Taking a cross-country road trip with pets to move to your new home may seem like fun for about… two minutes? Then you realize that would mean… driving across the country. When air travel seems like the way better choice, there are some things you need to know to ensure your pet has a safe and smooth journey. Here are our tips for air travel with pets so that both of you have an enjoyable flight.
Check your airline’s policies regarding animal travel
Depending on the size and breed of your pet, they may be allowed to ride in the cabin with you or they will need to be transported in the cargo compartment of the plane. Most airlines have height and weight restrictions for cabin travel, but they can vary – and so can the cost of having your companion fly with you.
Before the airline will allow your animal to travel, they will likely need to see proper health certificates indicating that your pet is safe to fly. If your furry companion will be traveling in the cargo area, they will need a properly sized and marked kennel for the journey. The airlines must have facilities to handle your pet at the transfer airports if applicable, as well as at the final destination. Familiarize yourself with the airline’s procedures so you know what to expect.
Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe and Healthy
- Be smart when planning your travel. Schedule a flight with as few transfers as possible, and avoid peak travel times when you’re more likely to experience delays and baggage or cargo backup due to high traveler volume. Similarly, if its too hot, cold or stormy and turbulent, your pet may be more uncomfortable in the cargo area. It’s a good idea to get travel insurance so you can reschedule your flight if need be.
- Confirm with your airline 24-48 hours before your flight that your animal will be traveling with you. If your pet needs to travel in the cargo area, advance reservations aren’t necessarily a guarantee that your pet will travel on certain flights. Find out what the airline has planned for your companion.
- Take your dog on a long walk on travel day, then get to the airport in plenty of time. If you are bringing your pet on the flight with you, you will both need to check in!
- If you are flying with a large dog, you will need to bring your pet and his kennel to the cargo terminal. This is usually a separate area of the airport, so find out in advance where you need to go. You can bring your pet to this area no more than four hours prior to your flight.
- Make sure your dog’s kennel is cozy! Put a cushion or blanket on the floor and something that smells like you, like a t-shirt, in for comfort. You may want to put a disposable pee pad under the blanket as well, as your pup may need to go before the flight is over. Attach a water container with a small amount of water to the wire of the door, or a drip bottle if your dog is accustomed to using one.
- Your dog’s kennel must also meet regulations, so determine what your airline requires. The kennel needs to have a “LIVE ANIMAL” label, including your name, address, and the contact for someone at your destination who can be contacted about your pet if need be.
- If you worry your pet might feel stressed while traveling, talk to your vet about prescribing a mild sedative to help keep him calm. Your vet will also be able to suggest other ways to keep your pet well during travels, depending on his constitution and health.
- If you are flying with a pet in the cabin, buy or rent a small carrier that will fit under the seat in front of you in advance of your travels and give your pet some time to get used to it. Cats, birds, dogs – none of them really love tight spaces. So make sure they feel as comfortable as possible!
At the end of your travels, have a plan with your travel mates so one person can go pick up your pet immediately and take him outside. He may feel queasy or nervous, or he may just be excited to see you! Give yourself a time buffer to let your dog settle.
Taking a dog on a plane – or any other pet! – can be stressful. Make sure you are bringing him to a pet friendly home when you land where he can safely decompress and return to his spunky, tail-wagging self!