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Pet Air Travel - Flying with Dogs and Pets

Traveling with pets - what you need to know for a pet friendly vacation

Air travel for pets is much like traveling with human members of your family. Good preparation, clever travel tips and a trusted plan will always mean you leave home giddy and excited, never stressed out or panicked.

After deciding to take a pet friendly vacation, your planning and packing process will be much the same as a normal, humans-only holiday (and much, much easier than traveling with a baby!).

Flying with your dog needn’t complicate your travel plans but being organized will pay off for you both. Simply follow our tips below and remember to pack your beach reading.

How will you travel with your pets? Fly or drive?

While flying can be stressful for pets, some dogs don’t like to travel so far as around the block. You know your dog best - if he doesn’t travel well in cars, it’s unlikely he’ll be a fan of planes.

Flying isn’t recommended for older, weak or pregnant dogs or for pets with heart or respiratory problems. It’s good to seek your vet’s advice before making firm plans.

Options for air travel with pets

Once your vet gives your pup the all-clear, there are five options for pet air travel.

Note that the options available to you and your pet will depend on your pet’s size and the route/airline you require. Every airline has different pet travel regulations, overseen by the Department of Transportation and FAA.

(Service animals are obviously exempt from household pet travel rules and may accompany their owner).

(1) Fly with you in the cabin - small dogs or cats only, most but not all airlines
Pets traveling in the main cabin need to fit under your seat in a regulation pet travel carrier. As with your luggage, you’ll need to check with your airline regarding the travel carrier’s size and weight restrictions.

(2) Travel as checked baggage - larger dogs
Size and weight restrictions apply. It’s considered less comfortable than traveling as cargo.

(3) Travel as cargo - larger dogs
Not recommended for pug-nosed dogs. Legally required to be pressurized and heated.

(4) Charter a flight - rich pets
For the luxury of his own seat, your pup may insist you charter him a private plane. Ranging between $700-$4,000 an hour, he’d better enjoy every minute. Air Webster (www.airwebster.com) has further details.

Flights fees for pet travel

The cost of flying with your dog varies depending on the travel option chosen. Carrying on your pet is cheapest, starting at $75-$100 for low-season domestic flights (one-way).

Choosing how to fly with pets - what to know before booking pet travel

(1) What time of year are you flying? What are the outdoor temperatures?
Whether you’re escaping the winter cold or are trading hot summer weather for perfect Florida sun, it’s important to consider the outdoor temperatures your pet will experience when traveling. While the baggage and cargo areas will likely be temperature-controlled, the loading areas will not. It can also get very cold in-flight (just like in the cabin). Remember that your dog will spend some time in transit to/from the plane.

Ask if the baggage or cargo areas are heated.

(2) Are you flying during a busy period? Does your flight require a connection?
Thanksgiving + airports = nightmare. Likewise for other busy holidays and peak periods. Though mix-ups are rare, it’s possible your pet might miss a connecting flight (through no fault of his own!).

Ask about the “Plan B” options if flights are re-routed or connections are missed.

(3) What are your airline’s specific policies?
Perhaps you have a friend who travels all the time with their pet and has told you all the ‘insider’s tricks”. No matter what you’ve read or heard, be sure to ask your particular airline for their policies - weight restrictions, fees, check-in times, drop-off and pick-up locations, documentation requirements, provision of stickers and labels, etc. Most airlines have a website that covers all these details:

Flying with your dogs - preparing for departure

  • Get a quality pet travel carrier. Ensure its locking mechanism is high quality (loose, frightened cat on a plane, anyone? No thanks!) and that it has metal doors. Note that many airlines don’t like containers with wheels - no matter how handy they might seem (they can roll off the baggage transport carts). Check with your vet about the proper size your dog needs - he should be able to turn around inside it.
  • Make sure your pet is happy in his pet carrier. Get him used to being inside it slowly - he might currently see it as the evil mechanism that transports him to the scary vet.
  • Pack health records and proof of vaccinations
  • Don’t sedate your pet. The American Humane Association advises against sedating your pet during travel, as the altitude can cause heart or breathing problems in sedated animals.
  • Wear out your pet before leaving. Take him for an extra long run or walk to get him good and sleepy.
  • Ensure your pet is wearing a collar with ID

A few ‘expert tips’ for happy traveling pets

  • What to put on the pet carrier: Your airline will advise about the stickers and labeling required on the pet travel carrier. In addition, stick on a photo of your pet in case he should escape.
  • What to write on the pet carrier: PetFlight.com suggests taping signs all over the travel carrier to introduce your dog to the baggage handlers and crew: “Hi! My name is ________. Please be nice to me. Thanks! I'm traveling from XX to XX on Flight # XX". My Parent's name is XXX. Cell: XXX."
  • What to put in the pet carrier: Place puppy pads on the bottom and cover with a towel with your scent (wrap it around you for a while the day before flying). Use an old towel you can throw away at your destination. Add a spill-proof (or thereabouts) water container.
  • What to pack in your hand luggage: Extra puppy pads, a second old towel, a photo of your pet, his health records, baby wipes, a water bowl.

Air travel for pets gets easier and easier as more owners take pet friendly vacations. While your first booking might require more research than usual, you’ll soon develop a system that works perfectly for both you and your dog.

Be sure to check out our great tips for pet friendly travel to Florida, as well as our recommendations for great dog beaches in Florida (Venice’s Browhard Paw Park is a total favorite!).

Happy tails!

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