When Iria and Alberto decided to travel through Europe a few years ago, they elected to take their adopted Border Collie mix Kan with them. Kan has visited over 15 countries and taken nearly every transportation method available, including planes, ferries, trains and buses. Recently, they added Veña, a German Shepherd mix that they adopted in Slovakia, to their family, and began traveling as a foursome. Here they tell us how they manage traveling with two large dogs, and why Kan and Veña make their travels even sweeter.
What inspired you to travel with your dog?
Since the beginning we’ve been a couple that loves to travel, and when we adopted our lovely, hairy friend he became an instant traveler too.
At first we traveled around Spain, but in truth it’s not a very pet-friendly country, which is why we soon started to travel abroad. The first place we went was France, but we felt an intense desire to get to know other countries around Europe that we had heard were great places to visit with dogs. We liked the idea of being able to enter restaurants and hotels with our dog, and to take trains and buses, things that are far more difficult to do with a dog in Spain.
It’s also important to note that I often travel alone, and as you know traveling as a solo female can be dangerous, so traveling with Kan makes me feel safe. He is my full-time caretaker! This past summer we traveled from Czech Republic to Spain, crossing the Alps and the entire Mediterranean coastline – it was wonderful and we enjoyed it so much. Traveling with your dog means you’re never alone!
How did you prepare your dog for the journey?
This always depends on the method of transportation. If we are going to travel by plane he needs a good amount of prep time at home, training and getting used to his cargo crate. The most important thing is for him to feel safe, and to trust that we will be back to pick him up. This is very important, and challenging, since he will be alone with strange noises.
Of course, before all such trips we give him lots of exercise and pick out his favorite toys, his food, and his passport. He also gets a visit to the vet where he’s usually given preventative medicine for internal parasites.
We always prefer to travel by van, which is so much easier because it means our home travels with us. We can stop whenever we want to do some exercise or simply enjoy the view.
What is the hardest part about traveling with your dog?
The hardest part is when we travel by plane and Kan needs to go in cargo. For me this is the hardest because we travel separately, but I know he is fine and remains a happy traveler. The day he resists we will of course stop, but so far Kan has been on almost 25 flights and we have never had a problem.
About a month ago we were traveling across High Tatras, in Slovakia. We saw an ad on Facebook for a three year old dog, a German Shepherd mix that had had a tough life. We felt bad and decided to adopt her. We call her Veña, but we are holding off on traveling by plane because Veña is still a bit anxious and lacks Kan’s self-confidence.
If we find a place where dogs are prohibited, we just make a new plan. That said, if we find an activity that we really want to do where dogs aren’t allowed, we’ll just look for a dog sitter who can keep them for a few hours.
What’s the best part about traveling with a dog?
For us, the best part is sharing our lives with them. We live together, and when we travel we can’t bear to be apart. We always prefer to adapt our travel plans to include the dogs.
We have always tried to lead a healthy life, getting exercise and eating well, and to be honest traveling with dogs has not changed this much, though we do also enjoy relaxing. In fact, for us this is the ultimate definition of the travel vacation.
Sometimes we hear about others who travel across Indonesia or backpack around Europe, hitting 15 cities in 20 days. For us this is far too stressful, and so we try to avoid that kind of pressure. Because of the dogs, we also try to spend more time surrounded by nature, avoiding cities when we can. But of course we also love urban areas, especially those in old Europe, which has some of the most beautiful cities in the world. Luckily, many of these places are pet-friendly, and you can explore Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest and Monaco, all without any problem.
How did your style of travel change now that your dog is with you?
I don’t think that my travel style has changed much, but he’s certainly changed my life in that now I’m a dog person. I now only plan trips that I can enjoy with my dogs. I guess you could say that I spend less time going out to parties and clubs, but that may also be because I’m getting older ?.
In Europe it’s easy to travel with dogs by train. We always confirm that dogs are allowed to stay in the hotels we book, but aside from this our travel style has hardly changed.
Speaking of, how do you go about finding accommodations on your journey?
I prefer to travel by van, because we have everything we need inside and it essentially serves as our home. It’s equipped with a full sized, normal bed, and we sleep perfectly.
But sometimes we do need to book a hotel, and it isn’t a problem. Around Europe it is very easy to find pet-friendly hotels. We always look for pet-friendly hotels, and of course double-check before booking, usually by email.
What were some essential items that you packed for your dog?
Some balls of course and their food. But this also depends on the weather, since sometimes we go to snowy locations and other times the beach.
We always need at least two towels, since they are multi-use – we use them as sheets and also for drying up. It’s super important for us because our dogs both love the water and both have long hair. It’s important to me to keep the dogs’ hair clean, so we always have a brush and towel ready to go!
I think it’s always possible to travel with dogs and keep them clean, but for some breeds you need to take more time brushing their hair. We also keep a natural insect repellent in our bag because we love to spend time outdoors but want to protect the dogs from external parasites.
What surprised you the most about traveling with dogs?
We are from Spain, which as I’ve said isn’t the most pet-friendly country. When we left Spain we discovered a new perspective, another level of respect between different lifestyles. We have learned to be respectful toward other cultures. Many of the countries in Europe are quite small, but they are rich in culture. There are so many different languages, drinks and food, and people in each place have different practices and mannerisms, things we try to understand and respect.
All of this is actually easier with dogs, since they don’t understand political borders. We learn from them to be happy, and to play with others without prejudice.
Do you plan to travel with your dog in the future?
Of course! Right now we are living in Czech Republic because it’s a central location in Europe from which to explore other European countries. In the future we’d love to do a world tour. We know that most people do this by plane, but it would be too expensive with two big dogs, and so we are thinking about setting off in our van from Europe to Asia!
But at the moment we are going to spend a bit more time in Europe. We still want to make it to Norway’s North Cape before we leave Europe!
What advice do you have for people who want to travel with their dog, but are nervous to do so?
If the dog is small, I’d say GO AHEAD!! With a small dog the dog can always stay with you, regardless of the mode of transportation. And of course, you’ll enjoy the trip so much more together. If the dog is an important part of your life then you’ll certainly have plenty of activities to do together – remember, travel is so much more than visiting museums.
Whenever anyone asks me if it’s easy to travel by plan, the answer is no. What I mean is that it isn’t easy, and you need to prepare mentally with the dog before they go in cargo. But of course, if you want to and have time, there are always ways to prepare and do things safely.
If you’re traveling in a car or van though, no worries! Europe is so easy by automobile!