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.)

Tanner in Budapest: Flying with Dogs

Tanner and I arrived in Budapest last night.

Flying with dogs can have some overwhelming moments. Our arrival was one of those moments.  Our trip consisted of two flights (8 3/4 hours total, a one hour and fifteen minute drive to the airport, and a twelve hour pet layover in Frankfurt with a Luxx Lounge Day Pass for mom. When we landed in Budapest all the luggage came out and people dispersed before Tanner arrived. I was getting anxious, but knew he was on the plane. (I’d heard the cabin crew ask the pilot if he was on board.)  The arrival area wasn’t large, so I went to the baggage lost and found and asked the agent if he could locate Tanner. Within two minutes he located him and had him brought in on the luggage belt. WHAT A HAPPY SIGHT. (there are no photos, I was overcome with anxiety and happiness waiting for him to appear.)

I took this single, sort of blurry shot of Tanner relaxing in his first couple minutes, from my phone as the baggage handler helped me with my luggage and Tanner’s crate.

 

Flying With Dogs: Will Tanner Be Okay in Budapest?

In the weeks building to my departure I heard this comment, or versions of this comment alot. It was as if my family and friends worried that Hungarian life wouldn’t be suitable for Tanner. To put all those worries to rest I have taken photos of our first 48 hours in Budapest.

 

Patio Paradise

 

Room to run and play in the backyard.

 

Dog

Relaxing in the sunshine

 

Dog Walk Budapest

On our evening walk in Hungary.

 

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.

You Can’t Make This Shit Up

The last thirty six hours have been intense and insane. As if it wasn’t enough that I was a little over a day from driving twelve hours to Maryland for our flight, I got two unexpected phone calls.

Your USDA Paperwork Must Be Redone

I’m a very detailed person when it comes to paperwork for overseas pet entry. I knew I’d crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s. So what was going on? Apparently airlines are now rejecting paperwork (According the USDA vet I spoke with) when your regular vets signature is more than ten days old. The paperwork stated 21 days for the vet signature and ten days for the USDA approval, stamp and signature. We were right in that window.

I’m departing in 24 hours to drive to Maryland. What Can I Do?

By no coincidence, my vet was in the city of Indianapolis (where the USDA vet office is) for a meeting. There are miracles everywhere and I definitely had a few angels working on this one. The vet commented to me, someone up there is looking out for you. He kindly drove to the USDA office on his own time to get my paperwork completed.

Not So Fast……It Isn’t That Easy

While the USDA vet helped my vet fill out the paperwork, my vet still had to drive back to Fort Wayne and examine Tanner again, and then we both had to sign off on the paperwork. Did I mention this all had to happen exactly in the middle of my going away dinner?

Oh Yes, Let’s Jump Through Hoops and Drive All Over The City.

At 455 pm as I was walking out the door to meet eight people for my going away dinner I got a call from my vet. Lisa, you need to meet me at my office at 630 so I can examine Tanner and we can complete these USDA papers and give you time to get them to Fed Ex for the USDA signature.

Do You See The Wall and the Cartoon Lisa Smashing Into It?

WHAT??? WE ALREADY DID THE EXAM. Yes, well they are requiring another, within the ten day window. Okay, so as I am saying,” Yes, I will be there at 6:30 I am also thinking now what the hell am I going to do with the eight people who are coming to have dinner with me and say goodbye……………………%!@#

Plan B on Ten Second’s Notice

Thankfully I had arranged the dinner at an outdoor venue. So I took Tanner in the car with us, and ran the a/c for 40 minutes for him to be comfortable in 95 degree heat while my family and friends and I had pre dinner appetizers. The entire time I had one eye on the car, as it wouldn’t lock while the motor was running. Yes, this is my life. Try relaxing and enjoying dinner with friends and family….while chaos reigns.

Off To The Vet

After 40 min I dash off to the vet with a friend to help me, while my family goes into the restaurant to have dinner without me. That’s just how I envisioned my going away dinner…..ha ha.

One Hour and Forty Five Minutes Later….

I have my completed paperwork, I have dropped it off at Fed Ex, while my friend and dog sat in the air conditioned car. I drove back across town to drop off the dog and then drove back to the restaurant with my friend before my family gave up on me.

By the time I’d arrived, most everyone had finished dinner, except two late arriving friends who were eating as we arrived. Nice…..going away dinner…..lol

The Aftermath
I got a call from the USDA this afternoon, they wanted my credit card information to charge the $37 dollar payment for the USDA stamp and signature. THAT MEANS IT WAS APPROVED!! WHOO HOO!!

Fed Ex My New Best Friend

The USDA vet is (as I am writing this) sending my paperwork overnight to my family in Maryland. (I sent him a prepaid Fed Ex envelope with the paperwork last night.) I will praying more than usual tomorrow, and will breath a big sigh of happiness when the completed paperwork arrives at my cousin Cindy’s house tomorrow morning.

For Added Fun

Today is departure day….

I worked until 1 am sorting and organizing last minute things that will be shipped to Florida to my storage. I went promptly this morning with my cousin John to pick up my rental SUV. After dealing with a very unfriendly agent at Alamo/National I opted for another company. Seriously?? Why do people feel the need to work in customer service if they are not happy friendly people? To my credit, in the last 48 hours I have not raised my voice, melted down or lost it with any of the people mentioned in this post. This lady was seriously pushing it, but I moved on.

jeep liberty

I’m happy, I have a rental SUV, for our one way trip to Maryland. No small feat to get a one way SUV without paying a million dollars.

I drive home, ready to pack the jeep and get Tanner settled.

HE WILL NOT JUMP UP INTO THE JEEP. omg

The redesigned Liberty cargo area is higher than my previous Liberty, plus Tanner is older and yes bigger. WE literally tried everything. No go… I call Pets Mart, they have a doggie ramp and a doggie stair case for SUV’s and trucks. I drive to Pets Mart and buy the stairs. I drive home and pray alot.

pet store

travel pet stairs

HE REFUSES TO USE THE STAIRS….SERIOUSLY???

Tanner is the most sweet, kind dog in the universe….WHAT IS GOING ON????

Thankfully my friend Myscha had called to offer insight and support. She suggested her tried and true method to get her labrador in the SUV. Use a sarong or sheet to help lift their hind quarters and assist them to get in. I thought there was no way on the earth it would work, Tanner is a BIG dog. Thankfully after a couple attempts it worked and Tanner got in the jeep. (I thought for a trial run.)

Apparently No

He refused to get out…he knew I was leaving and he wasn’t taking a chance on being left behind. He knew I’d been packing for several days, he’s a smart dog. He was in first and ready to go. Thankfully the rest of day was uneventful and our drive smooth. We will be in Maryland tomorrow, giving us a day and a half to rest before our departure to Budapest. Yah, we are on the way!!

What a Blessing!

Until we land safely in Budapest, and Tanner clears Customs I request prayers for a safe journey and perfect paperwork.