Travel Tactics: Flying With Fido

How to vacation with your four-pawed companion.

By Hannah Wallace | Illustration by Kirsten Ulve

Traveling with your pet can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be if you plan ahead. These days many airlines, restaurants and vacation rentals welcome pets. We interviewed a range of pros—from the American Veterinary Medical Association to frequent travelers to authors who write about the subject—for tips on how to safely bring your furry sidekick along.

Visit the vet.

Just as you should be in tip-top shape before traveling, so should your pooch. Make an appointment to see a veterinarian about 10 days before your departure date, advises Erin Ballinger, content editor at BringFido.com. That way your pet’s health certificate, testifying that she is free of infectious diseases, will be up to date.

Do your research.

If you are flying internationally, there may be special requirements such as microchipping your canine companion or securing a “pet passport,” so be sure to contact the consulate or embassy of your destination months before you depart. Keep all documentation easily accessible.

Book at pet-friendly lodgings and restaurants.

It’s important that you find a place to stay that welcomes animals since many have strict no-pet rules. Sites such as BringFido.com and PetsWelcome.com list pet-friendly accommodations, including campgrounds. Some will roll out the red carpet, stocking your room with a plush bed or food bowl and inviting dogs to join you at events like a nightly wine reception. It’s always a good idea to confirm via phone that the property is pet-friendly, just in case.

Fly nonstop.

Dog lover and pet reporter Julia Szabo encourages owners to research airlines ahead of time to find out what their pet policies and fees are. Equally important: talking to people at your local dog run to get an idea of the airlines’ reputations. If you are flying with your pup—even if he’s small enough to join you in the cabin—consider booking a nonstop flight. “Most dogs that get lost during a flight do so on a layover, when they escape during a break or transfer,” says frequent traveler Sarah Milstein, who has flown her dog Eggs from coast to coast many times.

Consider medications carefully.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) discourages giving your pet tranquilizers before flying. “It can increase the risk of respiratory and heart problems, especially in short-nosed dogs and cats,” explains AVMA media-relations specialist Michael San Filippo. Some airlines even require a signed statement that your pet has not been tranquilized before a flight.

Boarding may be better.

Certain pets—whether due to medical conditions or temperament—might be better off staying home. “If it puts a lot of stress on your animal to travel, think about boarding them instead,” says Szabo. Or hire a trusted pet sitter. After all, the next best thing to being with your furry friends is knowing they are safe and sound.

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Spring 2017