Whether you’re staying in the UK or heading further afield, here’s all you need to plan a stress-free trip with your pup. Plus, don’t miss our downloadable dog travel checklist of packing essentials.
Taking your dog on holiday with you can help make your trip complete – but whether you’re planning a pet-friendly staycation in the UK or thinking of travelling abroad with a dog, it’s a good idea to be prepared. We look at what to consider before deciding to bring your pet along, and how to have a safe and stress-free holiday when travelling with dogs.
Should you take your dog on holiday?Travelling with pets isn’t easy, so do consider whether your dog is the sort to enjoy visiting new places, or whether long journeys are more likely to stress them out. If it’s the latter, you may be better off considering pet sitters, kennels or home boarding instead of taking your dog on holiday. (Puppies and older dogs may find travel particularly upsetting.)
Even if your pet is a confident traveller, you’ll need to check in advance that your destination welcomes dogs – and if you’re taking your dog abroad, ensure you have the necessary paperwork (see below).
Planning a holiday with dogs
Whether you’re camping or booking into a hotel, B&B or holiday rental, once you’ve confirmed your chosen accommodation is dog-friendly – many popular travel sites, such as Airbnb and Booking.com, allow you to filter your search for properties that allow pets – it’s a good idea to check what equipment and facilities are provided for dog owners.
If it’s important to you, is there a secure space where you can safely exercise your dog off-lead? If you have an unneutered female dog, is she likely to be in season and require walking away from other dogs?
Before you go, make sure your dog is up to date with their vaccinations and any treatments they need. Make a note of emergency vets in the area you’re visiting, so you have their contact details to hand if needed – and remember to take your own vet’s number, too, in case they need to confer.
Getting your dog microchipped is not only a legal requirement once they’re eight weeks old, but could prove vital for reuniting you if your pet gets lost while you’re away. You may want to consider adding an extra ID disc to their collar with your holiday contact details on it.
Dog-friendly holidays in the UK
Many dog owners choose to take their dog on holiday if they’re planning a UK break. (If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our analysis of the country’s most dog-friendly destinations.) Although travelling within the UK is more straightforward than taking your dog abroad, you’ll still need to ensure your dog is comfortable with rail or road journeys.
Travelling by car with a dog
Always make sure your pets are familiar with car travel before driving with dogs on holiday. Some dogs are very fearful of travelling by car, and will need to be gradually familiarised with the experience through rewards-based training.
Can dogs get travel sick?
Many puppies, and some older dogs, can suffer from travel sickness. Again, building up their time in the car very gradually, driving for just a few minutes at first, may help them get used to the sensation. If your dog gets travel sick, avoid feeding them in the two to three hours before a car journey, make sure they have plenty of fresh air on the move, and ask your vet for advice about anti-sickness or anti-anxiety treatments.
The Highway Code states that dogs in a vehicle must be ‘suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly’ (and many insurance policies also require this). That means using a pet seatbelt, car harness, dog guard or crate, which for dogs unused to car travel can take a bit of getting used to.
Don’t let your dog stick their head out of the car window when you’re travelling. It may look cute, but they could easily get stones or grit in their eye, bang their head or even jump or fall from the car.
Remember to stop regularly for toilet breaks and to give your dog a chance to stretch their legs. (Never leave your dog unattended in a locked car.) Make sure your dog’s food and water can be easily reached on the move, including extra in case of a traffic jam or breakdown. Packing a favourite dog blanket will help your pet feel more comfortable en route, and come in handy if it gets chilly.
Travelling by train with a dog
In the UK you can generally travel by train with up to two dogs at no extra charge, as long as you follow the relevant train-operating company’s regulations. Most will charge extra for additional dogs, and all reserve the right to refuse entry to any pet that isn’t behaving well. Dogs should always be kept on the lead or in a small carrier while on a train or in a station, and they’re not permitted to sit on a seat.
If you’re travelling by sleeper train, note that your dog is unlikely to be allowed into the restaurant carriage, and you may be charged an extra cleaning fee. The exception is assistance dogs, who can accompany their owners anywhere on the train network at no extra cost.
As always when travelling with dogs, it’s helpful to get them used to what the journey will be like ahead of time, by taking shorter trips on public transport before attempting a lengthier journey. Pack favourite toys or blankets to help them feel at home, and always reward and praise them for good behaviour on the move.
Taking your dog abroad
Travelling overseas with a dog requires more thought and preparation than holidaying closer to home. You’ll not only need to get the relevant documentation sorted well in advance, but you’ll have to weigh up whether the stress of long journeys (and in some cases air travel) make the trip worthwhile for your pet.
It’s also advisable to check the requirements of pet ownership, and any health risks, in your destination country. In Italy, for example, dogs can be required to wear muzzles and should be kept on a lead in public places; while certain diseases, such as babesiosis, are more prevalent overseas.
Travelling to Europe with your dog
Owners in Great Britain need to get an animal health certificate, issued by an authorised vet, in the 10 days before taking their dog to the EU or Northern Ireland. To be certified, bear in mind that:
- Your dog must be properly microchipped.
- They must be vaccinated against rabies (a vaccination only given to puppies of at least 12 weeks old).
- You’ll need to wait at least 21 days after their primary vaccinations before travelling with dogs.
- For direct travel to Northern Ireland, Ireland, Finland, Norway and Malta, your dog must receive tapeworm treatment between five days and 24 hours ahead of travel.
Note that the animal health certificate replaces the pre-Brexit pet passport system, and pet passports issued in Great Britain are no longer valid for travel to the EU and Northern Ireland. Regulations do change from time to time, so always check the latest government advice on travelling with dogs.
With Petplan your pet is covered outside the UK for 90 days for Vet Bills, Advertising and Reward, and Holiday Cancellation.
Can dogs go on Eurostar?
Unfortunately, pets are not currently permitted to travel on Eurostar services, unless they are guide or assistance dogs (and even then, you’ll need to provide at least 48 hours’ notice).
You can travel to Europe with your dog via Eurotunnel or ferry, but be sure to check the fees and company travel regulations. Look for ferry companies that have dog-friendly cabins and areas, and steer clear of those that require you to leave your dog alone in the car for the duration of the trip.
Travelling by air with a dog
Most dogs find air travel stressful, so unless your trip is unavoidable, it’s best not to take your canine companion along. Although more and more airlines are making it possible to travel with dogs (and some even permit small pets in the cabin), you’ll need to check your airline and destination country’s specific regulations, including the minimum age for travel. You’ll be required to provide a carrier that’s compliant with the airline’s dog travel policy and that your dog is happy to use.
Travelling outside the EU with your dog
If you’re taking your dog abroad to a non-EU country, you’ll need an export health certificate from an authorised vet to confirm they meet the health requirements of your destination. Pet owners in England, Scotland and Wales will also need to obtain an export application form (EXA).
Looking after your dog while on holiday
Bear in mind that although being in unfamiliar places surrounded by new sights, sounds and scents can be exciting for your dog, it can also be unsettling. To make travelling as relaxing as possible for your dog:
- Pack familiar items that smell of home, such as dog bedding and blankets, and favourite toys to keep them occupied on the move. Some owners find calming remedies, such as pheromone sprays, help ease dog travel stress.
- If possible, pack enough dog food for the duration of your stay, just in case you can’t buy your pet’s preferred brand where you’re going – ssudden changes of diet can cause tummy upsets in dogs, or put them off their dinner. If your dog’s a fussy drinker, it may even be helpful to bring along some bottles of water from home and mix it with the local supply.
- Try to avoid leaving your dog alone much in an unfamiliar setting – this is likely to cause recall.
- If you’re holidaying somewhere warm, be mindful of all the usual summer hazards for dogs, including heatstroke, sunburn and parasites, such as ticks and fleas.
Download and print out our handy dog travel checklist: the essential items to pack when travelling with your pet.
Planning a dog-friendly holiday? These are the items you shouldn’t leave home without…
Collar and ID
Make sure these have your up-to-date contact details.
It may be helpful to take a spare in case this gets lost or breaks.
If driving with dogs, you’ll need a harness, boot-guard, pet seat belt or carrier.
Taking your dog’s familiar bedding will help them settle into a new place.
And if they’re not quite house-trained, kitchen roll and an enzymatic cleaner could come in handy (as could a lint roller, to deal with fur on your accommodation’s soft furnishings).
Dog food and bowl
Ideally enough for the duration of your trip.
Plenty of treats
For rewarding good behaviour on the mood. A substantial chew or two (that’s appropriate to your dog’s age and dental development) can help them settle in a new environment.
Collapsible bowl or travel water bottle
Handy on the move, and can double as a water bowl throughout your holiday.
To dry wet and/or muddy fur and paws.
Basic dog first-aid essentials, such as a tick remover, are always useful – plus any regular medicines your dog takes. If you have a long-haired breed that needs regular grooming, don’t forget the necessary brushes and combs.
Helpful if your dog gets lost on holiday.
Any required paperwork for travelling abroad, and your pet’s vet and insurance details.