Skybound Companions – A comprehensive guide to flying with furry friends and family

It can be exciting and challenging to embark on a trip with a furry friend. I’m a veteran traveler and my dog Charlie has been with me on many adventures. We have flown with United, American and Southwest airlines, as well as Allegiant.

Airport scenes, especially during Thanksgiving this year, painted a vivid image of pets and owners navigating terminals. After these experiences, and in light of the apparent increase in pet travel I felt compelled share some useful insights. From unraveling your reservation process to choosing the perfect carrier for your furry friend and making sure you have enough time at the airport.

Fasten your seatbelts both literally and figuratively as we embark on our journey to make traveling with your pets as easy and fun as possible.

6 Tips for Traveling with Your Pet and Reducing Stress

1. Reservations: Plan Ahead to Avoid Travel Woes

It may seem simple to add your pet to a flight reservation, but if you overlook this step, it can cause unexpected problems. There are often restrictions on how many pets can travel in each cabin. If you wait too much, the slots may be taken.

Airline-Specific Procedures:

  • United Airlines: United Airlines simplifies pet reservations online or via its mobile app. I was able to add Charlie to my booking and pay for the pet fee using the app. United is a pet-friendly carrier, despite the high pet fee, which can be around $250 roundtrip.
  • Allegiant Airlines: Allegiant Airlines offers a convenient solution to pet owners by allowing them to pre-pay for their pets. This pre-payment option costs $50.00 for one way. You can select it when purchasing your ticket.
  • American Airlines: Although American Airlines allows you add your pet to a reservation in advance, payment is usually settled at the airport’s check-in desk. Plan ahead and prepare the payment to avoid delays.
  • Southwest Airlines: I found the easiest way to add Charlie to my Southwest Airlines reservation was to call ahead. You will have to pay a pet fee in the airport. However, the payment can only be made for the flight that you are about board. Be sure to have the information you need about your pet, including vaccinations and documents.

Documentation is key:

It’s important to keep proof that you have added your pet’s name to the reservation, regardless of which airline you use. You can use confirmation emails, reference number, or other proofs of payment. These documents will help you save time and give you peace of mind when traveling.

2. How to Choose the Right Carrier Bag

It can be a thrilling adventure to travel with your dog, but you must ensure that they are comfortable and safe, especially when you fly. The carrier bag that you select for your cat or dog is an important consideration. Here are some recommendations for choosing a carrier bag:

  • Check the dimensions of your bag before you start your trip. Airlines have specific guidelines on the size of bags that will fit under your seat. You can find bags that do not meet airline standards in pet stores and online. A bag that is slightly too big could cause a number of problems. The bag might not fit underneath the seat, which could cause discomfort to your pet, or worse, you might be denied boarding if the carrier is too large. Always follow the airline’s recommended size to avoid any complications.
  • Keep Cool at 30,000 Ft. Airplanes are often warm and it is important to provide proper ventilation for your pets. Pay attention to how the bag ventilates when you are looking for a carrier. Choose bags that allow for plenty of airflow so your pet can remain comfortable during the flight. More ventilation is better, particularly on long trips. Airflow is important to prevent overheating and provide fresh air to your dog. It is especially important to do this during the warmer months or when you are flying to a place with high temperatures.
  • Visibility and connection: Netted screens for a happy flight: For many animals, seeing their owners on a plane can provide a sense of comfort. Consider a carrier bag that has netted screens at the top and side. The netted screens provide your pet with visual contact and also maintain an open feeling in the carrier. This can reduce any anxiety that your dog may feel during the flight. The netted design encourages constant interaction between you and your pet, making travel more enjoyable for both of you.

3. Allowing time for a smooth journey

A trip with your pet is an adventure full of joy. However, it comes with a set of different considerations.

  • Check-In is a Different Ballgame. Unlike the quick online check-ins or TSA PreCheck lanes that we are used to when traveling alone, checking in with your pet requires a completely different approach. Except for Southwest Airlines, you can’t check in online when traveling with a pet. Prepare to check-in at the airport desk. Many airlines offer special pet check-in desks or services. You’ll probably be asked additional questions at the check-in counter about your pet. These include their breed, age, and weight. You’ll also receive a card or tag that you can attach to the carrier case of your pet. This is where you pay the pet fee for certain airlines like American or Southwest.
  • TSA: Take a little extra time: Navigating the TSA with a pet is straightforward, but takes a little more time. It is not uncommon to carry your pet through the security checkpoint. You may also experience extra security measures in order to ensure everyone’s safety. As these measures are necessary, it is important to allow extra time for security.
  • Pet Pit Stops – Bathroom Breaks For Furry Friends. Just like you would use the bathroom before a flight to freshen up, your pet might need one too. Some airports have designated bathrooms for pets. Charlotte International Airport has many pet-friendly facilities that are easy to locate. It’s important to allow time for your pet to use the facilities and to find them.


This is just the beginning of a journey we will take together into the world pet-friendly traveling.

As Charlie and me continue to discover new destinations, overcome unique challenges and gain valuable insights, I will be sure to share the lessons I learn. Please share your stories and experiences with me. Together, we can build a community of informed pet travelers who will make sure that each trip with our furry friends is a success.

We wish you safe travels and happy pets until our next adventure!

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