Today I’m going to share with you 8 things to do when traveling internationally with pets.

And I asked an expert Heather Poelzer to share her story with me and with all of you, so we can be well prepared for our next trip with our pets.

Before we start, let me introduce Heather to you! And let me say thanks to her for being my guest on my blog.


Heather Poelzer is a blogger and writer currently based out of Costa Rica, but originally grew up in Seattle, WA. She has worked with many different professionals on a variety of topics, but her passions are food, fitness, and music. In her spare time she enjoys swimming at the beach, walking her dog, and watching tv. She is planning on releasing her own website, Heather to the Max, in early 2018! But you can check her out now at her social links below:

Well…let’s find out more together! 🙂

In October, I had a very special opportunity to move to Costa Rica. I’ve been here three months now, and the more settled in I get, the more I am enjoying the laid back lifestyle and gorgeous summer weather.

I’ve had my French bulldog, Lilly, for three years now and it goes without saying she was definitely coming with me. There were a lot of things different things to plan, where we were going to live, how we were going to get there, etc. But bringing Lilly with us presented a whole list of challenges that we had to make sure to prepare for.

We learned a LOT throughout the whole process. Here are my main takeaways:

  1. Research all requirements

Go to the embassy website and research what documents are required for bringing your animal to the country you are visiting. In our case, we needed to have a vet fill out a health evaluation within 30 days of entering the country, and we needed that certification verified by the USDA office.

  1. Research airlines

Decide if your animal is going with you in the cabin or in the cargo bay. Most large breed dogs will have to be checked in cargo. Check with your airline to see what carrier dimensions are allowed. Lilly was just small enough to fit in the cabin, so we had to buy a special soft-sided case that matched the correct dimensions. Brachycephalic dogs have a harder time controlling their body temperature because of their breathing issues, so it’s really important to bring them in the cabin if you can. Most airlines will not allow you to check them.

Look up the pet policy of different airlines that fly to your destination. We had heard great things about Alaska Airlines so we made sure to purchase flights through them. We had a great experience flying with Alaska! We took two flights in total, and, even though Lilly was supposed to stay in her carrier the whole time, both flight crews allowed her to sleep in my lap while we were in the air. One attendant made sure to explain that this is not the normal policy, so it’s important to know what to expect in case your flight crew is not as lenient.

  1. Get documents certified during your vet’s business hours

Not everyone at the USDA office is going to be an expert on what you need for your trip. We ran into a hiccup at our office where the person asked for a vaccination certification that did not exit. We had done all the research, and been to the vet, and the vaccination certification was just not created for that certain vaccine. The vet had specifically given us an itemized receipt to prove that Lilly had the vaccine, but there was not a “certificate.”

The woman had to call our vet’s office and have them fax over additional information before the woman would certify it. It took about an extra hour, but it would have been a much worse ordeal had our vet not been open! If your vet has weird hours, make sure you’re getting your documents certified while they’re open. It helped us out a lot!

  1. Purchase all necessary items

In addition to the soft-sided carrier, we needed a harness, leash, dog bags, and food enough to get us through the trip. My parents had also given us anti-anxiety treats from a brand called Happy Traveler’s.

  1. Have a game plan

Know what time you’re going to check in, board, land, and when you’re going to have your pet with you. If your dog is flying in the cabin, you can usually keep your dog on leash in the airport, so that they only need to be in the carrier as you get on the plane and take your flight.

  1. Find the pet areas

Know when and where you’re going to take your animal to relieve itself. Cats can probably last a bit longer than dogs. There were pet areas at the larger airports where you can take your animal. Include these areas in your game plan. While we were waiting to board our first flight Lilly ended up pooping right on the floor! Luckily it was tile and we were able to clean it up very quickly. We learned then to locate the pet areas first thing!

  1. Prepare to spend extra time in Customs

When we arrived in Costa Rica, everything went off without a hitch until we hit customs. Customs needed to verify our paperwork, and there is a specific person within the department to do this. They called this person as we were going through customs, and I don’t know why, but it took about 20 to 30 minutes for the customs person to show up. He reviewed everyone’s paperwork (there were a few people with some cats) and then made copies. The whole process took about 45 minutes.

  1. Bring copies of your documents

If we had brought extra copies of our documents (only one will be officially embossed) we could have saved a little bit of time at the customs office. The customs office just needed a (non-embossed) copy, but it took a few minutes for the agent to do that and we were ready to go! Now that we know, we’ll definitely be bringing extra copies on our international trips in the future!


As long as you make all the necessary preparations, traveling with your pets can be a breeze!

I hope my experience helps you prepare for your next amazing journey.



* This text reflects the opinions and experiences of the guest writer and does not reflect the views of the blog author