The holiday season is just around the corner and it’s time to plan that trip home. While it’s a convivial period in normal years, this year has made home and hearth even more important. But all that travel planning can get tricky if you’re a pet owner. Do you leave your best pal behind or do you take them along?
From travel rules to the best modes of transport, to pet-friendly destinations and activities, check out all the information you need to organize your trip home with your furry friend!
Know before you go
In Europe, traveling between member countries is easy as rules are defined by the European Commission. For pets such as dogs, cats and ferrets, the guidelines are identical and no burdensome procedures are required.
To travel hassle free, your pet needs to:
*Have a transponder a.k.a. microchip
*Have a European passport provided by a veterinarian (yes, it’s a REAL passport!)
*Be vaccinated against rabies at least three weeks before travel
*Other animals such as reptiles, birds, rodents and rabbits should be marked or accurately described on their identity documents.
All checked? Great! Now it’s time to choose the most suitable mode of transport for you and your pet.
Trains and ferries: the best choice
The majority of European train providers allow pet travel with very few restrictions. Service dogs travel free, but the price, ticket and seating options for other pets differ from one company to another. For example, SNCF, Deutsche Bahn, Trenitalia, Thalys and Italo allow small pets to travel in an approved carrier with or without a ticket depending on their size, and they don’t need a reserved seat.
Ferries are also pet friendly but it may be necessary to purchase a ticket or place your pet in a cage or on a leash. Some providers offer spacious animal cabins, which allow your pet to stretch its legs and move around easily, a welcome option when you’re traveling long distances.
Flights: less predictable
Flight rules for pet travel are unfortunately inconsistent and depend on the airline. On flights where pets are allowed, cats and dogs weighing up to 18 pounds generally travel in the cabin or hold. The latter option can be scary but compartments are well-ventilated and temperature controlled. A certified cage where the pet can stand and lie down comfortably and whose dimensions don’t exceed the animal’s measurements is necessary in the hold.
NOTE: snub-nosed pets (pugs, Persian cats, etc.) are usually banned from planes because they can’t breathe easily in flight. Also, due to COVID-19, some airlines have changed their policies and no longer allow pets. Check with your carrier before booking your flight!
Buses: restrictions galore
Buses in Europe generally don’t allow pets on board unless they are service animals. Alsa is the one exception, allowing small pets in the cabin or hold if they weigh under 22 pounds.
The best pet-friendly destinations
Planning a holiday just with your pet? Here are some of our favorite activities and destinations:
Swimming with your dog in Bibione, Italy
Dogs have often been barred from beaches with good reason. But many seaside escapes have changed their policies to let you bring Fido along for a day in the surf and sun. Sandy Pluto’s Beach just outside of Venice is one of several in Italy that not only allows dogs but welcomes them with a variety of services—think dog beds and showers, personal bowls, dog-specific events and veterinarians in case things go awry.
Getting cozy with your cat in the Alps, France
Cat’s don’t like change so opt for a more relaxed vacation. What do cats love more than curling up in a toasty windowsill while watching the snow fall? Myriad rental chalets in the picturesque villages of France’s Haute-Savoie region allow cats. And if your cat likes exploring the outdoors, grab a cat backpack and take a tour of the foothills.
Hiking with your pig in Bavaria, Germany
Teacup pigs have become all the rage in recent years, thanks to their intelligence, empathy and overall cuteness. But pigs need exercise and lots of it. Bavaria is the perfect hiking getaway for four-legged animals thanks to its plethora of trails and forests. The 124-mile-long Altmühltal Panorama Trail situated just outside Munich features deep ravines and elevated forests, making it the ideal place for your little piglet to get some exercise.