Pets on vacation: what’s the best travel insurance for your pet?

A woman gasps while holding up her yellow calico cat next to her yellow luggage on a yellow background.

Great news this week! Pets are allowed in plane cabins thanks to a new Australian law, huzzah. Break out the carrier and shiny collar: it’s time to travel in style.

But before you bring your pet on holiday (or book them their own holiday accommodation while you jet-set), let’s explore some options with how to keep them insured for the duration of your trip. Should you get a travel insurance policy with pets included, or a pet insurance policy with travel included? (What do?!)

Let’s chase this ball and see where it takes us.

What do pet and travel insurance normally cover?

A wiener dog in sunglasses smirks from a beachside chair with red and white stripes. Yellow background.

Pet insurance is a kind of health insurance policy specifically for your pooch or kitteh. Depending on your provider and level of cover, pet insurance could help cover the costs of veterinary care if your furbaby gets sick or injured, with options for emergency medical cover, vaccinations, flea/tick/worming medication, regular check-ups, and more. Comprehensive policies can also sometimes include optional extras such as alternative therapies and dental cover. 

Travel insurance, on the other hand, is designed to help cover unexpected costs on either a domestic or international trip, such as flight cancellations, emergency medical treatment, lost or stolen luggage, personal liability, and so forth.

Just like pet insurance, travel insurance policies typically offer multiple levels of cover and optional extras tailored to your holiday needs, such as backpacker or snowsports insurance. 

Both kinds of insurances come with inclusions and exclusions, and one common denominator between them is variable coverage for preexisting conditions. If you or your pet come with some chronic ailments, you’ll need to do your research to make sure you’re covered. 

But if you do find the best policy for your needs, insurance could give you great peace of mind. After all, we insure our cars, lives, and houses – why not our trip, or our beloved pets?

What insurance should you get for your pet while travelling?

A fluffy dog relaxes in sunglasses on a pizza pool floatie.

Depending on your needs, there are few different options for keeping your pets insured while on holiday.

Both pet insurance and travel insurance have specific inclusions/exclusions regarding pets, whether you’re taking them with you or not. Before buying a specific policy, always the product disclosure statement (PDS) so that you understand the terms and conditions. 

Let’s break down what you could be covered for with different types of insurance. 

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A woman and her dog relax on yellow poolside chairs.

International travel: no go

Bad news outta the way first: international travel with your pets is super tricky. Because bringing animals into Australia is so difficult in general due to strict biosecurity laws, it’s way easier to take your furchild overseas than it is to bring them back in. (As Amber Heard and Johnny Depp will tell you, in the flattest, most deadpan delivery imaginable). 

So unless you’re moving countries, international adventures with Rover and Moggy remain off the insurance table for the moment, at least when it comes to personal insurance. 

There are pet transport companies that specialise in getting pets from A to B, and they will often advertise their services as “fully insured”. However, these policies are usually a form of business insurance, not pet or travel insurance. That said, these companies can be a great option if you’re travelling internationally, especially if you’re moving countries and don’t need to get back into Australia ASAP, so they’re worth investigating if it sounds like a good option for you.

Domestic travel: go!

If you’re planning on taking your pet with you on holiday, then good news! It’s way easier to keep them insured if you stay local to Australia. In fact, you have a couple options to choose from insurance wise when it comes to domestic travel.

Depending on the policy, pet insurance cover will usually extend nationwide. So if you’re taking a trip around Australia (and some limited overseas destinations, like New Zealand and Norfolk Island), your existing pet insurance policy could cover you for emergency expenses if anything happens to your pet. 

Two of our best pet insurance MECA winners for 2021 – Pet Insurance Australia and Knose Insurance – offer travel cover on their comprehensive policies for vacations in Australia and to NZ/Norfolk, but sub-limits and exclusions apply to both policies.

But what’s the deal with travel insurance and pets? Some comprehensive travel insurance policies will pay to accommodate your pet in Australia or cover emergency veterinary expenses while you’re abroad. However, these will come with exclusions and limits, too, so it’s important to read the PDS before purchasing a specific policy and get across what’s involved with filing a travel insurance claim. And the cover will usually only extend to costs related to looking after your pet in Australia while you’re stuck in another country. 

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Helpful tips for travelling with pets

A Maine coon cat pensievely gazes out of his astronaut shaped yellow pet carrier beside a black suitcase. Maybe he's thinking about travel insurance. He's a cat. We will never know.

Now that we know different ways to insure our cuddly buddies, here are some handy tips on stress-free travel if you plan to take them with you.

Before you leave, make sure you check off everything on the pre-travel checklist that applies to you. 

  • Get a comfortable pet carrier. Most planes, trains, buses and other automobiles would prefer your precious pupperonis and kitty-cats remain confined in a safe pet carrier throughout the duration of the journey. While this may not be their favourite thing in the world, it’s important to follow the rules and find ways to keep them comfortable. 
  • Pack the essential supplies. These can include food, water, and plenty of snacks, along with any medications, bedding, toys, or other comfort items they need to keep calm and carry on. If you’re going outdoors, bring leads, any weather protection and shoes, and plenty of waste bags. Don’t be that hiker leaving barker’s nests along the trail!
  • Check the rules before booking tickets. Some airlines let pets stay with you in the cabin, while others put them in the cargo hold. Some don’t let you fly at all, and others will vary depending on your destination and country of origin, so research is key to make sure you find an option you’re comfortable with. Again, specialised pet travel companies can help you navigate the process of getting Fido there and back again.
  • Book a health check up with the vet. Make sure your pet is up to date with any vaccinations and treatments. This’ll put you in good standing with your insurance provider, since you’ll be able to prove your furry friend was in good health pre-trip. 
  • Take them to the groomers. While a groomer can sometimes be an overlooked indulgence, getting your pet fine and fresh before the trip can boost their health and reduce risks, like torn nails or skin infections. 
  • Keep your vet’s number on hand during your trip and check if there are any emergency vets in the area you’re travelling to, in case anything happens on your adventure. You don’t wanna be stuck researching when managing a crisis!
  • Keep your insurance details on hand. Should the worst happen, once you and your pet are out of immediate danger, it’s important to contact your provider ASAP so that they can offer support and information on how to file a claim. 

There’s no reason you and your pet can’t enjoy a lovely vacation together, and insurance can be a part of the holiday magic. Ready to explore the mountains? Run along the beaches? Gaze at the world from your hotel window like Grumpy Cat? Whatever your groove, you’re ready to go.

Jet-setting somewhere soon? Compare travel insurance policies below.

Compare travel insurance policies - last updated 17 May 2022

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