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So you’ve got your adorable ESA (emotional support animal) and you’re feeling healthier than you have in years.

With your new companion, you feel like you can accomplish anything – make new friends, climb a mountain or even get on a plane!

For those with anxiety associated with flying, or even those who have never traveled with an animal before, traveling with a pet can seem like a huge deal. And it is in some ways.

The good things is that as long as you’re prepared, things can go as smoothly as ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ – and traveling with your pet can be a game changer.

People who travel with ESA’s find that it gives them a newfound sense of freedom, and motivates you to get out there and grab life by the horns!

If you’re nervous about your first foray into traveling with your ESA, don’t be, because this is a round-up of everything you need to be prepared (and then some!).

Everything You Need to Know About Traveling with an ESA

Get That Paper

First and foremost when diving into the world of traveling with an ESA, it’s essential to have your documents up to scratch. This is the most important part of traveling with an ESA – without them, you won’t be going anywhere!

So what do I mean when I say documents? The golden ticket of travel for ESAs is an ESA letter.

An ESA letter has certain requirements to be considered legitimate and to allow your pet to board an aircraft. It must contain the following:

Every ESA letter should contain:

➡ Your name

➡ That you have a disability as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders

➡ You are unable to perform at least one of the most important activities of your everyday life because of this disability

➡ The ESA is prescribed to you by a licensed mental health professional

➡ The Federal Regulations that protect you

Be aware that unfortunately there are multiple scams around that take advantage of those looking to obtain an ESA letter online, so do your due research before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Remember – the only official non-airline document you will need to travel with your ESA is an ESA letter.

Other companies purporting to supply ESA certificates, or put your pet on the ESA register are likely sneaky fraudsters out to get a piece of the emotional support animal pie.

FYI: Any company offering to put your pet on the #ESA register are likely scamming you for a piece of the ESA pie. Click To Tweet

Give the Airline a Heads Up in Advance

Traveling with an emotional support animal

As you probably already know, many airlines have been cracking down on ESA’s recently, and that means organization is key for those traveling with one.

In the past it was possible to arrive at the airport with an ESA without any prior notification to the airline. For the most part, that has all changed now, and the majority of airlines have implemented a minimum 48-hour notice period for those wishing to travel with their support animal.

So the second commandment of flying with an ESA? Plan, plan and plan some more. The sooner you notify the airline you’ll be traveling with your furry assistant, the better.

Once you have your documentation organized and you’ve alerted the airline, that’s all the boring bureaucratic business out of the way for good!

Preparing Pup (Or Puss) for Travel

Okay, so we all know there are weirdos out there that love airports. I should know, I’m one of them. But for your average miaower or woofer that’s probably not going to be the case.

Ear-shattering announcements over the loudspeaker, depressing overpriced food offerings and thousands of people rushing around in self-important stress bubbles – not exactly pet-friendly!

Before you even think of rocking up to the airport with your ESA, you should take the time to prep them for it, so they can bring their A-game.

Know Your Rights

Traveling with your pet RF

This one’s a biggie. With all the crazy stories in the news right now (we all know about the peacock…and the gerbil…and the squirrel, sigh) the general public and airline staff may understandably be wary when it comes to ESAs.

That’s why it’s important to know your rights when traveling. Having everything in order and following all the rules goes without saying to have a positive experience traveling with an ESA.

But it’s also a great idea to have easy access to the law covering your right to travel with your pet (the Aircraft Carrier Access Act) either electronically or in hard copy.

You should also have easy access to your chosen airlines ESA policy ( for example, take a look at Delta Airlines emotional support animal information) so that if any issues arise, you know exactly where you stand.

The Ultimate Packing Test

Having the perfect pet tote with you when are on the move with your ESA can seriously make or break your trip. You want to nail this one – trust me!

Ensure you pack the following in your pet’s travel kit, as a minimum.

ESA travel packing list

➡Collar and leash

➡ Harness

➡ Paper towel

➡Poop bags

➡Pop-up water bowl

➡Empty Water Bottle (Fill it up after Security)

➡A variety of treats

➡An emergency First Aid kit

This will help to make sure you’re prepared for anything your pet throws (or poops) your way.

Well, that’s it, everything you should need to get traveling with your ESA, pronto. Go forth and use it well!

PRODUCTS WE LOVE IF YOU DECIDE TO TRAVEL WITH YOUR DOG ↓

Mr. Peanut’s Airline Approved Soft Sided Pet Carrier

Comsun Collapsible Dog Bowl

Portable Pet Bento Bowl Set Leak Proof

INSPIRED?! PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS ↓

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; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

 

    4 Comments

  1. Neat Meg. We flew 4 times over a 23 hour period going from NJ to Oman, 2 days ago. Strange how I saw no ESA’s on this trip. After arriving in Muscat at 2:30 AM Monday, leaving Newark at 6 PM Saturday night, having a pup around to pet would have been helpful :)

    • We encounter them off and on. It does seem to be a trend that’s really picking up though, and on the most part for good reason, having an ESA there with you really can make the world of different for those who suffer with mental health, so I think it’s great that airlines acknowledge that :)

  2. Most airlines require your support animal documentation to be submitted no later than 48 hours before your scheduled departure time. And even if all your forms are in order, traveling with the animal will still be subject to their approval.
    It probably goes without saying, but, if applicable to the breed, your animal should wear a collar with identification at all times.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Andrea, yes definitely important to have all required documentation submitted to the airline well in advance of your departure, and to have it all with you on the day as well.

      Great tip on making sure they have adequate identification :)

      Happy travels!

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