Taking Your Pet On Holiday

Written by Shula Berg BVSc CertAVP(GSAS) GPAdvCert(SASTS) MRCVS
Clinically reviewed by Elizabeth McLennan-Green BVM&S CertAVP(SAM) MRCVS

Table of Contents

 - Introduction
 - Where are you going?
 - Where are you staying?
 - How are you getting there?
 - Parasite cover
 - Travel sickness
 - Other considerations

Our pets are part of the family and we want to share fun experiences with them – including taking them on holiday! While this often results in great fun and wonderful memories, there are a few things to consider first. A bit of planning beforehand goes a long way towards making it a positive experience for everyone.

Where are you going?

Taking your pet on holiday within the UK is fairly straightforward and doesn’t need a great deal of planning. If you are travelling outside of the UK, however, taking your pet along becomes more complicated. Export paperwork is required for travel to European countries (including ROI) which must be completed by a vet with a specific Official Veterinarian qualification, and must be done in a set window prior to travel. Rabies vaccination is also required for re-entry into the UK, and needs to be given at least 3-4 weeks before you plan to travel. Travel to countries outside of the EU is significantly more complicated and is generally not advisable for short trips. We have some useful information about travelling with pets in the EU and Northern Ireland if you would like to know more.

Where are you staying?

Pet-friendly accommodation is a pretty obvious essential for your holiday, but have you considered the options? Many hotels will allow dogs, but don’t allow you to leave them unattended in the room (such as for meal-times). Private holiday rentals tend to offer more space, and often have a private garden for toileting, but you may need to pay additional fees to bring a pet and cover additional cleaning costs. Many holiday cottages are located on working farms, so require dogs to be kept under close control at all times.

How are you getting there?

Generally, most people holidaying in the UK will be travelling by car. If you’re considering taking your pet, there’s a good chance they’re already used to car travel. However, holiday travel often involves much longer journeys than normal life. Try to exercise them well prior to travelling so they are tired, and make sure you plan stops along the way for your dog to stretch their legs, toilet, and have access to food and water. Most cats won’t toilet while travelling, however, short periods out of a cat basket are often welcome, provided this can be done safely and securely. Pets must always travel safely, in a carrier for cats and using a harness, or in the boot for dogs. Don’t forget to consider how you will store your luggage alongside your pet!

If your journey includes other modes of transport, such as a ferry crossing, you may need to book a ticket for your pet. Commercial ferries may offer the option of leaving your dog in the car or taking them on-board, or may require dogs to stay in your vehicle. Consider which will be less stressful and, if leaving your dog in the car, ensure they have plenty of water, puppy pads in case they have an accident, and no access to anything they could chew and ingest. Try to exercise them first, feed them a few hours before travel, and make sure they toilet before being left.

If travelling by plane, be sure to do your research well in advance. Not all airlines will carry pets, and some have rules about weight limits or breeds they won’t accept. The airline should provide full guidance for what you will need.

Travel Sickness

Just like people, dogs can get travel sick. This is very common in young puppies and most will grow out of it with time. However, a small number of adult dogs remain affected. Vomiting is the most obvious sign, but other symptoms include excessive panting, yawning, chewing, whining and excessive drooling.

Travel sickness is usually due to one of two causes: stress and anxiety about travelling, or true motion sickness. Stress and anxiety can stem from the car itself, or the possible destination (especially if car trips are always to the vet!). Try just sitting in the car, giving praise and treats to make it a positive place. Start taking regular, short, car journeys to fun places such as new walks or to visit friends. Gradually increase the length of time in the car as your dog gets used to it, always offering praise to keep associations positive. It may also help to use calming sprays such as Adaptil©, offering different bedding, or changing method of restraint.

Dogs that suffer from true motion sickness are harder to cure. It’s worth trialling different vehicles if you can, or changing between the back seat and the boot. Just like humans, sometimes different positions make sickness worse. Some dogs are better being able to see out of a window, while others feel less ill without a view outside. If your pet vomits, avoid feeding 2-4 hours before a car journey. For severe cases, your vet may be able to prescribe an anti-sickness medication. However, this should not be given for more than two consecutive days.

Parasite Cover

Much like how we may need travel vaccinations to protect us from exotic diseases, pets travelling away from their home may need protection against problems they wouldn’t usually encounter.

Within the UK, we are mostly concerned with parasites, as your pet’s routine treatments will be tailored to the risks in your local area. For example, ticks are more prevalent in the south of England, but tick cover is advisable for any holiday that involves a lot of walking in woodlands or parkland that could harbour ticks. It is advisable to mention any holiday plans to your vet or nurse, as they will be able to advise if your current parasite cover is suitable.

Different countries have different parasites to the UK. While only tapeworm treatment is a legal requirement for certain countries, it is worth discussing your pets’ parasite prevention plan with your vet before travel. Some potentially serious diseases are seen in dogs abroad that are not found in the UK, for example Leishmaniosis is spread by sand-flies, and Babesiosis and Ehrlichia are spread by ticks. These parasite species are not found in the UK, so additional parasite prevention is required, usually in the form of collars or spot-on treatments. Pets travelling outside of the UK are also required to have a tapeworm treatment before re-entry.

Other Considerations

To make sure you enjoy a relaxing holiday, we recommend also considering the following:

  • Take enough of your pets normal food with you to last while you are away – sudden changes to diet can cause vomiting or diarrhoea, so avoid this if possible
  • If your pet is on medication, make sure you have enough to last – a local vet will be unable to prescribe more without a consultation first
  • Check the weather forecast before you go – if it is likely to be warm, you can read our guidance about preventing heat stress
  • Find the details of a local vet before travelling just in case you need them, and remember to check opening hours so you know who to contact if there is an emergency
  • Don’t let dogs drink seawater, as this can cause an upset stomach and, in large volumes, be dangerous
  • If you are travelling to a known tick area, check yourself and your dog each day after going out. Consider taking a tick hook, and watching a video online of how to use it before needing it!


Please note that the content made available on this webpage is for general information purposes only. Whilst we try to ensure that at the time of writing all material is up to date and reflects industry standards, we make no representation, warranties or guarantees that the information made available is up to date, accurate or complete. Any reliance placed by yourselves is done so at your own risk.

Page last reviewed: 19th April 2024

Next review due: 19th April 2026