Everyone deserves to hop on a plane and go exploring. But if you’re a pet owner who is itching to travel, it 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.
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Opinions are always my own and I’ll never promote something I don’t use or believe in.
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.
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 on nonpeak hours, which can mean less 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 the case that 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 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.
Adria Saracino is a blogger, marketer, and freelancer. When she is not writing for companies you can find her writing about style at her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.