When I decided to move abroad, one thing was certain: My dog Pippin was coming with me. Devoted pet owners know what I’m talking about. Fortunately, Mexico makes it easy to travel with pets and move them abroad.
The requirements are pretty straightforward. You need to get an interstate health certificate, signed by a vet, indicating that your pet is healthy and up to date on all vaccinations. You need one certificate for each pet who is traveling. For air travel, the certificate must be no more than five days old. If you’re driving to Mexico, the certificate may be up to 10 days old.
Your pet’s U.S. and Canadian vaccinations should be all he’ll need to enter Mexico. The most important vaccines are rabies and distemper, and officially your pet needs to have been inoculated for these diseases at least 15 days before travel.
If you’re traveling by car, your pet’s papers may not even be checked. If you’re flying, an official usually checks the papers before you leave the Customs area with your pet.
(For flying back to the U.S. and Canada with your pet, just go to a vet in Mexico to get the correct form. Vet clinics in expat havens know the drill and are used to filling out the forms.)
Note: These rules apply for dogs and cats. If you have more exotic pets—like rabbits, ferrets, birds, or that cute little boa constrictor—you’ll need to check with a Mexican consulate for the latest guidelines.
Pet Air Travel Is Big Business
Driving a pet to Mexico is easy. You just load Fido or Kitty in the car (preferably in a car seat), bring the certificate, and hit the road. But air travel requires a little more planning.
If you’re flying to Mexico with a pet, keep in mind that you have to meet airline requirements as well as Mexican custom requirements. Most major airlines today accept pets for travel. But they may limit how, when, and where pets can travel. And the service doesn’t come cheap.
Today airlines tend to have a page or entire section on their websites devoted to pet air travel. There they list all their requirements and the fees they charge for transporting pets. Be sure to check your airline’s pet pages before you buy your (and your pet’s) tickets to Mexico.
Here are some key points to keep in mind.
Pet carriers. All pets traveling by air must travel in a pet carrier. Airlines will list the size limits for carriers and the type of material they must be made of. Pets traveling in the cargo hold must be in hard-sided carriers and must have enough food and water for the trip. If your pet is traveling in-cabin, the carrier must be soft-sided and relatively small, as it must fit under the airline seat in front of you. (Airlines list the dimensions on their pet pages.)
With cargo on in-cabin? On most U.S. carriers flying to Mexico, small pets (usually under 10 to 15 pounds) can travel in-cabin with you. Mexican airlines generally only allow pets to travel in the cargo or luggage hold. If you want your pet to travel in-cabin (as my dog always does), be sure to check that the airline allows it.
Medium-sized and large pets must travel in a climate-controlled cargo or luggage hold—they’re not allowed in-cabin.
Planes on most major international routes are large enough to have climate-controlled cargo holds or luggage compartments. That’s the case with most flights to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Cancún, for instance. However, many regional routes—in the U.S. and Canada as well as in Mexico—use smaller planes. These may not always have climate-controlled luggage areas—which means that Fido or Kitty can’t travel there.
If you have connecting flights anywhere along your itinerary, therefore, be sure that your pets are accepted on all legs of the trip. Also, if a connecting flight is with a different carrier, you may have to pick up your pet and re-check him. Be sure to verify this beforehand—you don’t want to reach your destination and find that Kitty was left en route.
When can pets travel? Airlines tend to have a policy forbidding pet travel in the cargo or luggage area when temperatures are very high or very low. Many have a standard black-out period during summer months. If your pet must travel in the cargo or luggage area, make sure he’s allowed on the dates you want to travel.
…and your pet needs a ticket, too. With all the other fees airlines charge these days, it’s no surprise that they charge for pet travel, too.
First, be sure to mention when you book your ticket that a pet will be flying with you. Airlines limit the number of in-cabin pets, for instance. If you need to reserve space for your pet, the airline will issue a separate confirmation number for Fido or Kitty. It also will probably charge you at that time for your pet’s travel. If not, it will hit you for the bill at check-in.
Expect to pay at least $100 each way to fly your pet to Mexico. Continental, for instance, charges $125. American Airlines charges $100 per container for in-cabin pets and $150 for checked pets.
Unfortunately, you don’t get frequent flyer miles for Fido’s travel. However, some airlines now give pets their own frequent flyer card. So who knows…if you and Fido travel often enough, someday you can both cash in your miles for a free trip.
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