Airplane Tips for People Travelling with Pets
If you are planning a vacation with your furry pal, it’s easier than ever to book a flight for the two of you. Within certain guidelines, dogs are allowed to fly with you in the cabin, so you don’t have to book them a spot in the cargo hold. But even if your dog is a calm and collected type of companion, there may be some things about flying that make them uncomfortable. Here are some tips to help you travel with your pet in an airplane to make it easy for your dog and for you.
Get Your Dog Used to the Carrier
All airplanes that allow dogs in the cabins require them to be in very specific carriers. Every airline has their own guidelines, but for the most part, the carrier has to meet certain size and material guidelines. To get your dog ready for the plane ride, have them get used to being in the carrier first. This not only allows them to feel familiar when you board the plane, but also puts their scent on the carrier, so they are comfortable in it. You can just use the carrier for car rides before the plane ride for a few weeks, or practice carrying your dog around in it at home.
Be Sure You Pack for Your Dog
There are several things you need to bring with you when you board a plane with your dog, such as:
- A collapsible bowl for them to drink from
- A copy of their vaccines in your carry-on, as well as a recent health certificate from your vet
- Any medications you may be bringing, such as anti-nausea or anti-anxiety medications for your dog
- A puppy pad or two for bathroom needs
- Doggie bags for accidents
- Treats or toys to keep your dog occupied
- A leash or harness
What to Do Before You Fly
There are several things you should do with your dog before you get on the plane. It’s always a good idea to feed your dog well ahead of boarding time, so they have time to go to the bathroom after eating.
Another thing to do is to play with your dog for an extended amount of time before you get to the airport. Airports can be very stimulating places for dogs, and they’ll be full of nervous energy. If you can get them tired and worn out before they go into the airport, by the time you get on the plane, they’ll be ready for a nap.
It’s also important to schedule a vet visit before you fly, to ensure your dog is in good health and that they don’t need any medications to keep them from getting nauseous or anxious on the plane. Be sure you get a signed wellness report from your vet at this visit.
If you get stuck in the airport for an extended amount of time, and there’s nowhere outside for your dog to take a quick bathroom break, check the restrooms. Most airports have a small space in restrooms with fake grass for service dogs to use the bathroom.
Make sure that your dog’s collar and identification tag have been updated, and consider updating the database for their microchip if they have one as well. Just in case your dog gets loose in the airport, you want to make it very easy to be reunited.
Be sure to research whether your dog’s breed is unable to fly. Some dogs, like Pugs and Boston Terriers, shouldn’t fly because their shortened snouts make them more prone to heat stroke and breathing issues in changing atmospheres.
Finally, be sure to trim your dog’s nails before you go. This keeps them from ripping a nail on their carrier during the trip, which could be very painful.
What to Consider When Booking the Flight
If you are booking a flight ahead of time, knowing that you’ll be travelling with your dog, there are several things you can do to make the flight a little easier for the both of you:
Consider booking at a non-peak time, such as very early in the morning. There won’t be as many people on the plane, and the stewardess won’t be as stressed, which makes it a bit easier for you and your dog to avoid stress.
Book your flight as early as you can. Airlines typically limit how many dogs are allowed on a flight at all, so you’ll need to book as soon as possible to ensure your dog is one of the allotted animals. Be aware that if your dog is not a service dog, and a passenger with a service dog books a spot on the same flight, your dog may be booted.
Try to book only direct flights. As hard as layovers and multiple planes are for humans, they are even worse for dogs. After being on a plane, a dog really does need to get out, stretch, play, eat, get rehydrated, and get back to feeling “normal”.
Be sure to consider the temperature the day of the trip if your dog has to travel in the cargo area below the cabin. Most planes do not control the climate in this area, so the area could be very hot or very cold depending on the weather. And if your dog is in the cabin with you and on the floor, be aware that many airplanes have air conditioners on the floor that could make your dog cold.
Be sure to read all the pet policies very carefully, and always double check the carrier requirements before purchasing your carrier. Make sure you pay attention to any fees that are listed for pets, as there are often extra fees at the gate that weren’t included in your ticket prices.
If you want a really awesome experience flying with your pet, consider booking with an airline that offers “pet-friendly cabins”. These are first-class spaces that are designed specifically for people travelling with pets. The big draw is that the pet gets their own space, rather than taking up your leg room.
Another great idea for people flying with pets is to have a list ready before your flight of pet-friendly parks, restaurants, hotels, and attractions that are right around the airport you’ll be landing at. This will give you a list of places you can go to right away to let your dog out of their carrier to get some fresh air.
One final tip for flying with your dog: If you are worried about your dog making a mess with water on the plane, but you don’t want them to get dehydrated, give them ice chips to chew on instead. You can ask the crew for ice cubes while in air, and feed them to your dog through the crate slots. This will help them stay hydrated but won’t make a mess. Plus, the fun of crunching feels like a treat for a dog, and it may help them feel less stressed out.
Put these tips and tricks into action the next time you travel with your dog, and you’ll have a great trip with your furry friend exploring the world together.
Ash Babariya is the co-creator of Simply for Dogs and a life-long dog lover. Ash’s many adventures at the local dog park with her Boxers, Janice and Leroy, have turned her into the local “crazy dog lady”. She shares those adventures, as well as her research into the world of dogs, around the web to promote well-informed pet owning. Ash, Janice, and Leroy share a home in the Midwest with a brood of hens, all sorts of wild critters, and the occasional litter of puppies.