How to Make Travelling with Your Pet Easier
Pets are a huge part of our family, so many of us can't bare the thought of leaving them behind when we go on holiday. For some, this can crush any thought of going abroad, but what if you could take your pet with you?
Thankfully, travelling with your dog or cat is possible, you just need to think harder about when/where you can bring them, how can you bring them, and how can we prepare them?
There are many benefits to taking your pet on holiday with you.
- You don't need to find a dog sitter
- They provide companionship for solo travellers
- You can experience new things together
- You can meet new people on dog walks
Sure, it’s not the easiest option as there will be hurdles to overcome, lots of planning needed, and you may need to be creative from time to time, but that will all be worth it when you can sit on the porch of your beach hut with your pooch.
When considering bringing your pet on holiday, you may want to ask yourself the following questions.
- Is the climate suitable?
- Do you need a pet passport?
- Is the destination pet friendly?
- How long is the journey?
- Are your planned activities suitable for a pet?
- Can you commit to not leaving your pet behind for long periods of time?
- Has your pet had the necessary vaccinations?
- Does the destination have quality pet care?
- Does your pet insurance cover travel?
- Do you think your pet really wants to come?
When choosing a country to travel to, climate is often a big deciding factor, especially if you're considering bringing your pet along with you.
You need to bear in mind that not all cats and dogs are built the same especially when it comes to weather tolerance. For example, some dogs have evolved to have thick double coats that allow them to live in the harshest of conditions in the arctic, whilst others have short coats and little body fat which allows them to live comfortably in hotter climates.
5 dogs that can tolerate hot weather are:
5 dogs that can tolerate cold weather:
- Siberian Husky
- Alaskan Malamute
- Saint Bernard
- Bernese Mountain Dog
When preparing for your holiday, pack kit for your pet like you would for yourself. For example, if it’s a cold country, pack coats, sweaters and boots, but if it’s a warmer country, pack cool down jackets and shoes. Shoes/boots are very important to protect your best friend’s paws in both cold and hot weather.
Regulations and Culture
Are the regulations and culture of the destination animal friendly? If the answer is anything but yes, either leave your pet at home or consider somewhere else.
Research everything from crime involving pet theft, to the general attitude of the locals towards certain animals, and the general safety for pets in terms of diseases etc.
Check official government websites or www.pettravel.com to ensure your pet meets the countries regulations.
Below is a list of things many countries may insist on:
- Your pet must have certain vaccinations, one of the most common being the rabies vaccination
- Ticks and tapeworm treatment
- Your pet must be micro chipped
- Blood test results
- Health certificates
- Import permits
If you find any of the above are needed, or if there are any other requirements, you must comply and bring proof.
Length of the Journey
How well does your pet travel? Just as for humans, every individual reacts differently. Just because your previous pet or your friend’s pet can handle a 10-hour flight, doesn’t mean yours will.
It’s important to know your pet’s limits here.
If your dog can’t handle a 2-hour car journey without being sick, or is clearly agitated, how can they be expected to cope with a 3-hour flight and all that entails?
On the other hand, if your dog is clearly calm and just falls asleep for a whole car journey, you can be more confident that they may cope well with a flight. Truthfully you can’t know for sure without trying it out.
The simple solution – for your first trip together, choose somewhere close. Don’t dive straight in with a 10-hour flight.
Are Your Planned Activities Pet Friendly?
Are you going to Nepal to climb Everest? Are you skiing in the alps? Are you hiking to Machu Pichu?
If your trip sounds anything like the above three, it’s probably not pet friendly.
If you think any of your activities put your pet at risk, or may mean you will be leaving your pet alone for long periods of time, either choose different activities or leave them behind for this one.
After all, does it benefit either of you if you put them through the stress of travel only to leave them inside for 8 hours a day whilst you are off diving or hiking?
Method of Travel
There are multiple modes of transport in which you can travel with your pet including by plane, train, boat or car. Each of these methods bring their own benefits and challenges which you will need to consider.
Before committing to any travel method, make sure you have contacted all relevant travel companies to ensure you comply with their regulations.
By far, the most common means of transport for holidays abroad is by plane, so we will start here.
Obviously, each airline will have their own rules, so your first step will be to visit their website or contact them. Any advice they give you must be followed to ensure you are not refused boarding at the airport.
In general, most airlines will allow for very small dogs to travel in the cabin with you so long as they stay in their bag at all times. Any dogs over this size will need to be marked as checked baggage and put in the cargo hold.
Having your pet in the cargo hold may sound harsh, but the pressure and temperature are regulated, and your pet will be well looked after.
Try to avoid flights that involve a stopover in which you change planes – this increases the stress on your pet and could mean they are exposed to extreme climates in their cages whilst transitioning from one plane to another.
If the flight is over 17 or 18 hours, most, if not all airlines will not permit pets. If this is the case, you would need to look in to having your dog fly on a separate cargo plane.
For all journeys by plane you will need an International Air Transportation Association (IATA) approved travel crate for your pet. The crate must meet certain regulations which are there to ensure the safety of your pet during travel. When choosing the size, your dog needs to be able to stand erect without their ears touching the roof of the crate, and sit, turn around and lie down in a natural and comfortable position.
If your pet must travel by cargo plane, it is the most expensive option, but your pet will be very well looked after throughout the flight.
Most boat companies will have a dedicated kennel on board where your dog would need to stay for the duration of the trip, whilst some boat companies will insist that pets stay in your car, in which case bringing a pet as a foot passenger would not be an option.
Most train companies will allow you to take a dog with no problem at all – just make sure they are house trained so there are no accidents.
Do not be insulted if the train company demands that your dog wears a muzzle. This is a strict policy for some train companies and not adhering to it would mean your pet must travel in a crate.
Travelling by car is obviously the easiest option when it comes to looking after your pet.
Not only do you have the freedom to stop at any time to let your dog out for comfort breaks, but you only need to look in the rear-view mirror to see if they are comfortable. If it looks like they’re unhappy, you can pull over and sit with them for a bit to reduce their stress levels.
If you have a passenger, why not ask them to sit close to the pet so they can reassure them at any point if necessary.
More importantly, have you ever seen a dog happier than with their head stuck out a car window? Just look at their face and all you will see is pure unadulterated happiness.
If you choose to travel by car in the UK, make sure you follow rule 57 of the Highway Code which states “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars."
If you don’t follow this rule, you could be fined up to £5,000 for careless driving and insurers may see an unrestrained pet as reason enough to refuse an insurance claim in the event of an accident.
Make sure you check the rules for local travel companies in the country you are visiting. The journey to and from the country is unlikely to be the only ones you make. For example, if you fly all the way to Vietnam only to find that their trains, taxis and boats don’t allow dogs, you’re in a bit of a sticky situation.
Preparing for Travel
No matter the pet, it’s safe to assume that they will experience some stress at one point in the journey. We as pet owners need to do our best to prevent this, and one way to do so is with thorough preparation.
Firstly, if you need to use a crate, do what you can to get them used to it beforehand.
Introduce them to the crate a few weeks before the flight and make sure they have time to feel safe in it. One way to do this is to leave it open in an environment they feel very safe in like your living room. With it open, just let them naturally make their way over to explore the crate without any coercion.
Let them decide the crate is safe and, if after a few days they haven’t shown any attention to it, try placing a few of their favourite treats, food and/or toys in there.
Your goal here is to make them feel like the crate is a good place, so they're not scared of it when the time comes to depart for your travels.
Secondly, get them used to any new kit you have purchased for the trip.
For example, if you’ve treated your pet to a new coat or boots, have them wear them on your walks in the weeks leading up to the holiday. The last thing you want is for your pet to refuse to wear the necessary protection when you arrive at your destination.
So, there you have our tips for travelling with your pet. We hope this makes both yours and your pet's lives easier when you decide to share your travelling experiences with them.
Always remember that every pet is different, so these tips will not work for all. The trick is to always try new things at home in a safe environment before jumping in at the deep end and finding out too late that it doesn’t work for your pet.