When travel crazy couple Karolina and Javier adopted a five month old dog, they didn’t let it slow them down. Fabio the dog went everywhere with them and fit into their travel heavy lifestyle seamlessly. Now, a year later, Fabio has been on all sorts of adventures with his family, including a two month, multi country road trip. In just one year, the rescue dog traveled to Norway, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Spain. He’s seen more of Europe than most people! Karolina and Javier explain how Fabio adapted to their lifestyle, what surprised them most about their trips, and tell us a little about their favorite dog park in Europe!
What inspired you to travel with your dog?
We both love traveling and we were both dreaming of having a dog for a long time. Since traveling is our life, we knew we would travel together even before we actually adopted him. Therefore, we decided to look for a dog that would be small enough to fit comfortably in our van and easily picked up if needed. Apart from the size, we focused on his character as well. We hoped for a dog that would be brave enough not to be scared of city noise, public transport, and most of all, people (for the sake of border controls, etc.). On the health side, we wanted a dog that wouldn’t suffer from motion sickness as we knew we would travel mostly by car. Then we found an online ad featuring Fabio – five months old small puppy that loves everybody and doesn’t seem scared of anything – and we just knew he was our perfect match. The rest was on us. From day one, we took Fabio everywhere to acquaint him with public spaces, crowds, and other dogs. The only thing that concerned us is that he actually grew a bit larger than expected – he is still small, but getting up to nearly seven kilograms may be an issue for future plane rides. We have already started preparing a list of airlines that would let Fabio travel in the cabin.
How did you prepare your dog for the journey?
We bought a cage that is spacious enough for Fabio to feel comfortable and fits in our car. We encouraged him to spend time in the cage while at home so that he feels safe in there. We started with short car trips of 5 to 100 km so that Fabio gets used to being in the vehicle. As we mentioned before, we took him wherever we were going from the very beginning so that he wouldn’t be scared of any sudden changes. We also went on at least one long (more than an hour) walk per day to get Fabio in shape for future hiking and sightseeing trips.
What was the hardest part about traveling with your dog?
The hardest was the fact that we couldn’t be sure we would provide Fabio with good and immediate veterinarian help if needed. We traveled through various countries and we were scared we wouldn’t be able to communicate with vets in some of them. On the other hand, we would have the same issue if one of us needed medical help as well. Such overthinking could have ruined the joy of traveling, so we prepared our dog as best as we could, put a smile on our faces, and just started driving.
Another thing we were afraid of were the homeless, unleashed, or unsupervised dogs we would meet on the way. One does not encounter any of these where we live in Scandinavia. We knew it would be different in every country. Fortunately, nothing bad ever happened.
The only problem that we faced during our Eurotrip was that taking public transport wasn’t always an option. Mont Saint-Michel is a good example here. The mountain itself is 2.5 km away from the parking lot. There is a shuttle bus that accepts small dogs but only carried in the appropriate container, which we didn’t have. Thus, our only choices were to use the kennel service (which was not an option for us) or resign from the shuttle. As we arrived at the parking lot about an hour before the sunset, we were short on time. Fortunately, we had our bikes attached to the car. We had used them earlier during that trip, in the Netherlands, and so we knew Fabio would be perfectly ok running next to a bike. That saved the situation.
What was the best part of the trip?
There are thousands of them but we will name two. First, the enormously huge dog park in Malmö, Sweden. It is situated by the sea, covered with green grass, and we could see that it is thoroughly cared for. There is also a nice agility section. We visited Malmö a few times during our trips and always came back to that place. Fabio loves it there!
Another highlight was the dog beach in Scheveningen, in the Netherlands. The weather was perfect that day – it was relatively warm, but the sun was not too strong, so that it was safe to have Fabio there with us. Since the weather was not good for sunbathing, the beach was almost empty. It was just us three and another woman with a Border Collie puppy. Both dogs loved each other and played together for quite a long time.
How did locals react to a foreigner with a dog?
They usually mistook us for locals too and would begin conversation in their language. Especially, while visiting places like dog parks or dog beaches, where we usually wouldn’t go with cameras hanging from our necks. However, in Western and Northern Europe, speaking English is generally not a problem, so we could carry on conversation in most cases. Locals usually asked basic questions about Fabio, the most frequent one being “what breed is he?” A majority of the dogs we met on the way were either pure breed or a mix that closely approximated a specific breed. Fabio is not similar to any particular breed, and that’s what arouses curiosity. In Poland, the problem of homeless dogs and their uncontrolled breeding is huge, so there are plenty of dogs like Fabio. This was sometimes hard for Norwegian and Dutch locals to understand, who would try to fit Fabio into a particular category (e.g. like chihuahua).
Tourists also mistook us for locals, most likely because of the dog. They asked for directions a few times. We also met travelers who told us that they had left their own dog at home for the time of holidays and they missed them a lot.
How did you find accommodation on your journey?
For now, we’ve only traveled with Fabio in our van, which is equipped with a bed, and most of the time we sleep in there. We used campsites a couple of times in Norway, which was extremely easy since all of the ones we checked accepted dogs. During our two month long Eurotrip, we used hotels only three times – once in Sweden and twice in the Netherlands. We simply searched for a hotel on booking.com, choosing one that was listed as pet-friendly. We always call reception before the actual booking just to make sure. Double checking is a good idea, as some of pet-friendly hotels don’t actually accept dogs in all of the rooms, and because some are actually not pet-friendly at all despite appearing as such online. Most of the hotels add an extra fee per pet per night and it’s just nice to know the total price in advance.
What were some essential items that you packed for your dog?
The EU pet passport, a short leash, a retractable leash, and a long leash, bowls, kibble, and treats for the whole trip, a towel, toys, a cooling mat and cooling bandana, and a paw cream since we walked a lot. We also took Fabio’s standard walk equipment, which includes a collar with a name tag and our phone numbers, an anti-parasite collar, and a harness with a small light attached to it so that our dog is always visible.
What surprised you the most about this trip?
Most of all, we were surprised at how easy it was to travel with Fabio in general. He is a born traveler. We cannot believe how lucky we are to have a dog like Fabio. He sleeps peacefully in his cage while we’re driving, he loves long walks and hikes, and nothing ever scares him.
Another surprise was the attitude towards dogs in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. These countries are so much more pet-friendly than our homelands! Pets are welcome in many public places, even including shopping centers. There are bowls of water for dogs in front of shops and bars. We don’t recall seeing “no dogs” signs in any lawn in these countries, something quite frequent in Poland or Spain.
Do you plan to travel with your dog in the future?
Definitely. Each time a new country pops up in our minds, we start our research to check the requirements for Fabio. If quarantine is required, we search for an alternative destination. Fortunately, there are many countries we haven’t visited yet.
What advice do you have for people who want to travel with their dog, but are nervous to do so?
Just give it a try. Start with small trips nearby, and see how the dog reacts. Start taking him or her with you to a city center, a bar, use public transport together, and get familiar with the crowds. Do your research. Check the requirements that you may need to meet for any country you want to visit, even if it is just a stopover. Traveling with your pet is a wonderful experience and an amazing bonding opportunity. After all, a dog is a part of the family, and the family should stick together.