10 essential air travel tips for pet parents

Planning to board an airplane with your pup? Here’s some helpful tips!

Flying can be a stressful experience for a dog. But getting there can still be half the fun if you plan ahead and follow these 10 air travel tips!

1. Book early

Most airlines only allow one or two dogs on each flight, so book your dog’s ticket early. Instead of booking online, call the airline directly to reserve both of your seats on the same ticket. For overseas travel (including Hawaii), inquire about any special health requirements such as quarantine.

2. Fly direct

Book a nonstop, direct flight and fly on a weekday when airports are less busy. If Fido’s traveling in the cargo hold, it’s best to fly in the morning or evening during the summer, and midday during the winter to avoid extreme temperatures.

3. Get a checkup before check-in

Before he flies, take Fido to the vet for a checkup and make sure all his vaccinations are current. Get a health certificate dated within 10 days of your departure. For international travel, additional requirements may be necessary. Visit BringFido.com’s International Pet Travel page or contact the foreign office of your destination country for more information.

4. Buy a carrier

Whether your dog is a Chihuahua or a Great Dane, there’s a pet carrier or crate to match. Soft-sided carriers are convenient for carry-on and tend to fit better under the seat (check your airline’s size restrictions before you fly). If your dog will be traveling in the cargo hold, buy a hard plastic crate with holes for ventilation. Carriers must be big enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If the carrier does not permit him to do this, the airline will refuse transport.

5. Can I see some ID?

Write your address, mobile phone number, pet’s name and destination address on your carrier. You should also carry a current photograph of your pet. If he’s lost during the trip, a photograph will make it much easier for airline employees to search for him.

6. Take many test drives

Animals travel under less stress when they are accustomed to their carrier. In the weeks prior to your trip, put your dog in his carrier as often as possible for trips around town.

7. Eat, drink, poop, play

Since a full stomach might be uncomfortable for your dog during travel, experts recommend feeding him about four hours before the flight, but you can (and should) continue to give him water right up to the time of travel. If he’s flying Cargo class, leave dishes in his carrier so an airline employee can give him food and water in the event of an extended flight delay. Let him use the facilities (i.e. grass or accessible animal relief area) and get plenty of exercise before heading to the airport. He’ll be more likely to rest during the flight if he’s “dog-tired.”

8. Arrive early

Most airlines recommend arriving at least two hours before your flight when traveling with a pet. You must check in at the counter (vs. curbside or self-service) and have your dog’s health certificate handy.

9. (Don’t) take a valium

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs generally shouldn’t be given sedatives or tranquilizers before flying because these can create respiratory and cardiovascular problems as the dog is exposed to increased altitude pressures. However, if your vet decides that tranquilizers are medically necessary for the trip, indicate the name and dosage of the drug on the dog’s carrier.

10. You’ve arrived!

When you reach your destination, go for a long walk before you check in at the hotel. Your dog will feel more comfortable as soon as he sees (and smells) his new surroundings and realizes that the same rules and boundaries apply here, too. Download the BringFido app to help locate dog-friendly parks, restaurants and stores during your stay.

Packing list

Don’t forget these items when packing your dog’s suitcase:

✓ Health certificate and medical records
✓ Contact info for your veterinarian and an emergency contact at your destination
✓ Basic grooming supplies
✓ Any special medication your dog might need
✓ Spare collar with ID tag
✓ Pet wipes or paper towels
✓ Enough dog food and treats for the entire trip
✓ Plenty of bottled water
✓ Food and water dishes
✓ Leash and poop bags
✓ Your dog’s favorite toy and blanket


Melissa Halliburton is the founder and president of BringFido, the world’s largest pet travel and lifestyle resource. Since launching in April 2005, BringFido’s website and mobile app have helped more than 20 million people bring their dogs on vacation, giving pet owners and travelers the scoop on more than 250,000 places to stay, play and eat with their pooch in more than 14,000 cities worldwide. For more information, visit BringFido.com.