5 mins

Should family travel include pets?

Will Gray welcomes a dog into his family and wonders what impact it will have on their travels

Woman and her dog enjoying mountain view (Shutterstock.com. See main credit below)

OK, I admit it – I was weak. I bowed to pressure from the kids and we’ve gone and bought a puppy. She’s adorable (in a kind of peeing-everywhere, chair leg-gnawing, hand-nibbling way) and, yes, we have got her for life, not just for Christmas.

Holly (or Conan the Furniture Destroyer to use her official kennel name) bounded into our lives a few weeks ago. Up went the pup-proof fencing in our garden, up went anything vaguely precious above ‘found it, hid it, chewed it’ height, and up went our weekly spend on floor-cleaning products. As I write this, she’s in a basket next to my desk happily dismembering her toy monkey while eyeing up the power cable on my computer.

Of course, these are early days. It’s going to get a lot worse when she’s had all her jabs and can be unleashed on the world. What happens then? And I don’t just mean the inevitable embarrassment of taking a delinquent labrador to puppy parties, or the looming humiliation of training classes when Holly is bound to nip the dog whisperer’s hand and do something unspeakable on the village hall floor. No, I mean travelling with my new-found, four-legged friend. How does that work?

Take pet passports for example. I still shudder every time I see the photo booth in Tesco where we attempted (and failed miserably) to get acceptable passport pics of our twins when they were toddlers. Please don't tell me I need a passport photo for Holly. She'll just treat it as a big game, slobber on my favourite lens and then run off with my blower brush.

Then there's the packing. We'd actually reached the stage in family travel when the prospect of travelling light had begun to re-emerge like a glorious new dawn. A couple of holdalls between the four of us - that's all we needed for a month in Kenya last summer.

Family walking dog on beach (Shutterstock.com)

Family walking dog on beach (Shutterstock.com)

Nip off to Cornwall with the dog for a weekend, though, and you wouldn't believe the pet paraphernalia you have to cajole into the car: a sack-load of food, assorted bowls and blankets, enough chewy toys to wear out the teeth on a pack of hyenas and, of course, a cage to put madam in.

And what about access? Not only are many beaches closed to dogs from May to October, but all our favourite cafes, museums, galleries and shops are distinctly dog-unfriendly.

Have we made a big mistake?

No, of course not. The arrival of a dog is simply a happy new chapter in many family's lives and travel can - and must - go on. It will be challenging but rewarding. Yes, there will be dark times when I reach into my pocket to find I've forgotten the poo bags, but just think of the wonderful canine adventures we'll have.

Perhaps I'll teach Holly to come kayaking with me (labradors love water), or maybe we'll walk a long-distance trail together (one family and their dog take on the GR20).

Dogs and travel can be perfect companions, I'm convinced of it. It'll help having friends and relatives willing to dog-sit for the odd fortnight, but we're still determined to get that pet passport - even if it does cost me a blower brush.

Have you travelled with a family pet? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below

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Main image: Woman and her dog enjoying mountain view (Shutterstock.com)

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