1. Introduce us to yourself and why you started travelling with your pets?
I'm Shandos Cleaver and this is Schnitzel, my 7-year old Miniature Dachshund. We're currently based near Sydney and I blog about travelling with a dog, both internationally and within Australia. For most of 2017 and 2018, Schnitzel, myself and my husband, Joel, travelled around Europe and the USA. Thanks to that trip, Schnitzel has travelled to more countries than many humans, ticking off 36 countries now.
I must admit that for many years, we never really travelled with Schnitzel. When we headed off on an overseas trip every year or so, we never considered taking him along with us, thanks to living in Australia and the difficulty getting dogs in and out of the country - something I now know a lot more about! We didn't even travel much with Schnitzel in Australia, except for bringing him along when visiting family, due to Australia not being the most dog-friendly country, especially if you love the outdoors and visiting national parks.
That changed when we started travelling long-term, after selling our house in 2016 and I started to focus seriously on my travel blog, then about affordable boutique travel. We initially travelled around South East Asia for 6 months, but we missed Schnitzel incredibly. So we thought, why don't we head off to Europe with him? I already knew that Europe was more dog-friendly than Australia, after encountering dogs on previous trips in cafes and on trains. Why didn't we bring him along and see if we could travel slowly around Europe with him for at least a year or longer?
2. What is your favourite place that you have travelled?
I'm going to nominate all of Europe, because the entire continent is great for travelling around with a dog, and we loved that experience so much. Not everywhere is equally dog-friendly in Europe, there are some countries that stand out as being more dog-friendly than others, but even the least dog-friendly destinations are usually more dog-friendly than Australia. Dogs are allowed in so many more hotels and Airbnbs. Nearly every train in Europe allows dogs, at least small dogs like Schnitzel. He flew in the cabins of planes, visited archaeological sites and famous chateaus, and sat at our feet in countless restaurants and bars (or on my lap - his preference!) Dogs are also allowed in most national parks in Europe, great for lots of hiking together, although most beaches don't allow dogs over the summer, but that's only a few short months of the year.
3. What makes your blog page unique?
There are a huge number of travel blogs out there, but my blog, Travelnuity, is one of the few blogs that focuses on travelling with a dog. Furthermore, I don't just focus on one country, such as the USA, Australia or the UK. We've travelled internationally so I cover a huge number of countries. I also cover the process for travelling between different countries, as we are experienced in that area. Some of my most popular articles are guides for people to import their dog to Australia, taking their dog between the UK and Spain, or travelling to France with a dog, including flying from the USA.
The vast majority of the my posts are based on my own personal experience. My readers love that I can share that personal touch, and can trust that I know what I'm writing about. And of course there's plenty of photos of the adorable Schnitzel, who is very popular with my readers and followers!
4. When did you start writing your travel blogs and tips?
I started Travelnuity back in May 2015 - in fact, it's my five year blog anniversary as I write this! However, I didn't initially start blogging about travelling with a dog. Travelnuity is a portmanteau of travel and ingenuity, and I was initially focused on affordable travel, in particular, affordable boutique travel.
I did occasionally mention Schnitzel in my blog, but it wasn't until 2017 while I was travelling around Europe with Schnitzel that I thought I should share our experience and tips for travelling with a dog. For the last two years I've been purely blogging about dog-friendly travel, covering firstly Europe, then the USA once we spent a couple of months there, and more recently Australia. Thanks to coronavirus, we'll be spending longer in Australia before next heading off overseas with Schnitzel, and I'll have plenty of time to head to more destinations in this country and cover them on my blog.
5. What is it like travelling with pets?
It depends on how you're travelling and where you're travelling. Sometimes it can be quite easy travelling with pets. This especially applies if you're road tripping, and then either camping with your own tent or camper van, or you're travelling in a country with plenty of pet-friendly hotels and cabins. Schnitzel loves travelling by car, and it's quite easy to put his bed on the back seat, clip him in using his seat belt attachment and harness, and pack in the back his bag of kibble and bowls.
On the the hand, if you're crossing international borders, flying in planes, wanting to visit places that don't allow dogs, or encounter issues finding dog-friendly accommodation, it can be difficult and stressful.
During our time in Europe, it was reasonably easy travelling with Schnitzel. Just like for us humans travelling within the Schengen zone, there aren't special rules for pets travelling between most countries in Europe. Though he also got his own pet passport, we rarely had to show it. We did however switch to planning more in advance, where we were going and where we were staying. On average, I would say about 30% of Airbnbs and hotels across Europe are pet-friendly, but it varies from country to country. And if there's not many options to start with in a city you're visiting, you want to book in advance, rather than turn up and find everything pet-friendly booked out.
The hardest part about travelling with a pet is entering a country like Australia, which has strict biosecurity rules and quarantine. While humans recently travelling to Australia have experienced 14 days in quarantine, it's standard for all cats and dogs entering the country to go into quarantine down in Melbourne for 10 days, and that's after having a number of tests done in advance. The whole process is quite expensive. In order to cut down on costs, I organised everything myself when we returned from the USA to Australia, and it was very stressful! For that reason, I only recommend for Australians to travel overseas with their pets if they're going for a long period, at least half a year or more.
6. What is your favourite part about travelling with your pet?
If you have a pet, you know that they're a big part of your life, part of your family. Just like it wouldn't feel right travelling without your children (well, except for maybe a sneaky weekend break!), we feel the same about travelling without Schnitzel. He's part of our family and should join us on our adventures, when possible. I love being able to hang out with him, give him cuddles, experience new sights along with him!
The other side of travelling with a pet, particularly in Europe, is that it was a way to connect with the locals. While walking around the streets of Spain or Italy with him, other people thought that we were locals, or at least expats living long term, not tourists. People loved to chat with us and ask us about Schnitzel, using whatever words we knew in common. It was also funny to be asked directions from English-speaking tourists, particularly fellow Australians, and for them to find out we were from Australia!
7. If you had one piece of advice to someone who also wants to travel the world with their pets, what would it be?
When we flew off to Europe with Schnitzel, we had no idea if it would work, and whether we would be heading home in a few months, after finding that it was all too difficult. However, it was a wonderful experience, and we would love to head off with Schnitzel again, although once the current travel situation has settled down again, and we're not in danger of being stranded overseas.
My biggest piece of advice is to realise it is possible. If you want to travel with your pet overseas, it can be done. However, I would also warn them in advance that there are difficulties, at least when you live in a country like Australia, where it is difficult to travel in and out of the country with a pet. Be aware of the costs, particularly when returning to Australia, plus some potential barriers. For example, it's not possible to import a pet directly to Australia from many Asian and less developed countries. There are also restrictions on flying brachycephalic pets, along with dangerous dog rules in many parts of the world - check in advance if these apply to your pet.
If you don't live in Australia at the moment (or New Zealand, by the same token), you're really lucky and it's a lot easier for you to travel the world with your pet! Just head off and do it!
8. How did your pet cope flying so many hours?
Many people are anxious about their pets flying, in particular in the hold. However, speaking to other people who have flown their pets into or out of Australia, where flying pets as cargo in the hold is the only option, our pets tend to cope better than expected. Probably most of us pet parents stress more than our pets. However, there are unfortunately some exceptions, including sadly a tiny percent of pets who have lost their lives. Keep in mind though, that thousands of pets fly everyday in planes, more than you realise.
We've been lucky that Schnitzel has coped well with flying, both in the hold and in the cabin. His first ever flight was a long mission, flying from Sydney to Madrid via Dubai. All up the journey was over 30 hours, although on the stopover he was treated to a short stay at the airport kennel, with some exercise outside of his crate, while we tried to sleep on chairs at the airport. When we were reunited in Madrid, he was happy and excited to see us, just in need of heading outside to pee!
Our longest flight with him in the cabin was from Paris to New York, about an 8 hour flight. Many people are surprised that he coped with staying in his small carrier bag, underneath the seat in front of us, for the entire flight. However, we were careful not to feed him much or given him too much to drink before the flight, plus we took him outside the airport for a toilet break before heading through security. The flight departed in the evening, and he slept the entire time, as if it was bed time for him. He's always been good at sleeping through the night. He was a little restless just after we boarded the flight, the only time this happened during his multiple flights in the cabin. But that was probably because we'd flown with him from Athens the day before. He soon settled down, though, and just went to sleep.
9. What are your favourite pet brands for travelling?
Ever since we've started travelling with Schnitzel, we've switched to feeding him Royal Canin Mini Adult kibble, as it's very common and available in virtually every country. If you look at the side of the package, you can see how many different languages the ingredients are listed in! Other than that, we haven't usually stuck to certain brands, as other things vary so much between countries, plus we've usually moved too often to receive packages in the mail.
I must also give a shout-out to Jetpets, who initially flew Schnitzel overseas for us, making it all really easy. They also flew him back up from Melbourne to Sydney after his stay in quarantine. Many people ask me whether or not they should use a pet transport company. And although we flew Schnitzel back from the USA to Australia without using a pet transport company, both so that I could thoroughly understand the process and to save on expenses, I recommend using one when travelling to and from Australia. It's a lot less stressful, plus it's a requirement of many airlines on most routes.