8 Things to Know Before You Fly with Your Pet

8 Things to Know Before You Fly with Your Pet

If Toto hadn’t gone to Oz with Dorothy, she never would have had such a wonderful adventure. At least that’s what you tell people when they ask why your dog is boarding a flight with you. (Hey, it’s safer to travel by plane than by tornado.) Whether you’re moving across the country or just getting out of town for a few days, here are the most important things to know before you book a plane ticket for your pet.

There Are a Couple Different Ways to Bring Your Pet on a Flight
The first is to send your pal in cargo. It’s usually not an ideal option, but large dogs can’t ride in the cabin. (Sorry, Bud.) The second method is crated, under the seat in front of you. This is an option for smaller pets (more on cost and size regulations later). And the third is if your pet is a service animal, and if that’s the case, then you probably know all the rules.

The Earlier You Book the Better
Most flights will allow only one or two pets in the cabin, although they can make exceptions for service animals. The earlier you book your flight (and inform the airline), the better your chance of avoiding any issues or potentially being bumped from the plane. While your airline’s website and customer service team should have all the answers, you can also consult DogJaunt, a website dedicated to the ins and outs of puppy travel, to compare different policies before you book. And don’t forget: Different airlines have different rules.

You’ll Have to Pay a Fee
Fido needs his own ticket, even if he’s crated underneath the chair in front of you. Costs can range from $75 to $150 for a one-way flight, and you should double check your airline’s pet policies before paying. If you plan to travel with your pet frequently, JetBlue is the only airline that offers rewards points (300 to be exact) for towing your dog along.

There Are Size and Breed Regulations
Just like with regular carry-on luggage, your live carry-on will have to fit the airline’s regulations regarding size, shape and weight. Most companies will allow pets up to 15 pounds on board, although some do go higher; some even sell their own pet carriers to ensure you fit all the requirements. And while that Frenchie pictured is totes ready to travel, unfortunately most airlines don’t allow short-nosed dogs for breathing reasons.

Label Everything
Seriously, everything. It’s fine if your cat refuses to wear a collar at home, when the worst she can do is sneak out to terrorize the neighborhood squirrels; But when traveling, everything, including Fluffy, should be properly tagged for identification. This is especially true if you’ll be separated from your animal during flight while they are in the cargo hold.

They’ll Have to Stay in Their Crate for the Whole Flight
It doesn’t matter if you’re on a two-hour shuttle or a ten-hour international excursion; your pet will have to stay in their carrier for the entire flight. As much as you might want to take them out to cuddle or play, you’ll have to refrain. (Unfortunately, not everyone is as crazy about animals as you are and some might be afraid or even allergic to your precious pet.) Come prepared with water and pee pads to keep them satiated.

Time Their Meals (and Potty Breaks) Accordingly
Feed your pet four to six hours before travel so they’ll have plenty of time to digest and relieve themselves before you reach the airport. If you’re on a particularly long flight, you might consider giving them a small snack when you get close to landing, but trust us: No one wants to deal with a surprise poop mid-flight, especially your seat neighbors.

Drugs Aren’t Always a Good Idea
Some tranquilizers can create respiratory and cardiovascular problems as your pet is exposed to increased altitude pressures. Always consult your veterinarian regarding medications and vaccinations well in advance of your trip and remember to obtain a health certificate within ten days of departure to present to security at the airport.

Just Because You’ve Landed Doesn’t Mean You’re Done
Be sure to thoroughly research your final destination before toting your floof along. Besides booking a pet-friendly hotel, you’ll have to consider transportation from the airport to your lodgings and then consider where you’ll be after that. Many foreign countries won’t allow pets inside restaurants, museums or shops, even if they are considered service animals. Study up on customs and restrictions so your pet can enjoy the vacation as much as you.