There’s Amazon affiliate links here. I have to tell you that. You probably don’t care.
My little Bear is quite the traveler – in under three years he’s clocked twenty four flights for a total of about 30,000 miles. In all of those flights, I’ve used just about every combination of bags you can imagine. I put in the grunt work (and the pinched nerves) so you don’t have to, because I’ve found the perfect combination. Oh yeah, and just in case it’s not obvious, Teddy always flies in cabin with me.
Anyone who flies can tell you that you never check a bag, and even when I fly with Teddy I’m still not willing to waste that extra time and money at baggage claim. Teddy counts as one of my carry-ons, which means that I only get one bag. That’s right, no purse, no laptop bag, just ONE BAG. But it’s possible. In fact, I pride myself on being able to get myself, Teddy, liquids, and at least one laptop through security without breaking a stride. (More tips for that at the end of this post.)
First things first, you’ll need a carrier for your pet. Check with your airline for the exact dimensions required before buying a bag, please don’t just go by my word. After trying several different bags, I finally found one that works the best for me – the ARGO Action Petpack Carrier. Here’s my tour of this Teddy-approved bag:
Now, this bag has been discontinued. Because of course it has. But the Pet Gear I-GO2 Traveler Roller Backpack is similar. The most important thing to look for in a carrier is a backpack with heavily padded straps. Your pet may feel light at home, but after trekking through an airport with one of those duffel bag style carriers slung over one shoulder, it will feel like you’re carrying a Great Dane. The backpack really makes a huge difference – I don’t get pinched nerves anymore, and my neck/shoulders/back don’t hurt on arrival.
Next up: your bag. You need a bag that will fit all of your stuff while allowing you easy access to your phone, ID, e-reader, etc. Plus, it needs to be easy to maneuver, because when flying with a pet you really need to have everything as streamlined as possible. Enter the Elleven rolling backpack. (You’ll notice a giant Purina logo on mine. Yeah, I got it for free from Purina. But I would have paid probably any amount of money for this bag. I love it so much.)
This bag is perfect for long weekends, but I’m still searching for that mythical perfect week-long rolling bag.
Carrying on with the theme of this post, this bag isn’t readily available either. It looks like it’s a promo special, but you can order single blank bags from Leeds. The Elleven Compu-Backpack and the Other Elleven Compu-Backpack are pretty much the same bag, but they don’t roll. The High Sierra Freewheel and the California Pak Winder are very similar, but the low price makes me question the quality; I don’t know how well those would hold up to heavy travel.
So how’s that for a remarkably unhelpful post? But enough of my “this bag is great oh wait you can’t buy it” rambling. Here are some of my top tips for successfully flying with a pet.
1. Plan ahead, and know your pet’s schedule.
How often does your dog usually go out? How much water do they normally drink? How much and how often do they usually eat? Do your best not to disrupt this schedule too much. You will want to limit food and water before takeoff. (You don’t want to deal with dog diarrhea in an airport. Ask me how I know.) Check the airports you’ll be traveling through to see what kind of pet accommodations they have – most airports have a place where you can walk your dog. Make sure to bring some dry food, and a small cup for water, so you can offer them to your dog.
2. To drug or not to drug?
Talk to your vet before you fly with your pet. After talking to my vet, and knowing my dog, we decided that it would be best for Teddy to take a sedative before flying. He doesn’t take enough to knock him out, just enough to get him mellow and chill. He typically sleeps through the flight, and because he’s so drowsy he usually doesn’t want to eat or go to the bathroom.
3. Collars and leashes.
Even if your pet is microchipped (and they totally should be) you want to have a collar with tags on them while you’re traveling. And make sure to have your cell phone number on the tags. I personally have my cell and my Twitter handle on Teddy’s tags. When you go through security, you’ll have to take everything off your pet and carry them through the metal detector. In order to make this process go as fast as possible, you should already have your pet’s leash and harness off and stored in your bag. Have them wear either a loose collar that you can easily slide off their head, or a collar with a quick release that you can get off quickly.
4. The Security Line
This is where we separate the women from the girls. Getting through security with a pet requires a finely choreographed routine, planned in advance. Start before you get to the line. Make sure your laptop and liquids are easily accessible. Go ahead and take off your jacket and belt and put them in your bag. You know you’ll need your ID and boarding pass, so have those in your hand. After you hand them to the TSA agent, quickly store them in an easily accessible pocket in your bag. While you’re bent over, grab your liquids and your laptop. You’ll get a sense for the rhythm of the line, pause when the person in front of you pauses, move when you can, this way you’re not holding up anyone behind you. Now grab a bin, and put your laptop, liquids, and shoes in the bin. Do I really need to tell you to wear shoes that you can easily slip in and out of? Put your carry on on the belt, and swing your pet off of your back and onto the belt while unzipping the backpack. While you wait for the bags in front of you to go, remove your pet’s collar and put it in the bag while lifting your pet into your arms. It’s like an elegant dance. Once you’re through, grab everything and move to a bench. You can take your time getting situated again.
5. Getting on the Plane
Your pet will be under your seat, which means that your bag will be in the overhead bin. While you’re waiting on the jetway, go ahead and grab your book. When you get to your seat, put your book and your pet on the seat while you stow your bag. If there’s something else you need, you can get it out once you’re in the air and the fasten seatbelt sign is off. I like to keep my book with me so I have something to read before and during takeoff. You can also go ahead and grab your laptop and put it in the seat pocket if you want.
6. Keep Calm
Things probably will not go perfectly, especially the first time you fly with your pet. The first time I flew with Teddy, I broke one of my own rules and checked my bag to make things easier. It will be okay. Don’t get flustered, just take your time. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport before your flight, and make sure you reserve your pet’s spot when you book your ticket. To do that, call the airline’s reservation number and let them know that you’ll be flying with a pet. Airlines allow a limited number of pets on each flight, and you want to make sure your buddy gets on! Most airlines won’t let you pre-pay for a pet, so be ready to do that when you check in. You’ll also have to check in at the desk, not at a kiosk, so allow time for that.
Amazon items included in this post:
Do you have any questions about flying with an in-cabin pet? Ask away! And if you have any tips and tricks of your own, please share!