Travelling with your pet is not impossible nor does it have to be a nightmare. Charlie is quite the frequent flyer and has grown accustom to check-ins and security checkpoints. Fellow passengers are often amazed to discover at the end of a flight that he was in his bag sleeping the whole entire flight. They often ask me if he was drugged and I often respond with, “I was, he was not.” I knew from the start that we would be flying partners and so at the ripe age of 12 weeks, Charlie became the new owner of a travel bag and an owner who had some time to drive him around the city limits of Lincoln, Nebraska. Once he associated his “bag” with “fun”, travelling became second nature. However, it is understandable that not everyone has the opportunity to train their pets by driving around in a car; there are some preemptive steps you can take to make travelling a little bit easier on your pet and yourself.
1. If you think you will be travelling by car, train, boat, or plane at any given time in you and your pet’s life, start by taking him out for short car rides. Some pets are known to get car sick, so this is where your vet comes in. She can prescribe some anti-nausea medication (think Dramamine for dogs) to help ease their motion sickness. Once your pet does well on short car rides, extend their travel time in a car a little bit longer until they seem to be one with the car and the road. I would suggest starting this as soon as possible (when they are puppies) while they are still learning and adjusting to life in general.
2. Get a travel bag (size permitted, of course) that is approved by the airlines and get your pet to love this bag. Help them associate the bag with good times, throw treats in the bag, make it exciting, and fun. There are tons of options for pet bags, you can go couture or you can go basic. Petco and Petsmart are good places to find basic and comfortable travel bags. Charlie will tell us if he likes a bag by rolling around in it. If your pet cannot move and gives you that “look”, do not force them to love that bag; it is like buying jeans that hurt.
3. Health certificate. Most airlines have “travelling with pets” policies listed on their website. Most will tell you the cost, $100-150 and they will list what you will need to get for your pet prior to travel. The most important thing is usually a health certificate from your vet clearing your pet for travel.
4. Please note that when you travel with a pet, you must book your flight first. Once you receive your confirmation number, you need to call the airline’s reservation hotline and inform them that you are travelling with a pet. Some airlines will allow you to check in online (i.e., Jet Blue) but in all cases, you will need to see someone at the counter to get your boarding pass. Most airlines are pet friendly now and will not give you too much trouble when approach the ticket counter and ask for your boarding pass. They will see on their screen you are travelling with a pet and will ask you for the health certificate.
5. Make sure your pet has used the restroom prior to leaving for the airport. If you have time, let them use the restroom one more time before heading into the airport. Most dogs will use the poles around the airports anyway. In some cases, there are parks nearby if your pet is used to grassy restrooms instead. Also, do not feed your pet anything out of the ordinary before travelling.
6. Lastly, on longer flights where there are layovers, make sure you bring some of their favorite snacks and a portable bowl to keep them hydrated.
Flying with a pet for the first time can be quite nerve-racking, but if you prepare and have the chance to train your pet, you might be pleasantly surprised at how well they can do even though the longest flights and roughest turbulence. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Charlie is thisclose to having his own frequent flyer rewards number. Happy travels!