#1: Schedule a pretravel veterinary appointment
When planning for your pet to join you on a flight, you need to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your travel plans, and to determine if your pet is fit to accompany you. Of course, you want your pet to share the adventure, but you must prioritize their health, safety, and comfort. Before finalizing your flight details, ask your veterinarian the following questions:
Is my pet healthy enough for travel? — Senior pets and those with health conditions—cardiac, endocrine, or respiratory issues—are at a higher risk of experiencing a health problem during a flight than young, healthy pets. Discuss your pet’s health history with your veterinarian to ensure they are healthy enough to fly.
Does my pet have the right temperament to fly? — Your pet may be healthy enough to fly, but you must also consider their temperament. Air travel is an unfamiliar experience for most pets, and if your pet becomes anxious or fearful in new situations, calming supplements or antianxiety medication may be beneficial. If your pet is extremely anxious, they may need to skip the trip.
Will my pet have a good time on our trip? — When deciding whether to bring your pet with you on vacation, consider the destination, and determine whether pet-friendly accommodations and activities are available. If not, your pet may be more comfortable being boarded or staying with a friend or family member while you’re away.
If your pet is fit to fly, your veterinarian will provide you with their health certificate, and vaccination and medical records, which most airlines require. You may have to supply the same documents to a boarding facility if your pet will be staying behind. Find out which health records the facility requires.
#2: Research your airline’s pet policies
While most U.S. airlines allow pets, each company’s policies differ, and some are more pet-friendly than others. Research multiple airlines’ pet policies before booking your flight, and choose the airlines that best suits your pet’s needs. Do your research long before your departure date, and contact the airline directly if you have questions. In addition, learn your destination’s government regulations for pet travel that apply to all airlines in the country, and remember that these can change frequently.
#3: Pack plenty of pet supplies
Ensure you pack everything your pet will need while traveling. Your pet’s carrier or crate is key to their travel comfort. Ask your airline for their kennel dimension and weight limit regulations, to ensure they will allow your pet’s carrier onboard. Remember to pack these pet essentials:
Heartworm, flea, and tick preventives
#4: Prepare your pet for the flight
Whether you are flying across the country or around the world, ensure your pet is safe and comfortable enroute. Before boarding the flight, prepare your pet by doing the following:
Ramp up their exercise — Help your pet physically prepare for the flight by increasing their activity level a couple of days before takeoff. A tired pet will feel much calmer, and likely to rest during the flight.
Cut back on food — Feed your pet a smaller meal on the departure day to prevent them from experiencing stomach upset. Feed your pet two hours or more before a domestic flight, and four hours or more before an international flight.
Leave time for potty breaks — Find out where your airport’s pet relief area is located, and ensure your pet has time to relieve themselves and exercise before boarding the plane.
#5: Be flexible with your pet
No matter how prepared you are for traveling with your pet, unexpected challenges can always come up. Maintain a positive attitude and flexible mindset, recognize that you are doing your best, and accept the things that are beyond your control. Prioritize your pet’s safety as you plan your trip, and you will both enjoy the adventure and the lifelong memories you have created.
Having your pet accompany you on your vacation can make for sweet memories, especially when you have planned carefully. Remember that most airlines require you to bring your pet’s original health certificate issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian no more than 10 days before travel. Use this locator to find a veterinary practice near you, and ensure your pet is travel ready.