You live and play with Fido, so why not travel with him? The U.S. Travel Association found over 49% of travelers in the U.S. consider their pets part of the family, and 18% take their pets with them on vacation.
However, it’s harder to take Fido along then just hopping on the plane. One of the most important considerations is to make sure you have the perfect pet carrier for your pet. With so many different options and airline regulations, how do you choose the right one?
Here are TravelNerd’s 4 top tips and tricks for choosing the best pet carrier for your pup:
Choose the right size
This can be harder than it seems. The height of the case should be to the shoulders, not to the top of the head. Since airlines have fairly limited space, the case should be as small as possible while still allowing your pet to turn around completely. Yes, they can turn around with their head down.
Keeping it small also helps keep the carrier light. No one wants to haul a heavy carrier while running to catch a connecting flight.
Check with your airline
Most airlines have size and weight limits for pets in both carry-on bags and cargo holds. Typically, a carry-on pet carrier needs to be able to fit underneath the seat in front of you, so if your dog is bigger, they will have to go into cargo.
For a carry-on carrier, airlines usually require mesh ventilation panels, water-repellant fabric and padding. You want your pet to be comfortable and protected. We recommend a flexible, soft-sided bag as you will need to maneuver the bag in the very minimal legroom space, squeeze it under the seat and carry it with the rest of your suitcases and carry-on items.
For a cargo carrier, we recommend getting more protection for your pet. A hard-sided, plastic-shell carrier will protect your dog from any bumps on the journey.
It’s all about quality
Good pet carriers are expensive. However, we strongly recommend you get a good-quality carrier. The last things you want to worry about are your pet carrier handles ripping off mid-journey. You will want sturdy handles (and make sure they are attached well) and a strong bottom.
Also look for mesh panels and an opening from above. You will be spending most of your journey looking down at your pet, and you want easy access for petting your pup.
Some good features to make your trip easier are outside pockets for emergency items (food, toys and meds), a zipper with a locking device so you can open it from the outside but your pup can’t open it from the inside and an attachable food bowl and water cup for long trips.
At the airport
Before you head to the airport, do one last check to make sure you have attached a luggage tag with all your contact information and any paperwork require by the airline or country. Usually you will have to include details of an animal’s health record and vaccines.
You will receive a locator number that is associated with your seat number. Hang on to that – this is how you will track your pet if anything goes wrong.
At security, carry your pet through the metal scanner while the bag goes through the conveyer belt. Do not send your pet through the conveyer belt. This is harmful to their health!
With all this in mind, most airlines will tell you to arrive in advance in case of any problems. Definitely get there 2 hours early, if not even earlier.
TravelNerd’s suggested pet carriers for any dog:
Best flexible height bag: SturdiBag
This is the best in-cabin bag for a small dog. It is a light-weight flexible bag with a solid bottom for easy carrying. The domed top of the bag can squeeze down to fit underneath any airline seat.
Most versatile carry-on carrier: K9 Courier Bag from Kurgo
This carry-on bag just squeezes under the size limits for most airlines. Not only is it a handy dog carrier, but it doubles as a booster seat for Fido in the car. The carrying straps can attach around your car seat. Take it apart as a makeshift bed for your pet once you get to your destination and then fold it back up for your return trip.
Best for larger dogs: ARGO Aero-Pet Airline Approved Carrier Black Large
The ARGO Aero-Pet Airline Approved Carrier in Black is the largest underseat pet carrier we’ve seen. There are six mesh windows on all sides for easy check-ups and lots of ventilation. You can rinse the base with some water for easy clean-up. We’d recommend getting this one in black to minimize the visual impact of the bag – it may be a little large for some airlines.
Best front carrier:Kyjen Outward Hound classic Front Carrier
This front carrier is the best for small dogs up to 20 lbs. The backpack-style distributes weight evenly for a comfortable carry, and the front-carrier style may be best for nervous pets who need a little more contact. There are mesh side panels and pocket in the front for any last-minute items.
For nervous dogs: Marshall’s Designer Tote
Marshall’s Designer Tote is ideal for dogs who hate being enclosed. With generous side, front and back mesh panels, your pup won’t feel enclosed or trapped. There is also a removable pad inside for easy clean-up.
Best wheeled carrier: Bergan Wheeled Comfort Carrier
For travelers with layovers or going to airports with long walks, a wheeled pet carrier may save your sanity. No one wants to run through the airports with a 20 lb backpack and Fido bouncing around inside. A wheeled carrier can alleviate many of these problems. Bergan’s carrier has a convertible handle that turns into a pull strap so you can carry or wheel your pet at ease.
Photo Credit: Zoey on the Airplane