Pet travel

Travelling with Pets

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Following the introduction of pet passports in 2000, it has become a lot easier to travel around the world with our furry family members.

Couple walking with suitcase and dog

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Instead of packing your pet off to expensive boarding kennels, they can now jet off with you to enjoy the warmer climes and taste of foreign pet food.

While the opportunity for your pet to travel has been opened up, there’s no single rule that determines whether hotels, trains, planes or automobiles will accommodate them. Therefore, this guide will take you through some of the more common questions and considerations to help you get the low-down on travelling with your pets.

Before you travel with your pet

Before deciding whether to bring your furry friend along as your travel companion, think about whether taking them with you is the right thing for them. First and foremost, pet owners need to be confident that their pet will be able to cope with the journey’s stresses.

The loud noises, confined spaces, unfamiliar smells and people associated with any journey can cause upset for many animals, particularly if they’re older or very young. If your pet isn’t used to regular travel or has a nervous disposition, you may well decide that the journey will be too much for them.

If you do decide to bring your pet, it’s recommended that you call your travel or transport operator for their rules, regulations and policies to understand whether your pet complies.

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.

A pet passport is required if you are travelling with your pet either to or from a European Union country, from which the UK accepts pet passports. Other countries will also accept your pet passport, including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Republic of Ireland is not a restricted country for UK citizens and therefore isn’t subject to the PETS rules.

Read our guide on pet passports for more information.

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 there are many airlines that will 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 its size and weight, with smaller animals being allowed in the cabin with you.

It’s worth noting that service or assistance dogs, such as guide dogs, are often treated independently from policies relating to pets.

It’s best to check with your airline before flying to find out what their policy is. Airlines’ policies will also determine what sort of pets they allow, with some only allowing cats and dogs and others permitting snakes and even birds of prey.

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 traveling companion - as well as a number that won’t.

Here’s our rundown of popular airlines flying in and out of the UK and whether they accept pets on board. 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.

Which airlines let you take pets on the plane?

What do airlines charge for pet transportation?

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 and the weight of your pet.

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, however we have prepared a short guide for some of the more popular airlines flying to and from the UK with their guidelines:

What do airlines charge for taking your pet on the plane?

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. Whether they allow your pet to fly with you will generally depend on the size and weight of your pet.

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.

Remember that the weight is a combination of the pet and the transportation container, which must be approved for flight.

Will my pet be safe in the hold?

Some pet owners can be understandably nervous to find out that their beloved furry family member will be in the hold and won’t be sitting next to them, lapping up the service from the cabin crew. 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

Can I take my pet on a ferry?

Pets can travel by ferry if they have an up-to-date pet passport issued under the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS) and are travelling to a country that accepts pets under this scheme. P&O Ferries charge £15 per pet each way to travel on the route from Dover to Calais, so 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 aboard, 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 as much as £1,000, so it’s worth contacting the carrier before you set sail.

Can I take my pet abroad on a train?

If you’re booked in to visit the best that Europe has to offer on the Eurostar, you’re in for disappointment, as only guide and assistance dogs are allowed on board. If you’re taking your car, 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. For example, if your dog or cat is under 6 kg, it must travel in a bag or basket no larger than 45 cm x 30 cm x 25 cm. The ticket for your pet will be €7 and will cover TGV, Intercities and TER trains. If your pet weighs more than 6 kg, it must wear a muzzle for the journey’s duration and the ticket will be priced at 50% of the full second class fare.

It’s worth checking with the train operator in the country that you’re visiting before you travel, in order to avoid having to leave your pet at the station.

Can I take my pet to a hotel?

Different hotel chains have different rules when it comes to letting your pet stay over with you. It’s worth calling the hotel prior to making a booking to understand their policy and make sure your furry travelling companion is welcome.

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.

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 it’s worth checking your documents and 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, check to 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.

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