The Best International Vacation Spots for Pets and Their Owners

Five must-visit places to take your pet.
By: Teresa Traverse
The Best International Vacation Spots for Pets and Their Owners

Have you always dreamed of traveling with your pet internationally? Fortunately, it’s not as hard as you might think to make that dream a reality.

“It’s very easy to travel with your pet internationally as long as you know the rules,” says

Susan Smith, owner and president of PetTravel.com, an informational website about traveling with pets.

Before leaving, Smith recommends taking your pet to the vet to make sure his or her vaccines are current and they are in good health and able to travel. You’ll want to obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian; although it’s not a requirement to travel with a pet, it can help if you run into issues. One of the biggest issues? Disease control. According to PetTravel.com, if you’re visiting one of the United Kingdom countries (England, Ireland and Scotland), Finland or Malta, your pet will need proof of tapeworm test in addition to proof of good health (a health certificate from your veterinarian can help you prove your dog is good health and able to travel) a rabies certificate.

You’ll also want to get your pet microchipped. Smith recommends one with 15 digits and no encryption that can be able to be read by a universal scanner. Make sure that it’s registered and that your information is up to date before heading out of the country.

In addition, you’ll need to research the countries or the country you’ll be traveling to, as some countries and airlines have dog and cat breed restrictions. Delta Airlines, for example, tends to restrict snub- or pug-nosed dogs and snub-nosed cats.

Here are the top pet-friendly international destinations in Europe and Canada:

European Union

If you plan to travel to the European Union with your furry friend, expect a warm welcome.

“EU citizens in general are pet lovers and pet friendly. Wherever you go, you will find people walking dogs along in the city,” says Annamaria Mannozzi, director of global pet travel at Rome-based Bliss Pet Services, a company that helps customers relocate their pets internationally.

According to Smith, if you’re traveling with a pet to the E.U., that pet needs to be microchipped before you travel and you’ll need to bring a completed non-commercial EU health certificate from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a current rabies vaccine with you. If the vaccine isn’t current, you’ll need wait three weeks after the vaccine is administered before you leave.

Amsterdam

The Annex IV form has to be endorsed by the USDA and costs 38 dollars to be endorsed (one form can list up to five pets). It must also be signed by your veterinarian. The form can be endorsed via an in-person appointment at a local USDA office or can be mailed in via a shipping service (with return postage included). Once the form has been endorsed, you’ll have ten days to travel to your destination, and will be allowed to travel within any country in the EU for up to four months.

Once you’ve gathered the paperwork you’ll need to travel within the EU, consider heading to these pet-friendly cities:

Paris:the City of Light is not just known for fine French food, world-class attractions, and historic hotel. It’s also one of the dog-friendliest cities on Earth. “Lots of restaurants and stores will accommodate smaller pets that can fit in carriers. [Paris] is pet-friendly and has been for quite a long time,” says Smith.

Dogs are welcomed at luxurious hotels, like the Four Seasons George V Paris, Shangri-La Hotel Paris, and the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal. Many restaurants and shops — excluding grocery stores and bakeries— are also dog-friendly. The oldest department store in Paris, Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche, and the featured-in-films Shakespeare and Company Bookstore welcome dogs. As far as transportation goes, you can bring your dog on the metro.

Pets are also welcomed in some of Paris’ most well-known parks. Two elevated areas of the Tuileries Garden, between the Louvre art museum and public square Place de la Concorde, allow dogs. The Jardin du Luxembourg (the garden that serves as a backdrop for the Palais du Luxembourg) is also pet friendly, and dog owners can stroll alongside joggers on a path surrounding the perimeter of the park. Expect lush green gardens teeming with bright and colorful flowers if you visit in the spring.

Amsterdam:a haven for bikers and walkers alike, Amsterdam also caters to the pet set, too. “The fact that people live in the city without a car makes it more pet friendly because people are walking and riding a bike. Some of them even have a cab [attached to their bike] to take the pet with them,” says Mannozzi.

Many of the city’s parks welcome dogs, and the one with the reputation for being the most beautiful is Beatrixpark. Although it’s not centrally located, the park is well-landscaped and features views of the city’s famous canals. Likewise, plenty of hotels allow dogs too. Housed in a pair of 17th-century houses, the boutique Toren Hotel is in the heart of the city. Expect a romantic, vintage setting complete with chandeliers over the bar, and red and black pillows and blankets on the beds.

Once you’ve checked into your hotel, stop by Mannekin Pis, perhaps the city’s most famous outdoor fry stand. Grab a colossal portion of piping hot fries, then eat them on the street with your pet (you can share if you want). Many stores are pet friendly too, but look for a sign saying dogs are prohibited or ask before you venture inside with a furry friend. If you really want to fit in, try renting a bike and riding (slowly) alongside your dog.

Barcelona

Barcelona: art-centric Barcelona in Northern Spain is another dog-friendly city in the EU. “There are a lot of green areas, of course. A lot of traffic-limited areas, where cars cannot go. It makes it safe to walk with pets. The climate is really good, which also makes it easier for pet owners to walk them any time of day or night,” says Mannozzi.

The heart of the city is bustling Las Ramblas—a street packed with outdoor vendors, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, and just off that street is the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, or “La Boqueria,” an outdoor public market where vendors sell fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. You can walk with your dog through both areas, but not to go when it’s too crowded. After shopping, consider heading to Park Guell—a whimsical and colorful outdoor park featuring designs by the city’s most famous artist Antonio Gaudi. Take in fantastic views of Barcelona from this iconic spot.

Hotel Catalonia Square is close to many of Barcelona’s top attractions and offers pet owners a sleek and modern setting. Hotel guests will probably enjoy its proximity to the Gothic Quarter—a historical area of Barcelona featuring buildings that date back to the Medieval era.

Canada

Looking to travel internationally while staying a bit closer to home, or possibly taking a road trip? Consider bringing your pet to Canada, which Smith argues may be more pet friendly than even the US.

“Canada is extremely pet friendly,” she said. “As long as it’s a cat or a dog, the only thing you need is a current rabies vaccination. No wait.”

Here are the top pet-friendly destinations in Canada:

Calgary:the sheer number of public off-leash dog parks in Calgary, (a city in the Alberta province) is impressive, with a staggering 150 parks. The off-leash, 153-acre Sue Higgins Park runs alongside the Bow River and is a haven for dogs. Pet parents can expect training areas, swimming areas, and picnic tables in addition to waste bins and bags throughout the park. Calgary is perhaps best known for its proximity to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and you want to experience them with your pet, try riding up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola. From the top, you and your furry friend can take in a sweeping view of six Canadian Rockies mountain ranges.

Calgary

Less than 10 minutes from the Sue Higgins Park is the Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall, the city’s only licensed dog patio. Sit in a separate part of the restaurant where you dog can enjoy his or her own bowl of water while you chow down on one of the hamburgers this country-themed joint is known for. About 20 minutes from the restaurant is The Sheraton Suites Eau Claire, which gives each pet a bed to sleep on, and its prime location downtown means you and your pet can walk to many attractions.

One of Calgary’s main attraction for pets? The annual Pet-a-Palooza, which is held in July. Admission is free, and pets and their owners can visit Eau Claire Market to indulge their dogs with fur trims and “pawdicures,” red carpet photo ops and the opportunity to chat with vets. The event also includes a “Running of the Bulls,” where you can watch as French and English bulldogs race each other.

Vancouver: this seaside city in British Columbia gives visitors plenty of chances to get outdoors with their dogs and is home to more than 30 dog parks where well-behaved dogs can roam off leash. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can drive about 30 minutes to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park where your leashed dog can walk on a 460 feet-long suspension bridge hanging 230 feet above a river and admire the lush, evergreen scenery.

When you’re back in the city center, consider staying at the luxurious Fairmont Hotel Vancouver that supplies pets with their own beds, dishes, toys and treats. The hotel is even home to two resident dogs: Mavis and Beau. The only downside to the city? Dogs are not allowed where food is served, but can be on certain patio areas where diners can enjoy beer or wine on-tap, like Tap and Barrel in Olympic Village.

“Pet owners will find themselves in the dog-version of Disneyland with the numerous trails, hikes, and explorations to take their furry friend around,” says Saschie MacLean, communications specialist, North America, for Tourism Vancouver. “For pets that prefer to be pampered, ample downtown shopping and patio dining (in warm months) will keep them busy.”