Planning a trip with a pet in the European Union is really easy to do, the pet travel scheme is very straightforward and the requirements are very simple and easy to comply to.
However, when it comes to the UK, the rules change slightly, as the flight companies that offer the option to transport pets have excluded UK from the list of countries where they offer this service. You can still fly your pet, but only through IAG Cargo, and IAG Cargo works with agencies that can offer you the best traveling conditions for an exorbitant cost of over 1000 pounds.
Before leaving, a trip to the veterinary clinic is a must do at least a month before the departure date, as you must ensure the vaccinations are done on time. The rabies vaccination requires to be done at least 21 days before the departure date. You also need to check the DEFRA website to see what additional documents you need to prepare for pet travel to other destinations than the EU. Some may require an export certificate that you need to request from DEFRA to be delivered to your veterinarian to prepare all the necessary documents, others may need a rabies lab test besides the normal rabies vaccination, so always check and prepare.
It was easy for me, as we were only traveling to Spain, so we had the rabies shot done at the end of January, and the annual vaccine two weeks after, as it wasn’t allowed to do them together (it was because of the L4 vaccine that cannot be administered at the same time with the rabies vaccine).
Tip: always ask your veterinary practice what you need to prepare
We started our journey on the 13th of February to arrive in Barcelona on the 16th, with a one-night layover in Frankfurt. The itinerary was quite simple – train to Harwich, take the ferry during the night, reach the Netherlands in the morning, take the train and reach Frankfurt in the afternoon.
It sounds really simple and I was very optimistic, but we lost all the connections. You need to be prepared for this to happen, since the train delays are very common, no matter which country you are traveling through.
What to expect on your pet travel trip
In the UK we had to change four trains, as there was a fatality on the track and so I ended up searching for alternatives to take trains to get to Harwich.
Pet travel tip: make sure to leave enough time when you plan the train trips.
Always check the future connections in case you miss one of the connections. Luckily I had the Trainline Apps (there is one for the UK and one for the rest of Europe) and I could search connections in real time, so I knew what options I had.
However, the app was not as helpful in the Netherlands. When we got to Rotterdam, I found out that the trains to Utrecht were canceled. All of them! So the staff advised me to take the train to Leiden, and then change there for Utrecht, which we did. We took another train that clearly said it went to Utrecht Centraal. You will never guess what happened after one hour of a ride.
The train returned to Leiden, never reaching Utrecht…
Always ask for help when in doubt
Although I knew I had long lost the connection to Frankfurt, I was still hoping to take the one two hours later, which I was about to lose as this unexpected event happened.
So there I was, in Leiden train station, asking the Informations staff how to get to Utrecht, so I can go to Germany, preferably sooner than later. The staff informed me I should take the train to Schipol Airport, and from there I could board a train to Utrecht, having a slight chance to catch the train.
We quickly jumped into a train to Schipol Airport and while waiting for the train to depart, noticed the train on the other line was going in the same direction, with an earlier destination time, so we quickly hopped off and on again to catch the other train. We got to Schipol Airport and had 3 minutes to make it to the next train, which we did and got to Utrecht right in time to board the international train to Frankfurt.
Now imagine us – running around between trains, occasionally picking Gruia up and carrying him in my arms while on the automatic stairs, as their paws can be harmed if left on the ground, while also dragging the luggage to take the trains on time. Most of the times I was breathless, but the adrenaline was too high and the rush of managing to catch the trains is addictive.
Is it more expensive if you can’t make it in time for the next train?
The good part – we didn’t pay anything extra for the trip, the companies take responsibility for the delays and help you reach your destination with no further hassle.
The trains in Germany were quite well organized and luckily nothing unexpected happened, just a slight delay of a train but it came in due time for the next connection. For the trains in Germany, the DB app works really well, showing real-time train trips and you can also see alternative routes, you don’t have to search for the routes yourself – a big plus!
We finally made it to the destination, happy and enthusiastic, ready for the next adventures.