To say I love to travel would be an understatement. And for years, I’ve had to travel with my shih tzu life partner, Cha Cha. First on long flights as a college student going from NYC to my hometown, San Diego. To working on hotel projects in Central America. And with a general obsession of jumping around, he’s always been by my side or under the seat in front of me.
He’s covered thousands of miles, countless countries, and has had 2 passports. We’ve lived in NYC, Miami, SF, San Diego, Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. Now almost 16 years old, blind and deaf, with kidney disease. You can imagine the work involved to keep this fur-nomad healthy and happy! So I’m sharing my tips on how to travel with your pet logistically, what to expect, and anything I’ve come across that could help make your travel plans run more smoothly.
First things first, be as buttoned up as possible. Every airline and country requires different documentations. When looking for info, make sure to find multiple resources. Ask a vet and ask the airline. Eventually, you’ll have to go to the vet to make sure all your pet’s vaccines are up to date.
You’ll need a health certificate issued within 10 days. Traveling domestically some airlines don’t require it anymore, again double check with your airline.
Make sure to pick up a Rabies Certificate, every country asks for this.
Airline compatible pet bag I like this one because it doesn’t look like a pet bag. There are tons of options on amazon.
I bring a little container for water and treats in case he gets feisty. (During take off and landing I think his ears pop and found Cha Cha gets a little uncomfortable.)
Make sure to make copies of all documents. Digital is not accepted in every place (trust me I learned the hard way by being denied a flight for missing a printed out letter).
Go to the airport earlier, you may have to go to a special assistance line, I recommend asking when you get there so you’re not waiting.
SUPER TIP: Generally for long flights, I bring a pee pee pad. I take him in the plane bathroom, place the pad on the bathroom floor and let him do his thing. This was major for cross Atlantic trips.
As I mentioned, every country has different requirements. Some require more than others (I see you Guatemala). For example, I had to get a health certificate, get it certified at the USDA, then bring all that to the consulate. NOT FUN.
Documents from vets abroad can take longer to get back, for example when I went from Guatemala to Mexico they require a local vet to take it to their version of the USDA to be certified. This can take anywhere from 3-7 days and costs $300+.
Note when arriving, you will have to go through customs and this may take so time, so be prepared if you’re trying to catch a train connection after you land.
A Note On Emotional Support Pets
Make sure the document is dated within the year, has all the information from your therapist’s license. Again, take copies of this with you to the airport.
You’ll have to let the airline know you are traveling with your pet in advanced. Make sure to check with the airlines what is required since every airline is different. American Airlines is a special email. United has a document they will email you and you will need to fill out. Also, organize this a few days before your flight so it’s all sorted.
Emotional Support Tip: If you’re going to a different country, get the letter in that language.
Overall, be prepared to shell out some dough, spend time running around, and accept that things will be not always go as expected. I’ve found there’s too many variables and disconnected parts to this process. I set a good intention that everything will go smoothly, have a book on my phone handy. There’s been many times I was frustrated, denied a flight, paid for new flights, missed a connection but in the end it’s all worth it.