Travel More With Your Dog and Quit the Excuses!
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the travel industry is suffering these days. Apparently, we all have less money to spend on the perceived luxury of travel. Yet, the truth is, for many of us, not being able to afford travel doesn’t stop us from wanting to do it. In fact, I believe that apart from world peace and a cure for cancer, travel is likely one of the most universal wishes. After all, there has to be a reason why Google identifies “travel” as one of the most popular terms used in search engines.
It is not all that surprising really.
Never before have humans been able to get such a thorough look at what the world has to offer. Just with TV, Facebook, Flickr and other social media websites, we’ve “seen” more of the world than any other generation. There are thousands of books and millions of online images, not to mention advertising campaigns all showing us our diverse and extraordinary world. The more we see, the more many of us want to explore the world for ourselves.
Although so many people want to travel however, many never do. Let alone with their pet! I’ve overheard people make numerous excuses for not travelling: the expense, the kids, the pets and careers are all commonly used to explain why folks can’t travel right now.
Travel more with your dog and quit the excuses!
But I say where there is a will, there is a way. What’s the point in deferring your travel dreams? You can scratch the travel itch even if you have limited funds, a growing family, multiple pets or a demanding career. All you need to do is change your focus, make travel one of your top priorities, and then get on with it.
The bipeds and I did some brainstorming and put together some ideas to help you travel more.
1. Start Local.
If you think about it, the purpose of travel is to see new things, freshen your thinking and, if possible, experience new cultures. Many people seem to think that in order to do this, they need to travel to faraway lands. But I assure you, this is not true.
Start local (by local I mean nothing more than an 1 hour drive from your home) and explore your own neighbourhoods. I can’t tell you how often I’ve met people who don’t even know what their own city has to offer. We show up as tourists with our “To See List” only to learn that people living within easy distance are unaware of these gems. Everything from little hidden museums to hikes in national parks with waterfalls, caves, lakes, and picnic areas with breathtaking views remain unseen by locals. Many are accessible to pets, and a quick local phone call can confirm this.
Consider what else you might discover just a little further afield. Anything within a 3-4 hour drive is fair game for a weekend trip. If you’ve got longer, you could extend your range to 5-7 hours out. You’d be surprised at what you might find.
I’ll give you an example. We live near the Gatineau Hills, a 15 to 20 minute drive across the river from Ottawa. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard folks from Toronto (4 hours away) or Montreal (2 hours away) ask, “Oh, what is it like? I would love to go some time!” I say, get in your car and check it out!
It’s so easy to tempt your exploring urges. Use a search engine like Google and see what the internet can teach you. Wikipedia can also be interesting. Or, if you prefer browsing through paper, head to your local library and find books and travel magazines that reference your area. There are bound to be some beautiful surprises just waiting for you to discover. Go ahead and be a traveller in your own backyard!
When it comes to figuring out where to stay, especially with a pet in tow, think outside the box. Although it would be nice to indulge, travel isn’t only about staying in boutique hotels or luxury spas. Travel is primarily about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing things you’ve never tried before. (At least that’s what we think!) So with that in mind, be creative about finding inexpensive accommodation. Consider options such as:
- House Swapping
- Couch Surfing
- Bed and Breakfasts
- Renting a small apartment or studio
- Staying with friends
- Visiting distant relatives
Most of these options will cost you next to nothing, if anything at all. Especially off season!
So many people have camping gear they rarely use. I’ll bet you could even borrow it. Or, if you don’t want to camp, organize a house swap with out of town friends. Find someone in an area you’d like to visit and swap away. The added bonus with this option is that it will motivate you to clean out your house. (Think about how you could build your travel funds by selling your little used stuff!)
Friends and family are often happy to have you visit and stay in exchange for the cost of a dinner out or a small gift of appreciation. Go ahead and reach out. Let everyone know you want to travel with your pet and you might be surprised by the invitations you’ll receive.
For longer stays, we like to rent a small studio apartment. You can often find one (We like Trip Advisor) that will cost you the same for a week as what a fancy hotel would have cost you for a single night. You could also get together with friends and share the rent for a larger place. This is what we did in Florence and it worked out beautifully.
We never eat in 5-Star restaurants. Heck, we don’t even eat out at fast food joints. Not only are they terrible for your health, but they also “eat” into your precious travel budget. Plus, in North America most fancy hotels don’t even allow pets on the patio to dine with you. The truth is, with a little planning and some basic gear, you can feed yourself twice a day for a minimal cost. Here’s how we do it.
We travel with a sort of mini picnic backpack complete with a thermal area for keeping water cool. Our pack includes some plastic plates, goblets, cutlery and even cloth napkins. It includes a picnic knife that comes with a cover so it won’t pierce a hole in the bag. (The knife doesn’t come with us if we have to fly. We only travel with carry on and the knife will not clear security.)
For breakfast, we pick up some local seasonal fruit, muesli bars and some hard boiled eggs. One of the healthiest breakfasts is a thin layer of almond butter on rye bread. You can’t get much easier than that. Just buy a plastic jar of almond butter to carry round with you and pick up bread, chapatti, rolls or even fresh waffles from a street vendor.
For lunch, we do something fresh and simple such as a combination of fresh bread, tomatoes and cheese, cold cuts such as salami and ham, cucumbers, olives and hummus. Since we tend to travel when the weather is nice or to countries with pleasant climates, eating outside is a real pleasure. We also have more time to explore because we aren’t stuck inside waiting on service or limited to visiting sites with restaurants. Another favourite are food trucks and street vendors. Best way to really get into the local flavours!
If you are staying at a hotel, ask if they can include breakfast (often a buffet) at no extra charge. The fruit, rolls, hard boiled eggs and cheese you couldn’t eat at breakfast could be discreetly packed as a lunch or snack. We did this in Switzerland where costs are VERY high.
When it comes to the evening meal, don’t head straight to the touristy restaurants and main squares. Instead, watch where the locals eat. Again, street food can be excellent and extremely affordable not to mention ALWAYS pet friendly. If you are afraid of getting sick, just pick stalls that are popular with the locals; watch what they order and get the same.
If you are renting an apartment, then have dinner (and wine) at home. If you do eat out in order to taste local culinary delights, do so at lunch. Lunches are often exactly the same quality as dinner but for nearly half the price. If you really want to save costs, never order alcohol with your meal when eating out.
We’re always surprised by how many people travel with a check-list of the standard, big sights. We find there’s a lot of energy put into seeing those sights. You know the ones, right? Taking the trip up the Eiffel Tower or visiting the Guggenheim Museum. Certainly, there is often a reason why these sites are so popular, but they tend to be expensive and sadly, they are rarely pet friendly. We try and limit ourselves to one or two of these biggies per trip (I am often left at the apartment for those).
Some of the best things we have seen have no entry charge. And there are plenty of lesser known attractions which may be free or low cost. And because they need the business they are often pet friendly or willing to make an exception for a small dog in a bag. Visiting the Tuileries in Paris, sipping a Tuscan style hot chocolate in a tiny café way on the top of a hill overlooking Florence, and walking up and down the Art Deco Revival of South Beach in Miami were all fun, interesting and easy on the budget. No matter where you’re going, don’t feel you have to spend big on the main tourist attractions. Honestly, we have found that you can learn more by hanging out with the locals.
Promise me that you’ll stop trying to tick things off just for the sake of it. For example, if you do make it to Paris, then visiting the tourist attractions needn’t be your top priority. After all, you won’t see many French people paying to climb the Eiffel Tower. They’re all sitting in the cafés having a short black coffee (the cheapest option) and people watching. Join them wandering free of charge around the parks, visiting the local markets, and walking along and over the many many bridges of the River Seine. (Besides, instead of climbing the Eiffel Tower, enjoy it for the beauty it is and see how many views you can get of the Tower instead of off it!)
If you have kids or pets you can’t travel with (too large for in-cabin flying or elderly), you can, with some planning, have someone else take care of them. I know. My Grandma in France has 3 dogs, 2 birds, fish, 4 hens and more. Yet, she still found a way to come over to Ottawa (where we live in Canada) to visit for 2-3 weeks. She left her hubby behind and a trusted friend to check-in on him and lend a hand. What was the key to her enjoying her vacation? She relaxed and trusted them.
Have kids? When my Mom was a little girl, she (and her younger brother) would be sent off to the Grandparents – alone, on cross-Atlantic flights, no less – to spend 3 weeks with one set of grandparents and 3 weeks with the other. She remembers those summers fondly and is grateful for the quality time she had with her grandparents. Especially since they have passed away. She also learned to deal with being away from home – a life lesson she really appreciated when she moved out as a young adult to go to college. As for her own parents, they enjoyed 6 weeks every summer without the kids. They rested and travelled, just the two of them as a couple.
Another option is to do a swap with a friend. Something along the lines of, “I’ll watch your pets/child this weekend if you return the favour next month”. I have seen this work very well among our friends.
If you have a small dog, well … take your canine friend with you! I will keep shouting it off rooftops: travel more with your dog and quite the excuses!
SO GO! Go out of town for 2-3 days. Travel! Travel is really about going with the flow and allowing a little spontaneity into your life. So get out your calendar and red circle a weekend for travel. My next trips will be to Kingston, Almonte, Quebec City to see Grandma, or to the awesome Upper Canada Village only an hour away.
What is your next trip (weekend or more) going to be? I would love to hear what you have planned!