When Hans and I had some of the first conversations about traveling in Europe long term, we immediately ran into one large, furry, four-legged roadblock: Banjo.
In case you need a refresher...this is the adorable "roadblock" in question.
We didn't want to leave Banjo behind for a couple of practical reasons and one incredibly sentimental one. We didn't know how long we would be abroad when we left for Europe, and we didn't want to saddle a friend or family member with the burden (erm, joy?) of taking care of our dog for an unknown amount of time. We also just didn't want to leave him behind for that long because, well, we love him. Desperately.
Even though traveling with a dog has proved to be a logistical challenge at times, it's also been such a joy. We've had lovely conversations and interactions with random strangers because of Banjo. We look way less like tourists when we're walking around with a dog. His presence is incredibly grounding and normalizing as we flit around Europe, and we've often joked that he is our "four-legged piece of home."
For us, the perks have outweighed the challenges. If YOU are looking into traveling Europe with a dog (or just curious how we make it work) read on!
1. Getting from America to Europe
Yours truly read one too many horror stories about dogs in the cargo holds of planes, so we immediately started looking at alternatives to flying. Which led us to the Queen Mary 2, a transatlantic (New York to Southampton) ocean liner that also has kennels for dogs and cats. Compared to the flights we would have had to take in order to bring a dog, taking the QM2 was only going to be a few hundred dollars more expensive. We booked during a sale, which helped.
Plus, we had a week-long swanky vacay out of the deal and Banjo spent his transatlantic crossing mostly frolicking around on deck with other dogs.
It was a win-win.
The QM2 Kennels are in a pet-designated area of the ship, with gated deck space. There are two full-time Kennel Masters, whose sole job on the ship is to look after the pets on board. Banjo was even treated to "room service!" We had four different visitation periods throughout the day where we could hang out with him, the other dogs, and their humans.
I know taking the QM2 isn't a practical step for everyone due to budget or time constraints. There are plenty of people who fly with their dogs without any issues, and that's great! It's definitely a quicker option and can be a good deal cheaper. For us, knowing Banjo's personality and temperament, traveling by ship was the best choice, and we're looking forward to our return journey in December!
2. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork
Getting Banjo to Europe required, I kid you not, more paperwork than it took for Hans and I combined. My recurring nightmare leading up to the trip was us showing up in New York and getting turned away at the gangplank of the Queen Mary 2 because we didn't have a signature in the right ink color* on Banjo's paperwork. Even worse was the thought that Banjo would have to be quarantined on arrival due to a clerical error.
One of our best decisions was to hire the fabulous Lindsay Anderson of Pack Your Pets. She's a pet travel agent (hello, dream job!) and she helped us get all the paperwork together. Because we were driving from Kansas to New York over the course of two weeks, we ended up visiting two different vets for the necessary health certificate and parasite treatment. This created some logistical challenges when you factor in that the health certificate needed to be rubber stamped by the regional USDA office, too.
It was sort of a mess, so hiring Lindsay saved us a ton of headaches.
Here are the basics: your dog has to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. After that, the International Health Certificate is the most crucial piece of paperwork. This is the US version of a Pet Passport. It essentially certifies that your dog is healthy, vaccinated, and free from parasites, and has to be issued 10 days before travel. Then, 1-3 days before travel, the dog must have a parasite/tapeworm treatment administered by a licensed vet.
The UK is more strict with their pet entry regulations than the rest of the European Union. There have only been a handful of rabies-related deaths in the UK in the last two decades, and that's because the UK does not mess around when it comes to animals coming into the country. Additionally, every time you bring a dog into the UK, they need to have had the parasite/tapeworm treatment 1-3 days before entry.
Once we were in the UK, we took Banjo's Health Certificate to an accredited UK veterinarian to get it "swapped out" for a Pet Passport to allow us to travel with him around the rest of the EU. This means that our dog has a UK passport, which is hilarious to me considering that Hans and I have casually googled "UK US dual citizenship" on more than one occasion.
I've vastly over-simplified this process. If you're thinking about traveling to Europe with your dog from the US, there a fantastic overview of Pet Travel on the State Department website that I'd definitely encourage you to check out!
* we learned that signatures should be done in blue on official documents to prove that they are not copies
3. Getting around Europe with a dog
Aside from the UK, we haven't had to do anything in particular to take Banjo across borders in Europe. We've found that Europe, on the whole, is extremely dog friendly. We've encountered zero problems taking Banjo on trains, busses, and subways. We always check beforehand just to be safe, though!
Because it made the most sense for the way we were going to be traveling, we rented a car and have been relying on that for our primary form of transportation. Anytime we've had to go across the Channel, we've either taken a ferry or the Channel Tunnel with our car. The Eurostar train does not allow dogs (with the exception of guide dogs) on board.
4. Staying in Europe with a dog
Our primary form of lodging in Europe has been housesitting, which you can read more about here. In our initial housesitting applications, we obviously include information about Banjo and link to our reviews from previous homeowners. However, there are plenty of people who would rather not bring another dog into the mix with their own pets, and that's perfectly fine. We totally understand this, and we never begrudge anyone who turns us down because we have our own dog with us.
That being said, we're on our 16th successful housesit with Banjo.
Many of those homeowners have had the attitude that, "Wow, if this couple went through all the trouble of bringing their own dog to Europe, they probably really love animals and they're probably going to take great care of our pets." Banjo is also incredibly easy-going and chill, which helps tremendously.
Beyond housesitting, it's really quite easy to find pet-friendly lodging in Europe. We did have to make one last-minute stay for a few nights in a hotel in England, and we were easily able to find a hotel that would let us bring a dog. When we've needed to find AirBnB's to fill in gaps in between housesits, we haven't had an issue finding a place to stay.
Traveling Europe with a dog has definitely been a unique, one of a kind experience. Maybe we're a bit crazy for bring Banjo all the way across the Atlantic, but for us, it's been worth it. We embarked on this journey not knowing when we would return, so it didn't make sense to leave our furbaby behind. If you're considering traveling Europe with your pet, I'd love to chat below in the comments or you can always contact me!
Have you ever traveled with your pet? Where did you go?
PS - Want even more canine travel inspiration? Shandos Cleaver of Travelnuity has a fantastically detailed guide to traveling around Europe with your dog!