That’s me and my dog, Mayson. He is my best buddy. I rarely go anywhere without him and the times I leave him at home are the times I know I’m going somewhere where he’s not allowed in, like university (back in the days), or when I’m working. Any other time, he’s going with me. When I started planning for my big trip through Italy and the UK, I was planning the trip thinking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘we’ as there was no debate on whether or not he was coming with me. Though I knew that it could potentially be difficult, I wanted him with me every step of the way and I do not regret one bit of it. Yes, at times it was hard to find a place and often I paid a little more for accommodation, or we got ‘no, sorry’. I was also travelling on a budget and my budget had to include food for him. But as said – no doubts and no regrets – and with a little flexibility and some extra hours of research, our trip went smoothly. I think most of that is due to the fact that I did do my research – extensively – and made sure I was prepared.
I know I’m not the only one travelling with a dog (or any other pet for that matter) and I thought I’d share some tips, tricks and thoughts on how to and the best way of travelling with your beloved companion.
No. 1. Research.
DO YOUR RESEARCH. I cannot stress this enough – when travelling you should do some searching on the internet anyway, but especially when travelling with an animal in your care you have to be prepared. For me, it also required that I looked into dog food available in the countries I was travelling to as Mace has a grain allergy and is thus not allowed ‘standard’ dog food. I was lucky as both in Italy as in the UK there were plenty of options. But I left with the knowledge that it was there, which not only eased my mind but also saved me hours of searching for the right place to buy the right food. Focus your research on the countries normal dealings, handling and responses to animals as well. I can imagine people in Africa would respond to a dog differently than in a Western country like England. Your research should also focus on what the rules and regulations as with regards to bringing your pet into the country. In most Western countries, a pet passport and rabies treatment is enough. Sometimes they have to be chipped. But for the United Kingdom, all pets must have received a tapeworm treatment no more than 48 and no less than 12 hours before. Especially when travelling to rabies-free countries like Australia, you want to be prepared and sometimes (especially with Australia) being prepared takes time. I know that they recommend planning your trip down under 9 whole months in advance!
No. 2. Accommodation.
In the 21th century, we often believe that we can find anything we need on the internet. While this may be true, I find that the world wide web can, at times, be very daunting, imposing and scary. I get lost in all that information that is offered, reading all those words but never really finding what I really need. Finding a place to stay with your dog, I’ve found, can be like that. There are literally millions of pages out there that offer accommodation for you and your pet, but either they’re too pricey, not in the area where you want to go, or they can’t even be found. While it may be the case that at times there won’t be any accommodation available to you and your beloved companion, and sometimes yes – you have to pay a little more, but there are places out there! What I’ve found is that it’s easier to search with specific phrases. ‘Googling’ “holiday with dog” isn’t going to get you anywhere. Often I try to scale down the kind of accommodation I’m looking for. I avoid hotels because I don’t like them, but there are plenty that accept pets. I also always add which region I want to go to, as that narrows down your search results (though, let’s be honest here, that’s common sense). I know there are plenty of options available through AirBnB (when searching, they have a great filter for ‘pets allowed’), as do most sites). I don’t really like ‘hosting’ sites – where they’ve gathered lists of all sorts of places pets are allowed because I often feel like those are more expensive. I rather try to find those places directly. This is how I came across the Glendale Guest House when visiting the Lake District. I had my dog with me and saved myself a lot of money. Penrith also turned out to be an amazing place to wander through so imagine my happiness when I stayed at this place.
No. 3. Public transport.
Your research should also – if not most definitely – include any requirements for your mode of transportation. When in Italy, I relied mostly on trains and made sure I knew Mace was allowed on trains and under what circumstances. For example, all dogs must wear muzzles on any form of transportation in Italy, and you have to buy him the same ticket you’re using but with a 50% ‘discount’. Also, in the UK, dogs are usually allowed on the bus but it’s always up to the driver and he could deny you access. So when the weather was horrible (and we didn’t have the best summer while staying in the UK) I made sure I didn’t take the bus or that my dog was dry enough to be allowed on the bus.
No. 4. Flying with your pet.
This one in particular caused me some trouble and knowing the things I know now will save me a lot of problems and worries in the future. I researched airlines that transported animals but was overwhelmed with the responses and information. I looked into flying with my dog years ago and I remembered KLM being one of the best (if not the best back then, because not many airline companies were transporting live animals at that time) when it came down to flying with your pet. KLM is a Dutch airline company and since I’m from the Netherlands myself, I quickly opted to use them. Booking my flight and everything that is involved in that process, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have chosen KLM and I’ll definitely stick with them for a long time. They are relatively cheap compared to other airlines, but not the cheapest, and the same goes for my own tickets. However, what really convinced me was A. a long history and thus experience with transporting animals that are not cargo, and B. their customer support. I had to phone everytime I tried to get something arranged and not only were the people from KLM extremely friendly, they also helped me in every way possible. They listed everything I had to do before flying and making sure my dog would have a good experience flying. When the big day was finally there, each and every single member of staff knew there was a dog on the plan AND who the owner was AND where I was seated. That really put my mind to ease! I do have to stress (!) that not all rules and regulations apply to each and every single airline company. On our way to Italy, Mayson and I flew with KLM, but on the way back to the Netherlands, we flew with Aitalia which is a partner of KLM. For some strange reason, this also meant that they had different rules and regulations. For instance, the flight case I used to transport Mace in when using KLM was perfectly fine, yet caused some problems with Aitalia. Not to mention that I thought the staff was a lot less nice and polite and not everyone was aware of my dog flying with them, but they did check into it every time I asked and made sure the information they passed on to me was correct and as up to date as possible.
To sum it all up: 1. pick an airline company that you feel comfortable with – when you’re travelling with your pet, your pets well-being and safety should be first, pricing somewhere down the ladder. I happily pay €50,- extra so I can fly with KLM than any other company. 2. Make sure you know your stuff! Prep your dog (this also includes, in case it’s the first time, to let your dog get used to his or her flight case!) and make sure you’re prepared yourself too. Do you need blanket in the flight case, yes or no? Did you tag your case in some way so that should it happen and your dog gets lost, they know who the owner is and where to take him too? (Side note: with KLM they attached forms in a secure, plastic bag to the flight case with all the necessary details needed, but you can never be too sure.) If you’re flying with different airlines, even if they are partners, KNOW YOUR STUFF and know the rules. And 3. Do not be afraid to ask people when flying. I was asking people constantly – when checking in, when leaving him with customs, before boarding the plane, when/as I was boarding the plane and even on the plane. It’s your pet. If he’s coming with you on your travels, he means something to you, so ask. Personally, when you’ve found an airline that you feel absolutely comfortable with and after I asked my questions and the flight attendant knew about my dog and knew about me, I found my seat, sat down and felt at ease.
Also check out these handy websites pettravel.com and bringfido.com. Make sure you double check your information though!