As every pet owner knows, pets are a part of the family. Leaving much-loved dogs and cats at home when it’s time to go on holiday can be a stressful time for pets and owners alike.
Fortunately, it's now easier than ever for pet owners to make their four legged friends a part of their holiday! A holiday with your pet can be a new adventure for the whole family and the source of many happy memories. Travelling with a pet also allows owners to avoid the guilt and expense of leaving their furry friends at a boarding facility or with an unwilling family member. More importantly, bringing your pet with you on holiday could reduce the risk of your beloved dog or cat suffering problems such as separation anxiety, or simply distress at being apart from the “pack.”
If you are planning a pet-inclusive holiday abroad, the first step is to make sure your pet has a valid, up-to-date pet passport. Most veterinary surgeons can arrange pet passports and advise you on how to make sure your pet is travel-ready. The main requirements for a pet passport are a valid microchip and an up-to-date rabies vaccination (given no less than 21 days before travel.) All the official details can be found here.
Many of the major ferry lines recognise that pets are part of the family, want to enjoy the holiday with their owners and now carry dogs and cats for a low fare, or even for free. However, rules on where and how pets can be carried vary, so it is important to check carefully to make sure both you and your pet will be comfortable while at sea. In many cases, pets must remain either in the owner’s vehicle or in an approved pet carrier or kennel for the duration of the journey.
To help you make the right choice for your pet, here is a summary of the pet-friendly services offered by some of the major ferry operators.
Brittany Ferries will carry your dog or cat (or ferret!) to France for just £16.50 (although the return route is £24.75). A trip to Spain is more expensive, at £69. Ships on some routes offer the luxurious option of pet-friendly cabins, complete with air-conditioning and en-suite. Other routes offer the choice of leaving your pet either in your vehicle or in one of the on-board kennels. There are also some routes where pets must stay in the owner’s vehicle; however, it is possible to visit your pet on request during the journey.
P&O accepts dogs, cats and ferrets on the Dover-Calais route for £15 per pet each way. Dogs must stay in the owner’s vehicle during the crossing – foot passengers are not permitted to bring pets.
DFDS offers pet-friendly cabins on the Newcastle-Amsterdam route. These 4-bed, sea-view rooms can house up to two medium-size dogs for an extra charge of £25 per dog. The charge for pets staying in a vehicle is £19 each way, with kennels available for an additional £6 (kennels must be secured inside the vehicle.) On other DFDS routes, pets need to travel inside the owner’s vehicle for the duration of the journey.
Caledonian demonstrates its pet-friendly credentials by welcoming pets free of charge. On most Caledonian ferries, dogs are allowed in all outside areas. Some larger vessels also have designated indoor areas for pets. Dogs should be kept on a lead at all times.
Pets travel free inside owners’ vehicles on journeys to the Channel Islands. Condor charges £10 each way for pets travelling with a foot passenger, and pets must be kept in an RSPCA-approved pet carrier, which will be stored in a special area of the car deck. Taking your pet on Condor’s St Malo routes costs £25 for a return ticket and your pet must stay in your vehicle.
All Wightlink ferries carry pets for free. Although Wightlink recommends that pets stay in vehicles, vessels do have designated pet-friendly areas. As all Wightlink routes are domestic, there is no need for a pet passport.
Stena Line services to Holland offer three different sizes of on-board kennels for pets large and small. Pets may stay in vehicles, but Stena Line advises that their kennels are a safer choice. On services to Holland, pets in vehicles travel for free. On-board kennels cost £30 and must be booked in advance.
If you fancy a faster journey, Eurotunnel can whisk you and your pet to France in just 35 minutes. You and your pet stay together for the whole journey and there are dedicated pet exercise areas at both terminals. The charge is £19 per pet each way.
Your tickets are booked and you’re ready to go. As well as remembering to pack your pet’s food, bed and favourite toys, there are a few final things to consider.
Make sure you give your dog plenty of exercise and time for toileting, particularly if you have a long journey ahead of you, or if your dog will have to stay in your car or a kennel.
Vets recommend that pets should be fed a few hours before starting the journey, to reduce the risk of travel sickness.
Allow plenty of time for check-in, as your pet’s paperwork will need to be checked. On some routes, operators recommend that you allow two hours for the check-in process.
If your pet will be staying in your car or a kennel while on board, check the arrangements for visiting. Many ferry operators require passengers to be accompanied by a crew member when visiting the car deck, for example, or access may be restricted during the beginning or end of the journey. If you can take your pet to other parts of the vessel, you might need to bring a muzzle.
With the right preparation, your journey need not be an ordeal for you or your pet. Instead, it could be a great start to a wonderful holiday.
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