my vacation.
The sunrise view from Glimmerstone
The thank you card I got from my brother, sister-in-law and nephews after the trip further convinced me that Paws Up was a great choice for our family vacation. A good time was had by all, and my nephews were already missing waking up to the fresh pine scent and drinking huckleberry lemonade.
One of the luxury tented accommodations at Longitude 131
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, has been on my list of places to visit for years. Last month I finally got my chance to visit Australia’s Red Centre, with a few nights at Longitude 131. With a reputation for being the finest accommodations in Outback glamping, Longitude 131 doesn’t come cheap. My husband and I tried to maximize our bang for the buck by staying one less than the recommended three nights/four full days, and attempting to see as much as we could during our time.
First glimpse of Uluru HyperLapse (shot on iPhone 6)
The cranked up pace was a bit too crammed for me. While I totally enjoyed my time, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so hurried. I also had a difficult time with jet lag on this trip, which did not help the situation.
Some of the stunning scenery seen on excursions from Longitude 131
My hotel review posts usually feature lots of images of hotel room interiors and bathroom amenities, but photographing the room did not happen during my brief stay at Longitude 131.
Fortunately Longitude 131’s own website photos are very realistic. The tents are glamorous and comfortable, but we did not spend much time there other than to sleep or change clothes. The bulk of your day at Longitude 131 is spent exploring nearby Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which was the point of the whole trip anyway!
My first glimpse of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock
We had about 35 minutes from the time we arrived at the Longitude 131 until we headed out for our first excursion, the Mala Walk around the base of Uluru, followed by a sundowner and light bites in the Kantu Gorge.
The guides at Longitude 131 are friendly and great and I felt that I learned a ton on this excursion. The couple I met from Sydney who were staying the recommended three days seemed more relaxed than I was (and less jet lagged).
Left: sunrise at a viewing area in Kata Tjuta National Park Right: My room at Longitude 131
Both my husband and I were tired when we returned from this excursion, so we skipped the formal dinner service and headed straight to our tent.
I fell asleep immediately and woke up in time for a quick bite before heading out for our next excursion, headed to a sunrise view point in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The Kata Tjuta range (also known as the Olgas) domes are visually interesting, and the sky and scrubby landscape looked gorgeous in the soft morning light.
Gorgeous desert landscape and clouds at Kata Tjuta
After admiring the sunrise at Kata Tjutas we headed out on the lovely Valley of Winds hike , which can range 6-10 km around a sacred Anangu men’s site in the domes of Kata Tjuta. We finished our hike just before the day got too hot. The only thing missing was a cold beer before we headed to the Cultural Centre in the park for a visit. Then we got back to Longitude 131 in time for lunch.
A view of the Kata Tjutas at sunrise
Our day finished with the Uluru sunset excursion (again complete with cocktails and nibbles). It was a delightful day. Dinner that evening was served at outdoors under the star filled skies at Table 131 set up outside. Once again, jet lag made me decide to skip the main course and get as much sleep as I could.
A vibrant sunset view of Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Your days are paced similarly to those on safari at Longitude 131– most activities happen around sunrise and sunset leaving the hottest hours in the middle of the day free for you to enjoy the resorts lovely pool, the nearby Cultural Centre in the park or even arrange a camel ride or motorcycle ride. Unlike being on safari, you come to Longitude 131 for the landscape and outdoor activities, not for the wildlife. You might see some wild camels or feral cats, but this is not the place for those who want a game viewing experience.
Yummy steak for lunch at Longitude 131
All the food and beverages at Longitude 131 were excellent.
Left: Pasta with shrimp for lunch Right: a colorful salad with edible flower at Longitude 131
While I did not eat every dinner I was totally satisfied by the appetizers served during the sundown excursions and did not feel I needed much more.
Glacial toothfish and broccolini for lunch at Longitude 131
A stunning sunset view of Longitude 131 Resort
Rainbows in the bathroom at Longitude 131
My Longitude 131 experience was very good. I made the decision to do a shorter, more concentrated trip and I’m not sure I’d recommend that unless you are 100% over jet lag or the sort of person who loves having every minute scheduled.
I was impressed with my experience enough that I am now curious about other Baillie Lodges and am considering a visit to Kangaroo Island on my next trip down under.
Colors in the Kantju Gorge in Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park at sunset
Almost as soon as I arrived in the Australian Outback at Longitude 131, it was time to head to Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) to take the Mala Walk around the base of the sacred rock. We hiked around the base and explored a few caves and wound up in Kantju Gorge just in time to watch the sunset, when the color of the rock was most vivid and changed every few minutes.
#shotoniPhone6 Time-Lapse Video from Kantu Gorge, Uluru (aka Ayers Rock)
The crew from Longitude 131 met us in the gorge with small bites and beverages so we could enjoy a sundowner while watching the colors shift during sunset at Uluru.
The view from one of the aboriginal caves along the Mala Walk
The colors shifted every few minutes
Looking straight up at Australia’s biggest Rock Star
What Not to Do at Uluru: don’t walk on the rock
Although many tourists come to Ayers Rock intent on bragging rights about climbing it, it’s really not cool to do so. Uluru is considered sacred by it’s aboriginal owners, the Anangu. There are signs everywhere making it very clear that they would prefer you NOT climb the 1.6 kilometer path up the rock.
The steep climb is also very dangerous and several climbers have died. The Anangu people have been known to attend the funerals of climbers who have died. The narrow path is often closed due to high winds. If you want to see the view from the top, take a scenic helicopter tour instead.
I asked my husband to be a makeshift tripod when filming a cloud hyperlapse.
Pro tip: if you’re going to use your husband as your photo assistant and ask him to hold still while you shoot a hyperlapse on his iPhone 6, it’s best to get him a cocktail first.
Twilight outside tent #2 at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp
Impressive, elevated tents at Hoanib
Namibia doesn’t allow permanent camps, instead they grant land concessions for a number of years. So everything about Hoanib will be able to disappear without a trace to help conserve Namibia’s natural environment.
Visiting the Roaring Dunes was one of the highlights of my stay at Hoanib
While the tents may be temporary, the camp is still amazingly stylish and comfortable. The guest tents have a genius design. They are built on platforms elevated over the sand, which helps keep their interiors at a comfortable temperature both day and night.
The Hoanib Staff waits to greet you with cool towels and fresh lemonade
Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is run with Wilderness Safari’s ethos and commitment to the 4Cs – Commerce, Conservation, Community and Culture. The staff is committed to contributing meaningfully to the wildlife and the people of Africa. The staff is great and this attitude makes you feel really good about spending money here.
Bella, the resident cat at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp
General Manager Clement Lawrence and his team are all warm, personable, and take very good care of you. The service style is laid-back and unobtrusive. This is perfect for the modern luxury travelers who don’t want to feel like a Colonial with a staff fawning over you all the time.
The pool is perfect for cooling off on hot days in the Namib desert
Emms, our guide and tracker was incredible. He was friendly and warm and just plain fun to hang out with and have a chat. Fatima keeps things the ship running tight back at camp. There are only 10 tents, so the camp feels intimate.
Looking from the pool into the dining pavilion
Located in the private the Hoanib River Valley in the Private Palmwag Concession, the property is remote and way off the grid. It’s luxurious for sure, but you’re glamping.
The living room in the
There is no wifi, phone service, or television. With your days filled with game drives and wildlife walking through the camp serving as “Namibian television.” I did not miss being connected. That being said, we did pack our own satellite phone for emergencies.
Left: The main tent looks gorgeous against the desert landscape Right: Zulu baskets
Clement let me know I could send an email from the office if it was necessary.
Table in the dining tent facing the gorgeous rocky landscape
Left: the communal living room Right: The fresh lemonade was my personal favorite beverage
You’re not exactly roughing it here. The bathrooms were spacious, chic and had plenty of hot water heated by the solar panels that surround the camp.
I loved the modern safari chic vibe of Hoanib’s communal living room