Dog Friendly Holidays: Caravan Touring - Part 1
A caravanning tale of two dogs: As our writers discovered, a dog can enhance the caravanning lifestyles of families and couples. Here's Part 1 by Gayle Ripper (Read Part 2 here).
Caravanning – It's A Dog's Life!
Cockapoo, Olga, accompanies the Ripper family on all their caravanning adventures, both in the UK and abroad.
Welcoming a dog into our family in 2015 was made easier knowing that she could accompany us on our family holidays. Having a caravan meant our new addition to the family, Olga, the cockapoo, could adventure with the rest of the Rippers. Not only would we save on kennel fees, but it also meant we didn't have to leave a much-loved member of our family behind.
One of our first trips with Olga saw us travel coast to coast from Northumberland to Dumfries and Galloway, stopping off in Edinburgh. It was the perfect first trip for Olga and one to be recommended for anyone with a dog.
Northumberland has 30 miles of spectacular beaches that vary in character, and many with castles close by to explore. Dogs are usually permitted to enter the grounds but not the buildings themselves, so my husband, Chris, and I took turns to stay with Olga while the other explored the castles with our three children, Joe, Matthew and Esme.
Visiting the beaches with Olga made for great days out, particularly as one included a visit to Barter Books, a gloriously unique secondhand bookshop in Alnwick, which welcomes dogs. Joe, our eldest, took the shop name literally and tried to haggle with the cashier; sadly, she was having none of it and he had to pay the price on the ticket.
Olga has been a member of the Ripper family for three years and has enjoyed over 20 trips. She loves our caravan. She is comforted by the familiarity of it. For a pooch that could easily be diagnosed as having separation anxiety, the caravan couldn't be more perfect. Bringing Olga along isn't about saving on kennel fees, though. As a member of our family it's important for us that our pooch has a positive holiday experience, too.
Sites are chosen carefully, so that areas for Olga to run around are offered either on site or nearby. Caravan and dog magazines, site websites, Google Earth and social media are great sources of reference for helping us to make our selection.
Already Olga has travelled much of the UK; from Cornwall to the Isle of Skye, Holy Island to Anglesey, Dublin to Achill Island, Isle of Wight to Edinburgh, and plenty more in between. She has visited cities, countryside, villages, sculpture parks and mountains.
However, beaches remain her favourite. She loves to fetch a ball, but will eventually settle down to relax under shade, while the rest of the family enjoys some watersports. Her gel coat keeps her cool on particularly hot days. She isn't keen on water, but when she's held close, she feels safe so when she joined us on a canoe trip down the Loire, she added another adventure to her increasing list.
Forest sites are also a good choice for dog owners and Olga has enjoyed plenty in Scotland, the Lake District and Wales. One of our favourite sites is Silverdale Holiday Park near Morecambe. This Premier Park is our go-to 'weekend holiday' as it has something for each of us. With a pool, spa, bowling alley and stunning walks and beaches, it is a site that we all love.
Olga has travelled by ferry to Skye, Arran, Isle of Wight and Dublin, not to mention a few short water crossings in the Lake District and Scotland. She has sat at our feet for every one of these, except for the Holyhead to Dublin Ferry. For this trip, dogs are not permitted onto the deck.
Admittedly, the crossing of over three hours concerned us, as Olga has only ever been left in the car for short periods, but the ferry staff are more than happy to accompany passengers to their cars to check up on their hounds. On the return journey, however, our car was situated in direct sunshine.
We weren't satisfied that she would be cool enough, so we put her in the kennels which we had previously booked as back-up, free of charge. Olga wasn't too impressed, but we were satisfied in the knowledge that she was safe while we kept telling ourselves that she's a dog, not a person!
Our trip to France in 2015 introduced us to the Eurotunnel. Travelling by ferry is another option and, while some companies offer cabins which are dog-friendly, dogs must be muzzled when outside the vehicle or cabin. We decided on the Eurotunnel as it meant Olga could remain in the car with us. The set up at the Eurotunnel is impressive.
An award-winning dog exercise area includes staff, agility equipment and clean, artificial grass. UK pets are not required to go through Pet Control Checks, so it's only when returning to the UK that a visit to the Pet Reception Building at the Calais Terminal is needed. Incidentally, the exercise facilities here pale comparatively to their UK counterparts.
Before travelling abroad, it's a good idea to refer to the government's website which will help ensure you have made the right preparations.
Firstly, your pet should have a passport. A 15-minute appointment with our vet and a £90 bill provided Olga with her own Pet Passport.
I made the appointment a month before travel in order for her information to be entered into her Pet Passport. Her rabies vaccination was given, which lasts for around a year.
As this trip took place more than 12 months ago, we will need to have her vaccinated again at a cost of about £40. Before travelling, we booked a Pet Passport-approved vet in France, who would give her an obligatory tapeworm treatment. This must be done more than 24 hours, but less than 120 hours, before your scheduled arrival time in the UK.
Always check the correct date has been logged with an official stamp and includes a signature. Incorrectly completed and dated documents may result in pets being refused travel or quarantined at the owner's expense. Our appointment cost €40 and included a full check-up, which proved Olga was fit to travel.
Prior to travel, I also informed our pet insurance company and confirmed Olga would be covered abroad. Since 2016, it has become compulsory for dogs to be micro-chipped.
Those which aren't risk a fine of up to £500. Olga's details on the Petlog database were also amended to include temporary addresses and specified dates. We also obtained a new collar tag which included a UK dialling code for our contact number as well as an indication that Olga was en vacances.
Here are some pet insurance providers to consider:
There is no doubt that the UK is a wonderful place for a dog-friendly caravan holiday. However, France, we noticed, is even more dog friendly than the UK. Most restaurants, cafés and bars not only accepted but welcomed dogs, and Olga was the centre of attention wherever she went.
I wouldn't hesitate in recommending taking your dog abroad. Olga's passport is valid for three years, which leaves us just enough time to squeeze in our planned trip to Belgium, Switzerland and Germany next year.