Planning an overseas trip with your furry friend can be a headache, but it is possible to minimise the cost with a little planning ahead. Here’s my guide to getting your pet from A to B with your sanity, and contents of your wallet, intact.
Each destination country has its own requirements. You can check country-specific regulations here. Most countries, at the very least, require an up-to-date rabies vaccination record, microchip and, a few days before travel, a health certificate. If in doubt, your vet will be able to advise you. In some cases, your pet will need a blood test to prove the rabies anti body is present in sufficient quantity. This can take several weeks, so make an early start with a visit to the vet.
Equip yourself with a suitable crate or carrier for your pet. Most airlines will insist on the crate being IATA-approved. These are made of sturdy material with the correct ventilation. Size does matter! Each airline specifies its own guidelines for measuring your pet and its container, but you can find a general one here. Having the correct size crate keeps your pet comfortable during transit. Ideally, the crate wont to be too big, either, as you don’t want to pay for unnecessary weight.
Cargo v ‘excess baggage’
Your pet will travel, in their crate, inside a pressurised cabin below the passenger deck. There are two ways of arranging this, and ‘excess baggage’ (or ‘oversized baggage’) is significantly cheaper than ‘manifest cargo’. The ‘excess baggage’ route involves the pet (in its crate) being checked in at the same counter as you and your suitcases, before your flight. Pre-approval (and often pre-payment) is necessary, so contact your airline a week or two before your travel date. Staff can check that the aircraft is suitable for live cargo. The pet must be travelling on the same flight as you, and you collect them from the baggage reclaim area of the airport on arrival. You’ll pay the airline a fee, based on size/weight, usually not much more than buying extra baggage allowance. Some countries don’t allow pets to arrive in this way, and insist on cargo. This, sadly, is more expensive but the advantage is that your pet does not need to be on the same flight as you.
Hiring some help
You may choose to enlist the help of a pet relocation agent. While very useful for handling paperwork, their costs add up. Contacting the airline, preparing health records and certificates yourself will save you money. One agent I used, before an international trip, tried to convince me that I needed an import certificate costing £150. After my own research, I discovered this wasn’t necessary. It pays to check yourself, even if you have outsourced some help.
Some countries hold animals for a period of time on arrival as a matter of course, but others reserve it for unexpected cases where the paperwork isn’t complete, or the animal is unwell on arrival. This is a costly exercise, not to mention deeply upsetting, so check and double check the requirements before you book that flight.