Flying with a dog used to be fairly straightforward: Get a plastic travel crate, don’t feed your dog too much, administer a sedative from your vet, treat the dog in its crate as checked luggage, and cross your fingers.
Today the process is more complicated, and for good reason; the old approach was not only challenging and a bit scary, but also frequently unsafe. Further, service and emotional support pets are now far more common on airplanes, introducing another layer of complexity to the rules surrounding pet air travel. Airline policies vary considerably by dog size, breed, temperament, and cabin vs. cargo rules, so there is a lot to know before you attempt to travel with your dog.
Pet Travel Resources For The Dog Days of Summer
- The Best Airlines for Traveling With Your Pets
- Which Airline is Best for Pet Travel
- Emotional Support Animals and Travel Rules
- Pet Rules and Restrictions by Country
- International Requirements When Traveling with Pets
- Packing Checklist for your Pet
- The Best Pet Carriers for Travel
- The Best Pet-Friendly Hotels
The Best Airlines for Traveling with Your Pets
Can't stand the thought of leaving your dog behind while the rest of the family flies off for a week at the beach? You're not alone. According to a recent survey by Airfarewatchdog, over 47% of travelers would rather not travel if it means going without their pet.
But reports of pets being lost, mishandled, and, in some cases, even killed has done little to inspire confidence among pet owners.
While it may seem there’s been a sudden uptick in pet disasters, in most cases the process of traveling with pets goes off without a hitch. Over 81% of pet owners report a positive experience when flying with pets, and 44% go on to describe that experience as exceptional.
Which Airline is Best for Pets?
Of major U.S. carriers, 30% of travelers named Southwest Airlines as the best airline for flying with pets, followed by Delta at 23%. It’s worth noting that Southwest only accepts pets for travel in-cabin on domestic flights, and does not transport pets in the cargo hold.
In third place, 12% of travelers said they prefer flying American Airlines with their pets, followed by Alaska. United and JetBlue tied for 6th place with 10%.
Whichever carrier you choose, remember that the number of pets allowed per flight is limited and will vary by airline. If your travel plans allow it, make arrangements with your airline as early as possible to reserve a spot for you and your pet.
Emotional Support Animals & Travel
Anyone who has stepped foot in an airport over the last several years has no doubt noticed the sudden spike in the number of vest-wearing pets. While there are plenty of passengers who benefit greatly from the help of emotional support animals (ESAs), others have seen loose regulations around ESAs as a way of skirting general policies on pet transport.
After several high-profile incidents involving passengers being mauled, dogs relieving themselves in the aisle, and attempts to bring aboard more exotic support animals such as flying squirrels and peacocks, airlines have begun to tighten restrictions on emotional support pets. It’s likely the rules have changed since you last traveled with your ESA. Before you head off to the airport with just an ID card and vest, be sure to brush up on the latest requirements listed below.
- American Airlines emotional support animal policy
- Delta Air Lines emotional support animal policy
- United Airlines emotional support animal policy
- Southwest Airlines emotional support animal policy
- Alaska Airlines emotional support animal policy
- JetBlue Airways emotional support animal policy
- Frontier Airlines emotional support animal policy
- Hawaiian Airlines emotional support animal policy
- Spirit Airlines emotional support animal policy
Pet Rules and Restrictions by Country
Traveling internationally with a pet often requires a lot of advance planning, sometimes months in advance. Some countries may require your pet be microchipped or receive a series of vaccinations, which can be a lengthy process. If possible, it’s a good idea to begin the process 6 months prior to your departure date.
Additionally, make sure that your dog’s crate is adequately spacious to allow for comfortable movement, or else it will be denied by the airline. For longer journeys, you may have to get creative in breaking up flights to ensure that no segment of the trip exceeds 12 hours, as is standard with most airlines.
In the summer months, it’s important to keep an eye on the weather forecast for your travel dates. Airlines will not accept pets in cases of extreme weather, such as heat waves or bad storms, occurring at any point of the trip.
International Requirements When Traveling with Pets
If you're planning a trip abroad and don't want to leave your pet behind, it's important to do the research ahead of time to avoid running into any issues.
Schedule an Appointment with Your Vet 6 Months in Advance
It is important to visit your veterinarian to review your travel plans and ensure your dog is healthy and fit to travel. They will ensure your pet gets all the required tests, vaccinations, and paperwork that is required for the specific country you are traveling too.
Check Pet Requirements in your Destination Country
It is the pet owner's responsibility to ensure their pet meets all the requirements of the destination country. A great place to start your research is the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal Plant and Health inspection Services, or the USDA-APHIS. This site allows you to select your destination country for details and requirements for your pet.
Check International Travel Pet Requirements for your Airline
Visit the links below for specific requirements by airline when traveling on an international flight.
- Alaska Airlines pet policy for international travel
- Allegiant Airlines pet policy
- American Airlines pet policy for international travel
- Delta Air Lines pet policy for international travel
- Frontier Airlines pet policy for international travel
- Hawaiian Airlines pet policy
- JetBlue pet policy for international travel
- Southwest Airlines pet policy for international travel
- Spirit Airlines pet policy for international travel
- Sun Country Airlines pet policy
- United Airlines pet policy for international travel
Traveling With Your Dog: Your Packing Checklist
Though hitting the road with your furry best friend as copilot is the best, leaving home with your dog poses more than a few challenges. Here's a few items we recommend you pack for your next trip with your furry companion. Find the full Pet Packing List on WhatToPack.com, our packing-tips sister site.
- Dog’s medical records, including vaccination history
- Prescription medications (if applicable)
- Vet-approved calming remedies (if required)
- First-aid kit
- Flea and tick collar
- Tick-removal tool (depending on your destination)
- Regular food, water, and treats (to avoid digestive problems)
- Collapsible bowls
- Travel water bottle/dispenser
- Poop bags
- Sturdy leash/leashes (long and short or one retractable)
- Harness or standard collar with detailed ID tag and/or GPS tracker
- Contact info for monitoring company (in the case of microchipped pets)
- A current pic of your dog to circulate if he’s lost (honestly, there’s probably dozens in your phone!)
- Comfy crate or carrier (make sure they’re airline-approved, if flying)
- One or two (or three) toys
The Best Pet Carriers For Travel
Finding the best pet carrier for your dog's safety can be complicated. Luckily, pet carriers have come a long way since the days of those one-size-fits-all plastic cases with a few air holes. Our sister site, WhatToPack.com, rounds up a range of the best comfortable, yet safe, pet carrier options. Whether you're looking for backpacks with transparent bubbles to ergonomic totes with pockets for snacks and toys, you'll find the best pet carriers for your furry friends here. Here are a few of our favorites below.
The Best Expandable Pet Carrier for Pets Under 14 Pounds
Weighing just 2.4 pounds, this Premium Airline Approved Expandable Pet Carrier by Pet Puppy has mesh windows on top and both sides. It can quickly double in space, and you and your pet will appreciate the cozy softness. Best part? It's machine washable. See this pet carrier on Amazon.
The Best Pet Carrier with Wheels for Pets Between 25-30 Pounds
Weighing 3 pounds, the Tutto Pet on Wheels stroller has easy-glide wheels and a removable puller bar. Your pet will have a lot of ventilation due to the mesh sides and top. See this pet carrier on Amazon.
For more pet carrier recommendations, including the best pet carrier for road trips and the best backpack pet carrier, click through to WhatToPack.com.
The Best Pet-Friendly Hotels
Our sister site, Jetsetter.com, recently rounded up a crop of hotels in the United States that know how to pamper not only you, but your four-legged friends, so you never have to subject yourself to sad puppy eyes again.
Topnotch Resort, Stowe, VT Pet Policy
- There's a $50 per pet/night fee | See Hotel Details
The London West Hollywood, CA Pet Policy
- One small dog (less than 30 lbs.) per room for an additional $20/night and a one-time $100 cleaning fee; no cats | See Hotel Details
Mandarin Oriental Miami, FL Pet Policy
- Pets up to 25 lbs. are welcome with a $250 deposit upon check-in, $100 of which is refundable at check-out | See Hotel Details
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, CA Pet Policy
- Up to two pets per room (maximum 40 lbs. each) for a $150/stay fee | See Hotel Details