1. Confirm reservations for your pet – contact your airline and tell them you are traveling with a pet. Do this whether your pet is flying in the cabin, as checked baggage or air cargo. Do this before you book your ticket to be sure your airline has not met its limits on the number of pets they will carry on your flight. If you can’t pay for your pet’s passage online, then you will pay at the check-in counter.
2. Book a window seat – if your dog or cat is flying in the cabin with you, reserve a window seat. This removes your pet from the traffic in the aisle so it will be less distracted, stay calmer and can focus on your reassurances. Also, with all the cabin redesigns of late, electronics powering seat back screens and such can wind up under the center seat, thus eating up any space for your pet carrier.
3. Stay connected – sign up for flight notifications from your airline via text and email alerts. You can also get the FlightStats app which gives you real-time flight status and is free for Android and iOS phones. Amazon Echo can monitor flight status of most major American-based airlines, provide wait times at security, weather at your destination, call Uber or Lyft and provide translations for foreign countries.
Don’t forget to add your airline’s reservation number into your mobile device in case any delays or cancellations occur. If your pet is flying as air cargo, add the number of your airline’s cargo facility.
4. Do your research – check your layover airport to see if there are any pet relief areas behind security gates. Many US airports have them but unfortunately, few foreign airports do. (carry spare pet pads) Find pet hospitals and veterinarians in your destination city. Be prepared in the case of emergencies. Also find pet friendly hotels, parks and restaurants so you and your pet can enjoy your stay together. If you are thinking about attending an attraction that does not accept pets, find a doggie day care and contact them for their requirements.
5. Get your pet microchipped – this is one of the most important things you can do. A pet microchip is your pet’s identification should you become separated from it. Don’t forget to register your chip with your cell phone number in the registration. No good if officials are trying to contact you at home when you are out of town.
6. Don’t forget your pet’s documentation – if you are flying with your pet internationally, you should already have your pet’s rabies certificate, health certificate and other permits and tests that may be required to enter your pet’s destination country. More on international pet import requirements.
Take a selfie of you and your pet on your mobile phone for identification.
7. Check your equipment – your pet carrier should be clean, without tears, and zippers should operate correctly. Make sure you have everything you need to make your pet crate IATA-compatible if your pet is traveling in the cargo hold. Put your pet’s documentation in a plastic Zip lock bag and tape it to the top of your pet’s crate and mark it ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS – DO NOT REMOVE. Tape a bit of food as well if you are taking a long trip. Freeze water in your pet’s water bowl to minimize spillage during handling. Attach crate hardware and live animal stickers to the crate. Put a good pet crate pad in the crate to keep your pet dry and comfortable during the trip. More on preparing your pet’s crate for travel.
8. Assemble essentials – put everything your pet needs in one place: leash, collar, medications, treats, food, grooming items, wipes and anything else your pet will need. No toys or chews will be allowed in pet crates, so you will need to carry them with you.
9. Pre-Boarding exercise – leave extra time for walking your pet at home before leaving for the airport. This not only relaxes them but tires them out and helps to ease the stress of traveling. As always, be considerate to others and the environment and clean up after your pet.
10. Relax – have a long layover in a US airport? Consider joining your airline’s club so you can relax in their lounge if they permit pets. Centurion Lounges for American Express Platinum card members permit well behaved pets in carriers. They are located in the following airports: Dallas/Fort Worth (Terminal D), Intercontinental Houston (Terminal D), Las Vegas McCarran (Concourse D), Miami International (Concourse D), NY LaGuardia (Terminal B – pre-security), San Francisco (Terminal 3) and Seattle-Tacoma (Concourse B). Members of United Club and Delta Sky Club can also enjoy their well behaved pets in their lounges. If your pet is flying as air cargo, this is a good time to contact the cargo office and request an update on your pet’s transport.
Much more information on flying with your pet can be found in our pet travel information section.