Diwali 2021: Planning the ‘purrfect’ pet-friendly vacation this festive season!

Planning a trip with your beloved pet isn’t always a breeze. Good thing we have everything you need to know.
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Pets definitely make the world more beautiful. Image: Shutterstock/dezy.

As far as I can remember, I have dreamt of travelling with a four-legged buddy. From stalking celebrities like influencer Diipa Büller-Khosla and Canadian comedian Lily Singh on Insta just to see them travelling with their pooches, to swooning over scenes of Pluto Mehra, the adorable bullmastiff of Bollywood flick Dil Dhadakne Do, enjoying his cruise life, I have found inspiration almost everywhere. But earlier this September, when my fiancé and I thought of taking along our pup on a mini staycation to Naldhera, a quaint little hamlet near Mashobra in Himachal Pradesh, I chickened out. Not because Joey is a true definition of mischief-maker, who loves creating troubles double his size (ok, this might have just a little to do with the decision), but mainly because he was less than four months old then, and I didn’t want to make any mistake on the first trip of his life. But upon reaching The Nilaya, the resort we had picked for our stay, I soon realised that I had already made one—not bringing him along.

The boutique hotel, just like many other pet-friendly resorts across India, was just perfect for pet parents and their fur babies, thanks to pet menus, dedicated play areas and a cooperative staff. We befriended the naughty sisters, Mango and Litchi, The Nilaya’s adopted Bhutia dogs, as well as the sophisticated Persian cat Hazel, who was there as a guest with her family. All the while, I couldn’t help thinking about the missed opportunity.

The festive season is upon us, and just like every year, major cities across India will turn a hard place to be in, for pets and streeties alike. Hazardous smoke and unbearable noise pollution make animals vulnerable on and around the time of Diwali. Back home now, I am once again dreaming of a vacation—a smoke-free, peaceful Diwali trip but this time, Joey by my side. I’m sure ‘pawrents’ would relate. So, here’s what people who have mastered the art of planning (and very well executing) trips with their pets, have to say. Pet parents, take notes!

A (train) journey to remember

Priyanka Chakrabarti, a dear friend and Director of Communications at a Gurugram-based luxury jewellery brand, shared how her mind was riddled with panic before taking her dog on his first trip, but other than a few hiccups, the journey turned out to be absolutely beautiful. “Back in 2018, I took my eight-year-old dog Podu from Kolkata to Delhi on his first-ever train journey. We had reserved an entire first-class coupe in Rajdhani Express for his comfort. Podu, a typical Labrador. Unbothered, playful, always up for kisses and cuddles. We were, in fact, in panic mode; contemplating all the things that could go wrong. My initial thoughts were—how would he react being confined in a carriage for 16 hours; would he feel uncomfortable to pee inside a moving train; what if people are not dog-friendly around us, and the usual anxieties.”

But then, as we know it, most people do love dogs, especially one like Podu, who constantly wags his tail in joy, licks strangers on the platform, tries to chase kites, and growls at flies! “To my surprise, he hopped onto the train like a pro, followed us to the coupe, and jumped on the window seat to claim it. In no time, my little furball figured out that every time the door opened, a well-dressed steward would walk in with a tray of food! Through the day, he enjoyed his treats—tomato soup with breadsticks, some chicken, a Marie biscuit for hi-tea, and of course, his Pedigree for dinner. At night, we snuggled and tried to sleep but neither of us could grab a nap in a moving train. So, we sat together next to the window, watching the endless expanse of starry skies slide past us. It was a beautiful trip. The only downside was that my baby didn’t pee in the whole of 16 hours!”

The groundwork

Hearing her describe the smooth, hassle-free trip with her dog, the next question I asked her was obvious—how does she plan these trips? Mother to two Labradors, Podu and Guglu and an avid traveller herself, she says her checklist is quite simple. A fit-to-travel certificate from the vet, your pet’s medicines, favourite treats, toys, blanket, water, their favourite pillow, disposing bags, diaper for emergency (if it’s a senior dog or cat), and a whole lot of tissue papers!

Veterinarian and founder of PetVet Mumbai, Dr Prerna Vaswani totally agrees with Chakrabarti when it comes to taking your pet to the clinic prior to a trip. “If you are planning a plane or train journey, you definitely need a health certificate from your vet, ensuring that your pet is healthy and disease-free. Carry your pet’s vaccination and deworming cards along. Usually, these documents are not checked when you’re travelling by road, but your hotel might need them so keep them handy. Give them anti-flea or anti-tick shots. Don’t feed them a heavy meal and give them medication for motion-sickness to prevent nausea, one hour before leaving for the trip. Other than that, carry things that your pet is familiar with: favourite toy, water bowl, or small blanket so they feel comfortable adjusting to the new place. Daily grooming tools and shampoo are also important so you can clean them up after a hike or swim.”

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Go on a petventure! Image: Shutterstock/Daria Kulkova.

Ask Dr Vaswani if she recommends taking really small pets on a trip and it’s a big no from her. “I don’t recommend taking a really small pet along on a trip, because their immunity is very low and they are very susceptible to catching diseases. I always recommend taking pets along once they are at least four months old and all their vaccines are done. Their immunities are really low and they are very susceptible to diseases when just a few months old,” she says. Also, she suggests planning a road trip to a place nearby, for several reasons—less hassle, your pet can go for a walk or catch some fresh air if needed, and doesn’t need to be caged in a ventilated bag or kennel the entire time.

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Making the most of the beach trip! Image: Shutterstock/Maridav.

The perfect destination

Now, if you are wondering where to go for your long-weekend to celebrate a pollution-free, noise-free Diwali, a road trip to any destination nearby can be your answer. “From Mumbai, many people take a quick trip to Alibaug, Lonavala, Karjat, or Matheran. These are located at short distances and are full of pet-friendly stay options. You can even go to President Hotel and Four Seasons in Mumbai for a staycation as they are great pet-friendly options in the city,” says Dr Vaswani. For Chakrabarti, it is somewhere in the North. “I would love to visit The White Peaks, a private luxury cottage in Uttarakhand. I have heard they are very hospitable to pets. Also, Podu has never seen a hill or a mountain, and even snow. So, it would be a joy to see my baby cosying next to a fire place, and then going for a run in thick layers of snow. I think I will go mad taking pictures of him.”

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Aren’t road trips the best? Image: Shutterstock/dezy.

Goa is full of pet-friendly resorts, like The Mandrem House and Arco Irish Boutique Homestay (think rolling on a beach with your furbaby!). Closer to the capital city, Andaz Delhi has made quite some headlines with their pet-friendly offerings: they cater to even fish too and provide almost everything from a dog-sit service to a leash! Go for The Den in Jim Corbett if safari adventures are on your mind. A Dog’s Story has its properties located in Jaipur, Mussourie and Corbett and is ideal if you want to be left alone in peace with your pooch. Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort and Spa in Chennai and Elgin Hotel in Darjeeling don’t need any introduction to pet-lovers either. For me, all I can think of is going back to Naldhera with Joey, so he too can witness the beauty of Mashobra, befriend Mango and Litchi at The Nilaya and watch with me, my little dream come true.

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