Ways to Save Money When Traveling With Dogs

By Candy Pilar Godoy, January 2018
Photo by Patrick Hendry

With each international trip we take with our dogs, we discover more and more ways to save money. As people who live on a budget, this is super important. More money saved = more trips! It’s a win-win. Check out these money saving dog travel tips. They have saved us close to $2000 when traveling with our two dogs.

The Vet Bill

A trip to the vet before travel is always a good idea, and oftentimes a requirement. International travel requires a check up, updated vaccinations, and a completed health certificate. Fees can range heavily depending on your location, treatments needed, and vet fees. Charges add up, especially when you have more than one dog. But even with required materials, you can still save money. Here’s a breakdown of two international trips with Boogie and Marcelo, and how we saved over $500.

For our trip to Brazil, we went to our local vet in NYC. We love our vet, but she’s located in one of the most expensive cities in the world and fees can be high. The bill break down was as follows:

Appointment………… $180 ($90 per dog)

Health Certificate….. $318 ($159 per dog)

Worm Drontal………. $42 ($21 per dog)

Frontline………………. $64 ($32 per dog)

Total……………….. $604

We ended up paying over $600 in vet fees alone. It was a big hit to our wallet, especially because we had to pay other fees on top of this (USDA endorsement, airline fees, etc.) The vet bill cost us more than the cost of an entire round-trip plane ticket!

For our trip to Guatemala, we were determined to save money. We decided to visit a family recommended vet while in upstate New York during the holidays to get our health certificates filled out. Our bill was as follows:

Appointment………… $80 ($45 for the 1st dog, and $35 for the 2nd)

Health Certificate….. $0

Total……………….. $80

That’s a savings of over $500!

The savings didn’t stop there. We also saved on the deworming and heart worm medication by administering it on our own (check with your vet and purchase online).  The time it took to find a different vet and compare pricing was well worth it.

USDA Endorsement

If you’re flying from the USA to an international destination, you’ll most likely need a health certificate that’s endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Endorsement fees vary, but if a country requires only vaccinations for entry, then the fee is $38 per certificate. You can include multiple animals on one certificate, but we still needed one for each dog because Boogie and Marcelo each travel with a different human (I travel with Marcelo, and my partner travels with Boogie). That’s two certificates at $38 each, totaling $76 in USDA fees.

When we went to Brazil, we mailed the forms and a money order to cover the fees overnight to our state USDA office, along with a pre-paid envelope so the forms could be returned. The process is done quickly, and sent overnight both ways, because most countries require an endorsement that’s completed only days before your departure date.

The cost of the money order and the overnighting fees came to over $50. But there are ways around this!

Avoid the Money Order: Credit Card payment is accepted, as well as cash in some locations. This eliminates the money order fee, and if you use your travel hacking credit card, you’ll get points!

Avoid the Overnighting Fees: The USDA has six primary locations in the United States, however there are VS Endorsement Offices located in most U.S. states. If you call ahead, you can make an appointment to get your health certificate endorsed in person. That means going to your local office, presenting your certificate, and getting the stamps on the spot. This eliminates the two overnighting fees and is 100% free of charge.

Travel Hack

In January, we flew to Guatemala for $30 each way. That’s four flights (we had a layover each way), two humans, and two dogs, for $120 total, and a savings of close to $900.

How? Travel hacking!

If you want to start saving money on flights, hotels, restaurants, and more, get yourself a travel rewards credit card (we recommend the Chase Sapphire card or the Citi AAdvantage card). These cards have sign up bonuses that you can use to travel – we got 50,000 American Airlines miles each when we signed up for the Citi AAdvantage card and used these for free flights. The card gives you 1 airline mile per $1 spent and doesn’t charge extra fees when you use it abroad. As you spend money on daily life, you’ll be racking up points that can be used for travel. More miles = more travel = you get to live the good life, dog included.

Skip the Hotel Fee

It used to be difficult to find a hotel that would allow your pet to stay, but thankfully, times are changing. Every year, more and more hotels are changing their policies to allow pets, and sometimes at no extra cost. Check the pet friendly box when doing a hotel search and compare prices. Hopefully you can bring your pooch along at no extra cost.

Doing this small step really helps your wallet. If you forgo a stay in a hotel with a $100 pet rate per night for a week, and stay in a hotel with no extra cost, that’s a savings of $700!

Can’t find a good hotel in the area? Try airbnb.com. They have an easy search function that helps you find available homes that allow furry guests, and many have no extra fees.

Be Prepared

What’s the weather like where you’re going, will your dog need a sweater? Did you pack their favorite treats? Do you have enough medicine to last the entire trip? Did you bring a copy of their vaccines and health certificate? Being prepared and planning ahead will not only save you a headache, but money as well.

On a recent trip to South America, we forgot to bring a dog bed. While not a total necessity, our two dogs love to cuddle up in a dog bed during the day, and it helps them stay off the furniture in our AirBnB. I scoured local pet stores, only to find that a dog bed that cost us $30 – $40 at home, was triple the price abroad. Ouch.

Situations like this are easily avoidable simply by knowing your dog and planning ahead. Use our Dog Travel Checklist to make sure you’ve packed everything you need. It’s better to be prepared than to find yourself spending time and money later.

Dog Friendly Activities

There are plenty of activities you can do that are dog friendly and free! Try a walking tour, or go on a hike. Visits to a beach, park, or local hang out are always a great option. Try having dinner at an outdoor restaurant, or looking up a dog friendly bar. There’s no need to spend money on a dog walker or sitter while traveling when you can include your dog in your plans. Having your dog as a travel companion means staying active, spending time outdoors, and discovering new places that welcome both two legged and four legged guests alike.

 You Are What You Eat

Traveling with dog food can be a hassle – it’s heavy, bulky, and takes up a lot of room in your bag. Things become especially difficult if your dog is on a special diet. Boogie is allergic to grain, and grain-free food can be hard to find and expensive abroad.

For this, and many other reasons (it’s healthier!), we began to cook Boogie and Marcelo’s food at home. We developed a recipe that worked for both of them, with the guidance of our vet, that is simple, fast, and easy. It’s also flexible, so we can swap out ingredients if they are hard to find or too expensive in certain countries. This makes traveling a lot easier – we only have to pack enough food for a day or two, plus we don’t have to go through the trouble of locating specialty food abroad. Once settled in to our location, we find a local supermarket, where we shop for ourselves and the dog food ingredients. Problem solved.

Use Public Transportation

Many people traveling with dogs spend extra money renting cars because they feel it’s their only option to get around. But you don’t have to do that! Many places, including most big cities, allow dogs on public transportation.

Dogs are allowed on the New York City subway as long as they’re in a bag (have a large dog? Fear not, you can still ride). The tube in London allows dogs, as long as you carry them while on an escalator, and they’re permitted on the Paris metro with a reduced fare ticket. Small dogs in carriers are even allowed on Japanese bullet trains for a small fee.

Want to take a cab? Many ride sharing apps, like Uber, allow dogs. While in Brazil, we favored an Uber-like app called 99Pop. It allowed us to request pet friendly cars.

Research the place you’re going and turn your dog into a commuter!

Take Direct Flights

Direct flights to your destination are not only easier on your dog, but can end up helping you save money. If your journey includes a layover in a different country, you may have to fulfill multiple country entry requirements*. For example, en route to Argentina from the States, with a layover in Mexico? You’ll have complete the paperwork and requirements for both countries! That’s extra work, just for a few hours on Mexican soil.

*Check country requirements for dogs in transit.

Candy travels with her two dogs, Boogie and Marcelo, and blogs about it at boogiethepug.com

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