When we fostered Vinnie during the first lockdown back in March 2020, I never imagined we would be driving through Spain with him two–and-a-half-years later.
But, handing over the keys to the new owners of what was our first home coincided with the end of my contract role (plus the fact our friends were currently living in Spain) – it became an opportunity we couldn’t refuse.
We packed up my mini, strapped in Vinnie and set off for the Eurotunnel over to Calais. Nearly 10 hours and 700 miles (with a few stopovers) later and we arrived at our first stop in Spain – San Sebastian. From here we would make our way down to Seville, followed by Zahora where we would then follow the coastline to Valencia – our final stop for Christmas Day.
Fancy driving through Europe with your four-legged friend? Here’s what you need to know.
What you need to do before travelling abroad with your dog
You’ll need to visit the vet before you travel with your pet. As well as ensuring they are microchipped, they’ll need:
- A rabies vaccination (£65) = at least 21 days before travel.
- An animal healthcare certificate (£160) = issued within 10 days of the date you are travelling and 3 weeks after their rabies vaccination. This is then valid for 4 months. (We also received this in French as we would be arriving into Calais.)
Need to know: We also got a flea and tick tablet from the vet. This was £45 and we had to give it to him the night before we left. It’s important to do this before you travel as fleas and ticks can be much more of an issue in France and particularly Spain.
Once you arrive at the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, you and your furry friend will need to visit the Pet Reception to show your documents.
Remember: you’ll need to book your dog onto the Eurotunnel when you are purchasing your tickets. This will cost £22 each way. You can also get the ferry but after researching we felt that the Eurotunnel was a better way to travel with our pup.
Find out more about taking your pet abroad.
To return to the UK:
Not that you want to be thinking about returning before your trip has even begun but it’s important to know you must keep your pup’s animal healthcare certificate safe.
You’ll need to find a local vet 1 to 5 days before you are due to return to the UK. Your dog will be given a tapeworm tablet and the vet will have to fill in the last box on page 4 of the certificate. You can’t return without this and will need to visit the Pet Reception before you board the Eurotunnel at Calais too.
Best time to visit Spain with your dog
We went from October to December. Here are 5 reasons why we enjoyed spending the end of the year in Spain with our pooch.
- It was warm but not too hot. In the height of summer Seville (Spain’s hottest city) reaches temperatures in the 40s. This would be uncomfortable for us and dangerous for our pup. At the end of the year we could enjoy the sun but it was around 20 degrees cooler. This meant we could be out and about all day sightseeing with our dog.
- There were plenty of people around but far from the crowds of summer. This meant it was easy to book our accommodation as we went. While some restaurants were closed for winter (or closing earlier) there were plenty of places to go.
- While dogs aren’t allowed on a lot of the beaches in peak season they are during off-peak season.
- While some restaurants do allow dogs inside (and we did go in on the chillier evenings) they are allowed outside almost all of them. It was usually warm enough (some had heaters) and less people meant we could almost always find a table easily. On a couple of occasions we got a takeaway and also cooked at our accommodation
- It was lovely to see and experience Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca during the festive period.
What to pack for your dog’s Spanish adventure
As well as their documents, you’ll also need to pack your pup’s essentials and anything required for the climate.
- Collar (with tag) and lead
- Car harness / seat belt
- Their food / food bowl and treats
- Water and water bowl
- Their bed / blanket
- A couple of toys
- Poo bags
- Pet sun shelter
Top tip: It’s easy to buy food for your pup while you’re there but you may want to make sure you have some with you for the first few days at least.
Travelling by car:
Driving your own car is a great way to travel where you want, at your own pace. Here’s a few things you need to know before you set off.
- Make sure your car insurance covers you in Europe and includes European breakdown cover.
- You’ll need a UK sticker for your car.
- Don’t forget you’ll be driving on the right!
- Make sure you stop regularly so your pup (and you) can stretch your legs.
- Never leave your dog in the car when it is hot – this is very dangerous.
Need to know: We went on a three month holiday visa. You don’t have to do anything for this. However, when planning your route, it’s important to keep in mind the date you must leave by. Then you can ensure you allow enough time to travel back to Calais and depart before this.
Where to go and what to do with your furry friend
We drove straight through France and then looped around Spain, staying in a mixture of hotels and Airbnbs that we booked as we went. Here’s some of the best things for you and your pooch to do while you’re there.
Even if you are heading straight to Spain, you’ll need to plan a few stopovers on your way through France – especially with your four-legged friend in the car.
There were two main highlights for us here.
The first was a medieval-themed Airbnb in Chailloue. This unique accommodation is around three hours from Calais. We stayed here for a night to break up the journey. It’s quite remote but well worth it as not only is the decor very cool but we had a delicious breakfast included in the morning before we set off again.
The second was Biarritz. On the way to Spain, we stopped here for an afternoon and on the way back we stayed overnight as it was where we booked Vinnie into the vet ahead of returning home. Along the beautiful coastline you’ll find Rocher de la Vierge – walk across the bridge and take in the spectacular panoramic views.
Once we arrived in Spain we started to stay in the same spot for at least a week. While we continued to plan our trip as we went, we had a couple of places planned ahead of time with a date we were due to arrive there.
Here’s a few of our highlights:
It was my first time in the Basque Country and San Sebastian did not disappoint – in fact, it was one of our favourite places we visited in Spain.
Monte Urgull is the perfect place to hike with your four-legged friend. Around halfway up you’ll find the Secret Bar – it’s the ideal spot to stop and have a beer while enjoying the view. We went up here for sunset one evening and were treated to live music.
Continue your hike and at the top you’ll find Mota Castle and the 12m Sacred Heart statue. You’ll look down on Playa de la Concha – which is considered one of the best beaches in Europe.
One of my favourite parts of Seville was the Plaza de Espana. It’s situated in Maria Luisa Park and is the perfect place to wander around with your pooch before stopping to watch the flamenco dancing.
We stayed just off the Alameda de Hercules. The Spanish food was of course delicious in Seville but if you’re in this tree-lined square and fancy a change from tapas and paella then visit Nickel Burger. I had the Benedict and it was one of the tastiest burgers I’ve ever had.
We spent a couple of weeks in Zahora as we met up with our friends here. We were staying at a cute Airbnb just a few minutes walk from the gorgeous Zahora Beach. While the area we were in was quiet, it was a short drive from El Palmar which is popular with surfers and lined with bars and restaurants.
A few of our favourites were:
- A-Frame Oasis – perfect for breakfast, lunch or a slice of cake.
- La Dolce Vita – dogs aren’t allowed in this Italian restaurant but they do takeaway.
- La Torre Restaurant & Lounge – right on the seafront.
- Cortijo El Cartero – delicious food with a spectacular backdrop.
We walked from Zahora Beach to El Palmar at sunset on our first night. It’s a fair walk but one that is worth doing. In the opposite direction you’ll come to the lighthouse and just beyond here we found a bar with live music.
There are plenty of activities to do on this coastline. As well as surfing you can also go horse riding across the sand at sunset. Although it was an incredible experience, I’d avoid the polo ponies – I flew head first off of mine…
Our accommodation in Mijas had the most incredible views across the sea. It opens up onto the coastal path, a wooden walkway that takes you along the seafront. Head right out of the gate and follow it as far as you can go – continue onto the sand and you’ll come to Cocoa Beach Marbella. A beautiful setting and incredible food.
Alternatively, head out the back of the accommodation, cross the bridge and take a seat at Papaya Loca Café – an Asian street food and cocktail bar.
Our Airbnb was in the perfect location, had a swimming pool and hot tub, plus was home to a cute pup (and Vinnie’s new friend) Rooney.
It’s a short walk to Balcon De Europa. Just before you get here you’ll see Portofino – an Italian restaurant with views across the sea and over to the Balcon.
There are several beaches along the coastline here. The largest and most popular is Burriana Beach which is lined with restaurants and bars.
We arrived in Alicante at the beginning of December and it really started to feel like Christmas here.
We stayed in two different Airbnbs in Alicante (both had great views across the city) as well as spending some time a short drive away at a lovely hotel in El Campello.
La Explanada de Espana – is a palm tree-lined promenade. The floor mirrors the waves of the sea and it’s filled with market stalls as well as cafes and restaurants.
Just off the promenade you’ll find a cute bar nestled within towering trees and alongside it is Santa Gloria – the perfect place for a sweet treat.
As we were due to spending Christmas in Valencia we treated ourselves to a fancy hotel. Here we enjoyed a morning massage on Christmas Day – one of the best I have ever had!
Just a short walk from our hotel was Jardin del Turia. This park is the perfect place to walk your dog and takes you to the City of the Arts and Science. We spent Christmas Eve here as there was a Christmas Market where we got in the festive spirit with a mulled wine and bratwurst.
We were also a short walk from the city centre. Make sure you order a paella while you are here – this popular Spanish dish is said to have originated in Valencia. The harbour and beach were a little further away so we got a taxi here and found a bustling atmosphere.
On Boxing Day we started the drive back towards Calais with a couple of stopovers to break up the 15-hour drive.
If you fancy a road trip with your pooch that doesn’t involve a rabies jab and an animal healthcare certificate, then why not take them on a dog-friendly city break right here in the UK?