Travel with a dog…during the holidays…are you crazy?! Maybe. But there’s just something magical about being able to spend Christmas with everyone I love and that includes Scout. Plus ya know, my parents said don’t bother coming home if I don’t bring the dog. Fair. So let’s see: the holidays are already a stressful and busy time to travel. Is it really worth it to bring your dog (or cat!) with you? How big of a hassle is it? Below, I’ve answered some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) and even added a few bonus pro tips. So what are you waiting for? It’s wheels up!
How to Travel With a Dog
Q: What do you do about potty breaks?
A: This is a 3 part answer.
First, I limit Scout’s water intake. I usually pick his water bowl up a couple of hours before we’re going to leave. Then I take him for a walk or make sure he goes to the bathroom before we head to the airport.
Second, each airport usually has at least one animal relief station. Some airports have them more accessible than others but each usually has one. I would recommend doing a little research if you’re unfamiliar with the airport you’re traveling to. Some make it easy and have them near the gates. But I’ve found that some can be on a different floor or back out through security so be aware of where they are located since each airport is different. With that, if I’m crossing long distances (like when I go from LA to DC) I book a layover. This gives Scout time to get out of his bag and to try to find a place for him to go to the bathroom.
Third, if all else fails: use a doggy pee pad. I pack a couple with me on my carry on so if we have a layover where we can’t get to the relief station, I put the pad down in a bathroom stall and give Scout and opportunity to go.
Q: Do you have to stow your dog under the chair?
A: If your dog is small enough to fit in an airline regulated bag, then they will go under the seat in front of you.
I have seen bigger dogs either in a seat, where I’m assuming they had to purchase a seat for the dog or where they are stowed underneath in a kennel. Because Scout is small enough, I have only traveled with him under the seat in front of me. It also depends on the airline. Southwest for example only accepts pets in cabin.
Pro tip: Because your dog is under the seat in front of you, your carry on will have to go in the overhead bin. I almost always fly Southwest and when I’m traveling with Scout, I always way for the early bird special where they check me in automatically. By having an earlier board time, I’m more likely to have a spot for my backpack up above. One time, my connecting flight was late and I ran to my next plane. The overhead bin was already full and I had Scout so my backpack had to go under the seat of a random passenger who didn’t have a carry-on. Since my backpack contained my wallet, laptop, etc, it wasn’t the most ideal situation.
Pro tip 2: This is a take it or leave it but I like to sit by the window with Scout so that he doesn’t accidentally get kicked if people are trying to make their way out of the aisle for the bathroom.
Q: How did you train him to be ok with flying?
A: Scout is so well behaved that people oftentimes think he’s medicated. But Scout is remarkably well behaved traveling.
Something that I think was a really good foundation is I started flying with Scout immediately. He has been flying since he was just a puppy, under a year old. He’s used to it honestly. However, there are still a few things I do to make sure that the flight goes smoothly.
Within Scout’s carrier, I put a nice comfy bed for him so he can be comfortable. I also put a toy in with him. Not a squeaky one, let’s be clear. Wouldn’t want him squeaking a ball all through the flight. I stick to rope toys or harder toys that don’t make sound. Scout also loves wearing his tiny Broncos jersey. I think it acts like a thunder jacket for him. So consider a thunder jacket or even just a thin t-shirt as ridiculous as that sounds. But I think it always helps keep him calm.
Pro tip: I carry Scout through the airport. He gets heavy and it can be a pain to do everything one-handed. So why do I do it? First of all, people are rolling suitcases and running to flights. There are little kids and other dogs everywhere. I carry Scout so he doesn’t get stepped on, his leash isn’t tripped over, he doesn’t have an accident in the middle of the airport (which I’ve seen other dogs do), etc.
All of those reasons are enough for me but I think it also keeps him calm. Keeping Scout close to my chest and holding him close, I think it keeps him from being too overstimulated. Thinking from a dog perspective, an airport has tons of new smells, a lot of different energies, and lots and lots of giant people all around them. I think Scout would be much more stressed if I was walking him through the airport rather than carrying him.
Q: Do you have to consider any special vaccines before going to certain states or special paperwork?
A: Every time I take Scout somewhere new, I call my vet and ask if he needs any additional vaccines.
Other places and regions have other issues that they might be dealing with that you might not be where you’re coming from. Last year, when I went camping in May, I found out that Scout would need medicine for tick protection. For a lot of the trip, we were still going to be in California but Northern California has a tick problem when Southern California doesn’t. If you’re unsure about your pet’s health, you can get a letter from your vet (that you’ll have to pay for) that says they’re good to fly. Since Scout is in good health, gets checked out regularly, and it’s not something an airline has asked me for, I usually skip this step and just make sure he has the vaccines he needs. That being said, please research where you’re going. They may require certain things that other states might not. Just do your due diligence.
Q: What is the average cost to fly with a dog?
A: It is $90.00 both ways for Southwest to travel with a dog. They are one of the cheapest airlines. Each airline does have their own prices and even its own requirements.
Pro tip: I purchased the Southwest bag to fly with. (They have a newer version that you can purchase here) I never wanted to doubt even for a second that his bag wouldn’t meet the requirements for different airlines. One time, I was flying United and when I got to the counter, the woman said I couldn’t fly with my bag. I told her it was a Southwest bag so a Southwest representative was going to have to tell me that. Needless to say, it’s just peace of mind to have a bag that is clearly branded by an airline.
Q: How do you let the airline know you’re going to travel with a dog?
A: Any airline I’ve used, you just call the day before to reserve a spot for your dog.
It’s becoming more and more common for people to bring their pets with them and each airplane can only have a limited amount of pets. Definitely don’t show up and be told that it’s already reached that limit. During the holidays it will be especially crazy so don’t miss this step.
Bonus Pro Tips:
Tip 1: I got a Known Traveler Number (just google for more info) and it has changed my life whether Scout is traveling with me or not. It means that when I book my ticket, I put this number in and my boarding pass automatically has TSA pre-check e v e r y time. When you’re carrying a dog, his bag, and your backpack, not having to take off your coat, shoes, or take out your laptop is a game-changer. Take my word for it.
Tip 2: Pack snacks. It is much harder to pick up food at the airport when carrying a dog. Not impossible but a lot harder. I always make sure to pack some snacks so that if there isn’t an easy option, I have something with me.
Tip 3: Wait to put your dog into the carrying bag right up until you’re lining up to go on the plane. Then as soon as you get off the plane, get them out. It will be easier and will cause them less anxiety. But each dog is different. Being in a confined space could be comforting so play it by ear.
Tip 4: You have to go to the counter when you are traveling with a pet. You can drop your bags off curbside if you have time to wait in two lines but I just get it all done at once. You have to go to the counter, show them your animal, show them your bag, pay if it’s not an emotional support animal, etc.
Tip 5: Remember that this is all based on my experiences with my dog, usually with the same airline. Research is your best friend in this situation. Research the airline and your destination. Pay attention to your dog. You know them best.
Tip 6: Check out my blog post from way back when. I will link it down below. It includes everything I bring with me when I travel with my BFF.
Tip 7: Flying isn’t your thing? Traveling by car is obviously very simple because you have plenty of room and can bring whatever you need. Plus, you can stop for potty breaks whenever necessary. But what if you want to do a motorcycle road trip? Click here for a fantastic article about carriers, safety tips, and other accessories. Note: Riding a motorcycle alone or with your pet is the riskiest option so please take all necessary precautions. Safety is the #1 priority for you and your pet, always.
Everything You Need to Bring to Travel With a Dog:
I hope this helps. If you have any questions about how to travel with a dog, leave a comment down below.
Happy Tails to You,