Traveling With a Pet: What You Need to Know

Everyone deserves to hop on a plane and go exploring. But if you’re a pet owner who is itching to travel, traveling with a pet can be difficult—not to mention a big hassle— to secure space for your dog at a local kennel or enlist your neighbors to take care of your cat while you are away.

That is why a lot of us just bring our pets on the plane.

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dog with plane ticket

While flying with your pet may sound difficult if you never tried it, packing up your pets and ensuring they arrive at your destination safely is actually a breeze—that is, if you prepare appropriately.

Here are a few tips that will help you ready your pet for a comfortable journey by air.

Determine if it is safe for your pet to travel

First and foremost, you need to determine if your pet is fit to travel. First, consult your vet and inquire about your pet’s overall health. Ensure that your pet has all the proper vaccinations that are recommended for travel, including location-specific shots.

Ask your vet to issue a health certificate, as many airport security personnel (especially for international flights) will ask for it to ensure your pet isn’t a risk to other animals. You'll also want to make sure your pet is comfortable around other people and loud noises by exposing them to dog parks, taking time to learn how to socialize a puppy before traveling with them, and so on. 

dog in carrier

Also, consider your pet’s breed and determine if there are any specific limitations. For example, it is not recommended to store pug-nosed dogs or cats such as Pekingese, Chow Chows, and Persians in cargo.

Restrictive nasal passageways make a stroke possible at higher elevations. Some airlines will not accept these breeds, so make sure to carefully research the selected company’s pet policy.

Choose your flight carefully

The truth is that flying with pets can be expensive. Many airlines charge up to $100 to fly with pets, many are as high as $250. Different airlines charge different amounts for carrying pets, so research current rates before booking your flight. If possible, try to book a direct flight to your destination. Faster flight times will prevent long layovers from getting between your pet and a bathroom break.

Also, consider the local climate. Many flights won’t accept pets as cargo when temperatures reach the 85-degree mark or sink below 20 degrees. That being said, some airlines may offer climate-controlled holding areas.

Some carriers allow fliers to bring pets as carry-on baggage. However, there are many weight and breed restrictions so be sure to research if your pet applies. Stowing your pet “above deck” is oftentimes cheaper (no “handling” fees). Also, consider traveling during nonpeak hours, which can mean fewer passengers and more space.

Use the right pet carrier

Make sure you are using an airline-approved pet carrier. Manufacturers will state whether their carriers meet the specifications of major airlines. The carrier should offer adequate space for your pet to stand up, lie down, and turn around. This goes for carry-on carriers as well as those classified as checked luggage.

To make sure your dog or cat is comfortable with a new carrier, let him or her try it out before the flight. A few trips around town in the carrier during the weeks leading up to a flight should do the trick.

Research pet insurance

The last thing you want to happen is for your pet to have an accident at the airport or during a flight. Many pet insurance plans cover things like foreign body ingestion, poisoning, and cuts or lacerations. While it is unlikely that any of these things will happen to your pet during travel, an insurance plan is just one more way you can protect your dog or cat from harm.

Just as it is important to consider travel insurance for humans—especially for extended international trips—look into the options to protect your pets during travel and research local pet care options.

Attend to health and grooming

Thankfully, a few basic health precautions will lower the likelihood of needing to file a claim on a pet insurance policy. Clipping long nails or claws that could get caught during transport is a great way to prevent any serious cuts or lacerations.

Also, be sure to give your pet a little exercise before the flight. When pets are tired, they are more likely to rest during transit. And you do not want to give your pet tranquilizers unless specifically prescribed by your vet for air travel. These can have adverse effects at high elevations.

Prepare for the worst-case scenario

Make sure you outfit your pet with identification in case he or she goes missing. Attach a permanent ID with your name, home address, and phone number and a temporary travel ID with the address and phone number of where you and an emergency contact can be reached.

There are also options for GPS chips, which are injected into your pet as a tracking mechanism. Also, bring along a current photo of your pet dog so you can show strangers in case he or she becomes lost.

Once you arrive, thoroughly check your dog after getting off the plane. If you notice any injuries or atypical behavior, take your pet to a local vet immediately. Ask the doctor to write down the date and his findings so you have official documentation of diagnosis to present to your insurance company and/or customs officials upon departure.

dog on skateboard

Here are Top 5 Things to Prepare Your Cat for the Trip

How about you? Have any tips for traveling with a pet? Do tell!

Guest writer Adria Saracino is a blogger, marketer, and freelancer. When she is not writing for companies you can find her writing about style on her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Palate.

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  1. cheap travel insurance says:

    I do not usually bring my pets whenever I travel primarily because I will be looking after them and would only cause “spoil-my-vacation” for me. But I find the tips helpful for those people who like their pets to be part of their travel getaway.

  2. I probably wouldn’t bring my pets with me while traveling unless it was absolutely necessary. I did have to fly one of my cats while moving cross-country once, but it was extremely stressful and he cried a lot during the trip. Thankfully the people sitting around us were very understanding, although I’m sure slightly annoyed.

    One thing that did seem to help a lot was a product by Bach called Rescue Remedy. I put a few drops on a treat and offered it to my cat when he seemed particularly upset and it seemed to help put him at ease.

    1. @Jerry, I would not do it unless I had too, my cat hates traveling. I have used Rescue Remedy to take my cat to the vet, she hates the car, and it works great!

  3. I had no idea you could get pet insurance, this post is very helpful, had no idea some airlines charge up to $250 bucks!! Thanks for sharing your tips!!

    1. @Vera, glad you found them helpful!

  4. Wish it wasn’t so expensive to fly with my cats, I’ve always thought it would be kind of fun to bring one of them along when I stay at my parents’ for a week.

    1. @Cassie, I’d love to take mine too, but she gets motion sickness and hates every part of travel!

  5. sandyandcosmo says:

    I’m just glad I finally found a wonderful kennel where I can leave my two dogs and know they are being treated like family. We used to travel with our dogs but it’s so much easier without them. That being said, I still miss them!

    1. @Sandy, it is so hard to find good spots for our pets, I am glad you lucked out!

  6. Deborah Hogue says:

    Great Ideas on travelling with pets!! These will come in handy because I can’t imagine going anywhere without my little yorkie child. Thanks for all the great tips!!

    1. @Deborah, you’re welcome, I am glad you found them useful!

  7. Great advice. Thank you.

  8. carla bonesteel says:

    We don’t go away for very long, because we love our cat so much….I know, I know…sounds crazy. But she is our baby, and we have no kids, and I can’t imagine leaving her. I would love to be able to take her with us, but I really don’t know how she would react to being away from home either….Thanks for the tips!