My dog Denali has been flying with me since almost our first day together six years ago. I’ve flown with her to Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and North Carolina with layovers in almost every city in between. Having traveled with a dog who has racked up (almost) as many frequent flier miles as I have, I’ve gotten our system down pat. I get asked about this all the time, so here are my tips and tools for flying drama free with your furry friend:
Sherpa Deluxe Pet Carrier
I actually got my Sherpa carrier before I even got Denali from the foster mom ( I was all kinds of excited for her arrival from South Carolina), hoping it would be the right size. Back then Denali was about 10 pounds, nowadays she is more like 12, but the medium bag is the perfect size. This bag has several features I really like, mainly that there are large mesh panels on three sides and there is a zip pocket on the back where I can store things like her leash and harness. I also like that there is a fleece bottom, even though I still add a blanket because Denali loves nothing more than extra fluffiness to curl up in.
Southwest Pet Carrier
The only con about the Southwest bag is that it’s too big for the regional jets, which I now fly more often since my parents moved from Texas to North Carolina. For these flights, which have stricter pet carrier size restrictions, I use the Southwest Airlines pet carrier as it’s slightly shorter and has completely flexible sides.
Pet Travel Accessories
Alfie Collapsible Silicone Water Bowls
I never travel without one of these with me. They fold completely flat so they store easily in a bag and they are easy to wipe dry with a paper towel. I try to not give Denali too much water once we get to the airport so she doesn’t need to use the bathroom while we are on the plane, but just in case we get delayed or we have a bit of a layover, it’s good to have a way for her to drink water on the go.
My dog is fairly nervous overall, but when I first got her she was extremely skittish. I started flying with her two weeks after I adopted her, so my mom sent me a Thundershirt to help with her nerves. The Thundershirt is basically just a knit shirt made up of several panels that velcro together to wrap your pet up nice and snug so they feel secure. To be honest, I was fairly skeptical that it would do anything, but amazingly I could tell a huge difference once she started wearing it. Even though Denali isn’t quite as nervous anymore, I highly recommend one of these if your pet is at all a nervous traveler.
I never travel without a small stash of treats! I usually pack some small training treats and one or two things that require a little bit of effort in case Denali starts getting a little restless.
If I can, I always fly Southwest when Denali is flying with me. Not only are they the cheapest at $95 each way, but they are by far the friendliest and most welcoming. Plus, I always know I can use my Sherpa carrier on their planes.
I have also flown Delta with Denali and usually they are fine as well. They are a bit more expensive at $125 each way and as I mentioned above, you risk stricter carrier dimensions depending on your aircraft (when you call to book the pet reservation they walk you through your size allowance), but otherwise I’ve never had much of an issue with them. Last time I flew Delta the gate agent even let me pre-board, which earned Delta extra brownie points in my book. That’s not part of their policy but I appreciate any extra step an airline takes to make my pet feel welcome on board, especially when I’ve paid quite a bit for her to be on the plane.
The last airline I want to point out is JetBlue. While I haven’t actually flown them yet with Denali, I always check their flights because it’s only $100 each way for a pet, plus you earn extra TrueBlue points on each segment you fly with your pet!
No matter which airline you fly, they all have a limit on how many pets can be in the cabin, so call the airline early to make your pet reservation. With Southwest and Delta ( I assume all airlines are the same) you must go to the counter at the airport when you check in to pay for your pet and get a tag for the carrier.
You will have to take your pet out of their carrier when you go through security, so make sure to keep their harness or collar on.
Yes, your pet can go through TSA Pre-Check with you.
Your pet counts as one of your two carry on items, which means I usually end up checking a bag (another reason I try to fly Southwest – bags are free!) Or if I’m not in the mood to check my bag, I’ll put my purse in the front pocket of my suitcase, then ask to gate check my bag and pull out my purse as I board the plane. Sneaky sneaky.
This information is for domestic US travel only. Hopefully Denali gets her passport one day and I can add in some international travel tips!
Any other questions about flying with pets or any other recommendations? Leave a comment below or DM me on Instagram @lindseyonthego.
This is a really helpful crash course! I’ve never flown with Wilson but I’m working on figuring out the logistics on transporting Wilson to Guatemala. I’m at a negative comfort level with putting him in cargo and I’m slightly afraid that at 20 (ish) pounds, he may not fit as a “carry-on”. Know anything about taking pets abroad? Or perhaps I’ll have to share my experience with it once it happens :p
I don’t know much about flying internationally and what research I have done is for Europe. I definitely agree with not putting him in cargo so I would check with whichever airline you end up flying what the maximum carrier you can have on the plane is and see how Wilson fits.