Arranging a vacation also means planning for your pets. Whether you want to take a cat or dog on your travels or leave them at home, follow our six step guide to happier holidaying for you and your four-legged friend.
1. Pet passports
The Pet Travel Scheme is the official arrangement that allows holidaymakers to travel in and out of the UK without needing to put their pets into quarantine.
To comply with the rules a cat, dog – or even a pet ferret – must be fitted with a microchip and vaccinated against rabies as well as have any required booster vaccinations. This can usually be done at a routine appointment with your vet.
Holidaymakers can travel in and out of the UK without needing to put their pets into quarantine with the Pet Travel Scheme
All this information must be recorded in a ‘pet passport’. This can normally be obtained from your vet at a cost of between £150 and £250 (sadly no cute photo is required).
As part of the arrangement, the rabies vaccination must be followed by a blood test to prove it has worked. A dog also needs tapeworm treatment before returning home.
This should be carried out by a vet between 24 and 120 hours before arrival back in the UK. The pet must also travel with an approved transport company on an authorised route (find a list at gov.uk).
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The UK accepts pet passports from EU countries and other European destinations such as Iceland, Gibraltar and Switzerland.
The scheme also applies to countries outside Europe, such as Hong Kong and New Zealand. For more information on the Pet Travel Scheme visit gov.uk/take-pet-abroad or call Defra’s Pet Travel Scheme helpline on 0870 241 1710.
2. Transport rules
Virgin Trains allows up to two dogs, cats or other small domestic animals to travel at no charge. For each additional pet, the cost is a maximum of £5 for a single ticket and £10 for a return. Those travelling with a fully trained assistance dog should call 03457 225 225.
Great Western Railways has similar rules (for a maximum two pets per passenger) and only charges if the pet takes up a seat. Dogs must be kept on a lead or in a rigid basket.
‘It’s easy to take pets away as long as you’ve dotted the ‘I’s and crossed the ‘T’s’
Rachel says it’s simple to take her two dogs away on holiday as long as she’s dotted the ‘I’s and crossed the T’s.’
Rachel Hayward has got into a regular foreign travel routine with her dogs Ludo, a cocker spaniel and Conker, a labrador.
Rachel, 55, from North Devon, travels frequently to the mountain town of Sion in Switzerland where her family has a holiday home. But there are costs and hassles involved in bringing her beloved pets along.
Apart from arranging the pet passports, there is the cost of the return ferry pet ticket to Calais and vet fees while abroad.
Rachel says: ‘It is straightforward taking your pets abroad so long as you have dotted the ‘I’s and crossed the ‘T’s.’
The dogs must have a rabies injection every three years, while Rachel ensures Ludo and Conker have a worming tablet between one and five days prior to returning to the UK which costs about £40 a time.
She says: ‘The vet needs to administer it and stamp and sign the pet passport.’
The Haywards have invited friends – and their dog – to the house for Christmas this year.
Rachel says: ‘I have told them not to be daunted by the pet passport – it is not that hard to arrange.’
Dogs may travel with paying owners on the Caledonian Sleeper for an extra £30 (so long as they are not travelling with strangers in a two-berth compartment). The fee is levied to cover the subsequent cost of cleaning the berth.
Those travelling through Eurotunnel pay a minimum £18 a pet (one way). If heading abroad on Eurostar, only guide and assistance dogs are allowed – and they must be booked on in advance.
If you want to fly with your furry friends, owners must ensure they have a pet passport (or equivalent for non-European countries) and choose the airline carefully. Some breeds such as pug nosed cats (for example Persian) and dogs (such as Pekingese) may not be allowed to travel on certain airlines because of breathing issues.
For traditional catteries and kennels, owners can expect to pay £15 a night for cats and up to £25 per night for dogs
Some carriers refuse to accept any pets, such as easyJet and Ryanair. The exceptions for most airlines, including easyJet and Ryanair, are guide dogs and assistance dogs.
They can usually accompany you in the cabin for free. Rules for those airlines that do welcome household pets vary. There may be restrictions on times when they can travel – with weekends often out of bounds – and they will usually be relegated to the hold.
With Air France, a small cat or dog weighing less than 8 kilos, including its container, may join an owner in the cabin (except if travelling business class on an international flight). The cost is about €20 within France, €75 within Europe.
With Thomas Cook, pets must travel in the cargo. Monarch will take pets (up to six per flight) which are carried in the hold. They can travel from all Monarch’s scheduled UK departure airports, but can only be returned via London Gatwick and Manchester.
Virgin Atlantic welcomes pets other than snub-nosed breeds. The fare is dependent on the size and weight of a pet plus its container. Owners can even earn air miles through the airline’s ‘Flying Paws’ scheme. Always check the rules with your chosen airline well in advance.
Pet passports can normally be obtained from your vet at a cost of between £150 and £250
You can take a cat or dog (or ferret) across the Channel on a ferry so long as you have a pet passport and use an approved carrier. You normally need to be a car driver as foot passengers are not allowed to bring pets on board.
On Brittany Ferries it costs £16.50 a pet to sail to France and £24.75 for the return leg. The return fare for Spain is £69 and includes kennel accommodation. With P&O, the cost is £15 per pet each way to travel on the Dover to Calais route, with registered Guide and Hearing Dogs travelling free of charge.
General advice is to feed a pet a few hours before boarding to avoid travel sickness. A night crossing may be best as your pet is more likely to spend the journey asleep.
3. Pet insurance
Some pet insurance policies include cover for overseas travel but check first as many offer it only as an optional extra. Even then, cover may not be extensive and contain lengthy exclusions.
Stephanie Corbett, head of pet insurance at comparison website comparethemarket, says: ‘We often look upon our pets as part of the family and so they too should have the right to insurance cover when travelling abroad.
‘Make sure your policy covers overseas vet fees and treatments. Read the terms and conditions carefully as some insurers restrict cover in certain destinations. You may also want to see if lost documents are covered, as replacing a pet passport can be costly.’
There are some niche insurers that provide overseas pet cover. These include E&L, Animal Friends, Paws & Claws, helpucover, M&S Bank and Healthy Pets.
Overseas insurance will generally include vet fees, quarantine costs, theft or loss of your pet and public liability – if your pet causes an accident or injury. But cover will be restricted. For example, it will only pay out for emergency treatment as a result of an accident, injury or illness that emerges during the holiday.
Also, it will not normally cover costs where the cause of the pet’s illness is the result of travelling or a pre-existing condition. Certain breeds may also be excluded. For example, E&L will not cover bull terriers and wolf hybrids.
Policies are likely to restrict the period of cover. Some providers will not cover the cost of bringing your pet home should it die overseas, nor the cost of cremation and disposal.
4. Leave them at home
Many holidaymakers have a more relaxing break if they leave their pets at home. There are plenty of options for keeping them happy.
If a neighbour or friend is unable to step in, then consider a pet sitter which may cost from £20 a night. Website DogBuddy, for example, lists dog sitters in your area. An owner agrees a rate with a sitter –ranging from £15 to £20 for day care and £20 to £30 a night for boarding. The website’s fee is 15 per cent and includes special insurance because most standard pet policies do not cover a dog in someone else’s care.
Holidog is a similar concept matching owners and sitters but is available for cats and other animals. Customers need to subscribe to the service (starting at £7 a month) and then agree a daily rate directly with the sitter.
To reassure yourself, check a sitter is a member of the National Association of Registered Pet Sitters.
Another option is to recruit a house sitter who will care for your pet as well as your home. For example, TrustedHousesitters charges a membership fee of £7.42 a month and gives access to armies of potential sitters who can stay in your property and look after your cat or dog for free.
5. Pet and breakfast
For traditional catteries and kennels, owners can expect to pay £15 a night for cats and up to £25 per night for dogs. Check your chosen accommodation has a licence from the local council. Dogs usually need vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis and kennel cough to be accepted. Cats will need to have been vaccinated against feline influenza and enteritis.
More expensive luxury kennels and catteries are dubbed pet hotels and can charge as much as £50 a night. They include Canine Paradise in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire which offers bedrooms, a lounge and a private garden for dogs.
For felines, there is The Ings Luxury Cat Hotel in West Yorkshire, costing from £21 a day for ‘luxurious’ accommodation or £28 in its log-cabin style lodge.
6. Pet-friendly holidays
Owners unwilling to be separated from their pets even on a staycation can sometimes struggle to find accommodation that also accepts their furry friends. But there are operators who have wised up to the value of the pet pound.
Animal charity RSPCA has teamed up with holiday providers who openly welcome two and four legged guests. These include cottages.com, which not only accepts pets but will donate 10 per cent of the rent to the RSPCA – and Haven which donates 5 per cent.
Additional reporting by Sophie Gunning.
Choose a car hire firm that won’t show Fido the boot
Elinor Goodman almost gave up on her trip to the Scottish Highlands with her pointer Flickie because of the difficulties of finding a dog-friendly car-hire company
Elinor Goodman is currently tramping across the wooded glens of the Trossachs on the borders of the Scottish Highlands with her beloved pointer, Flickie.
But Elinor, former political editor of Channel 4 News, nearly gave up hope of taking her four-year-old dog along on her holiday because of the difficulty of finding dog-friendly car hire.
Elinor, from Wiltshire, used the website Rentalcars to search for hire firms happy to take dogs. But after booking with Europcar – one of the suggested pet-friendly firms – she was told by staff at its Edinburgh office that dogs were not permitted.
Many car hire firms have a policy to accept pets but individual offices can apply their own rules. Those that allow pets will also normally impose valeting charges of up to £100 if vehicles are returned with excessive stains or pet hair.
Elinor, 70, had paid £311 for the five-day car hire which she then had to unravel. She finally got through to a rental firm – Thrifty – which confirmed her dog would be accepted.
Mark Bower of car hire insurance comparison service Moneymaxim, says: ‘The reason some car hire firms turn down pets is because they lease the vehicles and need to return them in six months in good condition.’
Bower recommends that drivers should use local car hire firms rather than national networks as they will have more discretion over taking pets.
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