Travel Tips for Flying With Your Pet

Updated on March 2, 2020
bdegiulio profile image

Our Shih Tzu, Gobi, was a treasured member of our family. For almost 14 years she happily went where we went and brought joy to all she met.

Gobi goes almost everywhere with us and is a great little traveler.
Gobi goes almost everywhere with us and is a great little traveler. | Source

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.

Gobi asleep in her carrier under the seat
Gobi asleep in her carrier under the seat | Source

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.

Traveling With Pets Has Become Very Popular
Traveling With Pets Has Become Very Popular | Source

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.

Airline Fees

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)
Jet Blue
Virgin America
Alaska Air

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?

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Flexible pet carrier
Flexible pet carrier | Source

Pet Carrier

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.

Getting acquainted with her carrier.
Getting acquainted with her carrier. | Source

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.

Ready to go!
Ready to go! | Source

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.

Pet-Friendly Hotels

  • 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


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    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you. Glad you found it helpful. Have a great day.

    • carhireindelhi profile image


      5 years ago

      it is really helpful post

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Joelle. Thanks for the comments. yeah, I think a small dog is much easier to travel with than a cat. The pet carrier helps a lot with the handle and it fits perfectly under the seat. We know what you mean about getting people to watch our pets when we are away, it can be difficult finding people.

      Thanks for the vote, etc...

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I think it's definitely easier to traver with dogs than with cats. I have two cats now (one 17 years old and the other one 2 years old).... and just go to the vet is quit an expedition!

      When we travel, we try to keep them at home because they are in their environment and I know that it's best for them but it's not always easy to find someone to take care of them! Sometimes, we had to have 4 different persons to come over a three week period because not everybody was available for the whole period.

      I love the little carrier with the handle! It must be so practical!

      Thank you for sharing your experience! Nice pictures and adorable dogs!

      Voted up and interesting!

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Kbdare. We have had great success traveling with our Shih Tzu. It takes some prep but can be done without too much stress and anxiety. Thanks for stopping by and good luck if you give it a try.

    • Kbdare profile image


      7 years ago from Western US.

      Very interesting!! My husband and I have always wanted to take our dog on our overseas explorations, but never could find enough information about transporting pets on airlines. Thanks for sharing!

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi rajan. It is definitely becoming a more popular thing to do, especially here in the states. A friend of mine was on a flight last week and said there were four pets on the flight. Thanks for reading and the vote and share. Have a great day.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      7 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Frankly Bill, I'd no idea pets could travel in the passenger cabin. I'd always wondered about this. This was certainly a very informative hub. Thanks for writing on a different aspect of air travel; one that will a boon for those looking for info on travelling with their pets.

      Votes and shares.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Tourist-guide. So sorry to hear that you had a bad experience and lost a pet. We have heard a lot of horror stories so we try to be prepared as much as possible to keep Gobi safe when we fly with her. Thank you for stopping by and have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Peggy. She is a good little traveler so we don't hesitate to take her with us. The airlines have caught on to this upward trend and the fees really are ridiculous for a tiny little dog that is counted as your carry-on luggage. But, we have never boarded her so we think it's too late to try that and we hate to impose on friends and family unless it's really necessary. Many thanks for the vote, share, etc.... Have a great day.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Bill,

      We have always boarded our dogs or had others look after them at home when we have vacationed. Also, until now, our dogs have all been too big to fit in a travel dog carrier that would fit under an airline seat. For those who are considering traveling with their pets, this is great information to know. I had no idea that the prices of airline tickets for them would be that high. Of course, like you indicated, boarding prices if they stay at home also add up. Your little Gobi looks like a seasoned traveler! Up, useful, interesting votes and will also share.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Julie. Thank you. To be honest it was a lot easier taking our Shih Tzu with us than getting someone to watch she. We've done this twice now so we've had a little practice with the whole process. It's really not that bad although it all comes down to how your pooch handles the situation. Good luck and let me know if you ever give it a try.

    • DIYmommy profile image


      7 years ago

      This hub was awesome! With my husband just recently returning from a year long Army tour to Kuwait, we are really beginning to now allocate his work vacation time. We've been debating whether to fly with our tiny 7-lb maltese bichon. We've never done that before, but flying would sure make things more convenient. I loved the tip about making sure they go for a long walk prior....with a 2 month old son, as well, I hate to admit that much of our dog and son's schedule revolves around "tiring them out" prior to dining out or some other activity like that. lol

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Glimmer Twin. That would be quite a sight to see a 70 lb pup running the aisles on a flight. I think I would enjoy that. The last few years we have started seeing more and more pets on planes, not dozens, but a few here and there. I think it's definitely becoming a more popular thing to do. Thank for the visit.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Alicia. Traveling with Gobi has been just a great experience. But it does take some prep work to make sure it goes smoothly. Very much appreciate the visit and comments.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      All the times I have flown in my life, and it's a lot, and I never realized one could take a pet with them on the plane. I knew you could "check" them in in a different area. I don't think I have ever seen a pet on a flight. Enjoyed this hub and has great tips. My dog is 70 pounds and would be bounding up and down the aisle if we did this.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is very useful information, Bill. I've always had medium or large sized dogs in my family, and I've loved them all, but I've often thought that it would be nice to have a small dog because they could travel to more places with me!

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Carol. It does take some planning to travel with your pet as you can attest. Many hotel chains are becoming more pet friendly which certainly helps. Many thanks for stopping by, the vote, pin, etc...

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      We have traveled a lot with our cats out of necessity and found some pretty good ways to handle things. I know if you take pets on vacation you have lots of homework to do. Many hotel rooms will let you have them in the room as long as you are there....Great up and pinning.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Monis Mas. Thank you, we think she is the cutest thing. We were worried the first time she flew but she did great. It does take some prep to make sure things go well. Many thanks for stopping by.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Suzie. Thanks for stopping by today. It's great to be back. Gobi does do well on these trips. Terry would love to take her to Italy but I'm not sure that would be possible so we limit her flights to here in the states. I'll bet Coco can't wait to move to Italy. I'm actually looking forward to your move also so I can get your take on living there. Thanks so much for the support. Keep me posted on your move.

    • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. I must say that the first time we did this I was skeptical. But Gobi is a great traveler I must admit. Sometimes it's just easier to take her with us than to impose on friends and family to watch her. Many thanks for the support.

    • Monis Mas profile image


      7 years ago

      What a cute doggie! I love the photos! I travel with my dog, but only in the car. Sometimes it's a pain, when we have to travel far, ans take him with us, but I think he would be terrified in the airplane. Great hub!

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 

      7 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      What great info and interesting facts for small pets on board a plane. Now we have Coco, she is considerably bigger being a labrador at 35kg approx and we have already got her a passport which she will need for travelling to Italy. Our plan would probably be to drive over as it would be best for her and get our car there.Gobi certainly looks contented and seems to be a great traveler! Great detail with prices and pet friendly hotels, all important for planning that holiday. Welcome back, votes, shares etc . ..

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great tips, Bill! I didn't even know you could take a pet on a plane in the passenger cabin. That should tell you how often I travel. :)


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