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It’s probably pretty obvious that Hipmunk loves animals (I mean, we have one as our mascot. We also boast a dog-friendly office).

And as a travel company, we’re highly sensitive to the conflicts that arise between wanderlust and the love for one’s pet. We’re also pretty good at mitigating the risks when we choose to take our pets on planes.

Following the news of the untimely death of Simon the Giant Rabbit, I asked around the office for tips on keeping your furbaby safe on flights.

Everything You Need to Know About Traveling With Pets on Planes

Make Sure They Are Healthy Enough to Fly

This one should be pretty obvious, but a proper evaluation of your pet’s current health condition is maybe the most important step a pet owner can take before taking them on a plane.

Especially since underlying or pre-existing conditions make up the vast majority or the incident reports the Department of Transportation is required to post on its website as part of the Animal Welfare Act.

Keep Your Pets With You

According to the 2017 Department of Transportation’s newly released annual report, a little more than half a million pets flew in cargo in 2016, and of those that flew that way, 26 died and 22 were injured (about one for every 10,000 pets).

So while the chance of death or injury is minimal, for some pet owners the risk is still too high.


There are three ways to transport a pet by air: in cabin, as cargo, or as baggage. If a pet can fit under the seat in front of you, many airlines will allow you to take it on the flight like a traditional carry-on bag.

Check the airline on which you are flying before booking a ticket to see if you can bring the pet with you, and what the airline’s requirements are in terms of the carrier.

Also, book in advance: airlines have a limited number of allowable pets on board a flight.

Emotional Support Animals

In addition to carry-on sized pets, service animals and emotional support animals are also allowed in most aircraft cabins for emotional support; however, you’ll need them to be certified as such.

Emotional support animal certifications for pets can be obtained for such disorders and phobias as the fear of flying, panic attacks, dyslexia, social phobias, autism, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.


Purchase a well-made carrier, cage or kennel (if you are placing them in cargo) and then have your pet practice getting in and out, as well as spending time inside of it.

Make sure they can sit, stand, and turn around inside of their temporary enclosure. Make sure their nails are clipped, and that the lock works properly. The more comfortable your pet is, the less likely they will have an incident.

For travelers bringing a pet on an airplane in any form, a few more tips can go a long way toward ensuring a smooth trip for all parties:

  • Opt for a direct flight whenever possible
  • Attach both a permanent and travel ID to the pet’s collar
  • Avoid feeding the pet for at least four – six hours before the trip
  • Utilize the pet relief areas at airports
  • When in doubt, leave your pet at home with a trusted caretaker


Mr. Peanut’s Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet Carrier

Comsun Collapsible Dog Bowl

Portable Pet Bento Bowl Set Leak Proof

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.



  1. I travel with my dog, Moose, often, but alas never by plane (he’s too big to fit under the seat, and I refuse to put him in cargo). It’s great to know that so many airlines are ok with dogs in carriers in the cabin, as that must open up so many more travel options for people. I’m also glad to see emotional support animals are allowed, this is so important to so many. Now, if only they’d allow my dog a seat on my flights ;-)

    • Being able to take your dog with you in the cabin definitely opens up more options. But yes, it would start to get pretty expensive if he’s so big he needs his own seat!!

  2. I have a cat and I can’t honestly imagine travelling with her – certainly I’d never put her in cargo. It’s less common here in the UK and across Europe I think because of strict regulations on Rabies. A great guide though…

    • I think it also depends on the pet (and the traveler) – seems to be becoming a big trend in the States, but interesting to hear that it’s less common in Europe and the UK :)

  3. When we moved to Malaysia we brought two rescue cats from San Francisco. It was a tough decision to do what was best for them; abandon so they didn’t have to endure a hideous flight or make them endure a hideous flight. At the time we knew nothing, but chose not to leave our ‘family’ behind. They arrived healthy and in good spirits before enduring a 30 day quarantine. I personally think that taking my pet on ‘holiday’ via flight would be unnecessary stress on them. Since I now also do pet sitting, I’ve seen how quickly pets adjust to a stranger’s face when they are in their own home. But for future transporting of my pets the next time we move, I’ll be sure to go with a reputable company and airline that has my pets’ best interest at heart. And I would prefer them to be in the cabin, which I hadn’t realized was an option when my cats flew to Malaysia.

    • Glad to hear that your cats made it safely to Malaysia with you – wow, a 30 day quarantine!! Yes, I agree that it’s probably often less stressful on the pet to leave them at home, since most adapt pretty quickly to new faces.

      But if you do decide to travel with them, a reputable company / airline who frequently deals with transporting pets is the best way to go :) And if they can fit in the cabin with you, it would be a lot less stressful on them having you close.

  4. Wow I didn’t know we can take smaller pets as carryon baggage.
    The statistics of death may be less but it can be emotionally distressing for the owners to loose one in transit. Good suggestions ofr booking pets in flights. It is important they are comfortable.

    • Absolutely – it’s becoming quite common nowadays, especially throughout the States :) Oh my gosh I couldn’t even imagine the stress you would go through to show up and not have your pet meet you – but it’s very rare that they get lost in transit, or pass away in flight.

  5. I don’t have a pet but I can understand how pet owners would feel leaving them behind. Great tips for those who would wish to take their pets along. Not having a pet. Never knew that pets could be taken as carry on. On the other hand keeping the pets in the hold seems to be a bit too inhumane.
    In India pets cannot be carried on board. They have to booked as accompanied baggage in the hold.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with Indian airlines – I agree that it would be so difficult to have to place your pets in the hold – much anxiety throughout the flight wondering if they’re ok below you. But most airlines now are very experienced at handling / transporting pets, and it’s becoming more common to travel with them :)

  6. This information is really helpful. I really want to get a dog, but with all the travelling I do it worries me. I didn’t know that pets could now travel the cabin of a plane. I just need the cruise line to allow it now, as I cannot get the special note that I’m anxious!

    • I’m so glad Lucy :) It’s one of those things every traveler / animal lover struggles with – but it’s becoming very common now to allow your pets in the cabin with you, and not that expensive, I don’t think. So depending on the type of travel you do, I wouldn’t let it put you off getting a pet.

      Will let you know if I hear anything in this space re cruise lines :)

  7. I’ve always left the pet at home due to inability to care for it on board and in the new location. Your piece came to as an enlightenment and I’d use this to educate others. And I can now take Emerald on flight with me. She’d be so happy to be on the plane.

    • I’m so glad the post was helpful for you Lydia – hopefully it’s opened up a whole new world of opportunities now that you know can travel together!

      Happy holidays :)

  8. Must be so difficult for pets to understand sitting in the cargo. I don’t have a pet but even then the odds of 26 dying and 22 injuries seems a bit much. I will share this post with my sister who has a dog and is always worrying about what to do when she travels.

    • I know :( Re the stress involved that’s why it’s so important to prep your carrier before the flight, making sure there’s enough room for them to stand up and move etc. and adequate food and water. It should be as easy on them as possible.

      Your sister is welcome to reach out if she has any questions :)

  9. I am not pet friendly but I feel worried for pets traveling by plane, it must be very stressful for them and the owners! I am sure that pet owners will be very happy to find your useful tips online. Hopefully, they will help to have a better flight! Lovely infographic by the way :-)

    • Glad you enjoyed the infographic Elisa, even if you’re not a pet person yourself. Yes, it can be a very stressful experience if not done right, so it’s incredibly important to be fully prepared.

      Happy holidays!

  10. I don’t have pets and can’t imagine traveling with animals.Traveling by itself is stressful enough and having a pet adds a new level of stress. These are great tips for those who travel with pets including the great infographic.

    • It’s one of those things, like traveling with kids, that you get used to :) But yes, it can definitely be a stressful experience for both the pet and the owner, which is why it’s so important to have done your research and be prepared :)

  11. Thank you for this post! Very informative. I am gonna travel for the first time with my dog to visit my parents (they have been dying to meet her) and was feeling a little nervous, being honest. Hopefully everything would turn out fine and Bubbles will have a great time.

    • You’re welcome Kirby, glad it was helpful for you :) I hope you have a wonderful trip, and I’m sure your parents will absolutely fall in love with Bubbles!

      Happy travels :)

  12. Private jet or don’t, my opinion.

    • Definitely a lot less stressful for all involved by private jet. The financial is usually the killer on that for most people :)

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