Every travel-hungry person knows that summer is the perfect time to grab your pre-packed travel bag and go exploring, no matter if that means skipping town for one of Pinterest’s top travel destinations or just booking a cheap flight to Ireland and seeing where the wind takes you.
Unfortunately, as much as our favorite four-legged friends enrich our lives with snuggles and slobbery kisses, they can sometimes be a pain to travel with. But before you go and cancel your flight on account of your pooch, we sat down with pet travel expert Melissa Halliburton. Founder and CEO of the world’s largest pet friendly travel company BringFido — seriously, it lists over 100,000 places to “bring Fido” all over the world, including hotels, dog parks, beaches, restaurants and events — Melissa has all the info you’ll need to make taking your fur-baby on an airplane a total breeze.
1. Book Early: As cool as an all-dog airplane sounds, most airlines only allow two or three dogs on each flight, so it’s important to book your ticket ASAP. According to Melissa, “JetBlue and Allegiant allow you to add a pet to your reservation online, but in general, it’s best to call the airline to make sure there is a ‘seat’ available for your dog on the flight before booking one for yourself.”
2. Budget Accordingly: “Many new pet parents assume that small dogs can travel under the seat in front of you for free as long as you bring their bag in place of a standard carry-on,” says Melissa. Although it’s true that your dog carrier ends up being your extra carry-on, your pet’s ticket can actually end up costing more than your own. “Your dog carrier usually comes at a cost of up to $150 per leg,” warns Melissa, adding that Southwest’s pet fee is currently the least expensive.
3. When to Fly: Unlike humans, rarely can pets hop on an airplane for a spontaneous getaway. “If you have a larger dog who will be traveling in the cargo hold, flying during extremely hot or cold temperatures can be life-threatening,” Melissa warns. “For the safety of pets, Delta and most other airplanes will not transport pets as checked baggage between May and September.” So you might want to think twice before committing to bring your pooch to your cousin’s cross-country summer wedding.
4. Get a Carrier for Your Terrier: Finding the right carrier for your pup is extremely important for a safe and comfortable flight. According to Melissa, “All airlines require your carrier to be big enough for your dog to stand, turn around and lie down comfortably… but it also needs to be small enough to fit under the seat!” Before choosing your carrier, check out the carrier size restrictions for each major airline here. If you’re looking for suggestions, Melissa’s Chug (Chihuahua + Pug) Roxy loves her Cooper Four-Wheeled Dog Bag ($130).
5. Take a Test Flight: Before you single-tear-emoji at the thought of your bank account taking another four-legged hit, relax: A test flight doesn’t have to cost you a penny. “Animals travel under less stress when they are accustomed to their carrier before they travel,” says Melissa. “In the weeks prior to your trip, put your dog in his [or her] carrier as often as possible for trips around town. Just be sure to take him [or her] somewhere fun, like the dog park, instead of the veterinarian’s office.”
6. Visit the Veterinarian: Speaking of the vet, scheduling an appointment with your puppy’s practitioner is a must before travel. “Most airlines require a health certificate dated within 10 days of departure at check-in,” Melissa says. Also, if you’re worried about how Fido will do on his first plane ride, this is a perfect time to ask a professional if things like sedatives and tranquilizers are right for your pup.
7. Show Some Identification: Your dog’s carrier is their home for the trip, so it’s best to have all of their information in it while traveling. “Before you head to the airport, be sure to write your dog’s name on his [or her] carrier and include identification tags with your home address, phone number and the address and phone number of someone who can be reached at your destination,” says Melissa. Also, pack a copy of their health certificate and vaccination records somewhere in the pockets.
8. Eat, Drink, Poop, Play: “I always try to feed Ace and Roxy about four hours before our flight, if possible,” says Melissa. “After that, I’ll refrain from feeding them until we arrive at our destination.” She’s also created a genius hack for avoiding the messy water bowl: “I always get a cup of ice from one of the airport vendors before I board the plane. Chewing the ice in her carrier helps Roxy relieve stress and stay hydrated throughout the flight.”
Although this is kind of a no-brainer, also make sure you exercise and let your pup go to the toilet before boarding. Luckily, Melissa tells us that “this step will soon be a lot easier, since a federal regulation was just passed that requires all domestic airports servicing at least 10,000 passengers per year to have a pet relief area in every terminal by the end of the summer.”
9. In-Flight Entertainment: Apart from walking through the metal detector like everyone else, your pet will have to stay in their carrier for the duration of your travel time. “Because of this, I like to put one of Roxy’s favorite chew toys in the carrier with her to entertain her during the trip,” Melissa notes. “This isn’t recommended for dogs who are traveling in cargo, however, as no one would be available to assist them if they happened to choke on the toy.”
10. You Have Arrived: YOU MADE IT! “When you arrive at your destination, make a beeline for the new Pet Relief Area in the terminal and then go for a long walk before you check-in at the hotel,” Melissa suggests. “Your dog will feel more comfortable as soon as he [or she] sees (and smells) his new surroundings and realizes that the same rules and boundaries he [or she] is used to apply here too.” And don’t forget to check out all the cool dog-friendly spots in your new locale by visiting @BringFido on Twitter and downloading their mega-helpful app with the handy airport WiFi while Fido does their business.
Are you planning on traveling with your pooch this summer? Tweet us your tips by mentioning @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)