Traveling Overseas With A Pet
Traveling overseas with a pet for the first time is a rather involved process, with specific time frames that need to be met. If you are considering taking your pet you need to start planning months before your trip. Once your pet has traveled at least once the process is much simpler. I had to postpone my trip, for other reasons, which then made it possible to take my dog with me. Traveling overseas with a pet can be a very pleasant and rewarding adventure for both of you. If you would need to pay for boarding while away, it can also be cheaper [even with all the costs related to first time travel]
Planning Your Adventure
There is so much to consider.
- The airlines’ regulations
- The length of the flight/flightsThe government regulations
- Carryon regulations – Are you still allowed a carryon and personal item, plus your pet and carrier?
- TSA regulations
- What you will need to pack for your pet as carryon, and what can be checked.
- How and what will you feed your pet for the whole vacation?
- Which hotels are pet friendly? – Is there an extra charge for pets.
- The cost for your pet’s airline ticket.
- How will my pet cope? Will I need tranquilizers for my pet? Is wine free for me on the flight? 🙂 etc.
- What paperwork do I need?
I Am Here To Help
In this post I will go into detail about these regulations, paperwork and other questions. I will also share the items I used, if they worked well and what I wish I had done differently. There will be links provided to purchase these products. Some of the links are affiliate links some are not. You may click here for more information about my advertising policy. Other links will direct you to where you can get accurate information, for your specific international travel needs.
My Previous Experience Traveling Overseas With A Pet
When I was a child we flew with our little Yorkie Demi so I knew it could be done. While Demi was on the larger side, for a Yorkie, he only weighed 11 pounds. My current dog, Teddy, is a slightly overweight Cock-a-poo, weighing in, currently, at 22 pounds.
Most airlines have a weight limit of some kind, allowing a dog to fly in the cabin with you. Some count the weight of the dog only, while others have a total weight limit of the pet and the carrier combined. Typically this is around 18-20 pounds. Needless to say Teddy’s weight was a problem, unless I was prepared to put him in the cargo hold for the trip. I was not and this is a topic all to itself, to be covered in a future post.
All information in this post is for international, flying in cabin pet travel. If you have a large dog and need to have him/her fly in the cargo area, this blog post gives some useful tips and discusses safety issues.
The Most Important Thing For Me
I searched all airlines flying to Switzerland and found that United Airlines did not have a weight limit. They did have limitations (weight is not the only restriction), but none that limited my dog from traveling with me. 🙂 The carrier restrictions are all the way at the bottom of page link I have provided above, for your reference. Take note that they specify different dimensions for a specific plane model of theirs.
Please note that if you have a heavier small dog like me, you must fly on a United flight. A United flight has their logo visible by flight information. Please refer to the example provided: United partners with other airlines for some flights. The pet regulations for weight may very likely become an issue with these partners so double check their guidelines. The size restrictions may also vary due to the different designs of planes.
A Word Of Caution
Please note that United has had issues with pet injuries and deaths. I believe most of these issues were for pets transported in the cargo area. United is working on these issues. I felt confident that my pet would be fine since I was traveling with him on board, right by me.
My Most Recent Trip Traveling Overseas With A Pet
This was to be my Teddy’s first flight. Teddy is 12 years old and a very seasoned car traveler, but flying on a plane is a little different. I already had an airline approved soft carrier for my dog but I knew, I was traveling alone and had to be able to handle all my luggage, my dog and all his supplies myself. Previous experience taught me how physically demanding a long trip can be, without a dog, so I knew I had to plan carefully.
Purchases I Made Specifically For This Trip
WPS Removable Wheeled Pet Carrier for small Pets
Knowing that having to carry an extra 22 pounds all over airports, train stations etc. would be challenging at best, I decided wheels would be essential. Since space for a pet is limited on planes, the wheels needed to be removable. I decided to buy the WPS Removable Wheeled Pet Carrier for small Pets.
Things I Learned While Traveling With This Carrier
- The biggest problem was that it was hard to get to my seat carrying my dog in the carrier with the wheels on, and that rolling it down the narrow isle was too difficult while holding everything else I had.
- It was also difficult to put the wheels back on the case securely while seated in the plane. I suggest double checking the wheels right when you exit the plane. This is a good place because all passengers that need assistance stay there until their wheel chairs are ready, strollers are retrieved, etc. My next trip will not require me to carry so many items, so it will be easier.
- Another snag I had, was that it was impossible to slide the case all the way under the seat because the life vest was hanging down and kept getting stuck on the carrier. I just kept one leg on either side of the carrier where it stuck out. This made Teddy feel very secure, I was comfortable and when I put the blanket over me, no-one even knew he was there.
I was very glad I bought this item and highly recommend it. You can look forward to a full review of this product, as well as all the other pet items I used for this trip.
Dryfur Pet Carrier Inserts
Another item that gave me peace of mind are Dryfur Pet Carrier Inserts. We never got to test out how absorbent they are because my Teddy had no accidents, nor did we have any spills. However, from the looks and quality of these pads I have no doubt they perform well when needed.
They are disposable so I carried plastic bags, to stow them in if soiled. If you have a dog like Teddy that needs to rearrange anything he lies on they are the best! He will scratch a blanket or dog bed until it is in just the right bunched up position. He will also scratch any piece of furniture and all types of flooring attempting to reposition them as well. Since these pads have a solid underside, he was unable to turn it into a ball and render it ineffective. This is when I knew the flight would go well.
TSA approved collar, leash, Pet ID tag and carrier ID tag
We all know about TSA regulations, but with pets there are a few more steps. Your pet’s carrier goes through with your carry on stuff, so your pet [cat or dog] will need to come out and go through the scanner with you.
They cannot wear normal collars or leashes because they have metal on them. An airport is a busy place with lots of noises, so the potential of a pet getting spooked it high. If your pet’s leash and/or collar have metal, they will make you take it off! Since I did not want my dog getting away from me and getting lost, I purchased a TSA approved collar, leash, Pet ID tag and carrier ID tag. Just click on the picture below to get your TSA supplies. Yes I will make a commission if you purchase here. For more information about advertisements on my blog please click here.
This was well worth it. They have harnesses as well. I would recommend it for a cat as well but don’t count on it to hold your cat. Cats are notorious for getting out of collars and harnesses. Personally I would opt for the collar with a cat, because if the harness doesn’t fit perfect, it is very easy for them to escape if they get spooked.
With the smaller animals like birds etc. I would advise you to check if an all plastic case is available and if you would be able to keep them in it and walk through the scanner holding it.
They will also have you show the palms of your hands, they will swipe them with a cloth and you need to wait a little bit and then they check your palms again. If you are holding your pet this can be a little challenging if they are squirming. You may want to rehearse at home. 🙂
Good2Go Rain or Shine Yellow Silicone Dog Boots
My final pet purchase for the trip was not for the flight but rather for the location we were traveling to. These were priceless!!! Since I was going to Switzerland and there was snow already, I bought dog booties.
They were the talk of the town and everyone wanted to know where I got them. They were not happy when I told them America. I got them at my local Petco. The first pair I bought were a medium but they were too big so I exchanged them for a small which fit perfectly.
The velcro closure kept them in place, the boots kept him warm, free of snow and salt so he wanted to walk for hours. The neon yellow made him easy to spot.
My dog loved them! There was never a problem getting them on but… sometimes he wanted to leave them on. He would even curl his lip after I took 3 off. LOL I know how to pick my battles and this was not one I needed to fight!
My Wish List
Sleepy Pod Go Bag
There was a bag I wish I had purchased. It holds a laptop, several food storage containers that are included, and one that is a cooler bag. The strap stays secure crossing over your chest so you can juggle other items and your pet easily. There are also places for your phone, travel papers, laptop or tablet, etc. Purse and pet supplies in one place! You can buy it here.
This is on my wish list for our next trip! It is expensive but I think the slim profile of this bag is well designed for squeezing down plane isles, and well worth the price. I am hopeful that I will have one for my next flight.
Laying The Ground Work For Our Trip
Research, research, research! I checked and double checked all my options, and information. After many calls to the different airlines and checking the USDA site and official Swiss sites as well, I was ready to set the timeline. Teddy’s first visit with the Accredited Veterinarian was well before our trip and before I booked anything. What a stroke of luck that my Animal Hospital had an Accredited Veterinarian on staff.
At that visit Teddy got his microchip and another Rabies vaccine. Since there was a 21 day waiting period, from when he got the vaccine until he would be allowed to enter Switzerland I now knew the earliest day I could schedule Teddy’s Health Certificate appointment. I scheduled it for day 23 and scheduled my appointment with the local USDA office on day 25. My flight was booked so I would land on day 9 of the 10 day limit for the health certificate. While all this was going on I was having roof work done!
Thank goodness my trip was simple. We were flying in and out of Switzerland and not going to any other countries during our stay. 🙂
Teddy is an excellent traveler who sleeps most of the time. I have even forgotten, for a moment, that he was in the car with me! I made sure to book well ahead so I could get a direct flight. The flight was 8 hours going and 9 hours coming home. I choose a redeye flight for the trip there because I knew it would be a quiet flight. This was not possible for the return flight, but at least he would be used to it by then.
Preparing Teddy For Our Flight
To prepare Teddy for the trip, I put him in his new case and took him into noisy stores. I put the case in the shopping cart and most places didn’t have a problem with this. Outside I rolled the case so he would get used to that sensation of sidewalks and curbs. Inside I rolled him so he would be familiar with tile floors as well.
As luck would have it, from the floor to the bottom of my bed was the same height as the top to bottom measurements for the hard carrier limit. So I took the wheels off the carrier, put Teddy in and slid the carrier under my bed with him in it.
Then I got my laptop and brought up YOUTUBE with a video of cabin sounds with take off, landing and full flight sounds. I kept him under the bed while I went about my business. He fused for a few minutes to straighten out the bottom of his carrier and then laid down. As soon as the sounds started he relaxed and soon fell asleep. He slept for 3 hours so I woke him up and let him out.
To medicate or not to medicate… that is the question
When I was young the Vet always gave tranquilizer pills to us. He told us to give a dose at home before the flight to see how he reacted to it. If he was ok and not to drugged up we were supposed to give it if we felt it was necessary. If he got too sleepy we were to give half the dose at home to see if that was better. We didn’t always give it, but it was nice to have it on hand because you never know what might happen.
Now most Vets, including mine, do not recommend sedating an animal for a flight. I used Bach’s Flower Essences Pet Remedy to help Teddy feel less stressed while waiting for our delayed flight, on the trip there. It worked great. I didn’t use anything for the ride back. This does not sedate the animal. It works more like a nice cup of Chamomile tea in the evening after a busy day. I always have this on hand in case one of my animals gets hurt or scared, etc. As for me, there was free wine on the return flight since I didn’t get to lie down in a cozy carrier for the flight.
Getting Your Plan and Timeline In Order
Traveling overseas with a pet internationally is different from traveling within your country. Every country has their own set of regulations. Since I live in the U.S.A. I will be writing about my experiences. You can read more about all countries here.
Their are specific Veterinarian’s you need to go to in order for all the paperwork to go through. They need special training about the paperwork and regulations to be Accredited. You can call around to local Vets and ask. If you are having trouble finding one you can get help here. Here is a link to the check list that will help you make sure you do not forget anything.
Some important points to know:
- Everything done to your pet should be done by a USDA Accredited Veterinarian to simplify and guarantee the paperwork process.Your pet needs to be micro chipped with a universal chip.
- Anything that is done to your pet before they are chipped doesn’t count, so don’t get anything done for your pet before microchipping. You will be wasting money and over vaccinating your pet.
- Regardless of your pets vaccine history, the first Rabies vaccine given at the same time as chipping or after chipped is considered their first Rabies vaccine and cannot be considered as a three year vaccine.
- Some countries have a waiting period after the Rabies vaccine is given before you can enter their country, Switzerland has the same waiting period as the European Union of 21 days at the time of my trip December of 2018. Due to our government shut down, the USDA site is not currently being updated.
- Your pet will need a Health Certificate issued by an Accredited Veterinarian, during the country’s specified timing.
- You will then need to go to, or mail paperwork to the nearest USDA office to have it signed and a raised seal applied.
- Make sure your Accredited Veterinarian faxes paperwork first in case anything else needs to be done. With Switzerland the health exam needs to be done within 10 days of arriving in their country. If you are taking a redeye flight it is the date of your arrival not your departure date they go by. I had to drive and hour and a half each way to get mine done. Overnight mail is expensive and it still depends when they process it. I advise going in person and having an appointment.
Is This All Too Much For You?
While all this seems rather complicated, I can assure you once you have made one successful trip with your pet you will feel more confident. The procedures will be familiar and less involved for subsequent visits. After all you only need to get your pet microchipped once. After that your pet just needs the chip to be scanned each time a rabies vaccination is given, or any other travel necessary procedure is done.
Just imagine all the calls and stress related to finding a pet sitter or a good boarding place… That is no simple matter either! At least this way you have your pet with you, and you are not always wondering and/or worrying.
How To Shorten The Process For Your Next Trip
To avoid the rabies shot waiting period [required the first time] make sure your pet is vaccinated before the vaccine expires [according to international travel criteria]. Then all you need is a health certificate and the seal just before you travel. Thank you Dr. Gray, from North Saucon Animal Hospital, for helping make Teddy’s trip a success!
Packing Light Makes A Big Difference
I suggest that, even if your airline is liberal with your carryon limits, you pack as light as possible for the actual flight. If you are able to limit the amount of items you need to carry onto the plane it will help you out a lot. This was not the case for me. 🙁 Since I was traveling alone, I was not able to spread the wealth of items.
I also had to bring a walking stick for my hiking adventures [it did not fit in my suitcase even in the shortest position (Ugh). My travel pillow didn’t fit in my carryon but it did Snape on the outside (awkward)! I needed my laptop and the weight of it kept making my bag fall off my shoulder (at the worst possible moments!!!) The wheels for the pet carrier came with a bag that fit in my carryon, and was only needed to stow it during the flight.
Are You A Frequent Flyer?
If you will be flying to the EU frequently, you may want to check into an EU pet passport. I have not researched this in detail yet, however, I do know that you must acquire it overseas and that you do not need to have an EU passport yourself. If you are interested in more information about Pet Passports leave a comment below and I will make sure to write a post.
Was it all worth it? Most definitely! My Teddy and I had a great time and my son was so glad to see both of us. There are many Hotels that allow pets to stay. Some charge an additional fee. Remember that a refrigerator is a plus if your pets food needs to be cold or you have leftovers. Your dog will enjoy going to restaurants all over Europe. Since this is the norm, dogs seem to pick up on it and behave like little angels.
Dogs are also allowed on the trains. They are free if they are in a carrier and you need to pay for them if they are walking. My wheeled carrier was GREAT for this.
I did have one cab driver that wouldn’t let a dog ride, but the next taxi in line was happy to. All in all it was a great trip.
- Carry as little as possible onto the plane.
- Try to get a direct flight.
- If no direct flights make sure you have at least an hour and a half to 2 hour stopover and that there is a pet relief station inside security.
- Make sure all flights allow pets in cabin and that you meet their regulations.
- Start planning your trip early.
- Get your pet Microchipped with a Internationally approved chip as soon as you decide to take your pet.
- Keep your schedule light during the 10 days before you leave.
- Keep in mind any waiting periods for vaccines and certificate time frames.
- Make your appointment to get papers sealed as soon as you get your Vet appointment for the Health Certificate.
- Think long and hard about the best carrier for you and your pet. It should be airline approved in the size you are getting. The material, mesh and zippers should be of high quality. Locking zippers are a plus.
- Make sure your carrier is rated for your pet’s weight or higher!
Do You Have More Questions?
I hope this has helped you decide if taking your pet with is a possibility. If you have any questions about things not mentioned in this post, please leave a comment below. I enjoy reading all my comments and try to respond quickly.