Many dog lovers are guilty about vacationing while their pets languish at home. That’s why some forgo their holidays.
This isn’t necessary at all. Most pets make good travel companions if their basic needs are attended to. Give them a stable, soft space to stretch out on, the right amount of water and food, and most pets are easy companions on the road. There is never a dull moment with dogs on board. Occasionally, the dog may reward your generosity with a stink so foul you’re forced to lower the windows, regardless of torrential rain or blazing heat outside. But the highs more than make up for the occasional lows.
It helps to remember that some dogs, like humans, suffer motion sickness or panic at the sound of a horn or a revving engine. Mild medication can keep nausea under check and, with some patience, even the most problematic of pets can learn to travel well.
That’s what my friend Eric discovered as he travelled through many African towns with his Persian tomcat Caramel. Caramel was the kind of cat that refused to engage with mice or men, gently purring in his cage when fed well. The feline’s evident satisfaction was so infectious that the hotel staff ignored their “no-pets” policy to let Caramel share his master’s room at no extra cost. Now that’s what makes a purr-fect journey. —Mini Pant Zachariah
Indian pooches have never had it better. Many urban Indian families who have welcomed four-legged members into their fold, treat them to gourmet food, trips to the salon, pet sitters, massages and orthopaedic beds. And of course, they often want to take their pets along on family holidays, often with no expense spared.
Helping families take their pets on vacation has turned into a business in itself. Among the pioneers of the pet travel sector is Anupama Vinayak, who founded an internet travel portal called Pet Vacations in 2009. Vinayak started the company because her labrador loves going on family holidays but there was never anyone to help make arrangements. She said that while many hotels are pet-friendly, they don’t advertise it because other guests may not like having a dog in the room next door.
To get around the discomfort of dealing with sniffy hotel neighbours, Pooja Sathe of Crazy K9 Campers organizes weekend getaways from Mumbai for pets and their owners. “Young couples in cities like Mumbai are choosing to become pet parents first before starting their own families and they all love the idea of getting away with their pets,” she explains.
But there’s more to this than just the pet owners wanting to spend quality time with their pups. Anu Sethi, a canine behaviourist and trainer, says that many dogs can’t be allowed off-leash to run free unless they leave the city. “Given their urban lifestyles, these dogs have never run around in grass that’s taller than them or jumped into a cool lake on a hot summer afternoon,” says Sethi, the founder of an organization called Wet Nose and a Wag. “The first time they experience this it’s almost like culture shock.” If the pet is well mannered and properly trained it’s a joy to travel together, she adds.
Taking a road trip is probably the easiest, but airlines and trains are also trying to make it easy to take your pet along.
We decided to call 75 randomly-picked hotels and resorts all over India to ask about their pet policy. To our surprise, over half said they would be happy to welcome guests with pets. But its important to check with the hotel beforehand. There are hundreds of others, not listed here, that are pet-friendly. Next time you’re planning a getaway make that call and check with the hotel of your choice. We found that while some had special arrangements to make pets comfortable, most were willing to offer basic amenities like food and water bowls, access to a good vet and more. These hotels ran the gamut from the Four Seasons to programmes like Mahindra Homestays and family-run establishments in small towns.
Pet Vacations: This service has a list of around 500 pet-friendly hotels and resorts around the country. Users can choose the city they plan to holiday in, and make reservations at pet-friendly hotels through the site. Special requests such as home-cooked food and dog walkers can be arranged here. (022-42955520/1/2/3; www.petvacations.in.)
Furry Flyers: Furry Flyers India is a division of Pet Vacations that offers pet owners in India pet-relocation and travel services (by air and rail as required) both in the country and abroad. They have ports of entry into India in five cities: Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. Furry Flyers will help with reservations, paperwork, quarantine and vaccinations, micro-chip implanting for tracking, and other logistical requirements. (022-42955520/1/2/3; www.furryﬂyers.com.)
Crazy K9 Campers: For those still not convinced about the wisdom of taking their dogs to a destination of their choice, Mumbai-based Crazy K9 Campers plans weekend getaways for dog owners. Crazy K9 Campers takes groups of about 15 dogs and their owners to a pet-friendly resort. The weekend includes food, games, and a swimming pool for the animals. (98205 96903; www.crazyK9campers.com)
Here’s a list of pet-friendly hotels that will welcome your furry four-legged creature. We’ve tried to list accommodations where everyone in a multi-generational family and the pet can find something to amuse themselves.
Acres Wild, Coonoor: An organic cheese farm in the Nilgiri hills, Acres Wild has an excellent farmstay programme that welcomes dogs, if the owner brings along the pet’s bedding and gear. There’s lots of activity to keep both pet and owner busy. There are dogs on the farm, so only bring along pets that are sociable and friendly. (94432 32621; www.acres-wild.com; doubles from ₹3,000; no extra charges for pets)
Dune Eco Village, Pondicherry: This is a peaceful retreat with gardens, secluded beaches and a few resident dogs for company. Dogs have freedom to run around the property or swim in the ocean. (0413-2656351; www.thedunehotel.com; doubles from ₹7,950; no extra charges for pets.)
Elephant Valley, near Kodaikanal: Situated on an elephant migration route, this hotel has 20 villas, all of which welcome pets. (0413-2656351; www.elephantvalleyhotel.com; cottages from ₹4,700; no extra charges for pets.)
Our Native Village, Bengaluru: This eco resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru allows pets and has a lengthy pet policy on their website. They emphasize that visitors should only bring well-behaved dogs since this a retreat for holistic health. This is best for quiet dogs that will enjoy sitting around during a yoga class and massage sessions. (080-300 76898; www.ournativevillage.com; doubles from ₹9,900; ₹800 per pet)
Emerald Trail, Nainital: Situated 9 km above Naukuchiatal, Emerald Trail is a home away from home, even for pets. Owner Sumith Dutta is a dog owner who makes the extra effort to welcome pets. Packaged dog food isn’t easily available in the hills so visitors must carry their own supplies. Or the staff at Emerald Trail is more than happy to prepare fresh meals and provide visitors with special doggy beds. Pets will love running free on the three-acre property and breathing in fresh air. (98339 49954; www.emeraldtrail.in; doubles from ₹6,000; no extra charges for pets)
Rishikesh Valley, Rishikesh: The property is far enough from Rishikesh’s crowded centre to give visitors a sense of quiet. Pets are allowed in almost all areas of the hotel. The hotel offers adventure and meditation packages, but it’s difficult to take pets along on the former. Other dogs live in the area so it would be prudent to travel here only if your dog is friendly and won’t disturb the daily yoga and meditation sessions. (94107 11503/86503 84742; www.rishikeshvalley.com; doubles from ₹2,500; no extra charges for pets.)
The Lake Resort, Naukuchiatal: The resort is situated in the middle of pine and oak forests. It’s a dream come true for a cooped up city dog. While the establishment doesn’t provide special amenities for pets, it’s willing to help out where possible. (084499 47183; http://www.thelakeresort.in; doubles from ₹4,800; ₹1,200 per pet )
Old Bellevue Hotel, Darjeeling: Suites in the heritage wing have attached gardens and are perfect for a pet to romp around in. The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant on its premises so they cannot provide any food for your dog. (07872100931; www.bellevueheritagehotel.com; doubles from ₹2,500; ₹500 per pet)
Tapola River Camp, Tapola: The Tapola River Camp is a camp site near Mahabaleshwar. Dogs are welcome to stay in the tents and accompany owners on treks and boat rides. (94233 35293; www.tapolarivercamp.com; per head starting ₹1,000; no extra charges for pets.)
These chains make space for your pet, but some charge a little for the trouble.
Four Seasons, Mumbai
For business or leisure travel to Mumbai, the Four Seasons is a rare luxury hotel that welcomes pets. Pets will enjoy a welcome kit that includes food, cushions, and a litter box for cats. Specific rooms have been allocated for guests with pets. (022- 24818000; fourseasons.com/mumbai; doubles from ₹12,000; ₹1,500 per pet; the pet has to be below 30kg and is only allowed in the room and lobby.)
Indeco Group of Hotels
This group’s properties at Thanjavur, Mahabalipuram and Yercaud are pet-friendly. In fact, there are special rooms designated so that pets do not inconvenience other guests. Dogs, cats and birds are welcome. Meals, toys and dog walkers can be provided on request. (08754-419618; www.indecohotels.com; doubles from ₹3,500; ₹950 per pet.)
Vivanta by Taj
Most of hotels of this chain allow one pet to stay in the guest’s room at no extra cost. Vivanta has a comprehensive pet policy that highlights the amenities it offers pets as well as the owners’ responsibilities while the pet is on hotel property. The hotel will help with pet food, provide comfortable bedding and the staff is always at hand to provide information like a vet’s number, or the nearest dog-friendly park for a walk. (www.vivantabytaj.com; ₹3,500 per pet.)
• Take your own sheets and pillow covers, especially if your pet sleeps on the bed.
• Make reservations and check on the hotels pet policy well in advance. Call the hotel a day before travel and remind them about any special requirements that your pet may have.
• Do not take your pet to the restaurant.
• Tag your pet with your name and phone number; either on the collar or with an electronic chip.
• Make sure that your dog does not bark at night; it will make other pets less welcome the next time.
• It’s best not to leave your pet unattended in the room. If you’re sure your pet will not damage any property, and you must go away for a short while, leave the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door so that house- keeping staff do not enter.
This is usually the most enjoyable form of travel for dogs. Pets will feel a lot more comfortable with their owners by their side and most dogs enjoy windy car rides. Take ample breaks to stretch their legs and keep water handy.
Air travel is an option while travelling with your pet, but owners are strongly advised to exercise caution and talk to their veterinarian before embarking on the journey. For domestic travel in India, four airlines allow for pets to travel onboard: Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Vistara and Air India.
• The pet must be placed in an IATA-approved crate while travelling. Crates aren’t available on hire and costs vary, depending on size.
• Ensure the pet has enough water in containers that are approved by the IATA.
• Make sure that the crate is correctly tagged with your pet’s full name and address in case of emergency or if it gets lost. A ‘this side up’ sticker is also very important.
• Once on board, your pet will be placed in the cargo hold area.
• Pets are allowed in the passenger area only on Air India ﬂights on the captain’s discretion. However, the pet and the crate must be small enough to ﬁt under your seat.
• Make sure to remind the airline crew that there is a pet onboard so that the captain can regularize the temperature (between 18-24 degrees Celsius) and air pressure in the cargo hold.
• If you cannot speak to the captain yourself, do ask for a verbal or written conﬁrmation of this.
Trains allow you to travel with your pet if you book yourself a ﬁrst class air-conditioned coupe. Be sure to book the entire coupe. If not, the pet will be placed in the guard’s compartment, which is not ideal. The guard’s compartment can get very hot and dusty. All trains do not have a ﬁrst class air-conditioned coupe; pick a train that reaches your destination accordingly.
Appeared in the July 2012 issue as “Beast Practices”.