Ask a With-Dog Traveler: What Does My Dog Need to Travel the World?

Mar 13, 2017    /    luna the traveling pooch

When I tell people I travel full-time, they have a lot of questions.

Isn’t that expensive? How do you afford it? What about work? How do you choose where to go

And when I mention that I travel full-time with my dog, the list of questions grows ever longer.

What about quarantines? How do you take her on a plane? Is travel stressful for dogs? Which places are dog-friendly…and which aren’t? 

I do my best to answer all the questions people ask, but the truth is that my answers aren’t the only way to do this dog travel thing. I mostly travel in Europe, but plenty of dogs have also been to Asia, Africa, and all over the Americas. Luna travels pretty light, but some dogs have their own checked bag. Luna is therapy trained, but certainly not every world-traveling dog has that background.

Which is why today I’m starting what might become a new series here on the blog, in which I’ll tackle a common question–and ask several other with-dog travelers to tackle the same question, giving you a variety of perspectives.

Today’s question: What Does My Dog Need to Travel the World?

Or, in other words, what should I pack for my fluffiest family member?

Here are three perspectives:

Gigi & Luna the Traveling Pooch

Gigi and Luna in Sicily

As you probably already know, I’m Gigi—the architect of this little website and the 100 Locals guidebook series. I’ve been traveling the world full-time since May 2012 with my freelance writing and content strategy business and Luna, who is a 12-pound, 7-year-old Schnauzer-Yorkie mix (Schnorkie). Luna’s been to something like 17 countries now on three continents and her favorite thing is running like a crazy thing along a sandy beach.

Luna’s first trip abroad: Scotland in 2012 when we started traveling full-time.

Countries visited: 17

A few favorite pet-friendly countries: Switzerland, France, Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia.

What kind of airline carrier do you use? What do you like about it and is there anything you don’t love so much?
I love love LOVE our Sleepypod Air. When I first brought it home in early 2012, Luna climbed right in and went to sleep, which was a huge relief to me because she’d never traveled before and I had no idea whether she would like or dislike being cooped up in a carrier.

Thus, it was a really wonderful surprise to find that she immediately adopted the Sleepypod as her own, using it as a convenient spot to nap, hide (particularly if something scary like a garbage truck happens to be going by the house), and and hang out.

In five years of full-time travel, we’ve replaced the carrier once (and it was still in pretty good condition, Luna had just scratched up the interior a bit and I though that was a good time to replace), and she still loves her new one dearly, so I doubt if we’d ever go with another brand.

There’s not really anything about the carrier that I don’t like, though I would be excited if they came out with a slightly lighter version.

Here’s a longer review I did of the carrier.

Luna in her Sleepypod Luna with her gear

What kind of day-to-day carrier(s)/bags do you use? What do you like about it and is there anything you don’t love so much?
For the first four years of travel, Luna didn’t have a day bag. Mostly this was because since I already carry everything we own, I’m really careful about adding weight to my pack. Only necessities and things we really love make it onto the packing list.

That said, when we were in Ottawa last summer finally meeting one of our all-time favorite dog bloggers face-to-face, she gushed about how much she loves the WagWear shoulder bag. And I thought, well, it would be nice to be able to shop hands-free in shops that ask me to carry her, and it would be nice to be able to take the bus on a whim without having to think ahead and carry the Sleepypod (which is much more rigid than a shoulder bag and tougher to carry around town).

So I reached out to WagWear for a shoulder bag—and all those things that I thought would be nice were. It was easy to take Luna on the bus and to shove the shoulder bag down into my backpack while we walked around town afterward.

The only issue was that Luna didn’t love the bag. Where she happily throws herself into the Sleepypod all the time, getting her to sit what we started calling the Wag Bag was tough. She put up with it, but didn’t love it.

Then we got to Rome and I went shopping for a bag or crate for Luna to ride on the front of my folding bike. I put some carriers on the floor and lifted her into each one. She was pretty unhappy about it, putting up with each bag, but not enjoying them…until I set a cozy green bag on the floor for a second and she climbed straight in and curled up to take a nap.

We had a winner for the bike bag…and it also happened to be a shoulder bag. Since Luna was so in love with it and since it could do triple duty as a shoulder bag, a cozy nest on the front of the bike, and a cozy spot for her to curl up under the table when we take her out to lunch with us, that has since become our go-to bag.

I couldn’t find the exact bag on the brand website, so perhaps it has been discontinued, but here are two similar bags: the bitty bag and the vincent bag.

Luna in her shoulder bag Luna under the table

What do you use for food/water bowls on the road?
We’ve tried a variety of collapsable or made-for-travel bowls, but they all seem to get slimy and be hard to clean over time, so now we just use small tupperware containers (currently old Noosa yogurt containers).

Do you bring any toys? If so, tell us about them.
Yep! Luna gets two toys: a ball and something to pull/chew. Currently, this is a stuffed monkey we bought in Rome, which she likes to carry around the house, shake fiercely, and growl at.

What else do you travel with?
Luna also travels with a sweater (she doesn’t grow much hair on her back and gets cold easily), baby sunscreen (since she doesn’t have much hair on her back, our vet has recommended sun protection; her and I share a single bottle of baby sunscreen since the baby versions tend to be high SPF and gentle on the skin), a pair of hair-cutting scissors (small shears that I also use to trim my bangs, cut off tags, etc. etc.), leash, collar, harness, poop bags, shampoo (sometimes she and I share a gentle/baby shampoo, sometimes she has her own bottle), a crate for the front of my folding bike, heartworm pills, flea prevention meds, and, of course, all her travel paperwork (which includes copies of rabies certificates, her European pet passport, and the results of her recent titre test).

I also make Luna’s food from scratch wherever we are in the world, so often you’ll find a can of tuna and some dry rice packed up in my bag when we’re going from place to place.

Luna in the bike basket Luna with the bike

Any tips for packing for with-pet travel?
Making your dog’s food from scratch means traveling a lot lighter than if you have to haul dog food around. It’s also a lot healthier, but do make sure you talk to your vet about balanced nutritional requirements and how much food your dog needs in a day.

Also, don’t forget that you can buy most things when you arrive. If you’re worried about overpacking, just plan on grabbing bones or flea meds once you get there.


Sonja & Montecristo

Greetings, I’m Sonja—founder of Montecristo Travels and author of the illustrated children’s guide series of the same name. I’ve been traveling the world on and off with my partner Stefan Dumas and our teeny tiny dog since 2010. Montecristo is a 3.5-pound, seven-year-old long-hair Chihuahua. So far, he’s been to about 17 countries on two continents and his favorite thing in the WORLD is going up stairs. I kid you not.

Montecristo’s first trip abroad: Although his first flight was when I went to get him at three months and we flew from North Carolina, USA, back to Ottawa, Canada, and there was a subsequent flight to Naples, Florida that year, his first cross-Atlantic flight was a year later to Florence, Italy.

Countries visited: 17

A few favorite pet-friendly countries: Europe! Specifically: Greece, Italy, Croatia, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

What kind of airline carrier do you use? What do you like about it and is there anything you don’t love so much?
We use to have the Sleepypod Mini. I loved the style, the design and it felt right from an “it’s us” perspective, but after our second cross-Atlantic flight, we stopped using it. The round shape was great for Montecristo but made carrying it around in airports during layovers really awkward.

Because I was so impressed by the quality of the Sleepypod Mini, I did look at the Sleepypod Air and tested it out, but found it’s too much of a “dark tunnel” for my sunshine-loving boy and even the smallest size was too large for him causing him to uncomfortably slide around inside when carried.

In an effort to “shop Canadian,” we discovered an amazing if lesser-known company: One For Pet. Their smallest carrier, The One Bag Expandable Carrier had absolutely every. single. thing. on. my. list. I ADORE this carrier. Montecristo really likes to see where he is and where he is going (I suspect this may be because he used to get motion sick) and this is the only carrier I have found that allows for that nearly 360-degree perspective. Having an opening on top is by far the most important feature for us.

Its crazy durable, it still looks like new (and I assure you it is not!). It’s completely gender-neutral (a must for us) and for those that are part of the less-than-five-pounds club, this bag is the only one I have found that has that perfect sizing. From truly small and compact for when we walk to more space becoming available with the zipper “extensions” once in the air. It’s also fully, completely, all the way flat collapsible: a must when we sail and space is at a premium.

I did a video and full post on this product I believe in it so much.

Montecristo in his carrier

What kind of day-to-day carrier(s)/bags do you use? What do you like about it and is there anything you don’t love so much?
Honestly, we try and let Monte walk as much as possible. He has been known to really surprise folks with how long he can keep at it. Five-hour hikes? No problem. Eight hours of sightseeing in Europe? Done. But we would never leave home without the WagWear shoulder bag. Ours is the small size.

We use it for taking public transportation in Europe, for when we sail and he needs to stay close and under our waterproof jackets, or when sightseeing and the crowds have gotten dense and are thus a danger to his teeny tiny size (people don’t look at where they are going). It’s also ideal for spontaneous things like suddenly taking a Segway tour! Being hands-free in markets is a huge bonus and I have lost track of how many times we brought home groceries in the sling.

This sling bag has been with us from the get-go and although I have on occasion strayed and used another product, I always end up regretting it and coming back to this ultra-sturdy option. We’ve added a “flag badge” for each country Montecristo has visited and I absolutely love how gender neutral it is. Stefan can carry him in the subway or I can. It does not matter.

Montecristo also finds it really comfortable and that extra wide strap is great for us humans. I love that there is a safety strap inside. Twice now it has prevented him from being dog-napped (don’t get me started!). Monte has often fallen asleep inside, but most of the time he just watches the world go past him; looking very much like a driver with his arm out the window.

I think the only thing it could use would be a snap-on mesh cover for when a “closed” carrier is a requirement or we need a more “stealth mode” solution for him to enter unseen. I may have one made. Perhaps some padding for the wide strap would be nice too.

What do you use for food/water bowls on the road?
We don’t worry about food bowls. Montecristo eats human food and we usually rent apartments so there is always a small saucer or tiny bowl around. Heck, we’ve even just fed him by hand in a pinch. He only eats a tablespoon or so of food at a time so it’s not a big issue.

Water, on the other hand, has been a major focus. Sometimes Monte will just drink out of a bottle cap (he is that small), but after trying dozens of options, the H2O4K9 9.5 ounce travel bottle has stood the test of time like no other product. It’s so very versatile: You can hike with it, take it to the city, fly, train…you name it. It’s also small enough to clip to a belt buckle and not be in the way.

It’s the only one I have found that fits in car cup holders, bike cages, and is small enough to get tossed into a purse. I absolutely LOVE the quality materials. It’s made of the same stainless steel used for human bottles. The entire thing is 100% recyclable and sustainable. No BPA, no more plastic bottles…in fact, we share the bottle with Monte. He uses the bowl; we drink out of the bottle.

Do you bring any toys? If so, tell us about them.
One. In fact, I often kid that four of us travel: the two bipeds, Montecristo and Moby. We once left without Moby. The result was heartbreaking. Three sleepless nights and a sound of distress coming from Monte I never want to hear again. Ever. Moby is now the FIRST thing I pack and I ask poor Stefan at least a dozen times, “do we have Moby?” as we are leaving.

He has a bond with Moby I have never seen in any of my past dogs. There is no destructive behavior but, rather, he cares for him. It’s his soother and pillow. The relationship is so unique, I actually wrote about it.

Monte has never liked balls or fetching, so we are off the hook there!

What else do you travel with?
Gosh, so many things I could list here from the obvious paperwork and his first-aid kit to his Must Love Dogs cooling vest, Fab Dog sweaters, and Foo Foo Fido harnesses.

If I have to break it down to three more items, I would say #1 is the PupHead. Essentially, it’s an indoor potty solution. The small is a 20” x 20” piece of specially designed AstroTurf that sits in a tray and is easy to clean and less wasteful than pee pads.

We indoor potty-trained Montecristo for a multitude of reasons (living in a condo on the ninth floor, -40 winters, sailing, and so on) but the biggest benefit has been that he can also go potty during long flights and we don’t have to go to the other side of security when at airports during layovers to find a patch of grass. He can go to the bathroom at the same time as I do and just use his PupHead (I don’t take the tray when traveling, but use recycled material pee pads to absorb liquid waste).

I did a video and blog post on this as well. Amazing product and I highly recommend it. If you are wondering: he does prefer to go outside on the grass given the choice. So yes, a dog can do both.

The second item is safety related. On a day-to-day basis, Montecristo does not wear a collar. He has a ridiculously fragile trachea that makes this nearly impossible. Still, we want to make sure he’s covered should he get away from us and although microchipped, it’s important that he have his tags. As such, we have custom tags with our logo and contact info in the back but when traveling we use a small barrel style tag on his harness where we can write our local address and emergency contact here in Canada – in the local language – on a piece of tiny paper and roll it up inside. We never leave Canada without that.

Finally: PAWZ! I no longer leave home without these. I use to think of these little “balloon” -style boots as a winter thing until we spent a few weeks in some of the bigger cities of Europe. No matter how much I tried, I could not remove the black “oil” on Monte’s pads at the end of the day.  It drove me crazy to see his bubble-gum-pink pads remain dark black. There have also been times when I have noticed a “dusting” of broken glass on sidewalks and have had to quickly scoop Monte up for his safety. Now, unless it is brutally hot out, we put the PAWZ on him for big city walking. They are so small, easy to put on and take off and really not a hassle. And in the winter, they keep the street salt off his sensitive paws and out of his sensitive tummy as he grooms himself post walk.

Any tips for packing for with-pet travel?
We use the “less is more” approach. No matter how long the trip, we travel carry-on only. Everything has to be an absolute necessity. We favor packing cubes as a method. Montecristo has his own medium-sized cube. Other than his carrier and sling bag, everything else that is his (so ALL his clothing, leashes, harnesses, poop bags, pee pads, and his first aid kit) must fit in that cube. If we can’t close it, then we revisit and edit. Like his dad, his cube is black, but it’s the only black cube in my carry on. My cubes are turquoise. That way I can target and get to his things without messing up my own stuff. Stefan carries the toiletry cube, for a balanced three cubes each.

That should sum everything up. I am more than happy to go into further detail with anyone is they wish. Just give us a shout. And thanks a lot for having us!

Find Montecristo and Sonja at montecristotravels.com.


Caron & Lola

Lola and Caron

I’m Caron, but Lola is really the main attraction here. I try to blend into the background and let Lola be the star.

Lola is a three-year-old performing dog, what is known in dog circles as a Trick Dog. She is also a therapy dog and our ultimate goal is to do a trick show to raise money for children in need. Considering that Lola is the first dog that I have ever had that could sit or stay, it was very ambitious plan to say the least.

Right now, Lola is the First Dog of Fashion. She goes out in front of the press and does tricks and struts outfits that pay homage to the best designers in Europe. It’s a great way to get her noticed and Lola now has a fashion blog – The Dog Diarist. Fundraising for children without fame is sort of like one hand clapping. All this seemingly egotistical preening is a means to a very worthy end. We want to raise money for our kids and this is the way we have decided to build it.

I will let Lola take it from here.

Lola’s first trip abroad: Scotland at five months old.

Countries visited: 6

Favorite pet-friendly country: Italy.

Right now we are in Italy and it’s by far the most friendly dog place ever. I (Lola) am welcomed everywhere with a “boungiorno, bellisima!” (hello, beautiful!) Italians have big, dog-loving hearts. Paris has a reputation for being dog friendly, but they really aren’t as friendly as the Italians. The Viennese were downright mean to me and my human. I was doing tricks in front of the famous Spanish Riding School (where trained performing stallions are considered a national treasure) and a woman started upbraiding my human that she should be put in jail for asking me to do tricks. Talk about irony. Talk about a buzz-kill. I’ll take the Italian’s buongiorno and baci any day.

What kind of airline carrier do you use? What do you like about it and is there anything you don’t love so much?
I am my human’s ESA, so I sit on her lap but I do have an array of designer tote bags with specially cushioned bottoms that I like to sleep in. For me, stay means stay and when I am told, I don’t get out until I am given the word (the word is “free”).

What kind of day-to-day carrier(s)/bags do you use?
We have found that Givenchy totes are particularly suitable for everyday use. They make the right fashion statement and make people smile. (See my blog post here.)

What do you use for food/water bowls on the road?
I don’t like water or food out of plastic, so we always have a stainless steel bowl and a s’well bottle. Both are heavy, but if I don’t have them, I won’t eat or drink.

Do you bring any toys? If so, tell us about them.
I never leave home without my squeaky pink birthday cake, my squeaky purse, and a tiny squeaky tennis ball. We lose them all the time because I push them under beds, sofas, and radiators in an silly game and they get left behind. We constantly reorder on Amazon. CONSTANTLY. Woe be to my humans who try to substitute a different toy. I am a creature of habit.

What else do you travel with?
Everything. My clothes take up one side of a 26” suitcase. Dresses, coats, sunglasses, hats, collars. My human takes a few changes of black clothing and some colorful accessories. She used to pack in a carry-on and go for weeks. When I came along, all of that changed. Overweight charges became de rigeur.

I do have props for my tricks but have decided not to travel with them any longer. They are for trick shows and the fashion press really couldn’t care less if I can go up and down stairs on my hind legs and walk on a wheel. All they want are fabulous outfits hind leg walking and solid obedience so they can get their shots. For the street style, I need to be able to handle 15 clicking and whirring cameras in my face, people shouting my name and the circus that is the fashion press. The show props will stay home for now. My human is very, very relieved and we no longer pay overweight on our flights or have those custom cases take up space in our apartments.

On a daily basis we carry my tote bag and a knapsack full of camera equipment and dog clothing. Here in Italy, though, we really don’t need the tote bag at all and because I heel off leash, it’s one less thing my human has to carry. She also always wears a small cross body bag that holds my business cards, treats, her phone, poop bags, and a comb for me. I am a full-on production, for sure.

Lola's suitcase

Any tips for packing for with-pet travel?
I have a sensitive stomach and long distance airplane travel upsets my system for a day or two. We carry heavy cans of special food that is easily digestible and very moist (hydrating). We also pack lots of heavy pee-pee pads but those are depleted by the time we return home. However, my human purchases things along the way so our suitcases never seem to get lighter.

Lastly, we always stay in a rental apartment because caring for me is easier with a kitchen for feeding and big sink for bathing me. The only thing my human misses are the hotel bathrobes and turn down service.

Find Lola and Caron at The Dog Diarist.


Do you travel with your dog? What do you carry?


What your dog needs to travel the world?

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5 Comments
  • Ali
    March 13, 2017

    Too much cuteness!! If I ever cave in and get a dog, I will definitely be digging through all your posts about how to travel with a dog.
    Ali recently posted…How Much Money I Make Online: Income Report February 2017My Profile

    • gigigriffis
      March 13, 2017

      :)

  • Jennifer
    March 13, 2017

    Does Luna get jetlag?

    • gigigriffis
      March 13, 2017

      Yes. :)

  • Heiko Vermeulen
    March 13, 2017

    Eddie the Beagle is also 7 and has been to about 17 countries. He takes his camera and laptop anywhere so he can report in his blog. I have to help him with some spelling sometimes…

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