This year Bella and I have crisscrossed the country going from Maryland to California – and back again 4 times in 7 months. That’s close to 12,000 miles (too bad I can’t get frequent flyer miles for her)! It helps that she is an absolute angel. And I’m not just saying that because she’s mine. People are always shocked to realize that there was a dog on the flight. I know it really has nothing to do with me. It is completely because of her personality. She is seriously the sweetest thing ever. Her name really suits her: Bella Amor (And no, I did not name her after Bella from Twilight, she was born in 2005 before the movies came out and I definitely did NOT read those books). Anyway, just had to clear that up hahaha!
Unfortunately, she does not like flying (look at her face in that picture!), she tolerates it. But we have both accumulated some serious miles this year and I thought I’d share my tips for traveling with a dog. Unfortunately this only applies to dogs small enough to be carried on the plane as a carry-on. I honestly feel so sorry for people that have larger dogs because I wouldn’t be able to check them under the plane.
So, here are my tips:
- Make sure she’s used to the bag she’ll be traveling in. Bella has never liked being in bags. She had never flown prior to this year so I was nervous about her reaction. I borrowed a bag from my Mom and put treats in it, practiced putting her it, but still allowing her head to be out, left it open so that she could sniff around and go inside if she wanted to, and carried her in it around the house.
- Know your airline’s pet policies. Make sure that your airline allows dogs to be on the flight. Some allow for only 2 dogs on 1 flight and some say that 1 person is allowed to have 1 dog. Some require that you notify them before you arrive at the airport and some just tell you to show up and pay for the dog’s ticket when you check in. Here are some pet policies for the major airlines: US Airways, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines.
- Get to the airport early. Make sure you have enough time to check your bags and get the ticket for your dog. It takes a little longer than usual. Since your dog can only go to the bathroom outside of the secure area, I try to wait as long as I can to take her out and then I go through security. You have to judge it based on how long the security line is – you don’t want to cut it too close.
- Bring her leash and harness/collar with bags. Most airports have designated pet relief areas. Depending on how long you’ve been traveling, there’s a good chance that your dog will need to relieve herself, just like you. Be prepared by having an idea of where the pet relief area is. Most airports have these areas listed on their website, if they don’t, you can ask an airport employee. With all the commotion, it is a good idea to have your leash and harness easily accessible in case your dog has been waiting a long time to go to the bathroom and she can relieve herself as quickly as possible. Some of those pet relief areas are hard to find! Also, if she happens to get startled by cars, planes, people or other dogs, you have her on the leash. Have the bags ready to clean up in case the airport doesn’t supply any.
- Give yourself enough time between flights. If you have to transfer flights, make sure your layover is long enough for your dog to get some time to go to the bathroom as well as walk around. Unfortunately, all of the pet relief areas that I’ve seen are outside of the secure area. So that means you have to go back through security! Not fun. I almost missed a flight the first time going to California. Your dog is cooped up in that bag for hours at a time, so they need to be able to stretch and do doggy things 🙂
- Buy bottled water. They won’t let you bring any liquid into the secure area, so you have to pay the airport’s inflated price for water, but it’s worth it. I am always so thirsty when I get off of a flight, and so is Bella. After a flight, the first thing I do is go straight to the pet relief area – before I even go (TMI much?). Once we’ve on through security again, I buy a bottle of water and ask for a cup (the cups they use on the plane are a perfect size for her also). I pour the water in the cup and she drinks from the cup. Once she’s done, I pour it back in the bottle for her to use later.
- Bring snacks. Your dog can only eat in between flights, but she’ll be hungry too. Or you can get something for her at the food court.
- Put your dog in her bag at the last possible moment. I feel so bad for her in that small bag for so long, so I’m literally putting her head in the bag as I walk down the ramp. Otherwise, she’s sitting in the chair next to me or on my lap.
- Stay calm. Your dog knows you and can sense if you’re tense or if you’re calm. If you’re nervous about flying, your dog will be nervous about flying. If you’re calm, you have a better chance of your dog being calm. When we’re on the plane, I always make sure that the mesh part of the bag is facing me so that Bella can look up and see me and I make sure that my legs are close to her so that she can smell me.
- Know your dog. If you don’t think that your dog will tolerate air travel, see if someone can babysit. I really didn’t have an option because we moved to California. But if it’s a short trip, it may be better to leave her at home, if she doesn’t have the temperament for traveling. If at all possible, bring someone with you. When Bella and I moved to California, we were so blessed to have my friend Kristen come with us. It helped SO much to have someone with me.
I hope these tips help you and your fur baby have a great trip! Do you have any tips or tricks for traveling with a dog – even a large dog? Leave your questions and comments below.
Have a Beautiful Day!