How to take your Four-Legged Friend on Holiday

9th December 2016

Family, Home, Travel

It can be hard to say goodbye to your pet when you go on holiday, with recent research suggesting that British people actually miss their furry friends more than their partners when they go away. Arranging for care, such as pet sitters or kennels, can be stressful and expensive, so it’s not surprising that it’s becoming increasingly popular for people to take their pet abroad with them.

Sharing your holiday experience with your four-legged friend certainly isn’t out of the question, so long as you plan far enough in advance. From passports to pet insurance, here at Asda Money we’ve put together some advice to consider when it comes to taking your pet abroad. 

wet dog on a beach

Planning Ahead

If you’re keen on the idea of taking your pet on holiday with you, then booking a last-minute trip will be out of the question. Rules vary depending on which country you’re visiting, so it’s strongly advised to find out information from your vet surrounding what is required when travelling with a pet abroad. It is also crucial to ensure you have all the appropriate documentation when travelling so your pet will be allowed back into the UK on your return.

When planning your holiday, it’s also important to remember that your idea of the perfect destination may not be suitable for your pet. Temperatures vary dramatically depending on where you decide to visit, so rather than booking a holiday to Spain in the middle of summer for instance, it would be better to consider somewhere with cooler weather, such as the north of France. Travelling later in the year is also a great option, as plenty of countries abroad tend to have lower temperatures between the months of September and October. As an additional bonus, you can often get some cheap deals after peak season.

Microchips and Vaccinations

Firstly, your pet will need to be fitted with a microchip before it travels anywhere, so that it can easily be identified. When you check in for your journey, the airline, train or ferry company will usually read the chip when they check your pet’s documents. Your vet can fit the microchip for you, and should do it before any vaccinations take place, or else you’ll have to go through the vaccination process again. 

It’s also vital that your pet is vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before you travel. If you’re travelling back from an unlisted country, your pet must have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination, and then wait three months before travelling. 

If you think your pet has already been vaccinated in the past, then remember to keep up-to-date with regular boosters, or you could end up having to start the process again which could delay your holiday.

There may also be additional treatments required, depending on the animal. If you’re planning on taking your dog on holiday with you, you need to get it treated for tapeworm up to five days before coming back to the UK, or else it could be put into quarantine, or even refused entry. You’ll have to find a local vet to perform the treatment, unless you’re visiting for less than five days.

Pet Passports 

Once your pet has been microchipped and had its rabies vaccination, a vet will need to issue you with a pet passport. If your own vet doesn’t issue them, ask for the nearest one that does, or get in touch with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, who’ll be able to help you. 

The passport is needed for travelling abroad because it lists all the different treatments that your pet has had, such as rabies vaccinations and blood tests, as well as its microchip number. It’ll also include details of ownership which you’ll need to sign, and a description of your pet with any distinct markings that it has. 

The passport will remain valid if your pet continues to meet the UK’s entry requirements. It’s also a useful document for checking when things like boosters are due, so keep it in a safe place so you can refer to it when needed. 

If you don’t follow all the rules when it comes to vaccinations, treatments, and pet passports when travelling with your pet, it could be put into quarantine for up to four months, or refused entry back into the UK. You’ll be responsible for any fees or charges, so make sure you’ve left plenty of time to get everything sorted before you leave. 

european union pet passport


As well as arranging your own travel insurance, if you’re taking your furry friend with you then it’s just as important that their pet insurance policy is up-to-date and covers you if you travel abroad.

Pet insurance is vital to ensure you’re fully prepared in case your pet gets into any accidents or becomes poorly, and requires vet treatment when you’re abroad. When choosing insurance for your pet, it’s crucial you read the fine print, and ensure they are fully covered for your holiday, as policies differ between providers.

How to Get There

Once your pet is fit for travel, when you get to the point of booking your holiday you’ll need to consider which form of transport is best. If you’re doing a short journey across the English Channel, the quickest and easiest way to travel is by the Eurotunnel. This means that you can stay with your pet in the car, and it only takes around 35 minutes to cross over from Dover to Calais. 

The Eurotunnel costs just £19 per pet each way, and there’s dedicated exercise areas, with trained pet staff available. When you leave the UK, pets aren’t required to go through any Pet Control checks, but when you return you’ll need to go to the Pet Reception Building at the Calais Terminal.

Travelling by ferry is also a popular choice for people taking their pets abroad. Brittany Ferries run a PETS travel scheme* where your four-legged friend can travel for as little as £16.50. As with all other forms of travel, you must have a pet passport proving your pet is microchipped and vaccinated, and muzzles are also compulsory. 

It’s also worth noting that animals aren’t allowed in cabins or any public areas of the ship unless they’re a registered assistance dog, so they must remain in your car for the duration of the journey. Make sure your pet has been exercised and has had the chance to go to the toilet before you board, and always remember to leave the window open, with water available to them. You won’t be able to stay with them in the car and usually won’t be allowed into the garage area of the ship during the journey, so bare this in mind before travelling. 

If you’re going on holiday further away and not taking your car, it’s also possible to fly with your pet. You’ll need a special authorised container for this, and different rules apply depending on the airline you choose to book with. Most UK-based budget airlines don’t allow pets to travel in the cabin at all, so they’ll have to go in the hold. Some of the major airlines allow your pet to travel in the cabin as hand luggage, but different rules apply depending on the total weight, including the container. 

There is always an administration charge for pets travelling via plane which can vary extensively depending on the airline company, and you’ll need to call and reserve a place. It’s always strongly advised to research all the factors before you book anything, so that you aren’t unprepared when you get to the airport and find that you can’t fly.

kittens in a cat carrier

General Tips for Travelling with Your Pet

  • Keep all your pet’s documents together with your own, so they’re on-hand when you require them.
  • Remember to have plenty of toilet stops, and a chance to stretch their legs depending on your animal. Make sure they have constant access to water at all times, and take enough with you in case there isn’t any available on your stop-offs.
  • Pack all your pet’s usual bedding and toys so that they feel more comfortable and safe during travel. If you’re driving, make a bed for them in the back of the car and make sure they have enough room to move about comfortably.
  • If you’re travelling by ferry, feed your pet at least an hour before you board so that they’re less likely to feel seasick. Remember to pack plenty of their usual food, as the brand you usually use might not be available to buy abroad.
  • Double-check that wherever you’re staying is pet-friendly, you don’t want to get all the way there and then have to find somewhere else!
  • Have fun. Taking your pet abroad with you can give you a completely different holiday experience, so make the most of it and enjoy your time together.

Here at Asda Money we have a range of pet insurance cover types available. Find out more about Asda Money Pet Insurance provided by Legal & General here.

All information is accurate as of the published date - 09/10/2016

*PETS travel rules may be subject to change from 29/03/2019. If travelling after this date please check for any changes.

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