By World Animal Protection Animal Ambassador Christina Prejean
Start small- perhaps, try small road trips nearby to see how your pet is able to adapt with the changes. Get to know your pet well enough before beginning to travel with him or her.
Two things bring us endless joy: our little rescue pup, Bella, and exploring the world. At first, we thought the two were completely incompatible. But who says traveling and being a pet owner are mutually exclusive? (Traveling is currently restricted due to COVID-19, but keep these tips in mind for when you’re able to safely travel again!)
Eleven years ago, we rescued Bella (or, she rescued us, as some might say). We always felt guilty leaving her even for a couple of days, so, after years of doing this, we were determined to figure out a better solution.
Two years ago, we sold our home and have been traveling non-stop with Bella ever since. She comes with us almost everywhere we go. She has her own EU Pet Passport and has traveled to 9 countries, 2 World Wonders, 12 US states, and countless cities.
It’s not always easy, but it’s very doable, and sometimes even more affordable than paying to board or have someone watch her (the going rate is currently around $30 per day).
Here are our top tips for how we recommend traveling with your pet:
Flying with your pet
Most airlines allow small cats or dogs in the cabin for a fee, and sometimes vaccination certificates from a vet are also required. Also, if your pet is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or service animal, they can fly in the cabin free of charge, regardless of their size, as long as you provide supporting documents to the airlines beforehand.
If your pet isn’t an ESA or service animal, US airlines charge around $125 to $200 per flight, and EU airlines usually charge $50-$70.
Choosing a dog-friendly airline
Before booking flights, research which airlines are most dog-friendly.
We’ve flown on these airlines with Bella, all of which were very dog friendly:
Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airline, and Volotea (European travel).
Where to go: Dog-friendly places
Before deciding where to go, research which places are dog friendly. A simple google search of: “which country is the most dog-friendly” revealed that France is the most dog-friendly nation in the world. So, the first place we took Bella outside the US was France and she absolutely loved it. France allows dogs in most places, except for grocery stores and some parks (which also serve as outdoor gyms for many locals).
These 9 countries have all been very welcoming and dog friendly (no pet quarantine required for entry):
France, Italy, Mexico, Andorra, Spain, Monaco, Vatican City, San Marino, and of course, the US (with the exception of Hawaii).
Once you’ve decided where you’re traveling to, research dog-friendly hotels, Airbnbs, VRBOs, or any other accommodation before booking. Expedia, Airbnb, VRBO all have “pet-friendly” filters for when you’re looking for a place to stay.
Certain US states, such as Hawaii, require a two-week pet quarantine process, where your pet is taken from you upon arrival at the airport and placed in an isolated quarantine. Although we’d love to explore the Hawaiian Islands, we think it’s best not to subject Bella to this.
Documentation required for international pet travel
Before traveling abroad, research the country's requirements. We recommend traveling only to countries where no pet quarantine is required. Mexico and countries within the EU (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, to name a few) do not require pet quarantines. The USDA has a great website to use as a reference. There, you can click on the country you’re interested in traveling to and find out what documents are required.
Once in the EU, traveling between countries is as easy as traveling between most US states. So, we decided to enter the EU through France, considering it’s the most dog-friendly nation, knowing it would be easier that way.
France requires: (1) ISO microchip (2) Rabies vaccination (3) EU Health Certificate from a USDA approved Veterinarian (4) Take the EU Health Certificate to the USDA of your state for APHIS endorsement.
We’ve decided not to travel to certain places that we’d love to explore, but require a pet quarantine. South Africa, for example, requires a pet quarantine.
EU pet passport
Once in the EU, we recommend getting an EU passport, which isn’t required, but lasts for the life of your pet and is fairly simple to get. Take your pet to an EU veterinarian, who will inspect your pet, and after paying a fee, they’ll send the Pet Passport to you in the mail.
The benefit of having an EU Pet Passport is they can easily fly within the EU.
Respecting your pet's stress
We understand that not every animal feels calm enough for travel. We highly recommend not taking your pet on an airplane if it has to go in cargo, as this can cause it extreme stress and anxiety. Our recommendation is to start small- perhaps, try small road trips nearby to see how your pet is able to adapt with the changes. Get to know your pet well enough before beginning to travel with him or her. If your pet is small enough, we recommend introducing them to their travel carrier weeks or days before needing to use it for travel, as their familiarity with their carrier may help reduce their stress and anxiety while traveling. If ultimately, your pet does not respond well to travel, there are many dog watching services, such as Rover and TrustedHouseSitters, where the person watching your pet can stay at your home, so your pet doesn’t have to change their environment.
Pet travel gear
Getting the right travel gear for your pet makes life much simpler. Some gear we use regularly and highly recommend: TSA approved pet carrier backpack, collapsible water and food bowls, Tupperware for food storage, and snacks/treats.
And you're ready!
I’ve had the honor of being a dog mom for eleven years to my bundle of joy rescue pup, Bella. Now, she’s a dual US and EU citizen, she gets to travel everywhere with me, and we share memories that I’ll forever cherish. My hope is that you and your pup can too, now!