July 20, 2024

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Gladys Tsoi, a 29-year-old dog owner and investment banker based in Hong Kong. This essay has been edited for length and clarity. Business Insider verified Tsoi’s receipts.

In April, I treated my toy poodle, Hershey, to a luxurious vacation in Japan. We traveled there together on a private jet.

It was the second time we’d traveled to Japan together in four months. The first flight, from our home base in Hong Kong, was on a commercial airline and cost me $10,100. The second trip came with a significantly higher price tag of $38,000. Despite the hefty expenses, I have no regrets about splurging on my furry companion.

Years of saving while working full-time at an investment bank have given me the capacity to comfortably spend this much on vacation. I also earn additional income with my pet influencer Instagram account, where I occasionally get paid for partnerships and brand collaborations.

Toy poodle dog on luggage cart at airport

Hershey at Hong Kong International Airport before her first trip to Japan.

Gladys Tsoi

I wanted to give Hershey a better life

In 2021, I came across a Facebook post about a toy poodle that had been subjected to abusive breeders and needed a new home. I wanted her to have a better life, so I initiated a trial adoption. After one week, we made it official, marking the beginning of Hershey’s journey from a neglected past to a life filled with love and adventure.

At the time, Hershey was two and a half years old, and I already had two other dogs: Milo, a 9-year-old mutt, and Malibu, a 1-year-old labradoodle.

I’m 29 and have been dreaming about traveling abroad with my dogs for years. I decided that this was the year to do it.

My family and I chose Hershey, among my trio of dogs, due to her exceptional temperament. I had full confidence she’d cope with the plane rides and adapt to the new environment.

Planning these journeys took about a year, from securing a reliable pet travel agent and managing import-export paperwork to multiple vet check-ups and extra vaccinations to meet Japan’s stringent medical standards for pets. Securing flights with pet-friendly seating and accommodations added to the stress. But it was all worth it in the end.

Woman in yellow sweater on the subway with dog in Japan

In Japan, dogs can ride the subway.

Gladys Tsoi

I chose Japan for its pet-friendly culture. Finding accommodation, dining options and parks open to dogs was easy. Pets are even allowed on public transport if they’re in a carrier.

And as a big fan of Japanese pet products, the destination was an ideal fit.

Hershey’s first trip overseas was in January 2024.

Toy poodle dogs and friends eat at teppanyaki restaurant in Japan

Hershey enjoyed a dog-friendly teppanyaki experience with friends on the first trip to Japan.

Gladys Tsoi

Our first trip to Japan included two other poodle friends, while our second trip in April 2024 was a family affair with my parents and brother.

The first was an epic road trip covering over 1,200 miles, spanning seven prefectures and including stops in Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Hakuba, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Izu.

We flew to Tokyo on Korean Air, transiting in Seoul, and returned via Japan Airlines cargo. This involved many flight procedures, including securing a pet seat and handling Hershey’s paperwork and check-ups.

We took advantage of the city’s pet-friendly offerings during our stay in Tokyo. We stayed in Inumo Shibakoen Hotel, which had amenities like capsule machines with pet supplements, free professional pet photoshoot sessions, free pet grooming, and a gourmet pet dining menu. We explored iconic landmarks like Tokyo Tower and Shibuya Crossing.

There were plenty of pet-friendly restaurants, including one with tailored teppanyaki meals — where we all watched the meat being prepared on the grill.

Woman and toy poodle dog eating in front of Mount Fuji in Japan

Gladys Tsoi and her toy poodle in front of Mount Fuji.

Gladys Tsoi

We went glamping under Mount Fuji, and Hershey had her first snow experience in Hakuba. In Kyoto, we immortalized our trip with a traditional photo shoot, where Hershey and I wore matching kimonos. In Nara, Hershey got to mingle with friendly Japanese deer. In Osaka, we wandered into pet-friendly shops, and in Izu, we went hiking around Mount Omuro.

For the second trip, we opted for a private jet both ways.

Toy poodle dog on a private jet with cockpit in the background

Hershey on the private jet to Japan.

Gladys Tsoi

Our second trip, which took place in April, lasted 8 days and covered 10 prefectures. We focused on Kyushu, an island in southwestern Japan.

Our road trip took us through Fukuoka, Oita, Yufuin, Kumamoto, Beppu, Nagasaki, Yanagawa, Sasebo, and Itoshima. Our main goal was to witness Japan’s spring flower season. Opting for a private jet made this journey simpler compared to our first trip, with our pet travel agent handling all flight arrangements seamlessly. Hershey and I took the private jet, while the rest of the family flew over separately.

We enjoyed Fukuoka’s countryside charm. A local photographer captured family moments amid cherry blossoms, and Hershey explored pet-friendly flower parks.

Woman and toy poodle dog in Japan with cherry blossoms in the background

Tsoi hired photographers along the way to capture moments with her pooch.

Gladys Tsoi

In Oita and Yufuin, glamping by Mount Aso provided a tranquil retreat, while Hershey savored local attractions like Yufuin floral village and Yanagawa’s rivers. Sasebo offered a European vibe with tulip fields, while in Kumamoto we went strawberry picking and visited the zoo.

Toy poodle at hotel on bed in Japan

Japan has plenty of pet-friendly accommodations.

Gladys Tsoi

In Kumamoto, we stayed in a private lodge run by a local family. It was equipped with a doggy gym, professional dog grooming room, dog park, and private onsen.

We enjoyed Beppu’s natural hot springs the following day and stayed at Hotel Nampuro in Nagasaki. The hotel had a three-course pet-friendly dining menu.

Next time, we will probably bring another pup along.

Toy poodle dog eating ice cream in Japan

Hershey got to enjoy strawberry season with some freshly made ice cream

Gladys Tsoi

Both trips came with hefty price tags, especially round two when I opted for a private jet. The cost of hotels added up to around $5,000. In hindsight, every cent was well spent.

Some may consider my splurges excessive, but witnessing the pure joy on Hershey’s face is what gives my life meaning and purpose.

For our next trip, I’m contemplating bringing one of my larger canine companions, either Milo or Malibu, along for the journey.

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