With a car/van etc.
The comfortable choice. You’ve got several options here: you can take a ferry or the channel tunnel train.
Remember that you need to secure your dog in the car. The Highway code requires it and it’s important for your pet’s safety, plus it could invalidate your insurance if you have an accident while not securing your dog properly. A harness strapped to the seatbelt, a soft transport bag(this one doubles as air travel carrier if you fly from the UK), a high seat version for dogs who love to see what’s going on, a barrier to the boot or a fixed hard kennel in the boot of your car – choices are (almost) endless. Micro hates all sorts of kennels, so we use an adapter attaching Micro’s ruffwear harness to a seat belt (simple strap with two snap hooks, similar to this one, just not to buckle in). This year we have upgraded to this one. He can sit either with me or the in the back – we have two adapters in permanent use.
P&O Ferries – taking the Dover-Calais route, in terms of duration the shortest crossing, dogs will have to stay in the car. There have been reports over the past two years that this didn’t agree with short-nosed dogs, especially in the summer heat. Two dogs passed away during crossing, due to heat stroke! It gets quite warm on the car deck/hold, and if your dog has problems with heat, you might want to revisit this idea or take a very early ferry.
Brittany ferries – going to both France and Spain – you’ve three options, depending on your ship/destination: dogs stay in vehicle, in on-board kennels, or in pet friendly cabins (see here for all the options). The website is pretty detailed and should answer all your questions. They only have 6 pet friendly cabins on each ship, so early booking is advisable. Also, your dog needs to be muzzled while on board. If you haven’t already practiced this, you might want to train this with your dog before you go. This seems to be a good option for taking your dog to Spain (Santander) without having to drive a lot. I think Micro’s friend Humphrey did the trip last year, and he looked pretty relaxed afterwards.
Stena Line – going to Hook van Holland – in vehicle or in on-board kennels. I think you can choose which you prefer. Again, pretty good website, telling you all you need to know for the option you like. They also have a good car-free train+ship travel option, as you will see in the no-car travel section below.
The channel tunnel is the fastest way and also the most dog friendly – from our perspective. You drive onto the train, stay in your car, and drive off at the other end – from one motorway to the next. You and your dog only have to get out of the car on your way back to the UK (to get the pet passport checked and chip read), and when the drive-through is open you don’t even have to do that. At the terminal, you have to follow signs towards pet reception – before you actually check in – take a right before the check-in terminal! Here they will check your pet passport for rabies vaccination and tapeworm treatment, and scan your dog’s microchip to compare it to the one in the passport – and that’s it. You will also need your channel tunnel booking reference (handy to have that one out before you go in…. speeds up the process considerably!) Also, speaking French (or at least trying to) goes a long way – especially if you have extra questions like ‘Can I still catch my original train…?’
There is a small outside area for dogs to run around at the French terminal, but not as nice the the UK one. Also, after the check-in/border control in Calais, due to numerous incidents and some organisational issues, you might prefer to drive onto the train directly.
We have only traveled by ferry to/from Calais and Dunkirk, and by tunnel train a few times now – we prefer the tunnel train, by far! It’s a lot faster than the ferries, 35minutes instead of 1-2 hours, depending. The ferry is cheaper and does the trick in terms of travelling from/to the UK. Although I got slightly paranoid about what would happen to the dog in the car, what if we sink? What if there is a fire? (I know, I’m dramatic…) We also didn’t like that there were next to no possibilities to take the dog out (dog friendly areas, run around) for all the ferry terminals we went t
o. Almost all concrete, and no grass – catered more for large buses of humans than cars with pets. The dog area at the Channel Tunnel train terminal in Folkstone helps a lot with getting your dog’s energy out before continuing your journey.
We love the dog area on the UK side of the tunnel and always allow some time for Micro to explore, so that he will happily sleep for a good amount of time afterwards. You can always make new friends (dogs and humans) or do the agility course, if no one is there. Almost everyone we talked to in the dog area by far preferred the channel tunnel. They have got 2 dog areas – one for everyone and one for bitches in season, really very thoughtful! If everything fails, you can still walk your dog on the lead: there is enough grass to sniff and explore. The terminals’ facilities for humans (food, buying your panic-last-minute plug-adaptor, headlight covers, magazines, etc.) on both sides are good, too.:-)
You don’t drive or don’t own a car
You need to be slightly more organised to make this work. The biggest hurdle is leaving the island or the channel. Dogs travel in trains in the UK (we have done it) no muzzle, and as far as I know, no extra fee. They of course aren’t allowed on seats (but on your lap, as long as it doesn’t bother anyone). There is a maximum of two dogs per passenger, I believe. However, Eurostar doesn’t take pets: no cats, no dogs, no assistant dogs (!!), no pet rats – nothing. Exception of course: the working dog (e.g. certified guide dogs), which they are required by law to take. Despite numerous attempts to change this, alas, Eurostar doesn’t seem to be following the trend that holidays with dogs are becoming more of a norm. Anyway, it leaves you (and anyone else in the same position) stranded at the English coast with your pet. Depending on where you want to go, you need to find a different mode of transport.
With P&O Ferries, dogs have to travel in the car, so they aren’t an option. Brittany Ferries do take dogs to France and Spain (Santander), and have kennels, but do not accept passengers on foot or by bike/motorcycle. These are only an option if you team up with someone and share a ride. You will need to contact the person, to organise the travel fee for your dog – around £17.00!
Stena Line – does take dogs and passengers on foot. You have to book a kennel in advance and, after boarding, report to the information desk. The Dutch flyer is your rail-and-sail option through Holland. Read about the travel experience here.
Even if you don’t have a car you can use the tunnel – in someone else’s car. Now you can go through something like Blablacar, where you share a ride with another person. They will need to know that you travel with a dog in advance, as you will have to pay for the dog ticket. It’s currently £18. The other option is booking a taxi that takes you through the channel tunnel. Folkstone taxi takes you from the UK to France. Miss Darcy, whom we have met a few times at our common coffee shop, has done it multiple times. Read about her experience here. You can be picked up from Folkstone, driven through the tunnel, and take a train from Calais to anywhere else in Europe. Dogs travel in French SNCF trains (7€ for small dogs in transporter box, or over 6kg 50% of a 2nd class ticket). We took the train from Paris to Narbonne (the sleeper) last year and even though all dogs have to be muzzled, definitely none of the four or five dogs getting out at the crack of dawn in Narbonne were muzzled or in a transporter box – except for Micro…
Similar rates apply for German Bundesbahn trains (why is there no English translation to this site?). Rule of thumb: 50% of a second class ticket when not in a transporter, free when in a transporter box, though I’m not sure if you manage to get your 60kg dog into a transporter box to claim your free ticket… I’ve been told Italian trains are similar, and so are Spanish ones. With travelling dogs becoming more trendy and more and more people taking their pets, things are constantly changing. Always check your way before you go!
Flying is an option – even if you own a car. Micro’s friends Gracie, Pan,and Maia have all taken the plane to the USA numerous times. Two important thing to consider when flying to/from the UK: (a) dogs are considered cargo and will always travel cargo when you come back; (b) short-nosed dogs do not fly with every airline.
You might be able to fly out with your dog in the cabin (there is a weight limit), but you cannot fly back into the UK without them flying as cargo. This makes the process expensive and rather complicated, since not all airports are able deal with live cargo (e.g. Manchester airport is not equipped to handle live animals).
It all depends on the airline you take. Your dog might be able to fly in cabin or it might have to travel cargo. If your dog weighs under 6 – 8kg the dog can fly in cabin. Check the airline, they do vary with weight/business class restrictions. They also vary in regards to taking assistant dogs in cabin, what they qualify as assistant dog, and how much you pay. As always, all certified working dogs (guide dogs, etc.) will always travel with their human in cabin – as they should.
As a general rule, flying back and forth from Paris – even if your dog has to travel as cargo – will be less expensive than from London. Checking current prices (summer 2017) dogs flying to the US (destination not specified) pay on average 125€ in cabin/200€ cargo for Air France, compared to the price with Virgin Atlantic (from two years back, as I couldn’t get an up-to-date one) for Micro’s friend, London-Newark £2,000.
Bottom line: with air travel, more than with any other mode of travel, you want to be sure how your dog travels. You don’t want to have to change them to cargo at the airport – besides emotional turmoil, you would have to either conjure an air travel box out of thin air or buy one from the airline for a lot more than you would have to. Call them up to double and triple check your travel, as things change constantly. E.g. Air France did take dogs in cabin business class up to 4 weeks ago. Be super early at the airport, just in case.
You also will need to look into training your dog to stay relaxed in a perhaps rather stressful environment, such as security checks. When your dog travels in cabin, some airports want to scan the box with the dog, some want the dog out – your dog should be able to leave and return the into travel box without problems and without getting too freaked out. You really don’t want to gallop after your freaked-out dog running through security… If your dog flies cargo, check when you’re on board that they are, too. All the big airlines I looked at had detailed websites to give you an overview that will allow you to devise a plan for your holiday with your dog. It just takes a little – organisation.
Happy summer holidays!