Holy moly - traveling international with a pet is no small feat. It takes at least a month and a half of pre-planning so I would recommend starting early. When moving to Italy, we really wanted to keep our dog, Riley in the cabin with us because he can be a bit of a nervous nelly and we didn't think he would do well in cargo. Luckily he is only 13 pounds and can easily fit underneath the seat in front of us using this carrier:
When booking our flight, we were told that each flight only allows a certain number of animals inside the cabin, and there was only one spot left. We booked it right away, and had to pay at the check in counter upon arrival for Riley's spot instead of paying in advance. If your dog is not able to travel in the cabin, there are many times of the year that pets cannot fly in cargo due to hot or freezing temperatures. Definitely do your research before booking anything.
After we booked our flights, we started researching what the European requirements were, and I found this amazing website - PetTravelStore.com where I was able to purchase all the required documents for a pet passport along with step by step instructions for about $20. This really helped ease any anxiety we had since this was our first time traveling with Riley AND it was international. This also included email support for not only me but also our vet! How amazing is that? Totally worth the minimal cost.
Nine days before we left (aka ten days before arriving in the new country) we took Riley to get his final paperwork, and health exam completed. Once this paperwork was done, I drove up to the USDA office (or you can mail it) where they endorsed it. I made an appointment ahead of time since the contact information was included in the Pet Travel documents I bought, and was in and out in 30 minutes. This provided us with a health number and a raised seal on each page.
On the day of travel, we gave Riley some medicine 2 hours prior to arriving to the airport to keep his nerves at bay. Once we arrived to the airport, our airline took the paperwork and made a copy for themselves. We flew from Orlando to Frankfurt, Germany and then from there to Naples, Italy. The airline was the only place that asked for Riley's paperwork. We had to clear customs in Germany so we could take Riley outside to use the bathroom and walk around, and even then, we were not asked for his paperwork. It was about a million times easier than I anticipated. It helps that Riley is just so dang cute! :)
We had to give Riley the medicine a few more times to keep his nerves low, but he did great and is now loving his new home in Italy! Make sure to bring plenty of treats and something for water. Once we arrived in Italy, Riley was super thirsty and guzzled down water. He did not want anything while on the plane or in Germany, but we gave him treats along the way as we had to take him out of his travel crate when going through security.
So my biggest takeaways are:
1. Purchase the paperwork from the Pet Travel Store - the documents were a huge help as well as the staff.
2. Talk to your vet about medicine options and test them ahead of time! (The first one didn't work but the second did)
3. Be prepared on the flight with toys and treats.
4. They can get dehydrated so make sure you provide them with water during the flight or immediately afterwards.
Moving Back to America Update:
If you decide to move back to America from Italy, here are the steps we took for Riley's paperwork.
1. Purchase paperwork again from the Pet Travel Store.
2. Have the Health Certificate also translated into Italian and have your vet complete both forms.
3. After your vet appointment 10 day or less prior to your flight, you will need to go to your local ASL office (there should be a specific location for pet travel/veterinarians) within 48 hours of your vet appointment for another document. They will review the documents completed during your vet appointment and will complete/stamp and photocopy all the documents. They will keep the photo copies and give you the originals to use for your travel.
Have fun traveling with your pet and I hope this post helped!