How I Choose Where to Travel with my Dog: A Tale of Quarantines, Vaccines, & Long-Haul Flights

by gigigriffis

Luna in Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada.

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.

Luna at Lake Louise, Canada

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 Luna saved my life and continues to help me manage my struggles with depression and anxiety.

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.

Luna in Canada

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.

Luna in Spain

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.

Luna in Austria

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.

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24 comments

Leslie September 1, 2016 - 1:33 am

I am inspired by your post. While travelling with our dog might be tough, I think the overall experience that you had further fueled my desire to bring them along for trips. Thank you!

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gigigriffis September 1, 2016 - 9:01 am

Glad it’s useful!

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Emily September 1, 2016 - 1:53 pm

This all seems really doable. Thanks for the info. Having a small, cabin-friendly dog seems to be a big part of it.

I’d like to go somewhere to work remotely for a few weeks, and it likely makes sense economically to just bring my dog (plus, I like hanging with him!), but I’m too afraid to fly with him in the cargo hold. I have heard some good things about a few airlines (namely, Alaska) taking really good care of pets in “checked baggage” (most importantly, climate-controlled all the way, including sitting on the tarmac) but haven’t decided if it’s right for us at this point.

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gigigriffis September 1, 2016 - 2:52 pm

I hear you! I’d be way too nervous to fly with Luna in cargo. Even if it means flying a more expensive airline, I always choose the ones that’ll take her in cabin. Is your dog small? If not, another option, at least for Europe, is cruising on the Queen Mary. They take dogs, though you’ll have to book way ahead, as space sells out.

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Kathryn OHalloran September 8, 2016 - 8:36 am

My sister’s friend worked with horses for many years and she sometimes flew in the cargo hold with them between the US and Europe. She said the cargo hold is better than the regular part of the plane.

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Ali September 1, 2016 - 2:41 pm

She is so cute!! I’m probably never going to do this, but Andy and I do hypothetically talk about getting a puppy (or two) occasionally. You just need to let me borrow Luna for a few days sometime :-)

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gigigriffis September 1, 2016 - 9:23 pm

:)

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Georgette September 2, 2016 - 2:27 am

Great info Gigi! I will definitely share this on my socials

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Janet September 2, 2016 - 8:25 am

Great info! I have flown to a few places with my daughter Butters and most have been amazing experiences :) Never knew how many dog parks/relief areas most airports have until recently!
Toronto is my favorite as far as how they treat dogs upon arrival.
Nassau, Bahamas was the worst. I will never return because of all the hustling/threats they made. Even getter her out of there required 2 vet visits, driving around to 3 government offices (one of which was abandoned) and eventually bribing a man to stamp her exit paperwork. Never again.
If you get iffy responses about requirements from the websites/Gov officials then I would just keep your pup at home. If all seems to check out then please take them! Theres nothing better than experiencing the world with your best friend <3

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Deb December 3, 2017 - 2:33 pm

I will be flying into Toronto with my Scottish Terrier. Can you tell me more about your experience there?

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gigigriffis December 3, 2017 - 2:49 pm

We were only in Toronto for a couple days, so I don’t really have any specific thoughts on the city. But Canada was about on par with the US in terms of dog-friendliness. Crossing the border was no big deal. Just the usual vet paperwork within 10 days of travel (which I assume you’re already familiar with?).

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Valerie September 2, 2016 - 11:21 am

I love Luna, but mostly I love your intense commitment to her. Adopting an animal is a commitment to love and care for them for their entire lives. I wish everyone could offer this commitment to their pets. I really want to take my Yorkie Mitzi to England, where I have family. I’ve clipped an article on the Queen Mary with the hopes that we can someday make that journey. If you’ve done it yourself, or plan to do it, please post about that experience. I will read it with relish!

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gigigriffis September 2, 2016 - 12:03 pm

Thanks, Valerie! I wholeheartedly agree. I’m floored by people who don’t see an animal as a life-long commitment.

I haven’t done the Queen Mary, myself, but I have read about a couple that did it with two mid-sized dogs over at http://www.theroadunleashed.com/. It’s a bit dated now (was written in 2013), so you’ll have to double check things. But I remember feeling like it was pretty comprehensive at the time.

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Jennifer C. Butler September 5, 2016 - 10:18 am

The pictures are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
Travel with beloved dog is absolutely wonderful.

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gigigriffis September 8, 2016 - 9:19 am

Thanks!

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Kathryn OHalloran September 8, 2016 - 8:41 am

One of the reasons I’d never get a dog, well not in the near future, is because I could never leave them to travel and getting back into Australia is so difficult. Not that I’m against the strict quarantine because it keeps our animals safe. It’s a minimum of one week — and I think that’s from places like Japan that are totally rabies free. You can visit your dog in the quarantine but there are a lot of restrictions.

Also, getting an Airbnb in Aus with a dog is crazy. People say they are pet friendly then want the dog only outside and never to bark etc.

I’ve actually inherited half a dog :) He was my mum’s dog and he’ll stay with my sister. I thought about travelling with him but he’s a munch monster and eats bedding etc so that, along with the quarantine, really puts me off. Also he is pretty old now so I’m not sure his health is up to it.

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gigigriffis September 8, 2016 - 9:18 am

Makes perfect sense. Though I will say I am against the quarantine. They’ve shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that rabies vaccinations are 100% effective, so it would be equally safe if Oz adopted the UK or Hawaii’s new policies, which require stringent testing to make sure the rabies vaccine is properly in the dog’s blood, but allow animals who pass that test to enter without quarantine. Wish NZ and Australia would get on that program. :)

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David September 14, 2016 - 8:25 am

17 ??? I was really impressed :o Though I love my furry family a lot, I used to leave them behind on business. I may make a change from now on. Thanks a lot for sharing !

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Monica Dingess October 2, 2016 - 7:24 am

Luna looks great in these pics! You are a real traveler. You traveled even more than me. Btw, take care whenever you’re on the trip. Best wishes for you!

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Allie October 27, 2016 - 12:08 am

Very informative! Which cute little day-carrier do you use for Luna?

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gigigriffis October 27, 2016 - 9:43 am

We use our Sleepypod Air for air, train, and car travel. I adore it. If I just need something to toss her in if she gets tired of walking or can’t go into a market on foot or something, I’ve just received a Wagwear over-the-shoulder bag, which I’m currently reviewing. So far I like it.

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Diana December 16, 2016 - 9:24 pm

Thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures I love them. I also bring my dogs to travel with me all the time i can’t bear the feeling leaving them home alone. I feel more relax with them around

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Ask a With-Dog Traveler: What Does My Dog Need to Travel the World? | The Ramble March 13, 2017 - 6:44 am

[…] about quarantines? How do you take her on a plane? Is travel stressful for dogs? Which places are […]

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BCP Veterinary Pharmacy July 16, 2019 - 7:08 am

Hey! Great article. Love the pics!

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