Air Travel 101

Dogs in a SuitcaseBy Kelsey Duckett

Some pets don’t like to go far from home, and their idea of a great getaway includes nothing more than a pet carrier and a car ride. But if you have a four-legged companion who thinks they’re human, and expects to go everywhere you go, then planning ahead is a must.

Check out these tips 
for safe and happy travels:


  • Any necessary medication
  • Blankets and/or a travel dog bed
  • Poop bags for cleaning up messes
  • Dry food packed in plastic resealable bags or cans of wet food (don’t forget the opener!)
  • Treats
  • Two bowls, one for food and one for water
  • Two leashes, in case one gets lost or broken
  • Bottled water
  • Copies of recent vaccination documentation
  • Your vet’s contact information
  • An emergency contact form
  • Current photo of your pet


  • Fly direct whenever possible.
  • Airlines require animals to be at least eight-weeks-old and fully weaned before traveling.
  • Only pets in good health and behavior can fly.
  • Bring copies of current medical and vaccination records from your vet.
  • To avoid temperature extremes, fly at night in the summer and during the day in winter months.
  • Contact the airline to reserve a space for your pet as early as possible.
  • Reconfirm this within 36 hours of departure.
  • Make sure the carrier is clearly labeled with your name, phone number, and e-mail.
  • Keep your dog’s collar on. It should have a tag that clearly shows his name and your contact information, including a phone number where you can be reached during your travels.


  • Acclimate your dog to their carrier well before the flight.
  • Feed your dog within four hours of check-in and keep water on hand to hydrate your dog while waiting for boarding
  • Take a long walk before arriving at the airport, and a short walk before going through security. It is important to exercise and tire out your dog prior to the flight to help keep them as calm as possible.


  • Travel with plastic, not wire carriers, as no part of the animal should protrude from the cage.
  • Be sure the carrier fits. Your pet should be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
  • Carriers must have a solid, leak-proof floor covered with a towel or other absorbent lining in case of accidents.

Make sure to ask yourself if your dog will be comfortable on the plane. When in doubt, drive! While most airlines do accept pets traveling in the cargo area, TAILS does not recommend this option, and only encourages flying when 
your pet can travel with you in the cabin. Some airlines do allow you to purchase an actual seat for your pet.

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