How to travel hassle-free with your dog

How to travel hassle-free with your dog

With dogs increasingly becoming members of the family, it’s not too surprising that they are accompanying their humans on vacations. While packing up your dog for a road trip seems like fun, sometimes destinations are a little too far and they have to board an airplane like other family members.

Because taking to the friendly skies is a new experience for most dogs (not to mention their owners), the following tips can help make the trip a little easier and stress-free for everyone involved.

  1. Share your travel plans with your veterinarian and see if you need to bring your pup in for a checkup, which might be especially helpful for very young or senior dogs. Your vet might have some suggestions for keeping your individual dog comfortable and happy for the journey. Chances are, the airline you selected will require health certificates anyway prior to boarding.
  2. Shop around when it comes to selecting an airline and see which company’s regulations make you feel most comfortable. This is not a place to choose your tickets based on price — go with the company you believe will keep your dog safe. Don’t be afraid to go beyond Internet research and call the airline if you have specific questions.
  3. Once you select an airline, read its requirements for kennels. More than likely there are strict guidelines regarding every aspect of a carrier. Some airlines cater specifically to pets, and provide their own doggie seating systems.
  4. Ask airlines about their restrictions regarding heat and weather. Find out if they have a way to check a plane’s temperature before boarding to ensure your dog’s safety. An unexpected heat wave or unseasonably cold weather along the journey may change your travel plans.
  5. Find out where in the airport your dog will need to check in prior to arrival. If she’s traveling on the plane, she’ll likely stay with you. If she’s traveling as cargo, she may have to board somewhere else.
  6. Arrive a little early to avoid confusion, which can lead to excitement or panic. If your dog sees you upset, you can bet she’ll get upset, too. Also, any unforeseen issues can be resolved without rushing.
  7. Make sure your dog is wearing a sturdy collar and up-to-date identification tags. Include your name and complete contact information. You may also want to consider including the contact information of your destination. It is very important to have a well behaved and controlled dog, you can use an invisible dog fence to keep your dog around you the whole time.
  8. Keep a leash handy so you can take your pup for a walk before boarding and for right after arrival. The more stretching and potty time she can get in, the better — just like us!
  9. Prior to boarding the airplane, keep your dog quiet and mellow. Take her for a walk if possible. No need to get her worked up with running or toys before having to enter a crate for a few hours. She’ll probably be excitable anyway because she’s in a new place and surrounded by strange people.
  10. Bring along a bowl with a top for water or a travel bowl and water bottle to keep your dog hydrated along the journey.

Airline information and specific policies regarding dogs

Every airline is a little different in its policies, but here are some basic pet policies for a few of the major airlines.

  • Delta allows dogs in the plane’s cabin and as checked baggage. Pets traveling to Hawaii are not permitted in the cabin.
    Contact Delta for more specific guidelines.
  • Continental allows dogs to ride in the cabin (flights to Hawaii excepted.) For brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs, the airline also has special recommendations, such as a crate that’s one size larger than normally required and a crate with ventilation on all four sides.
  • Virgin Atlantic flies pets all over the world regularly. The airline also automatically enrolls pet passengers in its Flying Paws Club, which entitles them to gifts (it changes each year). If human companions are also members of the Flying Club, they are entitled to mileage every time pets fly, too.
  • American Airlines accepts dogs and they must check in at the counter. Curbside and self-check-ins are not currently permitted. Pets are not accepted in flights longer than 12 hours or to the United Kingdom, nor are they permitted on non-stop flights Maui, the Big Island, or Kauai.
  • United Airlines allows dogs to travel as carry-on or checked baggage. There are also restrictions for brachycephalic (snub-nosed) dogs as checked baggage or cargo during the summer months. Unaccompanied pets travel as cargo.
  • U.S. Airways permits one domestic dog to travel as carry-on per flight. Carry-on pets are not permitted on transatlantic flights or flights to/from Barbados and Hawaii.

Requirements for international travel vary on the country and have more to do with that particular government’s policies than an airline’s rules. For instance, countries belonging to the European Union require a microchip, whose identification number will then be logged onto all paperwork pertaining to the animal. Generally, taking your animal to these countries requires a six-month head start to work out all the procedures.

In the United States, Hawaii has strict quarantine laws.

It’s a lot to remember, but the airlines keep track of government regulations as well as their own policies so they can handle specifics when booking a flight for your dog.