Planning International Pet Travel: Tips for Traveling With Pets Over The Holidays

busy airport during holiday travel

At first, it sounds like a great idea: take advantage of a long holiday weekend and get your relocation out of the way. Christmas and New Year's Day are often a time for travelers & those getting ready to move to enjoy the extra time off work and school

Families often choose times like this to schedule a long-distance relocation, but unfortunately, travelers doing so with pets in tow may encounter unexpected delays.

Hoping to move your pet internationally during the holidays? Here are some ways to ensure that your move goes smoothly:


1. Be aware of the tight pre-export timeline.

Many international pet moves require that you go to the vet within ten days of departure (or sometimes sooner), secure health documents, and have those documents endorsed by the USDA.

Usually the USDA needs about 48 hours to return the pet paperwork, and considering that the offices will be closed on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, will have limited hours on Dec. 24 and 31, and will probably be experiencing backlogs and generally running slower than normal during the entire week, the window of opportunity to get everything in order becomes uncomfortably small.

For those traveling from the United States, you must also factor in Thanksgiving. This holiday falls on November 28th this year. With so many USDA offices being closed the days prior to & following Thanksgiving, it is wise to avoid travel near the Thursday of Thanksgiving. 

Even the most organized travelers could find their plans suspended if their documents aren't returned in time. Especially this year, with both Christmas and New Years falling on a Wednesday. Having the proper paperwork issued & endorsed in time may not be a reality. Your best bet is to arrange your pet’s flights so that the USDA endorsements can be issued well before or well after the holiday rush.

2. Consider departing from a port city.

If your plans depend on your pet being able to travel during Christmas or New Year’s week, your best bet may be to depart from a USDA port city. Many larger airports have port vets, so if you're traveling from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami or Atlanta you may be able to have your USDA paperwork taken care of on-site at the time of departure.

Again, these offices may be experiencing backlogs and closures and advance appointments are often required at port USDA offices, so it’s best to discuss this possibility with a pet relocation specialist before moving forward.

3. Expect the unexpected.

While not all relocations will face the holiday-related logistical roadblocks (for example, moves within the United States, US imports, and US exports to Mexico and Canada do not require USDA endorsements), it's worth remembering that things tend to be more chaotic during the holidays.

Packed planes and weather delays are not uncommon at this time of year, and animals flying below the passenger area of the plane are often the first to be rerouted or rescheduled to keep them safe. The best attitude toward traveling with pets during the holidays is to expect the unexpected or to arrange your pet’s relocation well in advance of this holiday week.

4. COVID-19 Related Delays. 

On top of the regular delays and flight issues, this year we are experiencing decreased flight booking possibilities due to the global pandemic. While holiday travel can be a challenge every year, 2020 may be especially difficult. You can read about expected delays and what we're doing to overcome these roadblocks here

Looking for advice on the best time to move your pet this fall? Our Pet Relocation Consultants are happy to help put together a timeline that will work for everyone – and have your pet home in time to enjoy the holidays. Contact us today to get started.

This blog post was last updated on November 6, 2020


PetRelocation Team




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