Driving in Switzerland; A Road Trip with Dogs

swiss alps summer

Driving through the lower Alps in summer.

Driving in Switzerland, especially through the Alps is one of the most beautiful trips on earth. My eleven day road trip through five countries was my first European road trip with dogs; though my third road trip with pets in the car. For in depth advice and insight on a road trip with dogs check out my post Car Travel With Pets

Swiss Road Trip
Tanner and I on our road trip through Europe.

This particular trip encompassed Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland. Switzerland offers drivers excellent roads, well marked tunnels and mountain passes as well as wide driving lanes in most areas. Particulars to consider when driving in Switzerland include: being prepared for the many tunnels through the Alps, purchasing a road Vignette (cost 34 Euro) and generally the cost of everything in Switzerland. You’ll find Swiss Motorways a helpful website for information about Swiss roadways and vingettes.

switzerland driving
Roads in Switzerland are well marked.

Be prepared for high costs in Switzerland. A single lunch for two at a lake front restaurant in the Lake Maggiore region cost 54 Swiss Franc’s; which is $57 US dollars. (To clarify this was not an extravagant lunch, it included two normal entrees a beer and a soda.) Switzerland is expensive; your best option if you’re on a budget is to do a day trip from another country. Consider one of the bordering countries of Austria, Italy, France, Germany or Liechtenstein. This will help keep costs lower. Remember also while traveling in Switzerland and EU countries you must have an EU Pet Passport. With appropriate documentation and vaccinations this can be obtained from your vet. Switzerland is well worth the time and expense, it remains one of my favorite countries to visit in Europe. To read further about our European road trip look at Traveling Europe with a Dog.

Lake Maggiore Switzerland
Lake Maggiore, Switzerland

Traveling Europe With a Dog; It’s a Dog’s World

Tanner Austria
Tanner in Wolfsberg, Austria on our drive home.

Eleven Days of Traveling Europe with a Dog
After traveling around Europe with a dog for eleven days, through five European countries I can say with authority; Europe is a dog’s world. Dogs are treated well in Europe and are welcomed nearly everywhere. I started my trip with Tanner in Budapest, Hungary. We drove through Austria, Slovenia then into Italy and Switzerland. Driving with a dog in Europe was a great experience; though one I recommend you prepare for.

Traveling Around Europe With a Dog; Trip Stats

Days Traveling: 11

Miles Driven: 1,490 (2,399 Kilometers)

Tunnels Traveled

Italy: 15

Austria: 19

Slovenia: 2

Vignette’s Purchased 3
(These are stickers that allow you to travel on highways within Austria, Slovenia and other European countries. They cost between 8 and 30 Euro to purchase.

They can be purchased at gas stations and automobile clubs. The fine for not having a sticker (which is read by a camera as you pass through toll booths) is 300 to 3,000 Euro according to the Austria info website

Number of Times I was asked for Tanner’s EU Pet Passport: Zero (Though I had everything in hand if needed.)

Average Potty Stop: 30 minutes for a walk and time to chill in the grass.

Longest Driving Day:  Over 7 hours due to traffic, an accident and constructions stalls in Austria.

Best Driving Conditions: Austria. The autobaun offers wide lanes and well marked roads and signs. Their tunnels are also well lit and labeled with the distance of the tunnel. (An important fact when you really don’t enjoy driving through tunnels.)

Most Difficult Driving Conditions: Italy, with it’s narrow autostrada lanes, high speed rude drivers and narrow village roads. Italy is high stress driving at every turn.

austria restaurant tanner b

Tanner on our lunch break in Hungary.

This was my third long distance driving trip with Tanner; I found traveling around Europe with a dog relatively simple, though at times challenging. It does require thinking ahead and being organized.

I recommend starting out with a short trip first; that way you learn what works best for you and your dog.  You can read about my three day solo driving trip with pets in the US.

Tips For Traveling Europe with a Dog

Have all official pet paperwork in order; and keep it with you during your travel. In Europe a blue EU Pet Passport is required. This is simply a book provided by your veterinarian which documents all vaccinations and as well as a description of your dog and your personal information. It also includes your dogs EU required microchip number and where the chip is located on your dog.

Know what your dog can handle. (Plan your drive around what your dog can accept in a day; but expect snags.)

Have treats to use as a bribe when necessary.

Carry bottles of cold water you can refill in a soft pack cooler. You will find moments when cold water might not be available or in the event of a break down on the road. (More in a later post on using a cooler pack in Europe.)

Travel with extra dog food.

Bring a rug your dog likes, many European hotels have wooden or tile floors and dogs slip easily on those surfaces.

Bring a comfort item that your dog loves, for those times he/she is alone in a hotel or unfamiliar apartment.

EU Pet Passport b

My Driving Day Dog Schedule

Though it was pretty simple, I was traveling around Europe with a dog that needs potty breaks with grass; who gets tired like a kid and who can and does get stubborn when asked to get in and out of the car multiple times a day in the heat. I kept Tanner to a two potty breaks a drive, schedule. That means we walked before the drive started for the day. Then we stopped at two areas during the drive where he could rest and potty while I also rested and got something to eat or drink. When we arrived at our destination we walked and had another potty break.

This schedule worked well, far better than the three break schedule I started with; by the third stop he wasn’t happy getting in and out of the back seat and got stubborn. I’ve traveled on the road for multiple days with Tanner solo. It can be done; it requires two sets of car keys to keep the a/c running in the summer heat, but it is always easier with a friend. This trip I drove with a friend. That really works best as you can trade off taking a bathroom break or getting food, while the other watches the dog.

tanner in Austria reststop b

Tanner relaxing at a rest stop in Austria.

Pet Friendly Austria

austria hotel tanner b

Tanner lying on his travel rug in my Austrian hotel room.

Austrians love animals and it shows in their willingness to have dogs of all sizes in their hotels and restaurants. Tanner was welcomed without reservation in Austria and loved the attention he received. Check back for more posts on our driving trip to Italy. I will share my experiences including the hair raising moments of driving in Italy. For more on driving in Europe and my Italy experiences read; Traveling With My Dog; Daily Life in Italy.

austria hotel lobby b

Tanner in our hotel lobby; where he was welcomed without mention of his size.

Living in Budapest: Our Journey to Budapest

Moving overseas with a pet requires organization, USDA paperwork, patience and sometimes multiple leg journeys by car and air. This is the break down of how my dog Tanner and I arrived in Budapest.

Miles Driven 1,822

Rental Cars (4)

Miles Flown 5,518

Flights (4)

How Do The Miles Break Down?

1,140 miles, driving round trip from my family’s home in Fort Wayne, Indiana to Bethesda, Maryland to the Search Associates Recruitment Fair.

682 miles driven alone with my dog Tanner from Fort Wayne, Indiana to North Beach Maryland to my cousin Cindy’s home, and on to Dulles Airport to depart for Budapest.

jeep liberty
Our ride to Maryland

Our Flights

931 miles flown from Fort Wayne, Indiana to St. Petersburg, FL to complete the transfer of my household goods to a smaller storage unit.

Flights Missed (1)

Leaving St. Petersburg on a 6 am flight, I overslept (sleeping through two alarms) and missed my flight.

Cost…don’t ask.
An additional same day flight to a nearby city.
A one way rental car.
An additional 101 miles driven.

Flying with Dogs; Doggie and Mom Flights (2)

Lufthansa Budapest

pet airline ticket

4,587 miles flown by Tanner and I together from Washington’s Dulles Airport to Frankfurt, Germany and on to Budapest, Hungary. Layover time: 12 hours to make certain Tanner got his pet rest stop for potty breaks, food and rest. (5 hour minimum required by Lufthansa Airlines.)

It’s All About Tanner

The last twenty four hours have been mostly about Tanner and getting Tanner safely to Budapest.

I’ve been traveling internationally for 19 years, and I have moved my pets multiple times. It’s always a little stressful, and there are many details to handle. This time, with a dog the size of a small pony it was even more challenging. Later I will write a post about the process, the steps I took, the decisions I made and how things came together.

 

Tanner with his crate note, at my cousin Cindy’s home in Maryland.Preparing to depart for Frankfurt

As I write this I am sitting in Frankfurt, for my layover. Tanner and I arrived safely a few hours ago. The last twenty four hours have been about his needs, more than I realized. (I will explain a little later.) At this time yesterday I was preparing to walk Tanner in North Beach, Maryland on the boardwalk. I wanted to be certain he had nice long walk before departure. Tanner and I walked for 45 minutes in all.

Walking Tanner at the Beach in Maryland before our departure.

Practicing Putting Together the Crate

Also on my list was to practice building his travel crate.  Since Tanner refused to get into the crate when it was fully put together, we were forced to build it around him. In the end this worked out well, but sucked away time at the airport.

Comfort and Nourishment

A requirement of shipping your pet in cargo is to tape a ziploc bag of food on top of the crate. In addition you are expected to tape a bottle of water to the top, with your name and information, and a zerox copy of all official pet entry documents.

The Process

 

We started at Dulles with a quick walk for Tanner to pee. I couldn’t find any grass so we walked the crazy concrete strip on the opposite side of the traffic. (Since then I found a FAR better spot.)

From there we got him in the bottom portion of the crate and began building it around  him. He did REALLY well. The crate was very simple, it took only hand tightened toggle bolts and nuts. More difficult was finding a bottle of water to tape on top of the crate.

Somewhere in the early stages, before I walked Tanner my family stayed with him while I inquired about  his check in. I  knew waiting in a two hour line of people was not an option so I found an agent to ask and discovered we would be checked in away from the crowd in the executive area.

Pet Check In

 

It is a relatively straight forward check in process, but it is very time consuming. We arrived two and a half hours before departure and I found myself running to the gate twenty minutes before departure, praying I’d make our flight. (I did)

There is paperwork for the crate, there is also a claim check, that looks like a bag tag. In addition the agents make a copy of the all official paperwork, (that goes to customs officials in the country you will reside in. )

TSA For Pets In Cargo

 

 

Under normal circumstances I  believe an airline agent takes your pet through the TSA check point, because the airline was swamped with extra passengers from two cancelled flights and we were only 45 min from departure the agent had me go with the baggage handler to get Tanner through TSA. (I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it. I felt happier having the time with Tanner out of the crate.)

I had forgotten that pets have to come out of the crate, so that the crate can be run through security. After all I’d done to get him in the crate, and his stubbornness at home about getting into the crate, I was nervous. I prayed a lot as we walked the five minutes to Pet TSA. I took him out of the crate as they instructed and then was given a happy surprise that they have an outdoor fake grass area that is fenced and even includes a doggy fire hydrant for your dog to pee on. (of course after I sprint out there with Tanner he happily smells but refused to pee. Seriously?

We sprinted back in to Pet TSA and I was praying the whole way, asking every angel to assist in getting Tanner easily and smoothly into his crate. It worked, because he went in, with only a little push on the butt and a few big hugs of love before I said goodbye. From that point he was in the hands of the airline officials, to get him to the cargo boarding area. (Which on my Lufthansa flight was on the right side of the plane under business class.)

Once on board I asked the stewardess’s to confirm that Tanner was on board. Two different stewardess’s came to me to confirm he was indeed on board. I was a very happy dog mom at that point. We were both on board safely.

My Realization

Though we arrived at the airport at 12:30 and my flight didn’t depart until 3, I never had time to get any lunch. I barely had time to buy a drink at the gate. (Then only because we departed late.)  It wasn’t even until the plane was departing the gate that I realized I was starving and had no way to buy or get food until the meal was served. That was the moment I realized how intensely I was focused on Tanner. His safe transport to Frankfurt and Budapest was ALL that mattered to me.

Gate Angels and Issues

My gate agent, Sabina Fisher was an angel. She knew what she was doing, she was kind, compassionate and on the ball about Tanner’s departure. Of course we also had interference, another counter agent was trying to tell me that they would not let Tanner out of his crate and that he would have to sit in the crate for our entire 12 hour layover. (I only slightly freaked out) I knew I’d had two specific conversations with the pet/cargo department at Lufthansa. I had studied extensively their interactive pet care web page on the Lufthansa website. This lady kept trying to convince me that it would be better for us to take a flight much earlier giving Tanner only a two hour layover. I refused, knowing I’d been told his pet care required a five hour minimum layover to be taken out of the crate. It was a scary moment, buying into her nonsense. But, thankfully my intuition, my phone calls and my gate Angel Sabrina made me realize I had to stick to my original plan.

Pet Care

Just as I had been told when I booked our flights Tanner received pet care. I confirmed it on arrival this am in Frankfurt. Another very nice gate agent C Vorsheim called two  different people to confirm that Tanner was off the plane and at the Pet Care station. He would be walked, fed and given time to rest before re boarding tonight.

Not For the Faint of Heart

This process is not for those who give up easily. It requires many phone calls and a good BS detector. When I got an answer I believed was BS I kept calling and kept asking additional people for information. It always paid off. I learned through talking to multiple people that there were certain flights on particular planes that are better for pet travel. (These planes cool down faster after take off.) We took that plane/flight thanks to a pet relocation agent I spoke to.

For me there was never any option but to bring Tanner on this move. I love him more than life it’s self so whatever I had to do was worth the time, energy, money spent. (over six hundred dollars ) Flight $400, Crate $179, Supplies $60 +. Travelers who want to avoid the hassles use a pet relocation company which costs between $2000 and $4000. I felt that cost was out of the question. I would have only done it if I moved to another  more complicated area of the world with more difficult entry requirements and longer flights.

In my opinion an international pet move is something that anyone can do with patience, persistence and love.

pet arrival budapest
Tanner safely in Budapest, resting for a few minutes before we departed the airport.