We’re planning a long stay in Paris this fall, and for the sake of the blog I decided to fly home not from Paris but from London. Going through that process, I thought, would really help other travelers with dogs — and it is a process, since dogs are not allowed to fly in-cabin into the U.K. If they’re on a plane, they have to be traveling as manifested cargo (as always with posts on this blog, I’m talking about pet dogs, not service animals). Leaving the U.K. is a different story, and I wanted to try it for myself.
So one way to arrive in the U.K. is with your pet checked as baggage in the belly of your plane. It’s not a way I’m comfortable choosing, and for travelers like me, there are three other options. The train is not one of them, since the Eurostar trains that run through the Chunnel are not pet-friendly. Sailing on the Queen Mary 2 is the first option, and someday we’ll do it (in the meantime, my link will lead you to posts by colleagues that have traveled that way). The two remaining options are flying to the Continent and (1) making your way to England by car, carried on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, or (2) taking a ferry to England.
I have breezily spoken of renting a car in Paris and driving it (with me and my husband and Chloe inside) onto the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. That is indeed possible, it turns out, though not every rental company will allow it — Avis, for example, will not permit one-way rentals into England, presumably because they don’t want their cars piling up over there. Hertz would allow me to rent a car one way, from Paris to Heathrow, but they charge a staggering €600 for the privilege.
Reader Tammy told me about an alternative. She is moving herself and her Toy Poodle from Singapore to London, and in one of her messages she said she’d found a courier to drive her from where her plane is landing in Europe to England via the Chunnel. Tammy tells me there are many courier options out there, covering all of the likely destinations (Paris, Amsterdam, etc.). She promised to let me know how the one she chose works for her, and if it’s a good experience, we’ll pass the reference on to future travelers. The fee is substantial (the one she ended up selecting is charging €500) — which works for her, and would work for me, but does not work for my husband, so back to the drawing board.
How about taking a ferry? The trip is much longer, but on the bright side (and this appears to be the only bright side, unless the thought of the Chunnel makes you claustrophobic), if you plan it right you can see the white cliffs of Dover. You start by looking at the list of ferries that are approved for pet transport into England (scroll down to the link for “routes by sea and rail”). After you do a bit of research, you’ll learn that most of those companies assume you’ll be driving your car onto the ferry, which brings you back to the €600 surcharge.
A couple of ferry companies do allow foot passengers to walk on with pets, however, including LD Lines (which travels between Dieppe, Le Havre, and Calais and, respectively, Newhaven, Portsmouth, and Dover — but please note Patricia’s comment, below, reporting that only certain LD Lines routes allow foot passengers with pets); and Stena Line (which travels between Harwich and Hook of Holland). Per LD Lines’ website, “Foot passengers wishing to travel with their pet should book via our call center and travel with their pet in a cage. Pets are taken care of by our staff from check-in to arrival.” You’ll do the same with Stena, per their directions.
That was good news, but then I took a moment and thought about the actual logistics of that travel day, and the way we travel. We’d take a train from Paris to Calais, then make our way to and onto the ferry, then off the ferry and to the car rental place in Folkestone — and we could do all of that easily except that when we travel with Chloe we travel with an additional, enormous suitcase.
I thought about how it’ll be November, we’ll be wearing bulky sweaters and coats, and it’ll likely be unpleasant out, and I quailed. My husband agreed that I was right to quail. And so we changed our plans — instead, we’ll be renting a car in Paris, ambling to Calais by way of a day in Amiens, crossing the Chunnel on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle (which makes it very easy to add Chloe to a ticket, see below), and then returning the same way a few days later. That way, we’ll have a good reason to get a pet passport for Chloe, as well as the required tapeworm treatment, and we’ll have the experience of bringing her into the U.K. to share with you.
What we won’t experience ourselves is leaving the U.K. by plane with Chloe, but I feel like I did enough research to know how that would have gone. Under the original plan (where we took a car one way from Paris to Heathrow, with a few days of sightseeing in Kent), I had booked us on Lufthansa flights from London to Frankfurt, and then from Frankfurt home to Seattle. The airline reps repeatedly confirmed that I could leave the U.K. with Chloe in cabin. I added Chloe to my reservation, but I was told that I would pay for her in London, on the morning of our departure.
Since I first wrote about Lufthansa, another reader has told me that KLM may also allow pets to leave the U.K. in-cabin. I didn’t investigate further since my miles are on United. Keep it in mind yourself as an option and let me know what you learn!