Traveling with your pet can be so stressful! We’ve been flying with our dogs for the past 12 years, both internationally and domestically and here’s what I’ve learned. First thing you need to do is educate yourself on what documents you need if traveling internationally. You need to know what shots are required for the country you plan on visiting and be sure to check WHEN the shot/shots need to be given and remember, the wellness check up can only be within 10 days of travel (it’s only good for 10 days).
Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel and select the country you plan to visit to find out what is required. Be sure to read about obtaining a Pet Passport! You can save a lot of money if you do the leg work yourself.
We’ve always had good luck shipping our dogs but our last trip from the states to Germany was a nightmare! We had the vet give our older dog her rabies vaccination even though she was current (we had given her the 1 year rabies earlier that year but wasn’t sure Germany would accept it). Once we arrived in Germany, the vet would not honor that rabies shot and required us to give her another one. She assured us there would be no issue with her receiving another shot so soon….she was wrong!
We had taken our dog in because she was coughing, another lesson I learned the hard way, a dog can get Kennel Cough from stress! I didn’t know this so I had not asked our local US vet for the Kennel Cough vaccination. Long story short, giving our dog another rabies shot on top of her already being sick cause us to nearly lose her. She spent a night in the hospital with a really high fever but after a strong dose of antibiotics in her IV, she started a slow recovery.
Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, get the kennel cough vaccination before traveling! The vet has never recommended that we get one so you’ll have to ask for it.
We had a “large kennel” for our dog who is about the size of a lab. Our dog fit the height and weight restrictions listed on this kennel but on our last two flights we were harassed about the size. To avoid this issue, I upgraded the size to an extra large and check-in was a breeze.
Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, book on Lufthansa to ship your dog, it will save you thousands of dollars to ship them yourself instead of using a pet service. Let the Lufthansa agent know you want to book them as EXCESS BAGGAGE. This is important, if you say you want them to go cargo they’ll refer you to a pet service that will cost you 2k and up. We paid 450.00 to ship one way Washington DC to Frankfurt.
The Dulles International Airport has a really nice fenced in pet area at the end of the building. We always check in and start the process early but keep the dog with us until the latest possible time. With such a large kennel (XL), we have to travel with it to the airport and put it together there. I usually book a hotel in DC the night before our travel and do all my prep work for the kennel there. I buy 3 rolls of brown paper from a craft store, they look like rolls of Christmas paper but they are solid brown, like a paper bag. I spend about an hour shredding this paper for the bottom of the kennel and layer that paper on top of a waterproof pad followed by a pee pad (pee pads are required by the airlines). See photos at the bottom of the post.
Put all your shredded paper in a large garbage back until you get to the airport. After you check in, you’ll be required to take the kennel over to the US Customs Security area for them to check inside the kennel. After they check the kennel, empty your bag of shredded paper in the kennel. Once your dog is in the kennel, the Customs Agent will use a zip tie or two to seal the cage. This is for security this way no one can open the kennel and put anything in and your dog can’t escape on the ramp.
Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, take something in your CHECK IN bag to cut the ties with. You should have time to get all your luggage before your pet is brought in, I usually take a pair of medical scissors but Woody took a pair of pliers. We pack them in the outside pocket of our CHECK IN luggage.
You can read more about what the airline requires for the kennel on the web page I gave you earlier, they’ll want a water bottle strapped to the outside of the cage (spout threaded through the wire cage door) and a bag of food taped to the top of the kennel. Our pet always arrives with the bag of food unopened so not sure why they require this??
Advice From a Dumb Blonde, I always ask the flight attendent to let the pilot know we have a dog in the cargo area. I read an article years ago about show dogs dying in flight as the flight crew was unaware of animals onboard and didn’t keep the cargo area heated at altitude. Better safe than sorry!
Use a USDA ACCREDITED VETERINARIAN to give the shots!
This last part is important to know, normally I walk the shot records, pet passport and paperwork in to get them approved (find brick and mortar locations on the website I listed earlier), it’s not an easy process but you’ll find out right away if anything is missing or incorrect. I always do this on the first day possible (remember you can only do it 10 days or within 10 days of travel) in case anything is missing.
During covid you’ll need all the extra time you can get, they ask you to FEDEX the documents to their office where they will wait one day before opening it (due to covid) and then FEDEX back to you. Don’t forget, you must provide the return FEDEX package with your documents.
Your pet will need to have a microchip, go to the web site I provided and read about getting a microchip. There is so much information you’ll need to know and most of it will be on the USDA site but one thing I didn’t find there was the timing of the chip, you must have the chip in place before getting the rabies shot!
Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, find a vet that is familiar with pet travel (and is USDA ACCREDITED!) to help you, our first vet knew nothing about pet travel so I paid for shots that weren’t needed and it took me two trips downtown to get the paperwork right.
Side note, I hate Lufthansa Airlines, the staff isn’t friendly or helpful, the airplanes aren’t great but they LOVE pets in Germany and will treat your dog well so it’s the only airline I’ll fly our dog on. But for the record, United is my favorite US to Germany Airline. #FlyTheFriendlySkies
Covid has been a challenge for all this past year and while we’ve been fortunate so far not to have lost a loved one, our hearts go out to those that have. With the EU and most of the US on lockdown for the better part of the year, we’ve been hunkered down waiting for the vaccination, and understand it’s about to be approved. With thoughts of travel being possible once again, we’ve started planning our next adventure. I thought I’d post our trip from last year’s Holiday season, just in case you too have been looking to book a long overdue vacation to Europe.
From Germany to Spain and back…..
We live in Germany, but we don’t own a car here (we’re only here for a few years and the public transportation is really good) so when needed, we book rentals. Sixt is one of the largest companies in the area and usually have good deals. We booked an Audi A4 hoping it was big enough to hold our luggage, people and Christmas gifts. Rental car for 26 days 1400.00 Euro, when we showed up, the Audi wasn’t available so they gave us a BMW that was the same size.
Like most adventures in life, we hit a few bumps before the trip even started. What was going to be a group of 4 hitting the road turned into 2. I’ve driven a few times in Europe without Woody but never this far and through this many countries so I was nervous about tolls, google maps working (we usually stay in AirBnb’s located in remote areas where google maps isn’t always that accurate), not understanding the road signs and the always present language barrier.
Woody and I packed up the car (there is never enough room for all our stuff but the car had the “sport package” so I could hit the autobahn with confidence) and headed from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt on Dec. 18th 2019. We booked an Airbnb near the Airport so Woody could catch his early morning flight to meet Maddison and I could pick up Kagen, who was flying from DC to Frankfurt on a Red Eye.
Advice from a Dumb Blonde…Highly recommend this Airbnb, its close to Frankfurt airport (really close) with a grocery store around the corner and a good Italian Restaurant within walking distance, but be warned, many places in this area don’t take credit/debit card so bring Euros!(link below).
With all our luggage, two people and Christmas gifts it was a tight squeeze but Kagen managed to lay his seat back for the ride to our first AirBNB (those red eye flights can be brutal if you are one of those people that can’t sleep during the flight). We stayed in a Chateau in France the first night. It had a cool view but if you chose to stay here please know that this is the owner’s personal house so his things are there. There was wine tasting downstairs but we were beat so we skipped it.
Advice from a Dumb Blonde…The owners don’t usually list their properties as being the home they live in so make sure you read some of the reviews, usually people who run into this mention it in their reviews. Lesson learned.
A few things to note about driving through France, there are a lot of tolls. When deciding what lane to go to look for the one that has a picture of coins, credit cards and dollars. I had a change purse sitting on the console for those tolls that don’t take cards. The tolls can be pricey, so add that to your list of expenses.
Woody flew from Frankfurt to Barcelona for 300.00 Euro to meet up with Maddison who was flying from Texas to Barcelona via France. They drove from Barcelona to Roses Spain where they stayed one night in a condo with a view. The Airbnb owner said there would be restaurants open but unfortunately the last open restaurant closed for the season a few days before they arrived.
Advice from a Dumb Blonde….I travel with a collapsible cooler and when we stop at a gas stations I grab some staples just in case, ie, bread, meats (salami and Serrano ham is very popular in Europe and usually even the gas station meats are good), instant coffee and a few bottles of water.
The next night we all met in Montpellier, France. We picked this place because of the location, it was halfway between Roses, Spain and L’Etoli. but would definitely go back to spend more time. Food was great, town was adorable and there was lots of shopping in the area we stayed.
We ate at a restaurant just around the corner from the flat we rented, the place has good food and decent house wine, it’s where the owner of our Airbnb recommends you pick up the key for the flat. We couldn’t find the restaurant from his directions, but the owner met us out and walked us in. It worked out well, he was able to give us a tour and tell us about the property (interesting stuff) before we settled in. If you chose to stay here ask the owner for info on the best bakery around, it’s not far from the house and had the best croissants ever! This was just a stop on our way but we really did enjoy it. Parking is impossible so find a garage and suck up the expense so you don’t waste time driving down one way streets trying to find a spot big enough to squeeze into!
Advice from a Dumb Blonde: parking spaces and parking garages are small so if you can, rent a fairly small car!
A quick walk to the bakery the next morning for coffee and croissants and we were off to Barcelona!
Kagen jumped in Bill’s convertible (too bad they couldn’t put the top down because of all the luggage in the back 😉 ) and Maddison joined me in the Beamer. We were so caught up in discussing wedding plans (she’s getting married in Aug. 2020) that the 3 hour drive flew by.
Advice from a Dumb Blonde: Both Maddison and I put the next Airbnb address in our phone using two different map apps, one phone was yelling go right and the other yelling go left! It was absolute madness! Use one map app at a time, if the first doesn’t get you to your location, turn it off and try a different one.
As much fun as I had catching up with Maddison, we both admittedly suck at navigating, so when Woody floored the convertible out of the toll area we lost him and stayed lost for about an hour longer than we should have…that’s a whole ‘nother story!
Castelldefels Spain (Barcelona)
Finally at our destination (for this part of the trip), Castelldefels Spain, we check into the Airbnb and settle into our small apartment for the next week. What we gave up in space we gained in view! This is a great town just south of Barcelona, beach front and easy to get to the city by train (about 20 min away). Now, time to celebrate Christmas in Spain!
With Christmas behind us, we loaded Maddison onto her flight (after an all-nighter at the ER for food poisoning!) and headed to the Spanish countryside. The Airbnb we booked was a farm in the middle of town. It was the perfect size and location. We spent the next 4 days hiking, sight seeing and hitting the thermal baths. I highly recommend going to Caldes Montbui for the day, well worth the 42.00 euro per person.
Advice from a Dumb Blonde: take layers with you when visiting Spain and France, we found that the airbnbs we stayed at usually had the temperatures drop during the day and heat up at night. The Spa we visited had everything we needed to shower after your thermal bath except conditioner. I had not planned on getting my hair wet but in the 3rd bath (more like a pool) I stood under the powerful jets for a shoulder massage (just what I needed!) and my hair was soaked.
From the Countryside in Spain to the Coast of Marseilles we, Woody, Kagen and I enjoyed more hikes and good food. The Airbnb was located near the beach with an amazing view! Be warned, the owner is a little grumpy but she had great recommendations for hiking.
We chose the coastal hike, I’m afraid of heights, so this was a big challenge for me but the boys and the view kept me going and I’m so glad I did. The trail goes for many miles but we only hiked part of it so we could make it back in time to eat lunch on the deck of our Airbnb.
There’s lots to do in Marseilles in the summer, water sports, fishing, hiking, scuba diving, etc., even gambling! But remember if you travel during off season most everything is closed beach side and be warned, it’s nearly impossible to get a taxi in the area during this time of year, (we stayed in a waterfront condo and the closest town is about a 7min drive away) so we waited about 40 min and had to pay a little extra to hire a van.
The next day we said good-bye to Woody (he had to get back to work) and turned the car towards Switzerland. You need an auto sticker when driving in Switzerland, click the link below to find out more information. On the drive in Kagen asked what language they spoke, I hadn’t thought about it….they speak French near the French border and French or German near the German border.
The drive to Geneva from France was pretty but not as mountainess as I thought it would be. Once in Geneva we found it impossible to find parking near the Airbnb we rented. Eventually we pulled into a hotel garage and sucked up the 48.00 a night parking fee. We stayed within walking distance to the waterfront so after unloading the car, we walked down to take in the views from the observation deck in the harbor. It was super windy and pretty cold but sunny. There are loads of little cafes along the way so we stopped off for a cup of coffee to warm up.
The Airbnb I booked had information in the reviews about an Indian Restaurant around the corner from the condo, both Kagen and I were in the mood for something different by now and Indian food was perfect. The restaurant was great! 100.00 Euro for food, wine and tip.
Advice from a Dumb Blonde: to save money, we hit a bakery for breakfast and while there picked up some bread for lunch, that way you’re only paying for a sit down meal once as EVERYTHING is so expensive in Switzerland. I would even suggest if you’re driving in from somewhere else, stop and shop for bread and meats, wine/beer before you hit the border to save money…just don’t forget your collapsible cooler to keep it in.
We stayed in an Airbnb off the beaten path. I’m going to put the link below because there was parking in front of the house and a good Doner place down the street. I believe this is more of an “up and coming’ area but I would be tempted to book something in a more “charming” area next time.
The car Museum was worth it if you enjoy cars, they had some super displays!
From Mulhouse we drove to Strasbourg via Colmar France. We stopped off for lunch in Colmar and enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Wistub de la Petite Venise (see link below) and would highly recommend it. I had the pork knuckle and Kagen had steak, both were excellent! There is a wonderful German influence in this area so if you like French and German food you’re going to love this! The town itself (Colmar) was beautiful! Highly recommend going and trying some of the wine from this area. Parking is fairly easy just don’t forget to pay the meter. Lunch was at a Michelin Rated restaurant but I thought the price was reasonable, we spent about 60.00 Euro with 2 glasses of wine (1 sparkling and two small reds that I’m counting as one for tasting)…great price for the quality of food!
We stayed at a cool condo in Strasbourg right in the town center, walking distance to great restaurants and sites. I like this place for those of you that will drive because for 15.00 Euro the owner will leave the key to the garage. It’s located around the corner so you have to do a bag drag for a short distance but at least you don’t have to spend hours looking for parking! The place we had dinner was good but there are plenty of options around. There’s a good bakery not far from here where I had a fantastic quiche and Kagen got his usual chocolate croissant, it’s one of the few bakeries that has an area to sit down and enjoy breakfast. I apologise, I did not get the name of this bakery, but if staying in the below Airbnb, it’s out the door to the left, go to the end of the street and take another left, the bakery will be just a few steps down on the left….hope that helps??
Take some Advice From A Dumb Blonde, grab a good bottle of wine and watch Netflix’s show The Family with your favorite friendly debater…
Excerpt from Digital Spy:
According to the film, members of the organisation (that’s not really officially an organisation) include senators, diplomats and religious leaders from countries all over the world. There are also a number of political figures that are referred to as “friends of the Family”.
Having my morning coffee and checking flight discounts has become my new “thing”. Points Guy on top of it again posting flights from some major hubs in the US to big Cities in the EU for around 232.00!! He recommends you book to any of these big Cities in Europe and find a small discount flight to your actual destination….now where have you heard that before? Two cities for under 500.00 (or less), if you’re looking to visit us now’s your chance, need to book a honeymoon (I know a few brides to be 😉 ) or if you’re tired of going to the same beach every year, check out the options overseas.
TAKE SOME ADVICE FROM A DUMB BLONDE, YOU CAN GET TO EUROPE IN ABOUT THE SAME TIME OR LESS THAN YOU CAN FLY FROM THE US EAST COAST TO THE US WEST COAST SO YOU DON’T NEED A LOT OF TIME OR A LOT OF MONEY TO VISIT!
Go to The Points Guy and click on Travel then Deals for more details.
Visiting Italy isn’t as expensive as you might think! If you want to find out more about our visit to Lake Como go to Advicefromadumbblonde.com and check out our travel blog (Travel Snobs). Remember, flights are on sale right now to Italy, go to Delta Airlines or The Points Guy for more information.
So there is
hiking to be had in Lake Como. This was
a bit of a surprise to me as I thought it was all about the Lake. On such vacations
and work trips I am first inclined to find a place to row. On this trip my son, an avid hiker, was visiting so I was okay with giving up some water time to hit
Day one.. we took a boat from Faggiato across
to Rovenna and hooked up with the well marked Rovenna-Moltrasio trail. A respectable effort with a 700ft total climb
and few sporty sections, one with a steep drop against the trail and a chain
link grab line (more on provided grab lines later) on the other. This hike earned a “great family hike” label
on my Strava feed ( https://www.strava.com/activities/2578368594 )and we were proud of our effort
and adventurous spirit. That night my
son said he wanted something a little longer and higher. As a self appointed Lake Como master hiker
with one day of experience, I said, “Sure, whatever you find, we’ll go in the
My son awoke ready to go and explained his extensive planning, “I found a few
trails on google and it looks like we can get up to a peak around 1900-2100feet”. I didn’t acknowledge that it was three times
the elevation of yesterday’s effort.
However, to show I was involved in the planning, I quickly added, “yeah,
I saw some stairs behind our breakfast place, lets go”. Off we went, the stairs behind the breakfast
place were fairly steep and became consistently long lengths of upward
straightaways after every short turn. After
a half mile we noted that we had already hit yesterday’s climb, we turned another
corner and continued on the next cobblestone upward climb. It struck me how well maintained the small
road sized path was. Thinking we must be
close to the top, we arrived at the town Cappella di S Rocco and as I looked
around the narrow alleys of beautiful stonework, I thought out loud, “Who put a
city up here?” As we headed out and
further up out of town things became more woodsy and rural as we felt we were certainly
on the trail system and must be close to the top, right? The first bit of excitement was a 4 to 5 foot
black snake that cut between us across the trail, went over the steep side and down
and out of sight. “He didn’t look
poisonous, but keep your head up” I offered as I grabbed a walking stick.
For the next hour we continued uneventfully up. As we approached the 3000 foot ascent mark I
was sure this “around 1900-2100” foot peak had to be close at hand. Then we saw it. Sunshine and a hint of possible grassy slopes
to a peak beyond our current forest canopy trail. If our google nav was correct we’d soon be in
the saddle of two peaks (Monte Palanzone and Madonna del Soldo) and our only
decision would be which one would give us the best views and picture opportunities
to Lake Como below. ( https://www.strava.com/activities/2581011215 )
But then something strange happened, as I saw a blue fabric handrail attached to plastic stakes I heard some cowbells. We hadn’t seen anyone on the trails past the village and I thought, “this isn’t Alaska, who hikes with cowbells”. About then a scene directly out of a Coen movie developed, some horses and donkeys ran up to our left and on the right as we cleared the trees we saw a very full cowpen with some old, large bulls. There was another strip of blue fabric and I realized these were two electric fence pens with a small corridor between them that we could pass by the bulls and gain access to at least one peak. We started to pick the peak on the left as donkeys and horses seemed like the better pen to be in. However, there was lots of tall grass in that pen and the thought of even a non-poisonous snake bite at this remote spot seemed like a bad idea. We decided to climb under the fence and take the peak to the right. My under the fence crawl was not as low as required and as the fabric touched my backpack the lightning bolt feeling of my left hand on the ground confirmed that this was indeed an electric fence and not a handrail. So it wasn’t my ominous presence that kept the bulls merely staring at us as we walked by them. Newly invigorated (electrified in fact), we headed up the fairly steep, grassy clumped and old cowpie inclined field towards the peak. Over the first rise I saw some movement further up the hill and realized there were a few more cows further up. We slowly proceeded and at a point decided the peak was out of the question as three more younger bulls were in the way. We had an amazing view of the Lake and proceeded to take pictures and admire the scenery. I set my backpack down and wrung out my sweat soaked shirt. About then I saw one of the young bulls take a look down at us. It almost seemed like a Gary Larson farside moment and I can not completely rule out that he wasn’t on his hind legs looking down on us.
I turned to Kagen and said, “We better go, they see us”, and we quickly began down the hill, Kagen ahead of me bound walking and me shirtless with backpack in one arm and shirt in another. Soon we crested a small rise and I looked back and realized the bulls couldn’t see us so I relayed, “We should be good, they can’t see us.” A few steps later I heard what sounded like the last few meters of a cross country ski race. Loud, rapid cowbells. “RUN, they’re coming!” I yelled and we bounded down the hill to the low hanging fabric that shocked me earlier. Kagen timed a beautiful dive roll under the fence and sprang to his feet with cloud of gravel and some road rash shins and knees. I threw my pack and shirt over and opted for the non slide crawl avoiding both the gravel road rash and the shock on this under the fence crawl. We laughed and regrouped a few feet from the snorting cowbell clad young bulls behind the electric handrail and headed out for our hike downward. It was a quick paced quad trashing descent but we were anxious for some lunch and a swim in the cool Lake Como waters. An epic experience for sure and I asked Kagen to re-hike it when he is 53. I plan on going along then but at 85 I’ll have to keep the training up and maybe bring a cattle prod for a walking stick. Next time you’re at a water wonderland, consider the hiking options as you might wind up with an unplanned epic event…No Bull.