Travelling with your pet

The complete guide to taking your pet on holiday

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Instead of sending your pets off to boarding kennels when you pack your bags for a fortnight in the sun, there are ways to bring them along with you and sample the gastronomic delights of ‘le pet food’. Here’s what you need to know

Couple walking with suitcase and dog

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Opportunities for your pets to travel have recently opened up, though there’s no single rule that determines whether trains, planes or (rental) automobiles will accept them, or if hotels and other lodgings will accommodate them. This guide explains what you need to know about travelling with pets.

Before you travel with your pet

Before you rush to book that luxury hotel you’ve been daydreaming about, it’s worth considering whether a trip is the right thing for them. Yes, arranging care for pets can be time-consuming and very costly but in the excitement of going away, don’t forget the potential for stress and disruption travel can cause them.

The first step to successfully holidaying with pets is preparation. Make sure you're confident in their capacity to cope and in how suitable the destination is for them. Some animals struggle with heat or humidity, while others aren’t suited to colder temperatures.

The risks of travelling with your pet

There are lot of situations in travel that could upset your pet. Before you go, make sure they can cope with the following:

  • Loud and unpredictable noises
  • Confined spaces
  • Unfamiliar smells and people

These issues are particularly troublesome if your pet is older or very young, or if it’s unused to being away from you for long periods, has had no regular travel experience or is of a nervous disposition.

A flight or sea crossing may only take a couple of hours but you have to account for the length of the door-to-door journey and identify any points where you could break it up to offer your pet some respite and reassurance.

Think about how you would manage with any delays. Travelling with a pet will require getting to the airport in good time, so some reconnaissance on routes around the airport, as well as the easiest ways to find your way outside if travelling with a dog, is a good idea.

If you do decide to bring your pet, contact the relevant operators before booking, for their policies on pet travel.

Pet Passports

Introduced in 2000, owners of cats, dogs and even ferrets have been able to apply for a pet passport through the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS). These passports are issued by vets and are essentially a document that declares your pet as being in a fit and healthy state to travel.

The pet passport includes a record of your pet’s health and any treatments that they’ve had, and they are required if you are travelling with your pet to or from a European Union country.

Other countries will also accept your pet passport, including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Republic of Ireland was previously not a restricted country for UK citizens and therefore wasn’t subject to the PETS rules but this may change.

The rules will change on 1 January 2021, and the new paperwork will depend on whether the UK becomes a listed or unlisted country in the Pets Travel Scheme.

Can I take my pet on a plane?

There’s no hard and fast rule to this question, as airlines adopt their own policies when transporting pets. However, many airlines allow your pet to accompany you on the plane.

Some allow them to travel with you in the cabin, while others insist on putting them in the hold. Where your pet travels may be determined by size and weight, with only smaller animals being allowed in the cabin with you.

Check before flying to find out what the policy is.

Will airlines treat guide dogs and other assistance animals as pets?

It’s worth noting that service dogs, such as guide dogs, are often treated differently will usually be permitted to travel in the aircraft cabin. Airline policies recognize assistance dogs are working dogs, necessary to ensure the safety and independence of their humans throughout the flight.

There are some restrictions, even with service dogs. Ryanair, for example, does not allow guide or other assistance dogs on flights to/from either Morocco or Israel.

Emotional support animals are not legally recognized as assistance animals in the UK so it is unlikely yours will be able to stay in the cabin with you on a UK airline.

Which airlines accept pets?

If you’re going abroad and want your pet to join you, there are a number of airlines that will gladly accept your furry friend. Most airlines require that you book well in advance, giving at least four to six weeks’ notice.

There are usually weight limits, while different airlines prohibit different species. Some only allow recognised assistance dogs, and some allow pets to travel in the cabin while others limit animals to the hold. As ever, it’s vital to check beforehand.

Below is a quick rundown of popular airlines flying in and out of the UK and whether they accept pets and where. Again, note that where an airline won’t accept pets on board, they may accept service, or assistance, dogs on board, so it’s worth checking before you book or fly.

Do airlines charge for bringing pets?

Most airlines charge for pets to accompany you on your journey, whether they join you in the cabin or are checked into the hold. The fees charged for bringing your pet varies depending on the airline as well as factors such as the weight of your pet and length of journey.

Assistance animals are often exempt from these charges.

What do airlines charge for pet transportation?

Each airline requires your pet to be transported in an approved crate, cage or container, which you must supply. The weight of this transportation container will be combined with the weight of your pet, which will determine the fee you are charged.

Before flying, check that the country you’re flying to accepts pets and whether they require any extra documentation. The airline you are flying with can provide you with full details.

Will my pet be allowed to sit next to me on the plane?

Some airlines that accept pets will allow them to sit with you on the flight. Again, there is no hard and fast rule to apply, however most airlines will treat your pet with the same rules as carry-on luggage. Therefore if your pet is over 8 kg, it likely won’t be able to fly with you in the cabin. Some airlines have sister cargo companies which handle your pet booking.

Remember that the weight limit represents a combination of the pet and the transportation container, which must be flight-approved.

Will my pet be safe in the hold?

Some pet owners can be understandably nervous to keep their pet in the hold. However this is a very common and safe method of transportation for airlines.

Despite the picture some movies may have painted of the hold or cargo bay of a plane, they’re generally air conditioned and relatively comfortable areas for pets to fly. The cargo companies that load pets and luggage on to airlines will generally operate a last-on first-off policy for any pet that’s flying in the hold, in order to minimise its time on board.

Some airlines may have safety policies in place regarding the minimum and maximum external temperatures in which animals are permitted to fly in the hold.

Can I take my pet on a ferry?

Depending on the company, pets can travel by ferry if they have an up-to-date pet passport issued under the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS), travelling to a country that accepts pets under this scheme.

The costs and requirements vary not only from company to company, but also from route to route, with some ferry operators having different rules or rates according to the crossing.

For the most part, options for foot passengers are more limited. Not all ferry companies have kennels or pet lodgings, and these will only allow guide, hearing and autism assistance dogs in indoor spaces.

Which pets are allowed on a ferry?

Usually cats, dogs and ferrets are permitted on ferries – although it's worth checking before booking whether they do allow any others, or in case there have been any recent changes to their rules.

Under PETS, the maximum number of pets one person can take as the registered owner is usually five, although there are exemptions that may be applied for if taking more than five to compete in a sporting event or show.

Charges vary according to route and facilities. It's worth checking in advance to see whether any extra charges apply for the ferry company and route you’re taking.

If you’re going on a cruise, there’s only one ship that will allow you to bring your furry family member aboard and that’s Cunard's Queen Mary 2. Certain other ships will allow you to take your pet onboard, however they’re likely to be confined to a kennels deck, so they won’t be able to snuggle up in your cabin with you. The costs for transporting your pets on these ships can be in excess of £1,000, so it’s worth contacting the carrier before you set sail.

Can I take my pet abroad on a train?

Only guide and assistance dogs are allowed on board the Eurostar. If you’re taking your car via Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, you can take your pet as long as they have the appropriate PETS-approved passport.

Once abroad, most countries allow pets to travel on their domestic train network, however some, such as the SNCF in France, have specific requirements for transportation – and your pet must have its own ticket or pay a supplement. On TGV, Intercités, TER, Intercités de nuit (night service) and France-Italy trains, if your pet weighs under 6kg, it must travel in basket or bag no bigger than 45cm x 30cm x 25cm at a cost of €6.

If your pet weighs more than 6kg, it must wear a muzzle for the journey’s duration and the ticket will be priced at 50% of the full second-class fare, even if you’re travelling first.

Can I take my pet to a hotel?

Different hotel chains have different rules, and what’s on offer may vary greatly by location and star rating. It’s worth calling the hotel prior to making a booking to understand their policy as it may not be the same across all their properties. You may want to ask them to confirm what they say via email, in case there’s any confusion on arrival.

Some hotels will include an additional charge for allowing your pet to stay with you, while others may have limits on the size of pets that it allows guests to bring indoors. Others market themselves as “pet-friendly” but may be geared towards certain types of domestic pet so check if you’re hoping to bring something more unexpected with you!

If booking your hotel online, most websites and travel comparison sites will detail whether or not they’re pet friendly and include any restrictions.

Will my pet insurance be valid abroad?

Some pet insurance policies will include holiday cover as standard, however check the small print to see whether your pet will be covered on your holiday abroad.

If your policy does include overseas travel for your pet, see if holiday cancellation is included and what the limits and associated excesses for it are.

Holiday cover isn’t always comprehensive, so read the fine print and make sure accidents, illnesses, injuries and other emergencies are included. In some policies, these are excluded and you’ll need to contact your provider to get these added to your policy before you travel.

You can compare pet insurance policies ahead of your trip with MoneySuperMarket. And don’t forget to compare travel insurance policies for yourself while you’re at it.

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