Traveling by Plane with Your Dog: Vacation Tips

Whether you're traveling by plane with your pet or they're flying on their own you should choose an airline that offers a full service. That is, from beginning to end.
Traveling by Plane with Your Dog: Vacation Tips
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

Few people like to leave their pet behind when going away for a few days. So, today we’d like to give you a few tips on how to take along your dog when traveling by plane.

Many airlines have discovered a fairly profitable business opportunity in the transport of domestic animals. That’s why today traveling by plane with dogs is very possible.

In all cases, there are some aspects that should be considered, many of which are common sense norms.

Your dog must be in good shape if you plan on traveling by plane

A dog wearing a muzzle.

Any pet must have a detailed medical history, regardless of whether they’ll travel soon or not. It must include an immunization card that’s up to date with all of the required vaccines. So, ask your veterinarian for your dog’s health certificate in order to be able to move them via air. It’s a relatively simple and common requirement.

Of course, the vet should thoroughly check the animal to verify if they’re in good health and whether they can handle the trip.

The required traveling document will depend on your final destination and so will the vaccines.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates air transportation of pets into, within, and out of the U.S. and all airlines are required by law to follow their guidelines. You can review them here.

On this note, there are many countries that require microchips on dogs for ID purposes.

Airline regulations

Each airline has its own regulations for allowing passengers to travel by plane with their dogs. However, they’re similar for the most part. Check directly with your airline, as they’re often updated.

The minimum age required for animals to travel by plane is 8 weeks old but, in some cases, it may be 10 or 12 weeks old.

The dogs must come on board in carriers made of strong materials and have a closure that guarantees that at no time it will open accidentally. In addition, they must be in good condition, both externally and internally. The carrier must also allow proper air circulation and have a waterproof base.

Company rules for traveling by plane with dogs

A dog inside a traveling carrier.

In order to allow the dog to travel in the cabin, most airlines stipulate that their total weight (animal plus cage) doesn’t exceed 40 lbs. In addition, the containers must be no more than 17 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 9 inches deep.

Those who wish to travel to South America with the pet near them in the cabin must have a health certificate from a veterinarian. It must be recent –  no older than 10 days.

If your animal is going to travel in the cargo area then it must have enough space inside its carrier to stand up without a problem. Note that the containers shouldn’t have wheels.

The dog area

Most airlines that allow traveling with your dog allow passengers to bring their own carriers. However, there are others that sell the containers and you have to buy one from them. This is mainly to ensure the carriers meet space and safety requirements.

If your flight has connections, make sure they’re with the same company if possible. That way you won’t have to deal with their different requirements. In addition, some airlines refuse to transport pets due to lack of space in their aircraft.

Some companies only allow two pets in the cabin per flight. Neither do they allow the transport of live animals in the cargo area.

Tips and tricks

The hours prior to traveling by plane with your dog are key. It’s important that you remain calm so as not to make them anxious while you pack your suitcases and perform other tasks while trying to get ready to go.

On the day of the flight, try to arrive at the airport with plenty of time (at least three hours before), to allow the airport personnel to carefully review all of your documents.

Keep in mind that dogs often get dizzy once the airplane takes off. So, to avoid any potential problems,  you shouldn’t feed them in the four hours before departure.

You can (and should) continue to give him water right up to the time of departure. Do empty their water dish before checking in so it doesn’t spill during the flight.

Bon voyage!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.