Heading off on holiday is always a memorable highlight - whether it's spending a week or two lounging on the beach, enjoying the fresh air and allure of the countryside or revelling in your favourite pastimes. However, for pet owners, the idea of leaving a member of the family behind is difficult to bear, but worry no more. In honour of National Pet Day on 11 April, we're here to give you some advice on taking your furry friends with you instead of leaving them at home.

Putting your dog or cat in a pair of sunglasses and a hat might not be the most fun for them, but taking them on holiday will be great!

You could have the best time on holiday by taking your pet with you. They might not need a pair of sunglasses and a hat, but they'll still have a great time with the rest of the family!

National Pet Day was founded in 2006 by Colleen Paige - a pet lifestyle expert to raise awareness of pet charities and all the fantastic ways that having a pet can add to your life. If you don't have a pet at home, you might want to donate a few toys or some food to a local pet shelter - it will really make a difference. Otherwise, it is a day to celebrate having a pet in the family - so why not go for an extra long walk, or buy them a new treat.

As for travelling, most airlines will let you travel with dogs and cats, and there are plenty of RCI-affiliated resorts which will allow pets to stay too. So instead of leaving your companion in a kennel, cattery or with a pet sitter while you’re away, take them along too and enjoy a holiday with all the family.

If your dog or cat has ever climbed into your suitcase as you're packing it and made you feel guilty for leaving them behind, get them a pet passport and take them with you.

Avoid the guilt of the 'take me with you' puppy eyes while you're packing and get your furry best friend their own pet passport so they can enjoy some fun too!

Getting there

You can’t just wander up to the airport check-in desk with your Labrador and expect her to get the seat next to you, it does have to be planned in advance. But the forward planning which is required is more than worth it to be able to enjoy taking your pet with you.

First, your dog or cat must be microchipped, up to date on their vaccinations and have a letter from their vet to say they’re in good health to fly. You’ll also have to get them their own pet passport too. DirectGov has all the information you'll need to ensure your little pal is safe to travel, with advice on what you need to do to make the arrangements for a smooth journey.

Did you know you can take dogs and cats into the cabin of the airplane? As long as they're small enough and their cage fits under the seat, they're fine to fly with you.

Most airlines allow you to fly with domestic animals as long as they are up to date with their vaccinations and the vet agrees they are fit to travel.

As for flying, each airline has their own rules on travelling with animals, but the majority allow it (with a couple of exceptions). On the whole, the animal has to be in a crate and go into the cargo hold, so unfortunately you can’t have them cuddle up in your lap while you have a snooze mid-flight. However some airlines do allow very small cats and dogs in the cabin, providing that their crate fits under the seat in front of you.

Naturally they have to be kept in their crate at all times so that they do not disturb other passengers, but if they’re small enough, it will be much easier to have them with you.

It is easy to take your pets abroad. Just make sure they are healthy, vaccinated and have a pet passport and they will be able to go on holiday with you.

With RCI-affiliated resorts all over the world allowing pets to stay with you, the world is your oyster. Long haul, European breaks and even closer to home holidays are all doable.

There is a fee for all airlines and ships that permit domestic animals on board, which varies by airline or cruise brand. It is best to check the carrier’s website in advance to check all their rules and regulations just to be safe. On the whole, flying is much cheaper than booking your beloved pet into a pet stay at home, so taking them with you is a win-win situation!

Did you know that if you fly with Virgin Atlantic and often travel with your pet, they can accrue air miles too, which is a fantastic plus for taking your furry friend abroad, so what are you waiting for? Get booking that holiday!

Why timeshare?

Timeshare accommodation is brilliant for pets. Rooms are often bigger than the standard hotel room with more facilities, so they'll have plenty of room to roam.

As well as being more spacious than the average holiday hotel room, timeshare accommodation also has a real home-from-home feel, so your pet can get comfortable on the couch or in a nice corner in their pet bed and make it their own home for the duration of your holiday.

My miniature Schnauzer loved our recent holiday to Cornwall where he picked a spot in front of the fireplace and promptly started snoring! I felt much happier having him with us for the week, rather than leaving him in kennels, especially when it came to getting out on the cliffs for long walks.

On a beach, with your head in a good book and your dog curled up next to you - sound like fun? Take them with you on your next break.

Providing Fido can handle the climate you're visiting, take him along to one of the many dog-friendly beaches around the world and let them enjoy a good old-fashioned doggy paddle.

There are hundreds of RCI-affiliated resorts all over the world which allow pets to accompany their owners on holiday and kick back and relax with spacious rooms, studios and apartments.

If you are searching for your next break away, the RCI Resort Directory is a great planning tool. Narrow down your resort selections using the ‘Pets Allowed’ field listed under 'Resort Amenities' on the search filters bar. Once you’ve found the right resort you can start making those all-important pet travel plans.

There's nothing better than getting home after a long day and your pet being there to greet you with a big cuddle and a sloppy kiss. You don't have to be deprived of snuggles while you're on holiday, just take your furry friend with you.

There's nothing better than getting home after a long day and your pet being there to greet you with a big cuddle and a sloppy kiss. And these days you don't have to be deprived of snuggles while you're on holiday, with a little planning you can take them with you.

Where can you go?

You can take your dog or cat just about anywhere, so even special holidays are not off-limits. As long as your pet is comfortable with the weather conditions of the destination you plan to visit, pack them in their crate and off you go.

There are plenty of RCI-affiliated resorts out there available to pet owners, but here are some of our favourite places to visit with our four-legged friends.

United Kingdom

Ok, so it’s not like you necessarily have to board a plane for a UK staycation, but if you’re going from country to country or don’t fancy the long drive, the UK is a diverse place to holiday whether you have a pet or not, with plenty of travel options to get you there with ease.

There are close to 900 resorts affiliated to RCI that allow pets, so you have plenty to choose from. Plus you have your pick of tranquil countryside spots that are great for dog walking. Here are our top picks.

Spend your days exploring the surrounding countryside and taking your dog on long, leisurely walks.

The UK has some tranquil countryside spots that are ideal for taking your pooch out for walks. Cobble together a picnic and a ball for the dog to chase and you have a great day out.

Let the cat meet all the locals and wander around your holiday resort.

If you take your cat away with you, they'll have lots of fun exploring the surrounding villages and countryside and getting to know all the locals.

The Lake District boasts some of the most diverse landscapes in the UK and dog walkers will be spoilt for choice when it comes to places to wander. There are hilltop treks for breathtaking panoramas, as well as lakeside walks to enjoy the chilled out bliss of the great outdoors - just don't forget to pack a picnic. Meanwhile the cat can enjoy their own adventure with a wander around the resort and get to know the other local felines too.

Rhossili Bay in Wales is one of the many places across the UK to be awarded the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status, and it's previously been recognised by The Times as the UK's number one dog-friendly beach so you know you're onto a good thing here. The shore is perfect for dogs to run around on while you admire those hypnotic sea views and take in that rejuvenating sea air.

Voted Wales' Best Beach 2018 and nominated as the UK's No.1 dog-friendly beach, there's no better place for a dog walk than Rhossili Bay.

Voted Wales' Best Beach 2018 and nominated as the UK's Number 1 Dog-Friendly Beach, there's no better place for a dog walk than Rhossili Bay. The beach is picturesque, but don't forget the surrounding area. The clifftops are brilliant for taking the pooch for a walk, and offer the best views over the bay.

Finland

Finland is a glorious place at any time of year. You can snuggle up with your cat as you watch the snow descend during the winter months, appreciating those other-worldly views of the snow-topped scenes around you. And when the white stuff melts away, there are some incredible hiking routes that are perfect for taking the dog out.

There are 35 resorts affiliated to RCI in Finland that will allow pets to join their owners for a week or two, and with over 40 national parks, there’s plenty of locations to pick from. Here are a few of our favourites.

Finland has everything you need to make a great holiday - it even has Santa Claus! In the winter time, skiing is on the agenda and when the snow melts, there's hiking on the mountains or watersports on the lakes. Your options are endless.

Finland has everything you need to make a great holiday - it even has Santa Claus! During winter, skiing is on the agenda and when the snow melts, there's hiking on the mountains or watersports on the lakes. Your options are endless.

Lapland is not just the home of Santa Claus, but Urho Kekkonen National Park too. Here you’ll discover several different terrains though its mountain walks are definitely recommended. With snow-capped peaks and waterfalls cascading into sparkling pools, it's serene as well as stunning.

Hossa National Park is fantastic for all the family. There are crystal clear lakes and pine-covered woodlands to saunter around, and you can take your pick of idyllic areas to stop for lunch, while the dog sniffs out some new scents on their own trail through the woods. What's more this park is a bit more accessible, so if you have younger members of the family, it will be a much more relaxed walk.

Hossa National Park is one of Finland's many beautiful national parks that offers great opportunities to have a day out with your furry pal. There are so many different hiking and biking routes that you can take, as well as lakes where you can find a good spot for lunch.

Hossa National Park offers fabulous opportunities to have a day out with your furry pal with hiking and biking routes that you can take, as well as lakes where you can find a good spot for lunch.

Florida, USA

Florida is a huge state and you have lots of choice when it comes to RCI-affiliated resorts in the Sunshine State that are happy to accept your fur baby.

There are hundreds of beaches and parks that cater to dog walkers such as Davis Island in Tampa, which offers a dog park and beach. The park is fenced in so it's safe for them to be let off the lead, and there's a pretty beach for your dog to cool off from the Florida sun afterwards!

If you’re looking for some great hiking routes that will take you through some of Florida’s incredible wildlife (but avoiding the gators of course), Little Talbot Island State Park is a fabulous spot. Situated on a barrier island, you’ll come across five different ecosystems including miles of beaches and sand dunes, salt marshes, maritime forests with a variety of native and migratory birds gracing the skies and along the waterside.

Spend some time exploring the contrasting scenes, before indulging in the simple pleasures of beachcombing which will be especially fun for younger ones in the group while the dog is off taking a dip.

You might not be able to take your dog or cat into meet Mickey Mouse in the Walt Disney World parks, but with Florida's amazing beaches and state parks, the whole family can enjoy a day out.

With Florida's amazing beaches and state parks, the whole family can enjoy a day out.

Remember to pack everything they will need too; their favourite blanket, a harness and lead, mess bags, a toy they love, pet shampoo and their favourite nibbles to make sure they have the best holiday. Once you are booked in, it is best to ask the resort if they provide bowls and essential items, or if they can recommend somewhere close by where you can buy some to free up some space in your suitcase. A water bottle is also a really handy investment for days out or long drives for on-the-go hydration to keep them happy and healthy.

Before you head back home to the UK, your pet will need to take a trip to the vet for a check up, to give them a tapeworm treatment and to sign the pet passport to ensure a smooth journey home from the airport. If your pet doesn’t meet the requirements, they may need to spend some time in quarantine, so simply triple check all the criteria and your documentation to eliminate any onward travel issues.

Now you know how and where to take your pets away on holiday, it's time to relax and picture that amazing holiday that all the family can enjoy.

Click on the RCI Resort Directory below and start travelling the world with your furry best friend…

Click here to visit the Resort Directory

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