Pet Travel Checklist for International Flights

Domestic pet travel is one thing. But taking a pet on an international flight is a whole different…animal. If you have an international flight coming up and you’ll be taking a pet along, preparation is key. VIP Petcare is here to help with this ultimate pet travel checklist for international flights.

Ideally, you should start researching and planning at least 30 to 40 days before your departure. This will give you time to learn all applicable policies and ensure you’re prepared for the trip. Use this checklist to make sure you’ve taken care of everything you need to, so you can focus on caring for your pet during the trip.

1. Research the Airline’s Pet Policy

The first step in safe and efficient international flight travel with your pet is understanding your airline’s pet policy. The size of your pet and the breed will determine whether you can bring your pet in the cabin with you, or if your pet will need to be stowed underneath. There are also specific kennel instructions that need to be followed.

2. Book a Direct Flight

While it can be difficult for international travel, you should try to take a direct flight if at all possible. Direct flights will reduce your trip time and prevent any mishaps during transfer, as well as reduce the overall stress level on your pet. Some airlines don’t allow pets on flights longer than 12 hours, so you may need to book a layover in those cases.

3. Talk to Your Veterinarian

Your vet is the best source of information when it comes to going on a plane with your pet. Health risks are very real with flight travel, so talking with your veterinarian will help you determine if this is the safest mode of transportation for your particular pet. They will also help you determine if your pet meets foreign pet health requirements.

4. Get an International Health Certificate

Some airlines require a health certificate in order to fly, but if they don’t you will need one for arrival into a new country. Health certificates must be issued by a licensed veterinarian who examines the pet within 10 days of departure. Check with your veterinarian for specific information.

5. Talk to the Embassy or Consulate of Your Destination Country

Every country has different rules for pets coming from the US. Call the consulate or embassy to see if they can provide any specific information.

6. Know How to Get Your Pet Back into the US

Contact the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) before you leave for information and requirements for getting your pet back into the United States after your travel is over, or when you are ready to re-enter the U.S. They will also be able to give you any additional advice on international travel in general. Visit to review requirements by country for exporting your pet and for getting your pet back into the U.S.

7. Know How Your Pet Will Fly From Point A to Point B

For pet travel, you have options. The State Department offers 3 options for traveling with your pet, so know ahead of time which you’ll be using:

  • “Your pet can travel on the plane with you (either in-cabin or in the cargo). In either case, your pet will be considered excess/accompanied baggage and charged accordingly. Some airlines no longer offer this option.”
  • “You can book your pet on a separate flight. In this case, you will be charged the cargo rate, which is considerably more than excess baggage. Some airlines no longer offer this option.”
  • “You can have your pet shipped through a licensed commercial shipper. You will be charged the cargo rate plus the shipper’s fee. Several airlines require this method unless your pet is small enough to fit in the cabin.”
  • “As a rule, animals 100 lbs. or larger (including the weight of the cage) will be charged as cargo even if they travel on the same plane as you. It is important to check with the airline if your pet is close to that weight and to determine if its policy may vary from this general 100 lb rule.”

8. Check the Guidelines for Manifest Cargo

Some pets may be classified as Manifest Cargo. If that applies to you, you’ll want to check out these guidelines from US Customs and Border Protection.

9. Review the Department of State Pet Travel Tips

Review these tips for shipping your pet provided by the U.S. Department of State here:

10. Carefully Label Your Pet’s Crate or Kennel

The Department of State has specific rules for how to label your pet’s crate or kennel. Take a look at the diagram here to see exactly how to label correctly.

11. Double Check Your Pet’s Identification

Proper I.D. tags are even more important for international travel with a dog or cat. Make sure your pet’s tags have your name, phone number, and contact info, as well as information for the place you’ll be staying. In addition, you should get your pet a microchip to ensure they have permanent identification. If your pet already has a microchip, make sure it is updated with your current info and information on your destination.

12. Prepare for Extra Fees

Some airlines may charge an extra fee if your pet is traveling internationally to cover customs clearance, storage of your pet upon arrival, shipping rates, or any other services used during your travel.

13. Get a Color Photo of Your Pet

You should get at least two copies of a good quality color photo of your pet: one to attach to the crate and one to carry on your person.

14. Keep Anything Your Pet Needs Handy

In addition to your luggage, make sure you pack a water bowl, food, a leash, toys, a bed, and medication in a place you can access during the flight.

15. Talk to Your Airline Staff

When traveling with pets, the airline staff is your friend. Talk with the staff to let them know you’re bringing a pet along. This will alert them to the pet and help them provide any necessary care to your pet, including things like food and water – even if your pet is spending the trip in the cargo hold.

Download the Pet Travel Checklist

Now you know how to make traveling internationally with your pet a breeze, but don’t forget to download the checklist so you can have it on hand while packing.