Flying With Your Pet? 7 Tips To Keep In Mind When Traveling For The Holidays

I know Thanksgiving is notorious for being a day where the majority of the country travels, but I think December comes in a close second with Hanukkah, Christmas, and NYE jam packed into a few weeks.  If there are any of you out there that are flying out to visit family and bringing along your furry friend, I want to share some things for you to think about so your trip would be smoother.


First, this is assuming that the pet you will be traveling with will be 25 lbs or less, and that they will be checked as a carry-on.  That’s because it’s what I can speak to, and most airlines that have a pet policy in place request that the animals fall within that weight class to be considered carry-ons.  For people that own larger animals like big dogs, I think it would be a lot better to have someone watch after the them while the family is away.  I’m just really against checking animals as cargo.  It’s really dangerous, and you never know what could happen in the air.  Traveling is an extremely stressful experience for pets as is, and I’ve heard horror stories about how luggages would shift and bang into the crates, and how some planes aren’t properly pressurized because no human passengers  are in there.  If you’re moving or traveling with a bigger animal and you must bring them with you, I would take the time to research pet specific airlines to consider better solutions, like Animal Airways.


Couple things to consider when planning your trip and budgeting expenses:

  • Airline Specific Pet Policies
  • Fees for bringing on your live carry-on (which I think is RIDICULOUS because the dogs don’t even take up an additional seat… ugh, don’t get me started).  Fees that I’ve seen usually range between $75-$125 PER trip.
  • Airline Approved Pet Carrier – all along, I thought these “approved” pet carriers were a specific type where the “airline approved” sticker had to be labeled on the carriers, but no.  I learned that “airline approved” simply means that the dimensions of the carrier is small enough to fit under the seats.  Just call, and speak with a representative from the airlines to get specific details — drill them with questions.  Every airline AND person you speak with are different.  The lady I spoke with over the phone told me the bag only needed to be certain dimensions….  The security personnel at the gates told me (right as I was about to board) that I couldn’t have any holes/windows in my carrier – he didn’t mean breathing holes.  He was referring to the personal-pan-pizza-sized window that Bella’s head was peeping out of.  I panicked… this was the only bag I had and now I was going to miss my flight.  Luckily, I brought a little blanket for her that I shoved through the hole to cover it up just to get on the plane, and it worked!  Moral of the story:  Just be as cautious as possible when preparing for your trip.  If you have to think twice about which carrier to choose or what to bring, pick the safer option so you don’t get unexpectedly stranded and miss your flight.
  • Vaccination Papers – most airlines will make it a requirement for you to bring these papers with you (and half the time, won’t even ask to see them… but still bring them with you just in case).  It depends on who you’re flying with, but they usually ask for Bordetella, Rabies, DHLPP (distemper), etc.  I just compiled the itemized vet receipts I had and brought them with me, along with Bella’s Rabies tag.
  • Feeding Schedule: I tried not to feed Bella too much.  I didn’t know how she would be on the plane, and I also didn’t want her to have the urge to relieve herself during the flight.  I brought treats to give her a little something here and there.

What to expect upon your arrival at the airport:

  • Check in – Most times, you will have to go up to the counter to get things squared away for your little one.  This is usually where airlines will charge you for the additional cost of your pet.  You will then get a carry-on sticker that they’ll put around the carrier (just as they would with your purse, backpack, or any other carry on).  On to the security gates…
  • Security – They will obviously not put you both through the new TSA X-Ray body scanners.  I would pull over a personnel though and give them a heads up just in case because I personally don’t trust TSA to care enough otherwise.  You definitely don’t want to go through those body scanners with your pet…  the radiation from the machines would be too much for a small creature so it wouldn’t be the healthiest thing to do for your furry friend.  They will ask you to take your pet out of the carrier… the carrier goes on the belt along with your purse/murse (aka: man purse). Then, they take you through the metal detectors while holding your dog or cat (or bird), and after walking through, they will ask you to put both your hands out (palms facing up), and they will lightly swipe a small piece of material over both your hands.  It’s some sort of detector for any germs/harmful diseases your pet might be carrying with them.
  • Then the hard part is over!  Just head to your gate, wait, and board.

While en route:

  • Most flight attendants and passengers won’t mind a pet in the cabin, but be prepared to leave your buddy in the carrier, under the seat for the entire duration of the flight because you might just end up on a flight where an attendant would have a problem with it.  I personally was asked to keep Bella in the bag (on my way to FL), so I propped the bag on my lap from time to time to make sure she was okay.  The flight home was different…  I was allowed to take her out, and I even had attendants offering water to me for her.
  • Your pet will get antsy and feel stressed for sure…  I brought a little dental chew for Bella to mess with because she loves them…. Bad idea. I forgot how thirsty it made her!  Luckily, after all the water she drank, she was still really good and held in her pee…. but I was worried the whole time.
  • Consider slipping your buddy a piece of Benadryl to have them sleep through the flight, BUT always make sure to clear this with your vet first.  I’ve already discussed this with my vet and received recommended dosage so next time, that’s what I’ll be doing.  It’s just too much having Bella try to peep out and greet everyone whiles she’s awake on the plane….  I also wouldn’t do this unless it was a relatively short flight.  Typical dosage would be 0.5-2 mg per pound every 8-12 hours – but again, CONSULT YOUR VET FIRST :)


  1. Research your airline’s pet policy: Delta, Southwest (this is who I went with because they had the most affordable fee, and their service to passengers is excellent), US Airways, Air Tran, United Air
  2. Try to reserve an aisle seat if possible because it would make for an easier time getting in and out, and it might make your pet (or you) feel not as cramped
  3. Vaccination Papers: Have all your documents handy in case they are required.  Bring them even if they tell you that you don’t need it.  Itemized receipts and certificates of vaccinations will do.
  4. Exercise (especially for dogs and puppies): Even if your flight is at the crack of dawn, I would highly advise to take your pet for a vigorous walk, a nice play time, or let them run around in the yard and go nuts to tire themselves out.  A tired pet = a more relaxed pet = a pet that is prone to sleep more = a less stressful plane ride for the both of you
  5. Food/Relieving: Depending on what time of day you’re leaving, and what your animal’s body schedule is like, be prepared to plan those activities around your flight time.  It’s also a good idea to pack treats, mini snacks, and a container to hold water.
  6. Remember your leash/harness – I’ve heard that some airlines offer a pet lounge….  probably a good idea to let your companion walk around and hang out during layovers
  7. Be safe, and have a great time!!

Feel free to share your experience and thoughts on this in the comments section – I’d love to hear them!  Comment button is at the top right corner of every entry :)

xmas2 xmas1


Image Credits To: US Airways, Delta, United Air, Southwest, Air Tran, Baxter Boo, MetroPet Vet

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