“Time flies when you’re having fun!” When I was a kid, I thought I knew what that saying meant … birthday parties were Pet Blogger Challengeover in the blink of an eye, summer vacations dissolved in an instant. But, as I get older I realize that time seems to be accelerating at an increasingly alarming speed. Here we are, at the beginning of 2015, for the Fifth Pet Blogger Challenge. I’m grateful to be here. And I’m grateful for the familiar faces and the new faces that are joining us for today’s event. We each have a fresh 365 days in front of us … let’s take this opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments and set our intentions, so we charge off into the new year heading in the right direction.

If this is the first you’ve heard of the Pet Blogger Challenge and you’d like to participate, you can find all the details and the questions in this post.

This Year’s Questions:

1. How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone stopping by for the first time, please give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

We started Take Paws 5 1/2 years ago as a way to promote our pet travel website, GoPetFriendly.com, and to inspire other people to travel with their pets. The blog compliments our database of pet friendly locations by providing our readers with information on pet friendly vacation destinations, tips for making their trips go smoothly, and the chance to learn from our mistakes.

2. Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.

I’m proud to be here writing content that is helping people travel with their pets. I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to receive a note from someone who’s decided to take their furry family member along on vacation because something I’ve written has given them the confidence to try.

3. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own blogs?

The biggest lesson I learned this year is to believe in myself. I’ve always had a vision of what I wanted GoPetFriendly.com to be, but it wasn’t until the past year that I actually saw progress toward those goals. Many times over the past six years I’ve wondered if I was enough, if my idea was worthwhile, if I was ever going to be successful. Those insecurities kept me from making the connections I needed to move to the next level. This year, something changed. I started asking, and people said yes. Now we’re on the threshold of some very exciting times.

4. What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

My answer to this question last year was to leverage social media, and that is still a major component of my strategy to increase blog traffic. Facebook is still my most successful social media platform, with Twitter coming in second, but I’ve seen a big jump in Pinterest, and I’ll be spending more time developing that area this year.

The other strategy I’ve used to increase blog traffic is to write evergreen content that answers an important question and stays relevant for a long time. Then, keep promoting that content on social media.

5. What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?

My most popular blog post in 2014 was, The Six Pet Friendly Hotel Chains Where Pets Stay Free. What surprised me is that this post was written in 2012 and received little traffic in 2013. In 2014, I re-promoted the post, tweeted it every month, and included it on one of my Pinterest boards … and the page views jumped by 928%!

6. What was your favorite blog post to write this year?

The blog post I enjoyed writing most this year was, Low Clearance. It’s about the craziest, mixed up, near-disaster-of-a-day that we’ve had since we started traveling. But, everything turned out alright, Rod and I kept our heads and, looking back, it was almost too ridiculous to be true!

7. Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year?

I made a decision a couple years ago not to do product reviews and giveaways on the blog without being fairly compensated for my time, and I don’t expect that to ever change. Now when companies ask me to promote their products without compensation, I offer them the opportunity to be featured in the “Something for Nothing” section of my newsletter.

If you do reviews, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?

For product reviews, I find that only writing about products that I really enjoy works best for me. I think my audience appreciates learning about pet travel gadgets and gear that could make traveling easier for them, but if I’m not excited about it, why should they be?

Writing a negative review is something that I absolutely won’t do. Bashing a product or company publicly doesn’t fit with my brand image, so those opinions are something I’d only share privately. 

8. What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?

Write from your heart about things you love. Passion is contagious, so people will be excited to read your posts. But more importantly, life’s too short to spend time writing about things you don’t care about. If you can’t think of anything you’re itching to write about, step away from the computer and come back when you have something you’re just bursting to share!

9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2015?

My goal in 2015 is to help even more people have fun traveling with their pets! That means expanding my skills to better connect with our audience, finding new ways to promote the blog and website, and exploring different avenues to reach the pet travel community.

10. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

When you do something every day, it becomes automatic and you don’t think about it anymore. Imagine having to explain to someone how you brush your teeth … when’s the last time you actually thought about it? You just put it on automatic pilot and … shazam … it’s done!

After traveling full-time for almost five years, it’s becoming second nature and we’re failing to see some of the things that we used to consider challenges. The thing I’d love help with is to be reminded of the questions people have and the challenges they see when they start planning a pet friendly vacation. Please, leave a comment below and let me know what information you’d find helpful in planning a trip with your pets.

 And, that’s a wrap on the 2015 Pet Blogger Challenge! Many thanks to all of you for making 2014 a success for Take Paws and to all the bloggers participating today! I hope you’ll enjoy hopping through the rest of these posts as much as I will!


Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
Pet Friendly Hotels | Pet Friendly Destinations | Pet Friendly Activities

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  • Pamela, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the way you’ve embraced the Challenge. I’m still working my way through the posts, and every one I’ve visited has a thoughtful comment from you. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. And, I love your suggestion for a waiver from the crazy restrictions some hotels impose. Any hotel that doesn’t welcome Honey needs to be the object of our most enthusiastic dissension! We’ll have to work on that.

  • Hi Hawk! Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hear you with the challenge of finding a hotel that accepts big dogs. I’m going to have to write a blog post on hotels that are “big dog” friendly!

  • GoPetFriendly.com I look forward to it!!! (We sorta took everyone on a “trip” when we moved back to Bloomington… 2 days of driving, 1 hotel stay, Emmett, Lucas, Cooper, Molly, and Newt. Never. Again.)

  • Thank you for participating in the Challenge, Maggie! I agree – I always learn so much. I’ll get to work on a blog post to answer your question. If you’re planning to take your whole herd on a trip, it’s going to require some research! ;-)

  • Thank you for connecting, Shannon! I’m looking forward to following you and Rama, and if there’s anything I can do to make your trips go more smoothly, let me know. Waggin’ trails!

  • Thank you for participating in the challenge, Jackie! I completely understand how traveling with a reactive dog can be a challenge – Buster, being a German Shepherd, feels the need to keep us informed of every coming and going as well. I do have a couple suggestions for you. First, consider getting a two-room suite. We just stayed at a Drury Inn and opted for the suite so we could close the door to the bedroom and have a whole room between us and the hallway at night. Also, we usually take the boys’ iCalmDog music player, but a white noise machine would also be handy to cover any noise that Rita might hear. Finally, you can ask the hotel to put you in a room at the end of a hall – away from the elevator – so there’s less traffic going past your room. Hmmm, this became such a long comment, I guess I should have written a blog post! Maybe I still will! ;-)

  • Thank you for participating, Jodi! I love this Challenge for the same reason you stated – which is why it takes me so long to get through all the posts! I’m constantly making notes and planning tweaks for my own blog as I read other peoples’ suggestions. All the best to you in 2015.

  • Thank you, Mel. One of the unforeseen benefits of starting the website was making such dear friends along the way. I’m so fortunate to have you as a friend, and I really appreciate your note of support. Happy 2015 to you!

  • Thank you so much, Kim. Word of mouth has been the way the site has grown for the past 5 years, and I’m so grateful to all my friends for sharing what we do. As for a post on organization and expectations for timing – that’s a great idea! I have a lot to say about that, and I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about how much longer everything seems to take when you’re traveling with pets!

  • YES! We will definitely talk about what can be done to alleviate your travel challenges, Jodi. I want you, Koly, and Fe to have many fun and easy trips to the lake this year, so let’s get on it!

  • I think we all struggle with self confidence, Jessica – and you’ve had an exceptional amount of stuff on your plate in addition to Grad school over the past few years. I think you’ve done a fantastic job with your blog, and I can’t wait to see where you’ll take it once you put the self doubt aside! It would be great to meet up with you out of the road!

  • Thank you, Robin! The Challenge is always a blast for me – though it takes me a long time to get through all the posts and finally get back to the comments that were left on my own blog, so thank you for your patience … and happy blogging!

  • I couldn’t agree with you more, Vicki – we certainly have learned a lot since we started blogging. And this challenge always reminds me that there’s so much more to learn! That’s part of the fun of doing something new, I guess. There’s always something to keep us busy.

  • Thanks for hosting again this year. It’s always fun to see what everyone writes and to meet new bloggers. I’m excited to see what you do in 2015. Your site shows what having clear goals and taking action can do for you.

  • Thanks for hosting the Challenge again this year. I’m so glad that things are coming together for you on the website, and you are on the verge of exciting things! It’s interesting to see how many of us started our blogs at approximately the same time – some of us as hobbies, some of us for side income, and some of us as our primary source of income. We’ve all learned so much, and that’s the benefit of sharing with each other through this Challenge.

  • Thank you for hosting this challenge once again! I agree that you have to write about what you love. It is so important to just be yourself and not let an “image” or what your readers “might” think get the best of you. It always surprises me how people are able to tell when I am genuine and when I’m not. I wish I had more help for you in the travel department, but I almost never have the opportunity to travel. I will make sure to talk to you if I do get an opportunity to travel with my cats so I can tell you my thoughts/questions even if I have already resolved them.

  • I love your site Amy am proud to know you guys. Self doubt is a big one and I know it’s a major reason I am not where I want to be today. I do have to acknowledge that being in Grad school makes it hard for me to devote full-time efforts to me dream (not, it’s not just because I am a loser) but I know I really need to be confident in my goals this year. Oh…..and I have been dreaming of traveling the country with Chester and Gretel :)

  • You’ve built this site into such an amazing spot to visit an you always inspire me to get out more with the dogs, even if it’s just to find the pet friendly haunts in our own town.I think we’ve chatted about what my travel struggles are and I really, really want to brainstorm with you before late spring/Lake season starts!

  • Amy, you have so much to be proud of with your website and business! I love telling people about what you offer, it’s priceless info and hard to come by otherwise. Helping people travel with their pets makes for happier folks and happier pets; a better world, surely, thanks to you. Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s awesome! As for what GPF can help with – I’m sure you’ve written about it already, but any and all tips for being organized and planning well time-wise (it sometimes takes a lot of extra time with pets due to their needs – or quirks!) would be great. You already provide the trip planner, so the trip part is well taken care of!

  • Great post Amy. I love that you are pushing past the insecurities and seeing doors open for you. That should be inspiration for us all. It’s great to see how much you have done to help people travel with their pets. I am proud to call you a friend and happy to promote your product with everyone I know. Wishing you an awesome 2015!

  • I enjoy taking this challenge. It gives me food for thought and makes me think about where I want to go with my blog. It always amazes me how my vision of my blog changes from year to year. You are doing a great job with your business. I think it’s awesome to have this kind of resource available. Thank you for hosting.

  • Thanks for hosting this fun and interesting hop. I’ve found some great new blogs including yours! We will definitely be following you, because we are driving from Louisiana to Washington with Bentley and Pierre. Pierre is moving home to his mom. ☺

  • Thanks for hosting this! And thanks for the Pinterest advice. I need to be better about posting my pics from my blog over there. I rarely even go to Pinterest anymore (it’s just such a tempting time-suck when I go there!). As for your questiion, the biggest challenge we have for traveling with Rita is her reactivity. I don’t think we can really take her to hotels anymore because the noises in the nigth really set her off! She has to bark to warn/protect us! So mortifying! She does great when we stay at VRBO type rentals, but hotels/motels are unfortunately out for us, which can make things a little more complicated!

  • Thank you for allowing us to participate! How fun! We are now following you across your various social media platforms. Since we will be doing some traveling this year, we will definitely be reading more! Shannon– Walks With Rama

  • Thank you so much for hosting this again! It’s so valuable, and I gain tons of insights from reading everyone else’s entries! I’d love to know more about traveling with multiples. I know some hotels and places restrict number of dogs to 1… how do you manage to find all the best spots when you have more than one?

  • Something you didn’t tell, made me very curious! Whatever it will be, I am sure you will share it in the near future, so I will have to be patient. Congrats on the all the success you are achieving with gopetfriendly, Amy.

  • Great answers and thanks for posting, my first year taking part. As for your help question. We do travel a lot so have probably forgotten the challenges, but always struggle to find places to eat out in advance with our dogs without having to go in and ask.

  • Thank you for hosting this! This is my first year participating, and it’s fun! I love getting to learn what is working for other bloggers and what their advice is. This is giving me some great ideas of what I should and should not do and what I should pay attention most with my own blog.

  • Thanks for hosting this challenge….it really gets me thinking every time. I know when reading other posts I’ll find some insight that is really helpful. We don’t travel with our pets at this time, but if/when we ever do start, this is the first place I’d come for information and advice!

  • Thanks again for sponsoring the best pet blogger community event of the year.As for questions for GPF to answer, I’d like to see a post on challenging the less-reasonable restrictions some so-called pet friendly hotels place.For instance, limiting dogs to 20 pounds when my 50 pound dog is quiet and well mannered. Or requiring people with pets to stay in smoking rooms (ugh!). Or charging high pet fees that are way beyond any additional cost the hotel takes on for cleaning.I think it would be cool if people would walk into hotels with crazy restrictions and quietly and calmly ask for a waiver. I’d love to see posts on that. And it just might start a movement.

  • Thank you for hosting this challenge once again, it is now our third year! Love that post about pet friendly hotels. We travel and the hotel is always that biggest issue as we are often three dogs, 2 40 lbs and one 75 lbs. None of us like the cheap Motel 6 type hotels as they are not nice, loud, and no one gets any rest. Drury Inns we love and have been able to stay with all three of us dogs.

  • Hi Y’all!Oh the biggest problem I have traveling with my Humans is finding a place that accepts a 100 lb dog. Most places seem to have a weight limit. The nice places where my Humans like to stay only accept little lap dogs. Since we don’t have a camper, hotels are the only answer.Loved your post and I’m headin’ off to read that popular hotel post. Y’all come on by,Hawk aka BrownDog

  • Thank you for hosting this challenge – I love the advice and inspiration I’m getting from it. It’s such a great way to add even more support and encouragement in the pet blogging community.

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