What Are the Safest Alternatives to Air Pet Travel? Full Guide

Rochdi Rais Rochdi Rais · Updated February 23, 2024

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Looking for alternatives to air pet travel? Many pet owners regard the thought of their four-legged friends traveling in the cargo of a plane as pretty scary. The U.S. Department of Transportation published in 2019 that 404,556 animals were transported by airlines. Only 11 of these pets died.

While these low numbers show that air travel is pretty safe for pets, you still might feel uncomfortable imagining your pet in the sky and its stress on the plane. Some of our furry friends have preconditions, and are a bit older or snub-nosed – these are all factors, which put your pet into a category of higher risk for a safe flight.

Talk to your vet before making this decision, and take your time to make the best decision for your animal. But if you don’t want your animal to fly, what alternatives exist out there in the pet shipping world? We will give you an overview.

alternatives to air pet travel

Take the Train

It might be a possibility for you to carry your pet by train. For example, with the railway company Amtrak, you can take your pet for just $26. This offer covers pets up to 20 pounds, which includes the weight of the carrier. The pet ticket is available on almost all routes, for up to 7 hours. The company only allows a limited number of pets on every train. So book in time! 

Traveling by train is usually very comfortable for pets. They usually can be placed directly on your side so that you can calm them down in case they get stressed out by the unusual situation. Some train travel services take breaks for pet travel in the summer if they can’t regulate the heat in their trains well. Best to call ahead when you are looking to see if this is an option on the route you choose. 

If you are taking the train, inform yourself about your pet’s and equipment’s specific requirements. For example, Amtrak allows hard and soft-sided carriers with a maximum size of 19″ long x 14″ wide x 10.5″ high, which must be leak-proof, well-ventilated, and big enough so your pet can lie, stand and sit in it without touching the sides.

Your pet has to be at least eight weeks old, and you must be able to certify its health and all necessary vaccinations. If you are traveling internationally, you should look at the specific guidelines for each country and region: For example, in Europe, it’s usually easy to take pets on the train; no carrier is required. In Canada, most pets have to travel with baggage. 

Travel on the Water

If you want to travel overseas, you could consider going by water; however, there are only a few cruise lines that accept pets on board except for assistance dogs and other comfort animals

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, which travels between New York and South Hampton, England, allows pets with prices ranging between 800 and 1000 USD. Perfect, if you plan to relocate to Europe and are happy to spend some money on your puppy’s well-being.

A kennel master onboard takes care of all of your pets’ needs on the journey. The ticket includes a gift pack with gadgets like a QM2-logoed coat and a frisbee, as well as a complimentary portrait, a crossing certificate, and a personalized cruise card.

For shorter travels, several ferries are open for pet transport, for example, the North Carolina Ferry System, the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket ferries, and the San Francisco Bay Ferry. Depending on the cruise line and way of traveling (i.e. by car), some ferries request your pet to stay in the vehicle.

If you are considering traveling with a cruise line, contact them in advance to find out their policies and about their kennel facilities. 

Go by Car

Traveling by car is probably the cheapest option, gives you the highest flexibility if you don’t have to travel overseas, and is suitable for all kinds of pets of all sizes. Stick to these simple rules for a fail-safe journey. 

First of all, no matter the kind of pet you have or what size it is, it will be the safest in a travel crate that is secured well to the back seat. Some carriers have specifically designed fixings for this job, but you can also use ropes or bungee cords. Having well-fixed carriers will also help your pet against motion sickness. Make sure that you take breaks regularly on your road trip. Your pet will need it!

Comparison Table: Safest Alternatives to Air Pet Travel

AlternativeDescriptionProsCons
TrainTravel by train with your pet in a carrier.Comfortable, pets can be near you, some companies allow pets up to 20 lbs.Restrictions on pet size and weight, limited number of pets per train, trip duration may be limited.
CruiseTravel on a cruise ship or ferry with your pet.Option for overseas travel, some cruises provide kennel facilities.Limited cruise lines accepting pets, higher cost, pets may need to stay in a kennel or vehicle.
CarDrive with your pet in a secured crate.Cheapest option, flexible, suitable for all pet sizes.Not suitable for overseas travel, pets may experience motion sickness.
Professional Pet ShipperHire a professional pet shipper to transport your pet.Experienced, knowledgeable, and safe transport.Costs vary, entrusting your pet to a stranger.
Discover the safest alternatives to air travel for your furry friends. Compare pros and cons of train, cruise, car, and professional pet shipping services to make an informed decision for your pet's journey.

Legal and Documentation Requirements for Pet Travel

When traveling with your pet using alternatives to air travel, knowing the legal and documentation requirements is crucial. Here are general guidelines to help you:

  1. Research the specific requirements for your destination: Each country or region may have different legal requirements and documentation for pets entering the area. Research these requirements well ahead of your trip to ensure a smooth journey.
  2. Obtain a health certificate: Most travel methods and destinations require a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian. The certificate should confirm that your pet is healthy, up-to-date on vaccinations, and free of contagious diseases. Check the specific requirements for the type of health certificate needed and the timeframe within which it must be issued before travel.
  3. Secure any necessary permits or import/export documentation: Depending on your destination and your pet’s species, you may need to obtain additional permits or documentation for the import or export of your pet. Research and obtain these documents well in advance to avoid any delays or issues during your travels.

Additional Safety Steps

  1. Microchip your pet: It’s highly recommended to microchip your pet for identification purposes. Many countries require pets to be microchipped as part of their entry requirements, and having your pet microchipped can also provide peace of mind in case your pet gets lost during the journey.
  2. Prepare identification tags: Ensure your pet is wearing a collar with an identification tag that includes your contact information. This can help reunite you with your pet if they become lost during your travels.
  3. Understand the specific pet policies for your chosen mode of transportation: Each mode of transportation (train, car, cruise, etc.) may have its own specific pet policies and requirements, such as the size and type of carrier or the need for a muzzle. Familiarize yourself with these policies and ensure that you meet all requirements before embarking on your journey.
  4. Check for breed-specific restrictions: Some countries, regions, or transportation providers may have restrictions on specific breeds, especially for dogs. Research and confirm that your pet’s breed is allowed at your destination and on your chosen mode of transportation.

FAQs: Alternatives to Air Pet Travel

Are There Restrictions for Pet Travel on Trains?

Yes, there are restrictions depending on the railway company. For example, Amtrak allows pets up to 20 pounds (including the carrier) and the trip duration must not exceed 7 hours. It’s important to check the specific requirements of the train company you plan to use.

What Type of Carrier Should I Use for My Pet During Train Travel?

You should use a carrier that is leak-proof, well-ventilated, and spacious enough for your pet to lie, stand, and sit without touching the sides. The maximum size for carriers on Amtrak is 19″ long x 14″ wide x 10.5″ high.

Can I Take My Pet on a Cruise?

Only a few cruise lines accept pets on board, except for assistance dogs and other comfort animals. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is one such cruise line that allows pets on board for a fee. Contact the cruise line directly for their specific pet policies.

Are There Any Other Alternatives to Air Pet Travel?

Yes, besides trains, cruises, and cars, you can hire a professional pet shipper to relocate your pet safely and comfortably. Shipping marketplace CitizenShipper allows you to find qualified drivers in your area and maintain direct contact with the pet shipper for updates during the journey.

How Can I Ensure My Pet’s Safety and Comfort During Car Travel?

Use a travel crate secured well to the back seat for your pet’s safety. Take regular breaks during the trip, allowing your pet to stretch, relieve itself, and hydrate.

Bottom Line: Alternatives to Air Pet Travel

If you don’t have the time to move your pet yourself, hiring a professional pet shipper to relocate your pet is possible. Many professionals off pet transportation, and through their experience and knowledge, they know how to keep your furry friend safe and happy. 

Shipping marketplace CitizenShipper, allows you to find a qualified driver in your area.  You can discuss the details of your pets’ travel directly with the driver. While it can be hard to give your puppy to a stranger, the platform allows you direct contact with our pet shipper so you can get updates on the pet on its way!

We wish your pet a safe trip!