Everyone has his or her own unique travel style. Some prefer solo adventures, many embark on journeys with the whole family, and others love a good getaway with the girls or the guys. But what if your closest friends have four legs, tails, and consider it normal to scamper around with their tongues hanging out? That’s right. Today we’re talking about dog friendly travel.
Traveling with your dog is growing in popularity as dog-friendly hotels, dog-friendly vacation rentals and even dog-friendly restaurants continue to pop-up in cities around the world. Prontopia chatted with Shandos Cleaver, the voice behind the popular travel blog Travelnuity, to understand how Prontopia Local Assistants can support pet lovers whether they are on or off the road. Read on to learn about dog friendly travel and find out what it’s like to cross the globe with man’s (or woman’s) best friend.
If you’re traveling with your dog in Italy, Spain, or Santa Barbara, California, a Prontopia Local Assistant can help you find the best dog parks, locate a vet or translate needs into the local language. If you are lucky enough to live in one of our cities, we can also help you with walking the dog, running to the vet or picking up cat food when you’ve got your hands full! Book a Prontopia local assistant to support your pet-related needs
How did you get started with blogging about dog-friendly travel?
I originally started out as a regular travel blogger, not blogging about dog-friendly travel at all, apart from one or two posts. But then we started travelling around Europe with Schnitzel, and it just seemed like such a good opportunity. There’s not many people who blog about travelling with pets so there’s a real lack of information (compared to say, posts about what to do in Paris).
How does North America, Europe and Australia compare with one another for dog friendly travel? Within Europe, you mentioned Italy is one of the most dog-friendly, why is that?
In general, Europe is the most dog-friendly region to travel in. Both the USA and Australia allow dogs in less places, whether that’s public transport, inside cafes or at hotels. However, it’s still possible to travel with a dog in each region, it’s about adapting to the options available. For instance, in Australia dogs aren’t allowed in national parks, but there’s plenty of great dog-friendly beaches.
Within Europe, the degree of dog-friendliness also varies between countries. Not every country allows dogs to join you inside restaurants, and larger dogs face restrictions on transport in some countries. Italy I found particularly dog-friendly partially as dogs are legally allowed in many places, including many tourist destinations, but also the locals tend to be relaxed and allow their dogs plenty of extra privileges!
What are the unique challenges you face when traveling with a dog in a country where you don't speak the language, where you would look to a Prontopia Local Assistant to help?
Often the rules that apply to dogs are only specified in the local language, whether signs at parks or even on tourist site websites, with the entire section on dog rules missing on the English version. It makes it harder to find out where dogs are allowed to join you.
Additionally, if you need to see a vet, whether to complete a pet health certificate or for an emergency, it can be tricky finding a vet who can speak English. In Sicily, we needed to visit a vet before taking Schnitzel to Malta. As we couldn’t find an English-speaking vet, we planned to rely on Google Translate, but the phone signal wasn’t the best; I don’t know how we stumbled through it!
What are Schnitzel's favorite destinations?
Some of Schnitzel’s favourite things are lazing in the sunshine and rolling in lush green grass, so he was a big fan of Denmark when we visited it during a heatwave in May. He wouldn’t stop rolling when we visited the parks!
On the other hand, he was not impressed with the snow when we visited Germany in winter. While we could warm up with glühwein at the Christmas markets, there wasn’t a doggie option available.
I also have to mention that he's obsessed with chasing squirrels. We don’t have squirrels in Australia, but when he spotted them abroad, he would get very, very excited, especially in Central Park in New York! He lets out these high-pitched squeaks, and it’s a must to keep a firm hold on his leash!
You recently wrote a comprehensive post about dog-friendly travel amidst CoronaVirus- do you think that the virus will have any impact longer-term on dog-friendly travel? For example will more people take driving trips, ie more likely to bring their dog, or will restrictions get tighter ie more difficult to bring the dog?
At least for the next year or two, I can see more people being reluctant to fly with their dogs internationally, in case flights are again cancelled and options to fly dogs are restricted, potentially leaving them stranded with their dog overseas. Definitely at the moment more people are taking road trips with their dogs, especially domestically.
The pet travel segment is growing, with more and more people wanting to travel with their pets. And I don’t see that slowing down, just changing destinations and travel types based on the current regulations.
I don’t see restrictions on pet travel being tightened due to coronavirus, as there is no evidence pets have transmitted the virus. However, Brexit may make pet travel in between the UK and the rest of Europe more difficult; it’s still up in the air and easy to forget with all the other events.
What is the hardest part about traveling with your dog? And the best part?
The hardest part is crossing international borders, at least outside of the European Union. It can be difficult to find the relevant regulations, especially if you don’t speak the local language. Then there’s getting the necessary paperwork completed (which the officials may barely glance at!) and stressing about the actual border crossing or passage through customs.
However, it’s all worthwhile to travel with Schnitzel by my side, and not leave him behind. He’s part of my family, and I love to share my travels with him.
Another beneficial aspect is that the locals treat you differently. We've had many more conversations with locals than normal, that usually start with questions about Schnitzel.
Are there any destinations you would visit where you wouldn't take your dog?
I would love to visit Iceland, a country I still haven’t gotten to, but I would leave Schnitzel behind as there’s a really long quarantine period - 4 weeks! It’s only intended to apply to people moving to Iceland, not tourists visiting with a dog.
Do you have any fun stories to share- the craziest thing that ever happened while traveling with your dog, or a really interesting experience either really great or really terrible?
One of the funniest occasions was in Spain, wandering around an old town. An old lady came out of a restaurant and insisted on giving Schnitzel some bread. Mind you, we couldn’t really speak Spanish and she couldn’t speak English!
She came back out with this massive hunk, that she gave to him a little at a time. Once he finished it off, we said thank you (a phrase we actually knew!) and went to head on our way. But she thought he was still hungry and wanted to go inside to get more! It's amazing how friendly people are, especially when a cute dog is involved.
At the other end of the spectrum, Schnitzel has an encounter with a stray cat on the island of Santorini. We’d been lazing in the sunset town of Oia, and started wandering the streets to find a spot to watch the sunset. We then heard a cat meow and it charged around the corner and launched at Schnitzel! (We later learnt that the local stray dogs harass the local stray cats, plus it had a kitten, so it was being proactively defensive.)
Schnitzel ended up with a slight tear on his ear, which is barely noticeable these days, but bled a lot! My husband’s legs actually copped the worst scratches. Luckily there’s a couple of vets on Santorini, and we got straight into one, who patched up his ear with some fibrous material and stopped the bleeding. Surprisingly vets are quite a bit cheaper in Greece than in Australia or the USA.
And the sunset? We missed it while we were at the vet!
Read next: What Is Zero Waste Travel?
What advice would you give to someone that was holding back on getting a dog because of fear of travel limitations?
I will admit, once you have a dog, unless you leave them behind when you’re travelling, it will affect the way you travel. Cheap Ryanair flights are out (it’s not a dog-friendly airline, accepting only service animals onboard), and it’s best to plan in advance, including booking dog-friendly accommodation and working out what's possible to do with your dog. However, it’s just about travelling differently, not about travelling less. It’s similar to how travel changes when you first have children, except your dog won’t clamour to go to Disneyland.
A lot of our readers are solo female travelers- is it more challenging to travel with the dog alone? How much extra "stuff" do you have to bring?
There are extra challenges to travelling with a dog alone, and as a couple I fully admired those who do so (and it’s usually women!) There’s the question of what to do when you use the bathroom or go into a grocery store, and the inability to share pet sitting duties. However, it’s still possible, as I know many people who do it; it just takes extra planning and being trusting of people.
I actually don’t bring that much extra along to travel with Schnitzel: the biggest thing is his bag of food, which is heavy when brand new. Some places supply items for pets, but I always bring along his bed and bowls also. The hardest situation is if you’re flying with your dog in the hold, and you need to manoeuvre one of the huge crates required! It’s one of the advantages of travelling with a dog small enough to fly in the cabin.
A big thank you to Shandos Cleaver for speaking with us about dog-friendly travel! You can follow along with her international adventures with Schnitzel on her blog, Travelnuity.
Photos courtesy of Shandos Cleaver
Prontopia is an online service that provides friendly, in-person help from pre-vetted local assistants in city centers in Italy, Spain and the U.S.