Travelling with your pet is easier than you’d think. Believe me, I know. My three-legged Turkish street dog, Zeytoon, has traveled with my wife and I from Turkey - where my wife found him on the streets and had his hurt paw amputated - to California, over to Colorado and Utah, back across the pond to Italy (where he learned some basic Italian and grew fat on osso buco), and now back again to Colorado where he patrols our yard for squirrels and manages to destroy our vegetable garden every spring.
The good news is that with a little bit of pre-planning - and a helping of patience on the road - your little fellow (or feline) will make the perfect addition to your next trip. After all, pets are part of your family, shouldn’t they be part of your journey?
But should we take him?
OK, not every trip is fit for your furry friend. So before you get your puppy passport, you’ll want to research your destination, its customs requirements and accommodation, and look closely at your goals and itineraries to see if this trip is really right for your pet. Planning on late nights out at the pub, romantic dinners for two or lots of time on the road? Well, maybe it’s best to leave Fido behind. That said, for outdoor lovers planning lots of hikes, minimal stops and quiet nights in, having your best friend along may just be the highlight of the trip.
It’s also important to look at the cultural context of your destination. Many people in the Islamic world view dogs as dirty beasts, while kitties are, well, the cat’s meow. In Japan, it’s common to treat dogs like babies, while just across the way in Vietnam, dogs are what’s for dinner.
Shots, quarantines and puppy passports
Every country - and in some cases individual provinces and states - has different requirements for travelling with your pets. Pettravel.com is a good resource for country-by-country pet immigration rules. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service has some of the strictest rules when it comes to quarantines. In Great Britain and European Union countries there are some restrictions, but as long as you follow them, you won’t need to put your pet in quarantine. US pet importation rules vary from state to state.
Before you head out, your pet’s shots will need to be up to date and documented. Many countries around the globe honour either a European Union veterinary health certification or US Department of Agriculture certification. You’ll also probably need some sort of puppy passport to go with your health certification.
Where to stay
Bringing a pet along will severely limit your accommodation options. Luckily, some major hotel chains and even a few boutique spots are catering to the needs of their four-legged clientele, and most of the major aggregators include pet-friendly accommodations in their advanced search functions. You can also check out privately owned vacation rentals and agritourism spots. Of course, camping is always a good option.
Staying healthy on the road and in the air
Don’t forget that travel is tough on pets. In 2010, 39 animals died onboard US commercial airplanes. If you are flying, check out the International Airline Transportation Association site for info on containers and in-flight sedation (a no-no according to most veterinarians). Those planning a longer trip may wish to consider hiring a pet relocation service. To get ready for the trip, your best bet is to make sure your pet is well exercised and well hydrated. Individual airline policies on pet travel vary, but most will charge you extra for the service, have temperature-controlled, pressurised cargo holds, and place restrictions on when and how a pet can travel with you. If you have layovers, you can often request to see your pet and take him or her for a little walk inside the airport. You’ll also want to bring wipes to clean your pets after their long ordeal.
Leaving Fido behind
Sometimes your best bet is leaving your pet behind. There are tons of options these days, from pet hotels (and spas!) to hiring a pet sitter or simply asking a family friend to take care of your pet. Just remember that pets are people too, and they need daily interaction and exercise, just as much as they need food and water.
Persuaded to travel with your pooch? Why not check out what our Thorn Tree community is saying about hitting the road with a furry friend?
Or if your tail is wagging for more travel know-how, get your paws on a copy of Lonely Planet's Best Ever Travel Tips.