Flying with Pets: Preparing Your Furry Friend for the Flight
Humans have shared a special bond with animals since the first dogs were domesticated more than 30,000 years ago! Over time, our relationship with domesticated animals evolved, and now pets have become a central part of life for people all over the world.
Pets have become far more than just livestock herders or rodent control. They sleep in our beds, co-pilot our road trips, and beg under our dining room table. They influence our daily routines and offer unconditional love and companionship as we care for them through every stage of their lives. Your pet is a member of the family, so why leave them behind when you travel?
Traveling with your pet can be an incredible experience that leads to unforgettable memories you will cherish even after your time together ends. Imagine seeing the joy on your pup’s face on the beach as he frolics in the waves for the first time, or curling up in your tent with your cat after a day of hiking a beautiful mountain trail (just don’t forget to grab a cat-pack like this one from Amazon!) Having your pet by your side can make the trip more memorable and fulfilling.
While we encourage traveling with your pet, that’s not always simple when you are traveling by air. Flying with pets has recently become more popular than ever, and many airlines try to make the process as smooth as possible.
However, there is a lot to consider before hitting the skies with your pet. Here’s everything you need to know to make it into a paw-sitive experience!
Planning and Preparation
Careful planning is an essential first step before you hit the airport with your pet. Here’s what you need to consider:
Choosing the Right Airline
Not all airlines are welcoming to non-human travelers. Researching multiple options and choosing the one that works best for you and your four-legged friend is important.
Some airlines will allow you to bring smaller animals into the cabin with you, while others only allow pets to travel in cargo. They may also have differing size, weight, and breed restrictions that you need to keep in mind. The weather also impacts these policies, as some won’t allow pets to board when it is too hot or too cold.
While many airlines do their best to cater to our furry family members, they can’t control every single aspect of our pets’ travel experiences. When flying with pets, there is always some risk involved.
We know it’s difficult to think about, but some airlines have liability policies in place that will cover any harm that might befall your pet while flying. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to have a backup fund or pet insurance in case something unfortunate happens.
The Most Pet-Friendly Airlines
These airlines allow your pets to ride in the cabin as long as they are small enough to fit comfortably in a carrier that can be stowed under the seat.
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
These airlines allow you to bring your pet as long as they travel in the cargo hold.
- Frontier Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Alaska Air
Before you set off, make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations and other requirements, or you won’t make it very far! Airlines tend to be very strict on health records.
- Health certificates
Many airlines require a health certificate from a veterinarian that confirms your pet is healthy and disease-free. Typically, this must be issued within a certain time frame before the flight and can vary between airlines.
- Vaccination records
Depending on your pet’s age and your destination, you may be required to provide a copy of vaccination records to the airline in addition to a health certificate. Some vaccines take some time to become effective, so you’ll want to plan ahead – a quick vet visit the day before your flight might not cut it!
If your pet requires medication, you’ll want to keep it in its original container and bring a copy of the prescription with you. Scope out veterinarian offices at your destination beforehand so you can easily find help if your pet experiences an unexpected illness or injury on your trip.
Not only is it required by most airlines that your pet is microchipped before flying, it also gives you peace of mind knowing that your pet can to be identified and reunited with you if you somehow become separated during your travels. Double check to make sure all your information is up to date before you head to the airport!
Packing and Supplies
To ensure their safety and comfort on the plane, you will need to pack the right supplies for your pet! Here are a few things to remember:
- Travel crate requirements
Each airline has their own travel crate policies, but generally, it should be the right size for your pet to comfortably sit, stand, and lie down. Make sure it’s well-ventilated and closes securely!
- Food and water
Like us, pets are sure to be hungry and thirsty on the flight! While dry food should be no issue, make sure that any wet food containers are under the 3.4 ounce limit. Bring some special treats to bring to keep your pet happy in what otherwise can be a stressful situation. You’ll probably want to buy water after you pass through security to ensure you have enough. Bring bowls in your carry-on, along with some paper towels or wipes in case of any mess!
- Comfort items
Flying can be stressful for anyone, including animals! Bringing a familiar comfort item like a blanket or toy from home can ease some of their anxieties. Even one of your worn t-shirts can reassure them that their person is still nearby, and that everything will be okay!
- Special Medication
Veterinarians can recommend specific medications for pets to reduce their anxiety in stressful situations. If you are concerned about your pet’s stress on the flight, talk to your vet about options to keep your pet relaxed and comfortable while flying.
At the Airport
Now that you have prepared yourself and your four-legged pal for the flight, it’s time to head to the airport! Here’s what you can expect.
Arriving at the Airport
Get there early and be sure you have all your documentation ready to go. Head to the check in counter and let them know you will be flying with a pet. Be sure to check the airline’s policies in advance so you aren’t hit with any surprise fees!
Going Through Security
This part can feel tricky, but there are a few things you can do to ensure the process moves along smoothly. Check that your pet is properly fastened in their carrier, but be ready to remove them if necessary. You will most likely need to go through the metal detector with your pet, so practice taking them in and out of the carrier quickly to speed up the process.
Boarding the Plane
- In-cabin travel
If your pet is able to fly in the cabin with you, you will board like any other passenger. You will need to secure your pet in their carrier and stow them under the seat in front of you. The flight attendants are there to help make sure each pet is safely secured before takeoff!
- Cargo travel
If your pet is flying in cargo, you will board after they are loaded onto the plane. Once you arrive at your destination, you will typically retrieve your pet at the baggage claim.
Arriving at Your Destination
After a long (or even short!) flight, you and your four-legged best friend will want to stretch your legs and explore your new location. But there are a few things you should do before you set off on your adventure!
Once you exit the plane with your pet or retrieve them from baggage claim, take a few moments to get them out of their carrier and offer reassurance. Some head scratches and kind words from their favorite person can go a long way to making them feel safe and comfortable in a new environment!
Whether you booked your accommodations in advance (recommended) or plan on finding them once you arrive (bold!), make sure they are pet-friendly! Many hotels have specific rooms set aside for pet owners, and even offer amenities like dog parks, pet spas, and supplies!
Speaking of dog parks, it’s a good idea to scope out some good ones before you arrive if you’re planning on bringing your canine pal. Larger cities usually have several, so you can find one that suits your dog best. While an Australian Shepherd may love a good agility course, a bulldog might be happier lounging in the shade among a few other doggie companions.
Hopefully, you now feel more prepared to fly with your pets! There is nothing like the special bond we develop with the animals who share our homes. They make our days brighter and our memories sweeter.
There is a vast and beautiful world waiting for us to explore, and who would we rather have by our side than our loyal and loving pets? Exploring the world with them in tow is just another way to include them in our lives!