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5 Tips for Flying With Pets

Is your pet going to be flying with you under your seat as your carry-on luggage? Can you check your pet as excess baggage? Or does your pet need to be shipped as manifest cargo? This should be the first thing you ask yourself when you’re considering traveling with your pet.

Traveling can be stressful (even before Covid-19 hit), but as any pet owner can tell you, traveling with pets adds a whole new level of stress. If you find yourself planning a trip with your furry friend, try these five steps to make the process easier for the both of you. 

Step 1: Decide How Your Pet is Going to Travel

Is your pet going to be flying with you under your seat as your carry-on luggage? Can you check your pet as excess baggage? Or does your pet need to be shipped as manifest cargo? This should be the first thing you ask yourself when you’re considering traveling with your pet. Each of these options have widely different price tags and differing levels of stress for both you and your pet. For example, flying with your pet under your seat in cabin may only cost $125-200, while shipping it as manifest cargo can run upward of $3,000 depending on the size, weight, and breed of your pet and your destination. 

Step 2: Do Your Homework

Once you decide how your pet is going to travel, the next thing you need to do is research the rules and regulations your airline has regarding pet travel. While it would be a lot easier if there was a uniform set of rules regarding pet travel, unfortunately different airlines have different rules, and what works for one airline may not work for another. You’ll need to do your homework and find out what sort of carrier you need, how much your pet can weigh (including the weight of the carrier), and if your airline has certain restrictions for certain breeds (i.e. snub-nose or “aggressive” breeds). Not to mention you’ll need to call and check with the airline that your flight has space for your pet. Most airlines only allow 4 pets per flight, and you’ll need to call and reserve a spot for your pet early on. 

Step 3: Get Your Paperwork in Order

This is more for those of you who may be traveling internationally, but besides checking the rules and requirements of your airline, you also need to check the rules and regulation of the country you’re traveling to. Does your pet need a Rabies Titer (FAVN)? Does your pet need a health certificate (and if so, when does it need to be issued and who needs to sign it – sometimes only certain accredited vets are able to do so)? And does your pet have all its required shots? You need to make sure your pet is healthy and ready for travel and that it complies with the health regulations of wherever you’re traveling to. 

Step 4: Start Prepping Your Pet for Travel

Does your pet freak out at the sight of its carrier? Cry endlessly on the way to the vet? If that’s the case, then you should spend your time trying to get your pet used to its carrier (particularly if your travel is going to take a few hours). Have your pet spend a few hours each day in its carrier, so that by the time you travel it’s a place of comfort rather than a source of stress for your animal. There’s going to be a lot of new sights, smells, and sounds at the airport and in the airplane – the carrier is the one thing you can get your pet acclimated to beforehand. If your pet is likely to be stressed and bark/meow the entire flight, you may also want to speak to your vet about getting some medicine to help your pet relax during travel. Just make sure you test out how your pet responds to the medicine BEFORE you travel to make sure there aren’t any adverse effects. 

Step 5: Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Check-In  

On the day that you’re traveling, plan to get to the airport even earlier than usual. If you’re traveling with a pet in cabin, you can’t check-in ahead of time meaning you’re going to need to get in line and check-in at the counter. Even though you painstakingly made a pet reservation with your airline, they have a nasty habit of not showing up in the system. If you can, print out confirmations of your pet booking and have them on hand with you. Also make sure you know the airlines pet policy inside and out – sometimes the gate agents aren’t familiar with it and may try to turn your pet away. It can sometimes take a bit of firm insistence (and a manager or two) to get your pet checked-in successfully.  

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