Opinions are vastly divided on the idea of taking holidays with a pooch in tow. Pet lovers are all for it, and those who are not so animal-friendly think it is unnecessary to add stress to fellow travellers’ vacation by bring your four-legged baby along. My husband and I are both passionate about travel but the very idea of going out to have fun while our furry baby sulks alone at home breaks our hearts. And so, bringing him along on holidays has been the norm. Scornful looks and dirty stares from other vacationers be damned!
That being said, travelling with a pet is never easy. It involves a lot of planning and preparation. Here’s my two scents on what I have learnt about planning pet-friendly holidays through our share of hits and misses:
Choose Your Destination Wisely
If you are bringing your pet on a holiday, make sure it is somewhere they too can have fun. There is no point making the poor baby travel all the way only to keep him locked up in a room while you go about exploring a new place. That happened to us when we travelled to Agra. Our accommodation was very close to the crowded Sadar Bazaar and most heritage buildings in the city had a ‘no pets’ policy. Of course, you can’t expect to waltz into the Taj Mahal or Fatehpur Sikri with a dog on leash. That there are numerous strays roaming about like they own the place is another matter. For two out of our four days in Agra, we had to leave him behind for extended periods of time and that was a bad call. We have since chosen destinations where he too can go out have fun. Most dogs love the beach or mountain trails, so there are quite a few options to choose from. Holidays should anyway be about going back to nature.
Consider Your Mode of Travel
This is another thing you need to take into account when finalizing a destination. While it is possible to travel with your pet by train or air, both of these are rather complicated procedures. The Indian Railways, for instance, only allows pets in the first class compartment and for that too booking all berths in a cabin is pre-requisite. Even then, if other passengers on the train object to the presence of an animal onboard, your pet is removed to the Luggage/Brake Van and kept in a crate. For air travel, your pet needs to be sedated and put in a crate which is then lodged in cargo. Both these options don’t fit our idea of pet-friendly travel. So we try to stick to road trips as far as possible. It gives you a lot of freedom to make pit-stops and night halts as per your convenience. Besides, there is nothing quite like hitting the road with your favourite people. Our now 6-year-old GSD, Adolf, has accompanied us on every trip we have taken, with an exception to Kerala because that involved air travel. His took his first road trip with us to Nainital when he was all of five months and he seemed to love every bit of it.
Pick the Right Car
Our first vehicle was a Tata Safari, so our huge GSD almost had a room to himself during travels. He could get up, move about a bit, stretch and settle down in that space. His comfort has been a big consideration is finalizing our second one too. We have chosen the spaciousness of an SUV over the comfort of a sedan because cramming him up in the back seat just doesn’t feel right. If you own a sedan or a hatchback, consider renting a spacious SUV for your travels.
Make Prior Bookings
Sadly, there aren’t many pet friendly hotels in India. However, if you do your legwork well, you are likely to find at least one decent place in every city that’ll be happy to accommodate your pets. I have found homestays and resorts with separate cottages for guests more open to pets than conventional hotels. Expedia added a ‘pets allowed’ category to its search criteria back in 2012. Similarly, TripAdvisor has an option to search for property by the ‘pet-friendly’ tag. Some leading chain of hotels such as Vivanta by Taj and Four Season have a ‘pets allowed’ policy across all their facilities. It is always a good idea to call up the hotel/resort/homestay to confirm their policy on pets before making a reservation, irrespective of what their website or the internet tells you. A couple of years ago, I chanced upon this website called www.petvacations.in centred on providing accommodation options to people you like to travel with pets. Much to my dismay, the site has since closed down.
Packing for Your Pet
This is no less a challenge than packing for an infant. You need to make sure you have everything your furry baby may need to avoid causing any unnecessary stress that animals are prone to with a change in location or due to prolonged travel. Medicines, especially for vomiting and diarrhoea, cotton gauge and tape, dog food, treats, favourite toys, food measuring cup, food and water bowls, towel, leash and collar are the bare essentially that you must carry. If your pet has any other preferences – a preferred sleeping mat, for instance – take those into consideration while packing. If you travel or plan on travelling with your pet often, it is a good idea to get a sturdy casket for packing their belongings.
Take Vaccination Schedules and Illness into Consideration
It’s not a good idea to take your pooch on a long road journey soon after they have recovered from an illness or have had a vaccination, as it may impact their health adversely. Since vaccinations are fairly pre-scheduled, you can easily avoid planning a trip that overlaps or comes close together with your pet’s vaccinations. In case you have already planned a trip and your pet falls sick (and they do very often), always take clearance from the vet before going ahead with your travel plans.
Don’t Freak Out Over Changed Behaviour
Long road trips, unfamiliar destinations, new accommodation are all stress factors for furry babies, so don’t freak out if you notice slight changes in your pet’s behaviour. Sleeping a little more than usual or being sluggish after a long journey is normal, so is skipping meals or having an upset stomach. These symptoms usually fade away within a day or so. Don’t fret, your four-legged buddy will be back to their spirited self within the first 24 hours and be there to enjoy the rest of the holiday with you.
That’s pretty much all you need to know ahead of your maiden holiday with your pet. With time and experience, you’ll have tips of your own to share. Got some already? Share them with us in the comments section below.