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Holidaying with your pet

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Pet Friendly 2Instead of leaving their furry family members at a boarding kennel or with pet sitters (and have a stressed vacation worrying about them), many people prefer to take their pets along on holiday.  A few years ago this was an unimaginable concept and my first exposure to this practice was through a colleague who always took her dogs on holiday to guest farms.  Over the years, many more pet friendly establishments have emerged and the options for holidaying with pets have expanded considerably.

How can one plan a holiday that includes a pet?  The first useful resource is ‘The South African Pet-Friendly Directory’ – of which the 7th edition is due to be released in about June 2013.  This book is a comprehensive look at travelling with your pet and pet friendly holiday accommodation.  It includes a wide selection of hotels, guesthouses, B & Bs, caravan parks, mountain cabins, self-catering cottages and secluded holiday homes, country inns, private nature reserves, game lodges, guest farms and luxury apartments. 

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The book details information such as the Pet Policy for each establishment by outlining which types and sizes of pet are allowed, and if any restrictions apply.  Many establishments take a maximum of two pets and the smaller size seems to be preferred.  The directory also indicates if there is a charge for pets and if a Doggie Damages Deposit is required.  Further, it mentions whether an establishment offers any extra services or amenities to travelling pets and their owners, like doggie menus and pet-sitting.  For a small price, one could obtain a wealth of useful information for planning a holiday according to your and your pet’s needs. 

The second option for finding appropriate accommodation is to search the internet.  Usually the accommodation booking sites such as SA Ventures will indicate whether an establishment is pet friendly.  The most common accommodation options are self-catering venues, guest farms and a limited number of hotels.

If you are interested in luxury hotel accommodation, then The Twelve Apostles and The Oyster Box are two examples of exclusive hotels that are pet friendly.  Generally these establishments have their own pet policy, and offer various services such as a pet menu, doggie beds and sometimes a toy gift.  Some are starting to think about the feasibility of offering a pet spa service – that could send your little one into ‘pet heaven’.  The Best Western Cape Suites Hotel is another pet friendly option that may be more affordable yet still offering good service.   It should be borne in mind that when booking pet-friendly accommodation, it is advisable to contact the establishment to find out exactly what their rules concerning pets are.

Guest farms are ideal choices for holidays that include pets.  The open expanses, opportunities for walks, and privacy ensuring limited impact on other guests, provide the ideal context.  Planning well in advance is also an additional way to make sure that you are satisfied with your choices and you have sufficient time to put all the necessary arrangements in place.

The one challenge that has been experienced with establishments listed as pet friendly, or as allowing pets by arrangement is that they are sometimes not what they claim to be.  If the information about the establishment on the website is inaccurate, it wastes a lot of time for the holiday planner.  Still, that should not deter one as there are numerous other venues that live up admirably to their pet friendly claim!

The third option is to find a suitable accommodation establishment that you like and even if they are not marketed as pet friendly, one could negotiate with the management/owners.  Sometimes self catering establishments are amenable to allowing pets that are small, clean and well-trained.

Some tips to help make your pet’s holiday experience as enjoyable as possible:

  • Take along some of their familiar objects, like their food bowl, their bed and their favourite toys.  In the same breath, their leash should not be forgotten!
  • Design a holiday itinerary that includes activities your pet will enjoy.
  • SAA and Kulula allow pets to fly – check with the airline for their pet policy and pricing.
  • Some specialist pet stores and online shops sell dog car seats.  These are useful when doing a long trip in a vehicle.

With the variety of resources available and the diversity of pet friendly options on offer, there is no longer a justifiable reason to leave your furry bundle at home.  Our furry friends are soon going to be looking forward to their annual vacations!

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