A guide to travelling with pets

A guide to travelling with pets

Ever wished you could bring your pup along on your adventures? 

If you have, you probably already know how stressful and costly planning to bring your pup can be! For short trips the cost usually isn't worth it but if you are going on a longer trip then maybe you would like to bring along your furry companions. This is our guide on how to travel safely with your pets.

Flying with pets

Flying in the Cabin

If transporting your pet by air is the only option, find out whether they can travel in the cabin with you. Most airlines will allow you to take a cat or small dog in the cabin for a reasonable fee. But you must call the airline well in advance and there are limits to the number of animals allowed in the cabin. If you are transporting a dog (or a chunky cat!), make sure they meet the size requirements. Most airlines have an 8kg weight limit (including the pet carrier) but this can vary depending on the airline you go with.

If you get overwhelmed by all the regulations, there are companies that can help you navigate through the process of flying with a pet. Make sure to check out as many reviews as possible on any company you select and always ask your vet if they have any organisations they would recommend, given feedback from other clients. 

Ask these questions if your pet is flying in the cabin

When you contact the airline, be sure to get clear answers to these questions:

  • Will the airline allow you to take your cat or small dog in the cabin with you?
  • Does the airline have any special pet health and immunization requirements?
  • Does the airline require a specific type of carrier? Most airlines will accept either hard-sided carriers or soft-sided carriers (which may be more comfortable for your pet), but only certain brands of soft-sided carriers are acceptable to certain airlines.
  • If you can't take your pet in the cabin, does the airline have any restrictions on transporting your pet in the cargo hold?

Take precautions when bringing your pet through airport security

Your pet's carrier will have to pass through the security screening along with you. You have two options: Either be sure your pet is securely harnessed so you can safely contain them outside their carrier while it's being x-rayed, or request a special secondary screening that won't require you to take them out of their carrier.

If your pet is small enough to travel in the cabin and you think this would be a good option for you and your pet then look online for “airline approved” pet carriers.

Flying in the Cargo Hold

While most animals flown in the cargo area of aeroplanes are fine, you should be aware that some animals are killed, injured or lost on commercial flights each year. Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation and rough handling are often to blame.

Most U.K & U.S airlines are required to report all companion animal incidents that occur in the cargo hold, and consumers should study the performance record of any airline before choosing to fly your pet in a cargo hold.

A key thing to note here is that although flying in the cargo hold is normally fine for dogs, cats can become much more stressed and it is generally not advisable for them to travel this way unless absolutely necessary.

Follow these tips if your pet must fly in the cargo hold

If your pet must travel in the cargo hold, you can increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet by following these tips.

  • Use direct flights. You will avoid the mistakes that occur during airline transfers and possible delays in getting your pet off the plane.
  • Travel on the same flight as your pet when possible. Ask the airline if you can watch your pet being loaded into the cargo hold and unloaded.
  • When you board the plane, at least one flight attendant that your pet is traveling in the cargo hold. There are no guarantees but if the flight team knows that pets are on board, they may take special precautions.
  • Don't ever allow brachycephalic animals such as Pekingese dogs, bulldogs or Persian cats in the cargo holds.
  • If traveling during the summer or winter months, choose flights that will accommodate the temperature extremes. Early morning or late evening flights are better in the summer; afternoon flights are better in the winter.
  • Fit your pet with a collar that can't get caught in carrier doors. Affix two pieces of identification on the collar: a permanent ID with your name and home address and telephone number, and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.
  • Affix a travel label to the carrier on which you've written your name, permanent address and telephone number, final destination and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
  • Make sure that your pet's nails have been clipped to protect against them getting hooked in the carrier's door, holes and other crevices.
  • Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the travel carrier. This will minimize their stress during travel.
  • Do not give your pet tranquillizers unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian. Make sure your veterinarian understands that the prescription is for air travel. There are many risks associated with sedating animals for travel so make sure to discuss these with your vet.
  • Do not feed your pet for four to six hours before the trip. However, you can give them small amounts of water. If possible, put ice cubes in the water tray attached to the inside of your pet's crate or kennel. (A full water bowl will only spill and cause discomfort.)
  • Try not to fly with your pet during busy travel times such as holidays and the summer. Your pet is more likely to undergo rough handling during hectic travel periods.
  • Carry a current photograph of your pet. If your pet is lost during the trip, a photograph will make it much easier for airline employees to search effectively.
  • When you arrive at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place and examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Get the results of the examination in writing, including the date and time.

Alternatives to flying with pets

One alternative to the stresses of air travel is ground travel, however, this comes with its own pitfalls. Primarily, the big risk is that you trust a company to transport your pet and they do not properly look after them. Trust us - there are some real horror stories out there. If you must go with a ground transport company, make sure to check reviews on independent sites and talk to your vet to see if they have heard any reviews, just as with air travel they can be a great source of information on these things.

Instead, you might consider travelling by train or bus with your pet. The Jacks Flight Club team has found that most countries in Europe are great for travelling on public transport with pets. We found this great article that collates some of the best countries/service providers if you do choose this option.

Always remember when travelling with pets that you need to have their vaccinations up to date and a record of them to travel with. Many countries now require your pet to have their own passport so make sure to talk to your vet about this well in advance of your trip.

If you use Jack’s Flight Club to find a flight deal for your trip with your pet then drop us an email, we love to hear about your adventures!