This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on December 24th, 2021.
All pet owners want the flexibility of bringing their furry friend with them when on the go. However, they also know learning how to travel with pets takes a bit of strategic planning to keep them comfortable during air travel. We want that for you, too.
Our comprehensive guide answers several of the most frequently asked questions about pet travel. Along with our most relevant tips and tricks for traveling with your pet, this guide includes all of the “need-to-knows” starting from what to do before you get to the airport to how to make air travel enjoyable for you both. Fortunately, the friendly skies are becoming more accommodating for furry friends. Airlines are making it more manageable to get your pets on board for both domestic flights and international flights.
If we’re being honest, we’d take our pets with us anywhere. We’d pop them in their favorite pet travel carrier and go.
How Much Does it Cost to Fly with a Pet?
Unexpected costs are never a fun surprise, so check with the airline ahead of time about its pet policy. Plan to factor in approximately $100 to $125 for a one-way fee for your pet to ride along with you in the cabin. They will need to fit the breed and weight requirements and must stay in their airline-compliant pet travel carrier.
The other option is to have your pet fly in the cargo space beneath the plane, which ranges in price from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $1,000 depending on where you’re headed and how long the trip is. Each airline has its own regulations, and some don’t offer the cargo option at all. Review the pet policy in advance to make sure your pet can come along.
Once at the airport, keep your pet close by to optimize their comfort. The cabin shuffle can be chaotic, causing your pet to become stressed and anxious. Make room for your furry friend as one of your carry-on items where they can rest easy right by your feet. With your pup tucked under the seat in front of you, you most likely won’t have room to store an additional carry on. So, where will you store your favorite book, airpods, or hand sanitizer to use during the flight? For this very reason, we designed our pet carrier with additional pockets to house your travel must-haves!
Can You Keep Your Pet with You on the Plane?
Many choose to have their pets with them versus being left with the excess baggage in the cargo area. In most cases, you can keep your pet with you on the plane, although it’s not an automatic go-ahead. Some airlines have restrictions that apply to your pet’s weight in addition to how much the carrier weighs, as well.
For safety and comfort, your pet must be able to stand up and turn around in the carrier with ease. And the pet bag must slide easily under the seat in front of you like any other carry-on bag. You’ll also need to reserve a space for your pet in advance as the number of open spots per plane is limited. Make sure your pet gets on the list at least 14 days in advance or risk having to leave your cuddly companion behind.
Of course, if your pet is a service animal, there are special exceptions. You’ll want to check with the airline for any information necessary to clear your pet for travel. This also includes emotional support animals, which require documentation from a mental health provider for your pet to be categorized as such for the flight.
How Should You Travel with a Dog vs. a Cat?
Generally speaking, dogs are more adaptable to new situations, while cats like the comforts of home. On the other hand, cats are independent by nature, whereas dogs may require a greater amount of maintenance and attention, especially when in a flying environment. But let’s be real: you know your pet best. Consider if their demeanor qualifies as being the flying type.
There are cats too anxious to fly and dogs that are downright docile. Just as there are dogs perfectly content being in their carrier, there are cats that want the room to roam. The bottom line is: the way you travel with a dog vs. a cat really is up to what you and your pet require to be the most comfortable. Either way, here are a few general tips to keep in mind when flying with your pet.
- Fly direct - Like you, your pet wants to get there in the quickest and most convenient way possible. Trying to make a flight connection with your pet in tow causes extra stress no one needs on travel day. Plus, with the potential for possible delays, your pet can get restless. And, if riding in the cargo hold, your pet could arrive before or after you do.
- Get your pet used to the carrier - Give first-time or infrequent pet flyers a chance to get used to their carrier in advance of the flight. Let them test it out and turn around in it to ensure they fit comfortably and that they can get familiar with the feel. Having a trial run pre-flight can ease their anxiety when they head out with you to the airport for the real adventure. Also, plan for plenty of time to get to the airport and navigate check-in and TSA security. Rushing through the TSA line only adds to the stress, especially if your pet is being jostled as a result.
- Keep track of your pet - Although your pet may be microchipped, it’s a good idea to provide an easy, additional way for airline attendants or fellow travelers to contact you should you become separated from your pet. Add at least two pieces of identifying information to your pet’s collar. Whether that’s a name and address or email and phone number, providing contact information makes it easier to connect.
- Wait to feed your pet until you arrive - Depending on your flight time, wait until you get to your destination before you feed your pet. A good rule of thumb is to avoid feeding them at least four to six hours before the flight. However, you can give them ice cubes during the flight so they can stay hydrated. Until they offer pet relief stations on planes, know your pet won’t have anywhere to go until you’ve landed.
No matter how well-behaved your pet is, when it comes to a new environment or unexpected changes, all bets are off. Keeping these tips in mind will put you and your pet in the best possible position when it comes time to fly.
How Can I Keep My Pet Comfortable When Flying?
Part of learning how to travel with pets is navigating the ins and outs of how to keep them safe and comfortable. What will cause them less anxiety and help them be more adaptable to the adventure ahead? How can you keep them secure without making them feel too restricted? There are a lot of moving parts come travel day. Here’s how you can feel like you’re good to go.
Check with the Vet
First, it’s best to run your travel plans by your vet. Even if you have done your due diligence by researching the best places to travel with dogs or cats, there are certain pet breeds, ages, and demeanors that simply won’t travel well whether they’re with you in the airplane cabin or not. Why put your furry friend through unnecessary stress when they may prefer a stay at the pet hotel or with a friend or family member?
Skip the Sedative
Second, skip the sedative, unless advised by your vet. You never know how your pet will react to it. Plus, a sedative can affect your pet’s ability to regulate their body temperature at high altitudes. Instead, consider treats, a favorite toy or blanket, or another method to keep them calm in your carry-on. Also, sometimes your pet just needs to know you are still close by. Petting them or speaking softly to them through their carrier can often provide the assurance and relief they need until you land.
Prepare in Advance
Third, make them part of your travel plan from the beginning. The more you can prepare in advance, the better it will be for both of you come flight time. It’ll ensure you have the right type of carrier, the best cat or dog travel accessories, advanced reservation, and understanding of what else you’ll need before you board. Not every trip may be the perfect time to take your pet, but when you want to bring them along, work it into your travel plan.
Let Them Loose
Lastly, give them freedom as soon as you can. Take advantage of the airports that have pet relief stations or if you have time, go outside with your pet before checking back in for your next flight. Once you arrive at your destination and are outdoors in the fresh air, have their leash ready to let them roam about. Travel can be taxing, and being able to stretch the legs and take up space feels as great for your pet as it does for you.
Traveling with your pet is an adventure in and of itself, but well worth it to have your furry friend close by. Whether you are learning how to road trip with a dog, or are preparing to fly with a cat, travel can be made feasible. People do it all the time, and by keeping these tips in mind, you and your pet will both be traveling pros, too. What makes the experience easier is having chic, durable roller bags and travel accessories from BÉIS to pack everything you and your pet will need for the journey ahead.
View the links below to learn more about airline animal policies to find out whether an airline is right for you and your pet (service dogs, assistance dog, domestic animal, etc):
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
- Travel and Leisure. How Much It Costs to Travel with Your Dog. https://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/pet-friendly-travel/how-much-it-costs-to-travel-with-your-dog
- The Humane Society of the United States. Travel safely with your pet by car, airplane, ship, or train. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/travel-safely-your-pet-car-airplane-ship-or-train
- Go Pet Friendly. 9 Tips for Flying with a Pet. https://www.gopetfriendly.com/blog/9-tips-flying-pet/