Everything You Need to Know about Flying with Pets
When I found out we were going to be moving to Alaska and wouldn’t be able to drive like most people who make that move, my first thought was to panic about flying with our pets. Flying with pets has been in the news a lot recently and all you generally tend to hear about are the bad stories. None of this recent press did anything to help ease my anxiety. I knew we would be flying on a good airline but I was still so nervous about having flying with pets. I was honestly more nervous about flying with pets than I was flying with our newborn!
Since our move, I’ve gotten a lot of questions and requests for tips for flying with pets so I wanted to round up a little bit of what we learned here for anyone who might need it. There are a few things here that we learned about flying with pets by trial and error. Thankfully, everyone made it to Alaska in one piece and with minimal emotional damage so I think I would call our first experience flying with pets a success. Here’s everything you need to know about flying with pets from our experience:
Contact your airline ahead of time
When flying with pets, contacting your airline is the only surefire way to get any questions you have answered with the correct information. If you’re flying with pets in cargo, you should also call the airline ahead of your flight in order to secure room for your pets on the flight. Some airlines have a limit to how many animals can be in cargo, as well as each area of the plane. Contacting your airline ahead of flying with pets also allows you to pay for their fee on the flight so you’re not worrying about it the day of your flight.
Research appropriate kennels and guidelines
Each airline is going to have different policies for pets so make sure you check their respective website to see what the requirements are before purchasing any travel gear for your pets. We used the Petmate Sky Kennels that were recommended through the Alaska Airlines website. I think the general rule of thumb is to order a kennel that is one size bigger than what your dog would generally need. We also had to replace the plastic fasteners with metal hardware. In the carriers, rather than using beds I just purchased a twin pack of washable potty pads. Neither of the dogs used the bathroom during the trip but it gave me peace of mind to have something in there, just in case and it was also nicer for them to lay on than just the hard plastic.
Get your pets used to their kennels and carriers
I think this is one of the best things you can do prior to flying with pets! We basically just let the dogs and cat investigate their respective carriers and had them around so that they could go check them out whenever they wanted to. Scout, our cat, actually loves being in her carrier and would just lay in it for hours before our trip so I knew that she wouldn’t have a problem being in it for a long period of time. Both of the dogs are kennel trained so I also wasn’t that worried about them being in the carriers. If your dog isn’t kennel trained, however, I highly suggest starting that process well ahead of your trip.
Take food and water with you to the airport
One of the requirements for our airline was that the kennels have a food and water bowl attached to it for pets flying in cargo. We made sure to bring a small bag of dog food with us as well as a water bottle to the airport so that we could fill up each bowl when we dropped the dogs off. The airport staff was really good about making sure that we were able to get the dogs comfortable and settled before we left to go through security. We didn’t think the cat would eat during our trip but we made sure to have a bowl of food in her carrier for her just in case though I don’t recommend this because she ended up smiling it everywhere. Just take a ziplock baggy of food and a bowl so that you can offer it to them whenever you get a chance.
Have collars and leashes ready
One thing I didn’t know about flying with pets is how much they’re actually out of their carriers. When flying with pets in cargo you have to drop them off at the oversized baggage counter after getting checked in for your flight. TSA scans all of the items like they would if you were going through security which means you actually have to take your pets out of their carriers while TSA screens the kennels. We didn’t have their collars on them already which made things a little stressful so I would make sure to have collars on with leashes attached that way you’re ready when you get to this point. I was so afraid Gatsby was going to make a run for it while my husband was trying to get his leash on. This is also a good idea if you’re flying with pets as a carry on because you will need to remove your pets from their carrier when you’re going through security. We made sure to have Scout, our cat, ready with her leash and harness so that she wouldn’t bolt when the carrier was opened. I wish I had a picture of Justin and her walking through security.
Locate pet relief areas in airport before your flight
It’s a good idea to download a copy of the maps for the airports you’ll be traveling through so that you can locate the nearest pet relief areas if you’re flying with a pet as a carry on. We put the dogs in cargo so we didn’t have to worry about this too much but it’s good information to have if you’re flying with dogs.