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“How can I travel the world if I have pets?”
When we get this question from readers, we honestly have no idea how to answer it. Luckily, earlier this year, we met a FIRE couple who did exactly that–travel the world with pets.
Today, let me introduce you to Stephanie and Gillian, a couple who retired early from their corporate careers and have been traveling the world full time with their dogs ever since.
1) What were your jobs before FI?
Before discovering the concept of financial independence, we were busy climbing the career ladder in the fields of marketing (Stephanie) and healthcare quality improvement (Gillian).
We worked in Canada for the majority of our careers but eventually wanderlust got the better of us. After months of networking, we both landed jobs in Singapore, a country where we knew no one and that we could barely find on a map.
We loved the opportunities for personal and professional growth that Singapore gave us, not to mention the financial gain from living in a low-tax environment. However, the stress of corporate life eventually became too much and we started brainstorming alternative ways to live. Our search eventually led us to financial independence, early retirement and full-time travel.
2) How old were you when you became FI?
We were 46 (Stephanie) and 38 (Gillian). In fact, we were able to call ourselves financially independent only a couple years after discovering the concept. After a lifetime of saving and investing, we were well positioned to achieve our financial goals quickly — it just took a little cost cutting to get to the finish line.
3) How long have you been retired?
We’ve been retired for two glorious years. When we first handed in our notice at work, we were a little worried that leaving our corporate jobs would create a huge gap in our lives. Was a life of early retirement really the right move for us during the prime years of our careers?
Two years later, we’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a day of back-to-back meetings or spend weekends working on Powerpoint decks. Instead, we spend our time exploring new destinations, connecting with fellow nomads and working on our creative projects. And, of course, enjoying life with our two poodles, Jasper and Huxley.
4) Where have you travelled with your dogs?
Since hopping on a one-way flight out of Singapore to start our new life, our dogs have travelled with us to 10 countries: Poland, Ukraine, Turkey, Italy, Canada, Greece, Croatia, Malta, Serbia and, most recently, Albania. And we were able to do all this travel despite the global pandemic.
5) What’s the most difficult thing about travelling with pets?
By far, the most difficult part of travel is booking our flights. We’re grateful that our dogs are small enough to travel in the cabin of the plane with us. However, not every airline will accept dogs in cabin and those that do have differing requirements for weight, height and total number of pets in the plane. And passage for a pet can’t be booked online; it can only be booked by calling customer service.
Before we set our hearts on a destination, we first need to ensure that we can fly our dogs in and get them out at the end. This usually involves hours of phone calls to different airlines as we weigh the options and decide on the best route. We envy everyone else who can just book their flights online with a couple clicks and be done with it.
6) When we last chatted, you mentioned getting your dogs a passport. How does that work?
Our dogs have official EU Pet Passports, which we obtained in our very first destination of Poland. These passports are useful if someone is planning to travel through multiple European countries. However, they can be substituted by having all the correct paperwork in place for your pet. It’s critical to check with the official sources of each country to ensure your pet meets all the requirements for entry.
7) Has it been difficult to find Airbnbs that accept pets?
For the most part, we’ve had our pick of Airbnbs in each destination. However, we have a fairly involved process for sourcing our Airbnbs.
We identify five to 10 Airbnbs that look appealing and message the hosts letting them know that we’re traveling with two dogs. While we’re at it, we also ask for a discount since we’re usually staying for a month (because who doesn’t love a discount!). Some say no on both counts and some say yes. From there, we choose the best option for us based on location, interior and price.
An important note: we never let the “no pets” criteria stop us from reaching out to prospective hosts. More often than not, a host will make an exception for us, especially since we have dozens of positive reviews from past hosts.
8) Walk us through a day when you’re flying into a new city. What is that like with two small dogs?
Despite successfully completing 17 flights with our dogs, travel days are still stressful. As soon as the luggage is by the door, the poodle anxiety sets in. We give them a light meal, a good walk and a calm environment.
Typically we will take a car transfer or a cab to the airport. When we’re juggling two dogs, two knapsacks and two 26” suitcases, we like to make travel days as smooth as possible.
We always arrive at the airport extra early, just in case we have a lengthy check-in process due to the dogs’ paperwork. Jasper and Huxley are usually at high alert through security and while the plane is boarding but eventually settle as the flight takes off.
Once we’ve arrived at our Airbnb, we unpack their dog beds and toys to send a signal that we’ll be staying for a while. Then it’s off for an orientation walk through the neighbourhood. Once they’ve had a good meal and have found a cozy spot on the couch, it’s like they’ve been living there all along.
9) How much does it cost to travel the world with your dogs?
There are the direct costs of traveling with a dog by air. Usually purchasing their ticket is between $75 to $150 CAD per dog, depending on the airline and the route. Occasionally we need to pay for a vet visit for additional paperwork for some destinations.
There are also the hidden costs of traveling with our dogs. For example, we typically need to take premium airlines since budget airlines like Ryan Air and Wizz don’t accept pets in cabin. We also end up taking more expensive forms of local transportation like cabs, private transfers and car rentals since public transportation is not always pet friendly.
10) What advice do you have for people who also want to travel with their pets?
Your style of travel should adapt to your pet and not the other way around. We’ve found that our dogs are very sensitive animals who value routine and stability. While they love the adventure of exploring a new destination, they ultimately want to come home to a familiar environment.
For us, this means an emphasis on slow travel. We stay in each destination for at least a month, long enough to create comfortable routines. We try to minimize the number and length of our travel days. And we never trigger separation anxiety by leaving them alone in new environments. Once we manage all that, they’ll happily follow us anywhere.
Thanks, Stephanie and Gillian for all the great information!
To find out more about Stephanie and Gillian, follow them on Youtube on the channel “Our Freedom Years.”
Here’s a super handy “Travel with Your Dog Cheat Sheet”: https://bit.ly/3oF4OMc
And if you want to learn even more about “How To Travel With A Dog”, follow their YouTube Series here: https://bit.ly/2VkTF6h
What do you think? Do you have any pets? Would you travel the world with them?
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