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How to Holiday with Your Pets

14 September 2015

UK - It’s normal for people to see their pets as members of the family, and this means doing everything together. Holidays are no exception; the thought of leaving your beloved companion at home while you jet off for a well-deserved break may fill you with apprehension and sadness, but these days, it needn’t even enter your head.

More and more getaway destinations are willing to accommodate people with pets, and an increasing number of holidaymakers are capitalising on this. One study from flea and tick medicine brand Frontline Spot On found that a third of animal-owning Brits regularly take their furry friends away, at an average extra cost of £126.

It’s not quite as easy as booking onto a last-minute flight and leaving the next day, but with a little planning, you can enjoy your trip safe in the knowledge that your pet is happy by your side.

Choosing a destination

We all have our favourite places to go, and many of us return to the same destinations year after year. If you’re considering taking your pet for the first time, though, you’ll need to make sure your chosen location is suitable.

First and foremost, think about comfort; especially when it comes to heat. If it’s normal to find your canine companion hiding from the sun in the garden shade, they’re unlikely to enjoy the blistering sun of Egypt or Morocco, for example.

Instead, consider the things your pet enjoys doing at home and find a destination that can offer similar activities in a safe environment, while also giving you something to get excited about.

The internet is your friend here; companies like Island View Holidays and Hoburne, for example, allow you to add dogs to bookings through their websites. You can also use it to learn about the experiences of other pet owners. They’ll no doubt have tips and advice to pass on.

Your choice of transport may also influence the destination...

Which method of transport?

By sky: As is the case with accommodation, more and more airlines are making it possible for holidaymakers to travel with their pets. Before you go ahead and book anything, though, be sure to check with prospective carriers as each one will have its own procedures and rules. Some only accept small to medium dogs while others have age restrictions in place.

Every effort will be made to ensure comfort throughout, but flying can still be a stressful and unnerving experience for a pet that spends most of their time stationary on the sofa, so bear this in mind.

You’ll also need to consider the documentation requirements that come with taking a pet across borders. Your airline should be able to help with this. 

By road: Chances are your pet has been in the car a few times already, even if it’s just to the local park or for trips to the vet. Taking them a bit further, then, shouldn’t cause any problems. Just be sure to plan some regular break stops, perhaps in a bit of countryside or even at a service station – as long as they have some space to run.

There are plenty of amazing places to which you can travel by car in the UK; the South West, for example, has some stunning scenery, while the northern national parks (the Peak District and Lake District) make for relaxing break destinations. That said, there’s nothing stopping you from driving further into Europe, with southern France particularly popular among families with pets.

By sea: Can’t decide between car and plane? A ferry is a great alternative that sits somewhere in between. Boats allow you to go further than a car but with even more comfort. With no sudden movements, your pet is unlikely to know they’re going anywhere until they arrive into their exciting new surroundings. What’s more, there’s no need to take any break stops; they can move and eat as they wish throughout the journey.

Make it a happy experience

Wherever you’re going, and however you’re getting there, the whole thing will be a big experience for your pet. The lack of familiarity can be enough to get them anxious and worked up, so you must do everything in your power to ensure they remain calm. With this in mind, here are a few ideas:

Help them acclimatise

There’s every chance your animal associates being in the car with scary vet trips, so it’s no wonder they get a bit unsettled every time it happens. In the build up to a car holiday, be sure to break this association by making regular trips to the beach or the park. The nerves will soon turn to excitement when they realise there’s something positive at the other end.

Make it feel like home 

Ensure your pet has its own home comforts to paw on trips away, as this can work wonders for keeping them calm. If you’re flying, check with the airline about its rules around toys and treats. In the car, you won’t have to worry about this, so pick a few of their favourite playthings to keep them occupied.

Be calm yourself

Despite their purpose, holidays can be pretty stressful for all of us. You may get lost in the countryside on the way, stuck in traffic or delayed. Just be aware that you getting worked up is only likely to make it more difficult for your pet to relax. Do what you can to remain calm throughout the trip, and when something goes awry, take solace in knowing your best friend is by your side.

What to do when you get there

When the journey’s over and you’re at the destination, it’s time to have some fun. Before anything, though, be sure to go for a long walk so that everyone can stretch their legs (pets included). A cold drink of water is a must at this point too.

It’s worth noting the location of the nearest pet shop and vet, just in case, and make sure you have everything you need for the duration of your stay. Aside from the things you should have already packed (bedding, leads, food/water bowls, toys etc.), you may want to get some extra food and treats.

Finally, take the time to settle into your new surroundings and plan some activities for the week ahead!

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