Traveling with Kittens (or, First World Problems)

I spent a lot of time — over two years — planning our trip to Burgundy, France last summer.  I did not spend nearly as much time planning on how to travel with kittens.  This is because we were not supposed to have kittens when we left.

Before our beloved tabby passed in November 2015, we were going to take her with us to France.  (Remember, we started planning this trip many, many, many moons ago.)  But her health, which had been good for years, suddenly declined and within 12 months, she had developed many, many, many different (and conflicting) health problems.  We sadly realized that she was not going to be able to go with us and I stopped my research on traveling with pets.

After she passed, we decided to wait on getting another pet (or two, or three) until after we returned from France.  But by spring 2016, I began to miss having a cat around.  So I looked into fostering cats, and in early April I brought home two white, male, shy kittens.

As I said before, “fostering” quickly turned into “adopting.”  We adored (and continue to adore) these guys!  Their adoption was finalized on May 1, 2016.

But that meant that we adopted them less than 2 months before leaving for France.  Of course we had to take them!  But first, I had to check to make sure we could take them on the planes, bring them into the hotels and rental house, and figure out how to feed and care for them while in a foreign country.

In retrospect, it’s a minor miracle that we could.  First, each country has different rules on bringing in pets.  The EU, including (of course) France, has one of the most liberal policies: no quarantine!  All we needed was certain health records for the kittens, including their vaccination records.  Unfortunately, the shelter that we got them from screwed up their health records and I spent about a week straightening them out.  But after multiple vet visits, lots of phone calls, and tracking down a different pet shelter that first had our kittens, their medical paperwork was done.

Second, every airline has a different pet policy:

  • For example, my preferred airline, American Airlines, does not permit pets in the cabin for transoceanic flights.
    • Luckily, I had booked us on American Airline’s partners instead because availability for award tickets on those airlines had been better.
  • One of the airlines we flew, airberlin, does permit pets in economy class but NOT in business class.
    • Fortunately, we were flying economy.
    • Unfortunately, buying “tickets” for the kittens meant that we also needed to pay for premium seat assignments in advance (instead of hoping that we could get good seat assignments when checking in for free).
    • Having the kittens also meant that we couldn’t sit in the emergency or bulkhead rows and enjoy more leg room.
  • The airline on which we flew home, Iberia, permits pets in economy and business, but limits the number of pet carriers in the cabin per flight.
    • Unfortunately, when I called to make arrangements, there was only room for one more pet carrier.
    • Fortunately, we had business class flights booked on Iberia and elite status with Iberia’s alliance, OneWorld, so I used whatever leverage that gave me and called daily for a week to make sure we could bring both kittens onboard.

Third, we stayed at two hotels during this trip.  Fortunately, both were pet friendly.

Fourth, the rental house’s management company granted us permission (in writing) to bring the kittens.

Having the kittens in France was a big part of what made this trip special.  The four of us–me, Chris, Mr. Meriadoc, and Mr. Peregrin–were just beginning to bond together as a new, little family when we left.  Being on vacation with them meant that we (especially Chris) could spend more time together than we normally would at home and they became much more closely bonded to us by the time we left.

Now we’re thinking about the next BIG trip: my 40th birthday.  It’s some time away, but if we want to do another month somewhere, we should make up our minds soon-ish!  All sorts of ideas have been tossed around:

  • a tour around the Mediterranean
  • returning to Europe (London, Italian wine country)
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Western Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Mendoza, Argentina
  • Chilean wine country

But the list gets much, much smaller when I consider the kittens (no matter how old they get, they’re always going to be “the kittens”) because different countries have different laws and regulations on traveling with pets.

So that just means we’ll have to spend my 40th someplace kitten-friendly and find time to travel to the other locations on our own.  So tough!  🙂

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