Travel Tips for Flying With Your Pet
Traveling With Pets Has Become Very Popular
I am sitting here at 36,000 feet next to my wife sipping my apple-cranberry drink and munching on my peanuts and pretzels. Gobi, our eleven-year-old Shih Tzu, is traveling to Florida with us for a winter break and she is comfortably sleeping under the seat in front of us. This is the second time that we have flown with Gobi to Florida, and while sitting here it occurred to me that we have learned a few things during our trips that might be useful to others.
This particular flight was a little challenging as it snowed this morning and our departure was delayed about an hour while we de-iced. Nevertheless, Gobi has been a trooper through it all and she is certainly more comfortable than I am at the moment. While I sit here typing on my laptop with my knees firmly pressed against the seat in front of me she is sleeping away in her little carrier with her favorite toy and a few treats.
I’m not sure all dogs are well suited to travel, but our little one certainly doesn’t seem to mind. We go to great lengths to make sure that she is comfortable and has everything she needs and perhaps this is why she is so relaxed when flying.
Notify Your Airline
Your dog or cat’s trip will begin long before you get onto the airplane. If you are considering traveling with your pet you will need to notify your airline and I would suggest doing this when you book your tickets.
Most airlines have restrictions on traveling with pets, especially in the cabin, and there is usually a limit as to the number of animals that they allow. The sooner you know that you are taking your pet the better the chances are that you will be able to get them onto the plane with you.
Our Shih Tzu weighs in at a hefty fourteen pounds so she meets the size and weight requirements of most airlines, but certainly, the size of your pet will determine if they will be allowed into the cabin.
The weight limit varies by airline but twenty pounds seems to be the limit allowed by most airlines. This certainly limits this option to small dogs and cats and other arrangements will have to be made for larger pets.
Will My Pet Fit?
Your pet will need to be in either a hard or soft-flexible carrier that can fit under the seat in front of you, so making sure they will fit into that size space beforehand is important. You can talk to a representative from your airline to get the dimensions of this space but as you can imagine, it is not very large. The standard size for an estimate is roughly 9”x12”x21”, but it does vary by airplane model.
I prefer to use a soft flexible carrier, as it’s much easier to get under the seat. Most airlines state in their pet policy that your animal must be able to stand and turn around in the carrier so keep this in mind when planning to travel with your pet. We have never been asked to show anyone that Gobi can stand and turn around but certainly, you want your pet to have as much space as possible.
When talking to your airline the other thing you will discover about traveling with your pet is that they do not travel for free. Every airline has a charge for this and it varies. Southwest charges $95 for each flight so a round-trip fare will run you $190. Other airlines charge more with the highest fees being up to $125 each way. The table here will give you the current fees for a number of U.S. airlines.
Airline Fees When Traveling With Your Pet in the Cabin
Fare (each way)
I should point out here that we are talking strictly about taking your pet onto the airplane with you in the passenger cabin. There have been way too many incidents of a pet being lost or dying in the cargo hold on airplanes for me to ever consider allowing Gobi to travel there. I just can’t imagine how stressful and scary it must be for an animal to be in the cargo hold on a flight.
I know there are times when one must resort to this but I will drive to my destination before putting my pet through this. If you must place your pet in the cargo hold there are a host of other restrictions and the cost is actually higher so consult with your airline and veterinarian before considering this.
Have you ever considered taking your pet on a vacation with you?
Once you have made arrangements for your pet to travel with you it’s time to purchase a pet carrier if you don’t already own one. There are a number of options available out there so shop around and make sure that it will fit into that space underneath the seat.
A flexible carrier works best so that you can adjust the size a little when squeezing it under the seat. Most pet carriers will have a mesh front so that your pet can see and get plenty of air. The best way to make sure your pet does not experience undue stress and anxiety is to make sure that they can see you when placed under the seat.
It's also a good idea to get your pet acclimated to being in the carrier prior to traveling. On the day that you depart, you don’t want your pet balking at getting into the carrier so spend some time beforehand getting them used to this.
We used a few tricks to get Gobi into the carrier the first time including placing treats in there, which was motivation enough. Once inside we would zipper it up and roll her around the house to get her used to it.
Depending on the length of your flight you will need to plan on making sure you have a few treats, water, and a few of their favorite toys to make them as comfortable as possible. You want their environment, although small, to be as familiar and comfortable as possible.
Check With Your Vet
If you know that your pet gets stressed easily you may want to consult with your veterinarian before you leave about getting something to help with the stress. Your vet may feel that a mild tranquilizer or a small dose of melatonin may be enough to relax them. Also, as many airlines request proof of your pet’s health it’s a good idea to have your pet checked by your vet before traveling to make sure they are healthy enough to travel. In the best-case scenario, your pooch will simply sleep during the flight but it’s best to hope for the best and plan for the worst.
- La Quinta
- Quality Inn
- Motel 6
- Red Roof Inn
- Courtyard by Marriot
- Comfort Inn & Suites
- Clarion Inn & Suites
- Fairfield Inn
- Kimpton Hotel
One last very important tip is the most obvious one, and that is to make sure you take your dog for a good walk before you get on that airplane. Whether it’s before you leave for the airport or when you arrive at the airport this will serve two purposes. You want to make sure that they have done their business first and foremost, and a good brisk walk will tire them out and hopefully result in a nice long nap.
While there is certainly a cost to taking Fido with you when traveling there is also a cost to leaving them behind. Traveling with a pet is becoming much more popular these days and both airlines and hotels are going out of their way to accommodate our four-legged friends. With a little preparation, you can ensure that traveling with your pet is a safe and positive experience for everyone.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Bill De Giulio