Should they stay or should they go?

Suitcase packed. Out of office on. It’s time to relax, unwind and jet off on your holidays. But will your four-legged friend be going with you? Or will they be staying at home?

This guide details what you need to think about when taking your pet on holiday – and what to consider if someone’s looking after them while you're away.

Taking your pet with you

The car might be a convenient way to transport pets within the UK, but remember they can also travel on the train and some buses (however, coaches usually don’t accept pets).

Whichever mode of transport you choose, the RSPCA recommends that you:

  • Take regular stops to let your pet answer the call of nature and stretch its legs (even when you’re on a train)
  • Provide access to fresh water and food at your pet’s usual mealtimes
  • Keep cats in a robust and secure carrier, allowing them to sit and stand up at full height, turn round easily and lie down in a natural position
  • Ensure your pet has plenty of ventilation – don’t leave pets inside cars on hot days

Whether you’re travelling to Barcelona or Bruges, your pet has to meet specific requirements when travelling across countries in the European Union (EU) or returning to the UK from another EU or non-EU listed country

The rules vary according to the country you're going to or coming from. You may find Gov.uk's guide on taking your pet abroad useful – and you can always ask your vet for advice.

Before you travel abroad, your pet may need:

  • To be microchipped
  • Its rabies vaccination (make sure your pet is microchipped first or the vaccination won’t count)
  • A pet passport or official third country veterinary certificate
  • Tapeworm treatment (for dogs only)

If you are taking your pet to a country in the EU, it’s not only your own passport you’ll need to remember – you may need one for your pet too.

Wondering how to get a pet passport? Or want to know how long one lasts? Here’s some information to get you started:

  • You should be able to get a pet passport from most vets – your local vet will talk you through the process and answer any questions you have
  • A pet passport will include details about you and your pet, plus information on any treatments your pet has had
  • Getting a pet passport, including any tests and vaccinations, will typically cost between £150 and £250
  • Before a passport can be issued, your pet must be microchipped and have had a rabies vaccination within the past three years
  • A pet passport is valid for life or until all the treatment spaces are full – as long as your pet’s rabies vaccinations are up to date

Most ferry companies will allow pets to be taken on board, so if you’re travelling to your holiday destination by boat, it should be plain sailing.

Planning on flying with your pet? All airlines have different policies, but as a general rule of thumb:

  • Most UK-based, low-cost carriers will allow pets in the hold – but won’t allow them in the cabin
  • Larger airlines sometimes allow some pets to travel in the cabin
  • Most airlines usually accept assistance dogs, including guide dogs, in the cabin


Leaving your pet behind

It can be tough to leave your pet behind, especially with those doleful eyes trying to sway you.

But it may be more appropriate to leave your pet at home if you're holidaying abroad or in a far-flung place in the UK. And it can sometimes be best for their health and wellbeing.

It’s also worth noting that the RSPCA recommends not taking a cat or rabbit on holiday with you, especially if they aren't familiar with travelling.

Choosing who to look after your pet

When it comes to choosing a pet sitter to look after your pet, there are two main options:

Friend or relative


A friend or family member will likely be cheaper than paying for boarding accommodation while you’re away. They might also know your pet well and be comfortable with them.

If they’re not available for your pet 24/7, you could consider using automatic feeders, like timed cat feeders or holiday rabbit feeders. But even if you do use one of these, it’s still important that your pet isn’t left alone for a long period of time.

Of course, there is one downside to relying on friends and family – they may not be available to cover the dates while you’re on holiday.

Boarding accommodation


Choosing a kennel or cattery carefully before you leave could help ensure you have someone professional to look after your cat or dog.

If you’re wondering where to leave your rabbit when on holiday, there are small animal and rabbit holiday boarding options available too.

So whether you’re leaving a cat, dog or rabbit behind, they should get expert care, regular exercise and any medication they need.

How to choose a kennel, cattery or rabbit retreat

If you decide to book your pet into a boarding kennel, cattery or rabbit retreat while you’re away, you’ll want to make sure they’re in the best place possible.

Before you decide, here are some questions you may want to consider:

  • Have any friends used catteries, kennels or rabbit retreats before? How do they rate them? How much did it cost?
  • Can you visit the place in person so you can get a feel for it? Could you arrange a trial day for your pet?
  • How much time do the staff spend with your pet each day, for example grooming or walking?
  • Are there any discounts or offers available if you have more than one pet?

Before you go on holiday pet checklist

Whether you decide to take your pet with you or leave it at home, proper preparation will go a long way.

Before you head off on your travels, check your pet’s immunisations are up to date, its claws are trimmed and its coat is washed and clipped.

Checklist for your pet sitter or boarding accommodation


If you're leaving your pet behind, make sure the boarding accommodation or person looking after your four-legged friend has the following:

  • An emergency contact number for you
  • Information on your pet's diet, mealtimes and exercise regime
  • Any bedding, bowls and toys your pet is familiar with
  • Details of the microchip database in case your pet gets lost or stolen
  • Information about any of your pet's behavioural traits and temperament

Protection for your pet

If you protect your cat or dog with Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance, we’ll make sure they’re protected while you’re abroad – whether they’re with you or not.

These cover options are only available with our pet insurance for cats and dogs – they’re not included with our rabbit insurance.

Holiday cover


Whether you’re sightseeing with your Siamese cat or enjoying a beach break with your Beagle, our holiday cover will give you:

  • Cover for overseas vet fees
  • Help with quarantine costs due to illness or misplaced travel documents
  • Cover for additional accommodation bills if your pet is lost or too ill to return as scheduled
  • Help towards the cost of replacing pet travel documents if they’re lost or stolen

Holiday cancellation cover


Even if you decide to leave your pet at home, we can still give you the peace of mind you need.

With our holiday cancellation cover, we’ll help towards covering the cost of any lost travel and accommodation expenses – up to the maximum benefit. You’ll be covered if you have to cancel your holiday because either your pet has gone missing or needs life-saving treatment while you’re away.


Helpful pet guides

Looking for some light holiday reading? Check out our handy guides for you and your pet.

Pet health and wellbeing

Help keep your pet healthy and happy – at home or abroad.

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What else am I covered for?

See how microchipping can help find lost or stolen pets.

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