After identifying a significant rise in pet travel, Discover Ferries, the ferry industry body, has teamed up with The Kennel Club – organisers of Crufts – to highlight some of the best places for dogs and their owners to explore, and offer travel advice.
When surveyed, members of The Kennel Club community voted ferry travel as the easiest way to journey over seas in the British Isles and beyond with their dog1. The ability to travel with a car or motorhome, together with a range of pet-dedicated facilities on board ensures pets – and their owners – travel in comfort and arrive at their destination feeling relaxed.
Rise in pet travel
Since 2019, ferry operators have seen a vast increase in the number of dogs booked in for travel. In line with the rise of the staycation, domestic ferry operators have reported more pets on board. On average, operators have noted that pet travel is up by at least 20% on 2019 figures. Some routes have seen an increase of more than 73%. On Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services around Scotland’s west coast, pet travel has increased in the last year with over 54,000 pet crossings taken in 2023 so far.
The purchase of pandemic pups and increased home working is influencing the way owners spend their holiday, 95% of The Kennel Club community say they want to take their dog away with them. Increased interest in pet travel has encouraged more pet-friendly experiences to open up. With almost all of respondents (96%) travelling at least once a year and more than half of dog owners (55%) travelling at least three times a year, there is even more reason for operators to invest in pet travel to cater for this thriving market.
Abby Penlington, Director of Discover Ferries, says: “The ability to easily drive or walk on board with a dog makes ferry travel particularly appealing to dog owners. Since lockdown, ferry operators have seen a rise in pet travel and are investing in dedicated pet lounges, cabins and other facilities including pet promenades to give owners the opportunity to enjoy the journey with their pet as much as the time they spend at their destination.”
The most comfortable way to travel
Pet cabins, promenades, lounges, pet cleaning stations and even the now infamous “pee trees” on Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ships, give pups and their owners greater comfort during the journey. Brittany Ferries now has 138 kennels across its fleet, which has increased by 25% since 2019 and Stena Line has 15 pet-friendly cabins on board each of its ships that travel between the UK and the Netherlands. Six new cabins open on Condor Islander in October, uptake is already proving popular and Condor Ferries is already looking to install more on other ships.
Travel across the Solent is as much of a day out for dogs as it is hoomans. Hovertravel welcomes dogs aboard for the 10-minute flight from Southsea to the Isle of Wight and has a free Hover Paws bowl at the terminal so dogs can hydrate before they hop on. Four-legged passengers on Red Funnel can enjoy a lick of Doggie Ice Cream or indulge in some nutritious treats from new product partner Dewkes. Travellers on Wightlink ferries can pick up dog food from Paleo Ridge, based in Hampshire, so both pets and owners can eat locally sourced food while on board.
“Doggy bag” essentials
As well as making sure you’ve visited your vet well in advance of your trip, and are aware of all the necessary travel documents needed for your pet,, The Kennel Club and ferry operators have put together a definitive list of must-have items to pack to ensure your dog travels in comfort And you won’t need to limit the amount of liquids in your paw luggage – so no problems taking plenty of water, medicines, or pet shampoo. If travelling to the EU meat and dairy cannot be taken across, so, Discover Ferries advises taking vegan dog biscuits and fruits and vegetables such as carrots and bananas for your dog to snack on during the journey.
|The Kennel Club & Discover Ferries’ Doggy travel essentials|
|1. Dog bed and blanket|
|3. Bowls for food and water|
|4. Poo bags|
|5. Dog lead and/or harness|
|6. Favourite toys|
|8. Pet-friendly wipes|
|9. Treats and / or your dog’s preferred brand of pet food (unless travelling to the EU)|
|10. Dog travel carrier or crate, if required|
|11. Details for a local vet near where you are staying|
|12. A muzzle – some ferry operators require dogs to be muzzled when on board and outside your vehicle|
While The Kennel Club recommends taking practical and familiar items from home and favourite toys to help keep pets calm and entertained, some survey respondents identified more unusual essentials that they’d never leave home without. One even said they played audio books to help soothe their dogs.
|The most unusual items dog owners take on holiday|
|2. Sunglasses and a fan|
|3. A car plug-in sprayer to cool dogs down and rinse them off after muddy walks|
|4. A bell to hang on the door – so the dog can let owners know when they want to go out|
|5. A dog pram or pushchair|
|6. A vent lock – so owners can lock the car but still leave the boot slightly open for ventilation|
|7. A life jacket and a post-swim puppy robe|
|8. A body camera – to capture holiday memories from the dog’s POV|
|9. A fancy bow tie just in case!|
|10. Hair clips and a rechargeable hairdryer|
Penlington continues: “We all like to pack essentials but also take our favourite clothes away with us and it is no different for our dogs. While it may be surprising to see some of the items owners deem essential on the list, travelling by ferry means they don’t have to compromise on what to pack as they have the space to bring extra items with them.”
The pawfect destinations
To inspire owners to explore with their dogs, Discover Ferries has compiled a list of the 10 best dog-friendly destination reached by water. The guide features favourite routes for walkies, the best beaches to pad around, historic and cultural attractions open to dogs and some specialist pet activities such as themed dog training workshops.
Read the full guide here. UK suggestions include the Scottish Isle of Arran, pet pampering spa and shopping trips in Chelsea, the Isle of Wight, Isle of Man and Isles of Scilly. Further afield, visitors can enjoy dog training classes on Texel in the Netherlands, Normandy and Waterford in Ireland.
Emma Dyer, Head of Marketing at The Kennel Club says: “Dogs are very much a part of the family so it’s not unexpected that so many people are keen to take their dogs with them on new adventures. People are often surprised just how easy it is to travel with their dog but, particularly following this summer’s heatwave in Southern Europe, want to be confident that the destination will be the right fit for their dog – including a comfortable temperature, as well as having plenty of activities and suitable walks to keep their canine companion occupied. We’re delighted to partner with passenger ferry operators to identify the best dog-friendly places across the UK, British Islands, Ireland and Europe – and the optimum time of year to visit.
“Autumn is a lovely time to travel with dogs as it is slightly cooler, quieter and often beaches drop any restrictions for dogs, although owners should always check local guidance before they travel. It’s also the start of the season for fireside dining in many pubs and restaurants, when dogs will enjoy curling up next to the fire after a long walk.”
Visit https://www.discoverferries.com/dog-friendly-travel/ for more information on dog-friendly trips by ferry.
1 Discover Ferries received 1,355 responses from a survey run with The Kennel Club community in September 2023. Results showed 54% respondents voted ferries as “easy” or “very easy” to travel on with their pet. This compares with 35% for train travel and just 3% saying that air travel is easy or very easy.