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Pet insurance and travel
Your pet's safety takes top concern, which is why you could run into travel restrictions or insurance exclusions.
For your pet’s safety, transportation companies like airlines and trains have strict policies for putting your pet on board. The main pet policies to watch for are size and breed restrictions, crate guidelines and whether your pet needs a recent health certificate. And you might want a pet insurance or travel insurance policy to cover the unexpected.
What's in this guide?
- How does insurance cover my pet while traveling?
- How does flying with a pet work?
- Rules for traveling with pets by air
- What are the guidelines for pet crates on flights?
- Rules for pets on a bus or train
- Rules for pets on cruise ships
- Taking pets on international flights
- Compare pet insurance policies
- Compare travel insurance policies
- How can I make my pet more comfortable while traveling?
- Bottom line
- Frequently asked questions about traveling with pets
How does insurance cover my pet while traveling?
You may have some coverage for pets under a pet insurance or travel insurance policy.
If you’re traveling within the US, a pet insurance policy can offer protection for urgent vet visits or even routine care. Most policies don’t limit which vet you go to, so you simply file a claim using the invoice or receipt no matter where you are in the US. A few plans also reimburse you for nonrefundable vacation expenses if your pet needs urgent medical attention.
For international travel, getting coverage can prove more difficult. You’ll need to call pet insurance or travel insurance companies to see if they offer pet medical coverage while traveling overseas. Most insurance companies don’t list these options on their main websites.
If you’re concerned your pet’s health could cause you to cancel your trip, you might consider Cancellation For Any Reason coverage. Your pet’s illness may not qualify as a reason to cancel on standard trip cancellation policies, which is why a CFAR policy may be the right policy.
How does flying with a pet work?
Your three main options for flying with your pets include: checking them at the luggage counter, shipping them as cargo or taking them in the cabin. Service animals usually are allowed in the cabin for free if they meet requirements.
However, each airline has its own restrictions for pets on board. You should contact your airline to make arrangements and find out any pet policies ahead of time.
- Checking your pet as luggage. You can check in your pet at the same counter you check in your luggage. Make sure you attach your information to your pet’s crate in case staff need to contact you.
- Checking your pet as cargo. A few airlines require you to ship through a special cargo shipping program. You may drop pets off at a separate area away from the airport in this case. Pets aren’t always loaded on the same flight or itinerary as you, but you should be able to check your pet’s status with a tracking code.
- Traveling in the cabin. A few airlines only allow pets to travel in the cabin. However, pets may need to fit under the seat in front of you in a crate. Also, the airline may have weight limits like 20 pounds for in-cabin travel.
Rules for traveling with pets by air
No matter how your pet is flying, you’ll need to follow some rules when traveling:
- You need an approved kennel. Airlines only accept kennels or carriers approved by the USDA and International Air Transport Association (IATA). They should meet guidelines for animal welfare and have enough room for your pet to comfortably lie down, stand up and turn around.
- Some breeds have restrictions. Some animals like brachycephalic breeds won’t be allowed in the cargo area because they need specific care for their health. Those breeds can include pugs and bulldogs — your airline should list restricted breeds on its website.
- Your pet should stay calm in the crate. Your pet should be used to its crate and not aggressive or agitated. Some airlines reserve the right to reject flying with an agitated or aggressive pet.
- Age limits apply. Airlines typically won’t accept animals younger than 8 weeks old.
- Pets must stay in good health. Some airlines require a vet certificate to prove the animal is healthy enough for flying. The health exam should be recent, such as 10 days before your departure. You may need another certificate for the return flight if you’re staying at your destination for a long time, such as over a month.
What are the guidelines for pet crates on flights?
Approved pet containers have enough room for your pet to comfortably stand up, lie down and turn around inside. Depending on which airline you’re flying with and the kind of plane, different size restrictions and weight limits apply. Guidelines include:
- Specific size requirements for the crate. Many airlines offer a chart so you can see the crate size you’ll need based on your pet’s weight.
- Ventilation. The crate should have openings for ventilation on three sides for traveling within the US and Puerto Rico. It should have four openings for any other location.
- Sturdy construction. Your crate should be constructed of sturdy plastic, metal or wood. It should stand against heavy pressure without bending. The roof should be solid with no openings.
- Working metal door. The door should be made with metal, and its lock should work smoothly for both locking and unlocking.
Rules for pets on a bus or train
Some train companies like Amtrak have adopted a pet-friendly attitude for small pets. Common guidelines:
- Pets should weigh 20 pounds or less.
- Pets should stay inside a well-ventilated carrier the entire time.
- The carrier shouldn’t go outside the maximum size limit and should be leak-proof.
- You may have to choose specific train routes, such as trips under seven hours.
- Pets may not be allowed in all areas of the train.
Bus companies typically don’t allow pets, except for trained service animals. These animals may need a harness or leash and should stay under the customer’s control without disruptive behavior.
Rules for pets on cruise ships
Most cruise lines don’t allow pets on board unless they’re trained service animals. Pets and emotional support animals don’t pass the on-board criteria. If you do keep a service animal with you, you’ll need to meet requirements for each country or port you’re going to:
- Keep recent vaccination and health certificates at the ready.
- Dogs may need a rabies shot within the last year.
- Some ports may require an import license.
Taking pets on international flights
If you need to fly an animal overseas, the procedures stay fairly similar for most airlines. But you’ll need to make sure your pet meets your destination country’s requirements too. Steps for a smooth overseas journey:
- Contact the embassy of your destination country for details about bringing your pet.
- Contact the official Veterinary Services center in the state you’re departing from. A certified vet can let you know the health and import certificates you may need. There’s a list of these vet centers on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) website.
- Call your airline several days before your flight. Your airline needs ample time to make plans for your pet, especially if there’s a connecting flight to a different airline.
- Find out cargo fees for your pet, which can cost over a hundred dollars. Fees change based on the airline and may stay low if you’re carrying pets in the cabin.
- Fill out health and animal behavior forms. Submit these several days before departure.
- Follow import guidelines when returning to the US with your pet. Your pet should look healthy when returning to the US and may need a rabies certificate. Some states or airlines have their own rules about imported pets as well.
Taking pets on domestic flights
If you’re taking pets on a domestic flight, your airline’s requirements and pet fees apply to your travel. Since each airline has slightly different rules, make sure you meet the guidelines for every plane you’re boarding, including connecting or transferring flights.
In particular, it’s worth paying attention to pet and crate size guidelines, fees and restrictions on cargo travel.
Compare pet insurance policies
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How can I make my pet more comfortable while traveling?
There are a few things you can do before to make your pet’s travel safer and more comfortable:
- Play with your pet or take them for a walk to tire them out.
- Give them plenty of food and water before traveling — airlines specify that you give food or water four hours before the flight.
- Include a comfort item in their crate like a favorite blanket or toy.
- Line the cage or crate with waterproof, absorbent material. Clean up any messes inside the crate before you leave.
- Bring the vet certificate with you and attach your contact details to your pet’s crate.
- Let your pet relieve themselves just before checking in.
- Your vet may recommend medication for extremely nervous animals.
- If you’re nervous about saying goodbye for a few hours, try not to show it. Dogs and cats can pick up your anxiety.
Traveling with your pet does include some paperwork and rules to follow from each airline or transportation carrier. But ease some of your concerns by looking at travel insurance to cover your other belongings and cancellations first. Then, you might have the motivation to tackle covering your pet for traveling with the right pet or travel insurance company.
Frequently asked questions about traveling with pets
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