It’s a thrill to travel abroad — while you’re traveling, that is. Planning the trip, on the other hand, is one big ball of stress — and that ball gets a whole lot bigger when you’re planning to bring your pet along for the ride.
It’s hard to add a dog or cat to a travel itinerary because pet-related rules and regulations vary from place to place and company to company, but the bigger problem is that traveling with a pet invariably makes traveling more expensive.
If You’re Visiting Canada, Travel by Train
If your international trip happens to be to Canada — and Canada happens to be near where you live — consider riding the rails. Amtrak, which offers service north of the border but not Mexico, charges just $26 for small dogs and cats. They can’t weigh more than 20 pounds and they can’t ride for journeys longer than seven hours, but that’s a whole lot better than you should ever expect to do with the airlines.
Research Your Airline’s Pet Policy as Thoroughly as Its Ticket Prices
In 2018, Travel and Leisure reported that “airlines’ pet fees can be more expensive than flights.” Four years and one industry-shaking pandemic later and the headline still holds true.
When you’re researching flights, keep in mind that many carriers, like Hawaiian Airlines, don’t let pets travel on international flights at all. Others, like Southwest, don’t let them travel in the cabin on international flights, which means you have to be willing to put your pet in the cargo hold with the luggage.
The airlines that do welcome pets on flights abroad have radically different policies and prices, with some charging hundreds of dollars each way or requiring you to purchase a ticket for the adjacent seat. Delta, for example, charges $200 — each way.
It’s Never Cheap, but These Airlines Are the Best You’re Going To Get
Alaska Airlines consistently ranks at or near the top of the list of the best airlines for pets. It charges just $100 each way whether you have a small animal in a carrier in the cabin or a larger one riding in the climate-controlled baggage compartment. Unlike many other airlines, Alaska lets you bring not just dogs and cats, but birds and rabbits, with several other species allowed in the cargo hold. If they fit, you’re allowed to put two small animals of the same species in one carrier, which means you’re paying just $50 per pet each way.
Other airlines with relatively low fees include:
- Frontier: $99 per carrier
- American Airlines: $125 per carrier
- United: $125 per carrier, but only on select international flights, and avoid United if you have stopovers of more than four hours in the U.S. or 24 hours outside the U.S. — each one costs another $125
Finding Pet-Friendly Accommodations
Neither the Yogyakarta Marriott in Indonesia nor the Baku Marriott in Azerbaijan allows pets, but the Little Rock Marriott in Arkansas does for a fee — and that’s par for the course. There is virtually no continuity regarding pet policies or prices from one country or even one city to the next, even within the same hotel chain — but it is possible to winnow down your choices.
- BringFido is a travel directory that lets you search the fees and policies of more than 500,000 dog-friendly locations, including not just hotels, but vacation rentals, campgrounds and bed and breakfasts, as well as attractions like parks, beaches and restaurants.
- Expedia and most other big booking sites let you filter your search results to include only pet-friendly accommodations.
- TripAdvisor and other top travel comparison sites let you search reviews and deals among pet-friendly locations specifically.
- VRBO and Airbnb let you search only the hosts who allow pets.
You’ll Probably Have To Visit a Vet — Where the Real Money Goes
Most countries and territories will require you to get a USDA pet health certificate endorsement. If the endorsement is for vaccines only, the cost is $38, but if lab tests are required, the cost is $120 or more — up to $173 if seven or more tests are required.
The price you’ll pay for the tests and any required treatments depends on which vet you visit.
A blogger writing for TheBark.com described slashing the vet bill for her two dogs before an international trip from more than $600 — about the same price as a round-trip ticket — to less than $100 simply by visiting a vet in Upstate New York where the cost of living is low instead of her pricey neighborhood in New York City. She also halved her ante to the USDA by including both dogs in one endorsement.
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