Planning to fly with Fido? Luckily for small dog owners, we have the luxury of traveling with our four-legged friend right at our feet! My dog has accompanied me on numerous flights back and forth between Dallas to Seattle over the years, starting when he was just a pup. He handles the trip like a champ, but there are plenty of things I learned about flying with your dog that forced me to change the way I traveled. Here are some of my best dog-friendly travel tips to help prepare you and your pup for the plane! 

travel tips for flying with your dog - dog in carrier

Find out if your dog is able to travel

I got lucky and found my dog was an easy traveler. But not all breeds are suitable for flying, and not all airlines will accept all breeds. Your dog’s size, age, and temperament are factors to consider too. If you dog suffers from anxiety, you may need to consult your vet to double-check that air travel is even a safe option for your dog. Make sure you find out all of the airline’s restrictions before you book your flight!

Get your dog accustomed to their travel carrier

Take your dog for rides in the car often and always in the same carrier so he’ll get used to the feel. If you have the luxury of planning far in advance, this is the best tip I have! As soon as I got my dog, I did this with him for every single car ride. It became so routine that he would immediately fall asleep in the carrier as soon as the car started moving. Bonus- I would even bring the carrier inside the house and leave it out for him to hop in any time he wanted. He loved it so much, it became like another dog bed to him!

Do some research about the airport before you fly

Most airports now have designated pet relief areas. As of last year, Federal regulation requires all airports serving more than 10,000 passengers a year to have at least one relief area in each terminal. Do your research online ahead of time, and look up maps of the airports you’ll be flying to and from. Once you know your terminal and gate number, you can scope out the nearest pet areas. Major airports are becoming more and more dog-friendly, so you may be surprised to find a dog park or dog boarding available at your airport!

travel tips for flying with your dog - passenger carrying dog

Bring a copy of your dog’s vaccines

You never know when you’ll have to prove that your dog is up-to-date on his vaccines. Talk to your vet, get a hard copy of all vaccinations, and keep them handy in your carry-on, just in case! Whether it’s the airport, the airlines, or even the hotel you’re headed to, they may want to see proof.

Get all the energy out before you get to the airport

Do everything you can to tire your dog out before you arrive at the airport! Go for a long walk, throw a ball, play games, etc. This is the key for anyone flying with your dog! Get rid of all that energy and hopefully your pooch will be tired enough to sleep through the flight.

Feed your dog well before you fly

Don’t feed your dog right before the flight. Give him plenty of time to eat and go outside before you ever get to the terminal. That last thing you want to deal with is your dog having an accident in the airport… Believe me, I’ve been there and it’s as mortifying as it sounds.

travel tips for flying with your dog - man walking dog through airport

Pack your dog’s travel essentials

Which brings me to the next tip: pack your carry-on with all the doggy essentials! Pack poop bags (this is what saved me from the aforementioned embarrassment!) and also bring something for your dog to drink water from. Just don’t let him drink too much before the flight. It also helps to bring a new toy or a bone, something that will keep your dog occupied for a while during the flight.

Know how to go through security

When you get to security, you’ll have to remove your dog’s leash and collar and carry your dog through the metal detector. The rest of your and your dog’s belongings will go through the X-ray machine. If this sounds stressful to you, I recommend not packing anything high maintenance in your carry-on, like liquids or a laptop. It will save you one less step when going through security!

Reconsider what’s important in your carry-on

On that note, you may want to reconsider packing other things you’d normally bring on a flight. Since my dog counted as one of my carry-ons, I had to be very strategic about what I included in my other bag. I always traveled with my laptop, but I would skip bringing a full-size purse. Instead, I’d use a clutch that could easily be slipped in to my laptop bag to avoid going over my two-bag allowance.

travel tips for flying with your dog - dog in carrier under airplane seat

Give your dog ice cubes during the flight

I didn’t want my dog to drink water before flying, but at the same time I didn’t want him to get dehydrated on the plane. My solution was to order an ice water for myself, and then give him the ice cubes in his carrier. He loves ice cubes so much, this was the same as giving him dog treats. Plus, it kept him from getting too thirsty, so it was a win-win.

Once you get to your destination, you and your dog can stretch your legs and both enjoy a long walk! All in all, if you do your research and prepare in advance, there’s no reason you and your pup can’t enjoy traveling together. If you have other flying tips for your fellow dog owners, please share in the comments below!

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