Luna is the subject of so many of my travel conversations.
How many countries has she been to? (17) What’s it like traveling with a dog? How is it possible to travel with the dog?
Within this last question are a series of mini questions. About quarantines and vaccines, paperwork and airline carry-on requirements. About the choices I make, the places I pick, the speed at which we travel.
Today, I thought I’d try to tackle all of those pieces, by giving you the skinny on how I choose where to travel with Luna.
First, I should tell you that when I decided to travel full-time, leaving Luna behind never crossed my mind. It wasn’t an option.
For me, getting a dog is a lifelong commitment. She’s my girl, my best friend. And while I have taken business trips without her for a couple days at a time, I could never re-home her or leave her long term with a friend or parent.
In part, this is because she’s my friend and I made a commitment to her when I took her home seven years ago.
So even if it means more paperwork, a few places I can’t go because of their quarantine laws, and a slower, altered way of traveling, so be it.
Now, as for the process of choosing where to go, I start with where I want to go. If I’ve been dying to get to Slovenia or longing for Lithuania, I start my research there. If I’ve got a conference to attend in Canada, I’ll be researching Canada. If Chad desperately wants to visit South Korea, I’ll dig into the requirements for South Korea.
And when I say research, I simply mean looking up the dog travel requirements for the country I want to go to.
You can usually find these on embassy websites and any vet certified to do animal import/export paperwork should also have access to the requirements and paperwork.
There are two main requirements you see for almost every single country:
Your dog needs to have an up-to-date rabies vaccine and an international microchip.
Beyond that, the regulations vary. For the UK, your dog also needs a tapeworm treatment (a pill given by the vet a few days before you travel). For Hawaii, you’ll need a rabies titre test administered by a specific lab, confirming that your dog’s rabies shot has worked. For pretty much every country, you’ll need some paperwork filled out by a vet within a few days of travel and sometimes stamped by the country you’re traveling from’s authorities (in the US, this is the USDA).
Now, it’s important when I’m researching to look at not only the country I want to go to, but also the country I’m coming from. If you want to take a dog into Switzerland, for example, the regulations are different for animals coming from different departure points. The UK, for example, has different requirements for dogs coming from Australia than it does for dogs coming from Kenya.
And, so, this is where I start: with a desire to travel somewhere and a little research to see if it’s possible and what kind of paperwork I’ll need to do to make it happen.
The good news is that quarantines aren’t that common as long as you follow the requirements to a T. The UK used to have a six-month quarantine; now it has none as long as you follow the rules and are coming from a low-rabies risk country. Hawaii used to have a similar quarantine; now it has the 5-day-or-less program, which can get your dog released from quarantine on the same day you arrive.
In general, you can get around Europe, South America, and North America without encountering quarantine (with a few exceptions) as long as you play by the rules.
Now, countries I know of that do have a quarantine even if your dog is microchipped and rabies-free (and are thus off our itinerary, at least for the moment)? Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and Japan.
Once I know the requirements for a country, as long as they’re doable (meaning: no quarantine required), I can start planning our travels. While I’m doing all the typical things–the Airbnb bookings and the flight research–I also make vet appointments as needed, call the airlines to make sure they can take Luna on our preferred flight (always check: even if the airline is pet-friendly and takes small dogs in cabin, they often only take a certain number, so you’ll want to make sure the dog spaces aren’t overbooked), and do whatever other paperwork or prep needs to be done.
I also check to make sure I have Luna’s travel kit, which I always carry in my carry-on. This includes her pet passport (for travel within Europe), rabies certificate, and any other paperwork we need for the airlines and/or entry to the country.
And, finally, I try to plan a flight itinerary that gives us space in between flights for Luna to stretch her legs and take a pee break. If we’re headed from Denver to Europe, I’ll book a two-hour layover in Atlanta, exit the airport for a short walk, and then head back in for our second flight. This way Luna’s never trapped in carrier for endless hours.
Once I know that the airline is pet-friendly, we have the paperwork sorted, and we’ve booked Luna-friendly apartments and trains along the way, all that’s left is packing up her few things: a sweater, harness, leash, collar, a couple toys, an airline-approved carrier, and now a cute little day-carrier.
It sounds like a lot the first time you read about it. I know I was overwhelmed when I first started planning; and that’s one of the reasons I have always traveled at a slower pace. But once you’ve got it down, the routine becomes surprisingly simple, especially when it comes to going back and forth to Europe, where we spend most of our time.
Do you travel with your dog? How do you choose where to go?
Have more questions about with-dog travel? I attempted to answer all the common ones here.