Bringing Your Pets Around the World: Day 5 of 30w30d

This post is part of 30 Ways in 30 days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World. This series seeks to give you the practical, real world steps you need to take to get from wherever you are, to exactly where you want to be– traveling the world and living the lifestyle you want.

30 ways in 30 days, pets, hurdles, around the world travel

One of the most frequent questions I receive is about bringing your pets overseas.  Can you do it?  Yes.  But before you pack up Fido in a regulation sized airline carrier, consider a few things:

Having your pet with you will limit the kinds of transportation you can use. Many buses, trains, subways and shuttles won’t allow pets, or if they do, they may require them to be caged or muzzled.

Having a pet can make flying much more expensive and limit your options for airlines. While many airlines do allow pets, not all do, and if your cat or dog is over 25 lbs, expect that list to get even smaller.  Combined with fees for your pet, this can double your price in some cases (Consider this example: For a certain NYC to Paris flight the cheapest option is $600 but that airline doesn’t allow pets.  The cheapest pet-friendly ticket is the actually the fifth cheapest option at $1100 not including pet fees).

You won’t have the flexibility to move as quickly. For many that’s not a problem, but when traveling with your pet, you should be thinking in terms of months not days at any destination.  Finding pet-friendly accommodation will take longer and for the sanity of your pet, you’ll want to have some kind of routine.

I’ve traveled with pets– my two 80 lb+ lab retrievers.  They’ve camped with us across the US and Canada and lived with us in Madrid.  I’ve also left the dogs behind, having them stay with relatives while we backpacked in Central America.  Personally, I prefer traveling with the pups, even though it takes more planning and cost.  It was really fun walking the dogs around Madrid and they loved all the attention they got from locals.

What do I need to do?

1.  First you need to determine every country that you will be visiting on your trip.  Each country has their own regulations (although most of Europe shares the same rules) and while it’s usually easy and simple to comply, it’s not always possible to do so on the fly.

2.  Look up the rules for each country.  I use pettravel.com.  There are 190 countries listed, but in general, the rules include some combination of the following requirements: at minimum a letter from your vet saying it’s a healthy animal or a rabies certificate.  They may also need a USDA certified form (or for non-US your official agency) from your vet (you’ll need to get the form, have your vet fill it out, send it to the USDA and they send it back stamped) and/or they may want your pets micro chipped (be sure that your use the international standard chip, so it’s readable everywhere, not just at home).  A very few countries require advance permission.  An even smaller number won’t allow your pet at all (Iceland, unless by special permit) or will require rabies blood/titer testing, a 6 month process before you leave (UK) or has mandatory quarantine (Australia).  These are just generalizations, so be sure to look up each country’s rules (which can also be different depending on if where you’re coming from).

3.  Check each airline’s website for their rules around pets. For going to Europe, I’ve always used Iberia, which was the cheapest and allowed x-large travel kennels, something to consider if your dog is Lab-sized or bigger.  Each airline has a page about their pet policy, but sometimes it’s so well hidden, you’re better off calling to ask.  Be careful not to get transferred to cargo shipping, which is not the same and will cost a lot more.

4. When booking your flight, be sure to call the airline directly, rather than booking online.  If it’s a 25 lb+ animal, they will create a pet reservation, as there are limits to the number of pets for each flight (first come first serve).  They will probably not charge you for the pet fee until you arrive at the airport.  (Some airlines have rules about time of year– either too hot or too cold and they won’t take pets in the hold).

5.  The size of your pet will determine what kind of carrier you need. If you have a small pet (>25 lb), you’ll need a carrier that fits under your seat (they label these at the major pet stores).  For larger pets, they need an airline approved kennel.  They go for about $60-$120 depending on the size.  To the top of this, you’ll want to tape a leash, water bowl and food, in case you and your pet get separated for any reason.

6.  Arrive at the airport early!  If you’re medicating your pet, either with sleeping pills (talk to your vet) or something over the counter (we use three benedryl per dog to knock them out), give it to them when you arrive.  If you’re checking your pet into cargo, expect to be whisked off to have your dogs weighed, pay for their tickets and bring them to a separate security line, all before you check in for your flight.

7.  When you arrive at your destination, if your pet wasn’t under your seat, it’ll be waiting for you in baggage claim.  As you pass through customs, they’ll check your paperwork and scan the microchip (if required).

Now what?

  • We like to have a private transportation for us, since the dogs are so big and the cages are huge.  Whatever transportation you decide to use, just be sure your pet is allowed.
  • Renting an apartment, instead of staying in hostels or hotels, is a great alternative for those traveling with pets.  Even renting by the week, can allow you the flexibility to leave your pet alone for a few hours (many hotels don’t allow this, if they do allow pets) and if you hire a dog walker/cat sitter you can even take off for the weekend.
  • Many ferries do allow pets.  Usually, if they allow cars, they’ll allow your pet (but it may be confined to your car for the duration).
  • It’s relatively cheap and easy to find college student/travelers abroad willing to watch your animals for the weekend, in exchange for a place to sleep or a few bucks.
  • Having your own transportation with animals makes a big difference.
  • If you have a dog, bring poop bags!  These are hard to find when traveling,  but a complete life saver for being a good dog owner abroad.
  • Try to plan your trip so you minimize flights and long drives.
  • Be ready for some negative behavior.  If you’ve never moved with your pet, they may get a little mad about moving overseas.  It’s not that it’s a new country, it’s that it’s new.  When we moved from Texas to Boston, our dogs did some revenge peeing for about a week (Oh are these your favorite shoes? How about after I pee in them!).  Be patient, try to establish a routine as quickly as possible and give them lots of positive attention.

If you decide to leave your pet with someone else

I know this is a really tough decision, but believe me, it’s harder on you than them.  In fact, the heartbreaking part is that your pet will adapt, and get used to their new “owners”.  Our dogs barely seemed to recognize us when we returned.  It comes back over time, but that was the saddest part for us.  Now it’s like nothing changed.  Your pets will adjust.  If you’re planning a whirl-wind year around the world, it may make more sense (although you’ll miss each other) to leave your pets with someone you trust.  While we handle change as exciting, it can be very stressful for an animal, so you may be acting in their best interest by leaving them in a stable environment.

Homework:

1.  Tell us: are you planning on traveling and have pets?  What are your plans?

Additional Reading:

Pet Passport, Immigration & Quarantine Info

21 Comments

  1. Pingback: 30 Ways in 30 Days to Redesign Your Life and Travel the World | AlmostFearless.com

  2. Deciding to leave my two cats at behind in Toronto while I went off to live in New Zealand for a year was one of the toughest things Ive ever had to do. With the 30 hour flight, which would be followed by a 6-month quarantine in NZ, I felt it was cruel to put them through all of that. There really wasn’t another choice. It took almost a year to find someone who would take them into her home, and had I not found someone, my “year abroad” would have turned into something more like a month-long visit.

    Despite all the heartache I went through when I said goodbye, it was completely the right thing to do. I wouldn’t give up this past year for anything, and best of all, I know that when I get home I’ll have two warm, well-fed cats waiting for me. Home is where the cats are, after all =)
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..New Brighton Pier =-.

  3. From what I’ve read, travel with dogs to the UK, Ireland, and most Western European countries isn’t too terribly disruptive to the furry friends. Yes, the flight(s) is long, and yes, one must be diligent about collecting proper vaccinations and health records prior to travel, but with those in hand (paw?), the pets are able to enter the aforementioned countries without quarantine.

    If I were planning to stay in one place for a while, and if I knew my accommodations were pet friendly, I would definitely take my dog with me. I’d ache with nerves during the flight (he’s big, so he’d be down below), but having him with me while I fell into another country’s routine would be a great joy, and–because he has a happy, easy-going personality–I think he’d enjoy it, too!
    .-= KatieC´s last blog ..Tastes Like Home =-.

  4. We brought our cat with us to China over 2 years ago. She needed to stay in quarantine for a week, but it gave us time to get her food and litter box set up. It’s definitely worth it to have her here!

    There is an animal rescue organization here in Shanghai that always needs foster parents. Many people who are from countries with strict pet import laws (like Australia) act as foster parents instead of adopting pets, as they know they’ll have to leave them behind when they go home. I think fostering would be great for people who have to be separated from their own pets for a while.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Shanghai Job Market for Foreign Professionals =-.

  5. Thanks for the insightful info. I particularly appreciated your link to the site that gives information on requirements for each country. I am considering renting a home in the caribbean next year and this link was extrememly helpful in identifying the islands that have the simpliest pet entry regulations. I will be traveling with more than one pet so good information and planning ahead is essential.

    Having lived overseas with my animals before and in Hawaii I’m familiar with the quarantine process. My two cats spent time in kitty quarantine on Oahu. We all got through it but It’s tough on everyone. I will opt in the future to choose destinations where we can skip that process. Another FYI I can offer is that Luftansa allows two pets to travel in the same kennel. My cats traveled together from Florida to Berlin in 1999 in an large size dog kennel allowing them the comfort and emotional support of the other.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..The Realization of My Life’s Work =-.

  6. This is the part of our round-the-world trip that rips us apart. Every time I think about leaving them, my heart aches just a little — and the thought of them not recognizing us scares me to death. So, here is what we are doing to make this easiest on my parents, the dogs, and us:
    1. Our two dogs are staying with my parents. This is really an ideal situation because my dogs love our parents, my parents love our dogs, and they have a huge house on the lake with a fenced in backyard (and we just put in a dog door), so the dogs have a lot of room to roam about.
    2. We are staying with my parents for 3 weeks to get the dogs adjusted here before we leave. I would suggest staying with the people who are going to take care of your pets at least a week to get your dogs adjusted to the new place. It has been really good for the dogs having us here and my parents here.
    3. We are splitting our trip into 2 to 3-month segments so that we can come back and check on the dogs and make sure they are okay. Obviously, this makes things a bit more expensive but we’ve worked it out using frequent flier miles so the flights shouldn’t be too much more expensive than otherwise (only maybe $300 more per person for the entire year).
    4. We set up a webcam so we can “see” my parents and “see” the dogs. We are using Oovoo which is a free system.
    5. We are getting an international cell phone so if my parents have any concerns or there is an emergency, they can call us and get in touch with us fairly easily. I am going to post on how we are managing our cell phone plan but it is going to work out very cheaply (under $150 for the entire year) and should be a much better system than using Skype.
    6. We bought GPS trackers for our dogs because my parents live out in the boondocks and my parents want to make sure that they get some sort of alert if our dogs get out. Zoomback makes a version if you get T-Mobile reception, but because my parents don’t get T-Mobile out here, we are using Verizon’s Chaperone program (yes, that means we bought cell phones for our dogs! Hilarious, huh?).
    .-= Akila´s last blog ..oven-baked amarillos =-.

  7. I know this will sound strange, but it actually worked for me for 2 years so bear with me. My situation was a little different, I moved from an apartment with my cat to a sorority house where pets were not allowed. My stints in the house were in 9 month increments (Sept – May) and I employed trusty old craigslist. I basically put an ad up for my cat for temporary placement or any length of stay. She is incredibly open to new environments/pets so that’s another thing to keep in mind. Basically I was looking for families who were thinking of getting a pet/cat but who weren’t sure if it would fit in with their kids/other pets/allergies, etc. Each family I found kept her for 4 months and incurred all expenses during that time except vet (which she never needed). I did all pet sitting when the host family was out of town (for free, of course) and Tinsley got to stay in a safe home while I lived out two full years. Now I know this isn’t ideal, but it absolutely worked, and it really helped my little girl get used to so many different situations. If you do decide to go with this though, I would recommend having an emergency contact in the city your pet stays in so that you won’t have to panic while you’re abroad.

  8. Andrea Davis

    I have two specific questions regarding travel with pets:

    1. I would love some more helpful hints for arranging private transportation with pets abroad. Specifically, you show up at the airport, go through customs…and then what? Do I prearrange to have a car waiting for me at the airport? How do I find pet-friendly private transportation–especially something affordable (non-limo). What did you do in Madrid?

    2. What about getting pets back into the U.S.? Say I go to Costa Rica for a few months…when I fly back to the U.S., do I have to go to a Costa Rica vet first for some paperwork? I remember looking around on the web for this a couple years ago when we drove with our dogs down to Baja but found nothing clear and understandable at the time. Is there a certain amount of time abroad that triggers paperwork from foreign vets or agencies before coming home? Does that period of time or process vary depending on the country from which you are returning?

  9. Andrea,

    Good questions! Here are the things I looked into:

    -Booking a private shuttle through the same service that runs all the shuttles at the airport
    -Renting a car
    -Taking 2 taxis

    These are all options, but a bit pricey. We ended up asking our landlord if he knew anyone willing to pick up at the airport. He did and for a small fee (I think 20 euros) he was waiting for us, and even helped up carry our things up. If you don’t know anyone in the city, I’d price out the above options and book the cheapest.

    Regarding coming back into the US, you’ll need a rabies cert that’s valid. If you’re overseas beyond that date, you’ll want to get a new rabies shot and cert (in english). If needs to be completed 30 days before you arrive. So if you go to Costa Rica for 6 months, and you time your rabies shot correctly, then the original rabies cert should be sufficient. However, they didn’t really check any of this when I returned from Spain or when I’ve crossed the border by land from Canada (multiple times).

    Hope that helps!

  10. Great post! Answers to questions I hear all the time are in this article and I will use it as a reference when replying to clients.
    I am a travel agent who specializes in pet travel. I run a pet travel information site – http://www.andasmalldog.com – that I update weekly with trip reviews, travel information, and more. I thought you, and your readers, may be interested in some of the articles on the site.
    I look forward to reading more of your posts!
    Happy Travels!
    Leila
    .-= Leila Coe´s last blog ..AndASmallDog Flickr Group =-.

  11. I don’t use the pettravel website, because some of the info is totally outdated or simply inaccurate. The best way to find out the current pet import requirements is to get in touch with the appropriate government dept. in the country you wish to take your pets to directly.
    FYI, we travel with our two cats, one of them just completed a full round the world trip, the other one we picked up along the way. :)
    .-= AnnaI´s last blog ..Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival part 1 =-.

  12. That is so true when you leave your pet with someone else. When my family went overseas my cousin took care of our family dog. The wife was telling us a story about a strange noise one night. They got all scared to find out what it was and it was our dog.
    Family Pet in Your Life
    .-= SherwinJTB´s last blog ..Sherwin =-.

  13. Such great advice from you and your readers! Love your blog! Thank you so much. I had no idea it was even logistically possible to travel the world with my pet. I am a member of a pet travel forum http://www.pettravel.com/forum/forum.php and it would be so great to get your advice out there to other pet travelers.

  14. Pingback: How to Handle Excuse #6: Pets | Tales from Technomadia

  15. Pingback: Meet Jack. He wants to come to Thailand. But How? | The Wanderlust Project

  16. For most of my life I’ve had a pet that needed sitting when I traveled. Then I found myself pet-free for 6 years and while I loved the freedom I missed the company. A couple of years ago I rescued a toy poodle and had been thinking of traveling abroad with my dog but wondered if it was even do-able. This article suggests that it is. Thanks so much for the resources!

    Jackson Dunes
    Author of “Pug At The Beach, An Island Dog’s Reflections On Life”

  17. Pingback: 5 ESSENTIAL DETACHMENT SOLUTIONS FOR LONG TIME TRAVEL « Brazilnutty

  18. This is really helpful info! I am from Mexico and I had to dig a little further for some info on traveling arrangements but as a veterinarian I’ve had to read a lot about some countries’ laws and regulations for pets. However I do find it hard now that I am planning to travel for some short periods of time, I feel like I am planning my “eat,prey,love” year and I have been traveling a lot in mexico so far so the best solution for me was to leave my 3 cats with my parents as they actually offered me to move back with them and take care of the furry babies, I would never ever consider leaving them with anyone else but a close friend or my parents, I just couldn’t do that to them. I am planning to take them with me if I move overseas for my PhD or a long trip like that but for these short period trips I definitely think they’re better off with my parents in a big comfy house and well taken care of.

  19. Hi, this site has been a great help but I’m still unsure of what I should do. my pooch is really healthy and happy and MY BABY. I just survived cancer and the unexpected loss of my mother and my husband and I were thinking about taking off for 6 months to a year and doing some traveling. Our dog is 13 years old and has been with me since he was a month old. He truly is a child to me. It would break my heart to the point I probably wouldn’t go if I had to leave him behind that long, and on the other hand, I don’t want the stress to be hard on him. Traveling is my dream and I do so as often as possible. I think getting away is EXACTLY what I need right now, but again, I don’t know what to do about Malachi. Any suggestions??!

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