Flying with children can be stressful. They have so much stuff of their own and airlines charge for everything. On top of it all, your seat mate isn’t always thrilled to be sitting next to you and your kid. I’m not talking about a screaming baby either. I’m talking about your fur baby. Wether it be a dog or a cat, flying with animals is difficult to navigate. Every airline has specific guidelines, rules and fees. Luckily for you, this is something I have done many times now. Keep reading to find out how to fly with your pet as stress free as possible.
I have three animals at home. Our dog Scout is a Mini-Australian Shepherd who is super loving and smart. We also have two cats, a rescue cat from Nashville named Pearl, and Biscuit, a perfect angel of a Scottish Fold all the way from Estonia. I’ll never forget picking up Biscuit from the airport in Amsterdam. He and I were about to fly 7 hours together and I was nervous. I planned for months researching carriers, tips and rules. The first hour of the flight he spent meowing but thankfully everyone around me was in love with his cute kitten self. He finally slept which was a relief for the both of us.
Although Biscuit has only flown a few times, Scout flies on a regular basis. We got him in January of 2018 and so far he has been to 5 states. We have gotten a good system down for flying with him. Here is how to fly with your pet.
Before you Fly
- Know your pet – A good place to start is knowing your pet’s disposition and personality. Flying can be really stressful for an animal that is anxious, overly hyper, nervous etc. Keep that in mind when deciding to fly with your animal or not. For example, our cat Pearl would not handle an airplane well at all. I would only fly with her if I absolutely had to. Biscuit handles it fine but it isn’t his favorite thing. Scout is a champ and falls asleep after take-off.
- Know Airline Rules – Here is where is gets complicated; airlines sometimes have drastically different rules and regulations for flying with a pet. I advise looking into these before booking your ticket as it may effect your decision on a flight. There are basically three categories your pet will fall under for air travel:
-In-Cabin Pet – Can fit in a carrier that goes under the seat)
-Under Plane Pet – Cannot fit in a carrier under the seat
-Emotional Support Animal – Deemed necessary to travel with you in cabin by a licensed therapist and veterinarian. Is not required to be in a carrier
The fees for flying on major airlines with an in cabin pet range anywhere from $95-$125 each way on a flight. There is no fee is you have a legitimate Emotional Support Animal.
- Talk to Your Vet – Your pet needs to be deemed safe and healthy to travel and airlines will let you know what they need. Typically a clean bill of health and vaccine records suffice. If you are traveling with an Emotional Support Animal there are more requirements.
In recent times many people have taken advantage of airlines allowing ESA’s and airlines have cracked down on this. (I’m pretty sure the Emotional Support Peacock did it in.) It is quite a bit of work because every airline has their own individual packet of papers that require you to fill out along with your therapist and your veterinarian. For example, if you have the ESA paperwork for United, it will not be honored on say Southwest or American Airline’s.
If you fit into this category keep that in mind and make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to have the correct paperwork for your flight. Most airlines require you to submit your documents 48 hours prior to your departure time.
If your animal is too large to fly in the cab and is not a ESA or a service animal, they will have to fly under the plane in a large crate. This is typically more expensive and can be stressful, as you are entrusting your animals safety and welfare with the airline. In my opinion this is only something you’d want to do if 100% necessary for something like moving / an extended time away from home.
- Carriers – Scout is an Emotional Support Animal so he does not have to be in a carrier the entire flight. But there are times I’ve flown on an airline that is not my usual (United) and didn’t have my papers in time. In this instances he has to be in his carrier. I have tried several different carriers for both Scout and Biscuit and here are some I recommend.
One option is this expandable pet carrier. I like this a lot because after you are settled in you can open one (or both) of the sides so your animal has more room to chill out. Being under a seat you want to make sure they have plenty of airflow and to be as comfortable as possible. I like that this has so many mesh sides. It also has a handy strap to slide onto your carry-on suitcase. (Be aware that a pet carrier counts as your “persona item” on most airlines.)
The carrier I used for Biscuit when he was small was this one by Sleepy Pod. It is a very well made bag but I think it is best for smaller animals. Although Sleepy-Pod does make several different styles of carriers.
Whatever carrier you end up choosing make sure it complies with size regulations put in place by airlines.
**Transeau Travel Hack** Introduce your pet to the carrier leading up to your trip. Leave it out so they can investigate it in their normal environment
Time to Fly
When the day arrives to finally fly with your pet, there are definitely some things you can do to make it easier for everyone involved.
- *Plan your pet’s meals accordingly – If you know your pet has to use the bathroom not too long after they eat, don’t give them a ton to eat / drink right before you leave to the airport. It is stressful and uncomfortable for your pet if they need to use the restroom on a plane.
- Wear them out – This can be applied to both Dogs and Cats. For dogs, try and take them on a nice long walk or play fetch before you head to the airport. For your kitty try having some active play time with a laser pointer or another toy they love. If you exercise your animal before you fly they will more likely be ready for a snooze on the plane.
- Pack snacks and water – Your pet may get hungry or thirsty on the flight. I try and balance out how much they get because similar to what I said above, you don’t want them to need to use the bathroom on the flight. Grab a set of collapsible pet bowls like these ones to make sure they can have a nibble.
- Give them something to do – This is more for dogs than cats, but if Scout gets restless I like to give him something to chew on that will keep him busy. He loves these by Earth Animal, they are free of Raw Hide but keep him happy and distracted.
- Clean up a mess – Make sure you have some paper towels or wipes just incase there is an accident. Also I keep hand sanitizer handy to help conceal the smell of Scout’s dog farts, lol.
Traveling with your pet can be a very stressful experience but it doesn’t have to be. I think with planning and preparation you can handle it and your pet can too. Ultimately, we are all trying to get somewhere we need to be, and our pets are our family. Sometimes they’ve gotta come too! And if your seat mate is a jerk, offer to buy them a drink. After all, an adorable animal is way better to deal with than a crying baby. I hope learning how to fly with your pet was helpful!
Let me know if you have any questions about how to fly with your pet. Good luck flying with your fur babies in the future. Also if you missed last week’s post on 24 Hours in Rome, check that out here!