Step by Step Guide to Flying with your Pet
First and foremost, inform the airline that you're bringing your pet in the cabin with you.
Most airlines put a limit on the number of pets allowed in the cabin and you don't want to risk being told you can't bring your pet because there are already too many other people bringing their pets on the flight as well. If you can't add your pet to your reservation through the airline's website or app, call the airline to make your reservation and let them know you're bringing your pet.
Make sure you have the right supplies.
Almost immediately after getting Vienna, I purchased this travel bag. It's approved by almost all major airlines and fits perfectly under the seat in front of you. Vienna is super comfortable inside it with the Sherpa lining and the mesh lets her see her surroundings. It also works well as your carry-on. Most airlines allow you one carry-on and one personal item. This travel bag has some a small pocket that I can fit some treats in, her collapsible travel bowls and a pee-pad.
Don't let your pet eat or drink too much before the flight
Especially on long haul flights, you want to make sure your pet doesn't have a full tummy or bladder. You know how uncomfortable it is to have to pee so bad but no way to get to the rest room, that's essentially how your pet will feel if you load them up on water and food before a flight. You also don't want to risk your pet relieving themselves in their carrier in the cabin.
AT THE AIRPORT AND DURING THE FLIGHT
Check-in and going through security
Give yourself plenty of time to go through check-in and security before your boarding time. You will have to check-in with an agent at the airline counter. The agent will make sure that your pet carrier is the right size and will issue you a tag to attach to the carrier. When you go through security, after you've placed all your items correctly on the conveyor belt, the TSA agents will ask you to remove your pet from the carrier, remove any collars or harnesses, and carry your pet through the medical detector (the carrier and collar with go through the conveyor belt with the rest of your belongings).
Before boarding your flight and during lay-overs
Find a quite and comfortable corner to relax with your pet near your assigned gate. Better yet, try to find the closest designated pet relief/recreational area. Most international airports will have an outdoor space where you are allowed to let your pet walk around and stretch their legs. Inside their airport, you are discouraged from letting your pet walk around outside of their carrier. I have seen some people do this, especially with registered service dogs. But I am a rule follower and I always get nervous I'll be told off. So, to play it safe, find the pet relief area and you shouldn't have any issues.
Once you know which airports you'll be traveling through, check online for the airport registry on where the pet relief area is. Some designated pet relief areas are outside of the airport near the parking lots (LAX and Ft. Lauderdale for example). In this case, I like to make sure I have plenty of time in between flights to get out of the airport, let my pet walk around a bit, then come back through security without feeling rushed.
During your flight
Keep your pet securely inside the pet carrier under the seat in front of you at all times. I like to make sure the mesh part of the carrier is facing me so my pet can easily see me during the flight. What's great about the carrier I use is that I can also roll down the cover flaps if I think my pet would benefit from a dark and cozy environment.
During take-off and landing, cabin pressure is likely to change. We humans feel the effects when we feel like our ears need to pop, pets can also get this feeling. To help my pet with this, I like to give her something to chew on (like and antler, or a ring toy) to help ease this sensation. Your pet is also likely to hear some pretty loud noises, especially on a smaller sized plane. This is when it is especially important that your pet is safely secure in their carrier. Pets are very sensitive to loud and unfamiliar noises and are likely to look for the quickest escape rout. Make sure they can see you, but can't escape their carrier. I like to say some reassuring phrases and words when I see my pet is getting nervous. The loud noises will eventually subside and your pet will begin to relax once you're in the air.
Time for a snack and some water
Now is the time to let your pet have a snack and some water. If you still have some travel time before reaching your final destination, don't overload it on the food and water. You do have some more flexibility when it comes to being able to let your pet relieve themselves should they need to, but they still don't have free range, so don't be too generous. Also make sure to let your pet stretch their lags. Find the closes pet relief area and give your pet some time to walk around and relax. I like to do this before I even get my checked luggage so I don't have the hassle of handling my suitcase as well as making sure my pet as some time to stretch her legs.
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