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A Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog

A Complete Guide To Traveling With Your Dog

Tis’ the Season for holiday travel! For some, travel equates to STRESS, so thinking about flying with an animal might feel overwhelming. The hustle and bustle of holiday travel, crowds, and unexpected delays are enough to raise anyone’s blood pressure. Add in navigating all that with an animal and you have an immediate recipe for feeling overwhelmed. This means that a complete guide to traveling with your dog is totally necessary!

Table of Contents

Pet travel does not need to create more stress in your life. Having your furry companion by your side should do just the opposite! Especially if you’re traveling with a Service Animal since they are trained to be with you always and to keep you calm throughout your trip. If you’re interested in how to qualify your pet as a Psychiatric Service Animal, American Service Pets can help you to navigate the process seamlessly.

In a recent blog, I covered five dog travel myths and how to travel safely with your fur-baby. That’s also a great read! Our goal for you is to reduce travel anxiety. These PRO TRAVEL TIPS are meant to ensure adequate preparation, ultimate relaxation, and peace of mind.

Booking Your Tickets

Dogs weighing 20 lbs or less can fly with you inside a plane. Most airlines allow crated dogs to fly as checked bags in a temperature-controlled cargo hold. To fly with an animal in cargo, your airline will either have you drop them at a separate door or will have you check your dog’s crate at the counter with your other baggage.

Per ADA Regulations, Service Animals must be accommodated on all flights within the U.S and are allowed to fly with you without extra pet fees. Service Animals do not need to travel in a crate, but they do have to be on a leash. Service Animals do not count as a carry-on.

When making your travel arrangements, you must also make reservations for your dog. There are regulations on the number of animals permitted on each flight. Reservations for animals are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. It is always a good idea to verify that there will be space for your dog before booking your tickets. Early planning and good communication with the airlines can go a long way to ensure a smooth trip.

A Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog

Get Your ESA Today


Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.

What To Pack

Most airlines consider pet carriers a personal or carry-on item (this applies to both hard and soft-sided carriers). You can board the aircraft with either a pet carrier and a personal item or a pet carrier and a carry-on bag.

Each airline establishes its company policies for what equipment and gear is allowed for Service Animals, including carry-on allowances and fees assessed for large equipment (like a kennel or crate) checked as baggage. 

  • Leash
  • Medications
  • Treats
  • Water bottle to fill at a water fountain after you’ve been through security. You can also purchase bottled water inside the airport for yourself and your pet.
  • Enough food for a few meals (in case of delays, you will want to have some food available if needed. You can also pre-pack portions into baggies to allow for easy feeding on the go.)
  • Collapsible food and water bowls
  • Poo baggies and paw wipes. Most pet relief areas come equipped with baggies, but it’s always a good idea to have these on hand just in case you need them. Paw wipes can be helpful for outdoor pet relief areas or if a previous pet owner failed to clean up properly after their pet. 
A Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog

Day Of Travel Pro-Tips

When you are flying with your dog, there are a few key steps you can take to prepare your pup in the hours before leaving for the airport.

    Make sure your pup doesn’t eat or drink for at least 2 hours before departure. A full belly can lead to stomach upset or increased chances of needing to potty while in the air. Once airborne, your only options are to use the airplane toilet (that is quite the mental picture!) or to put down a pee pad in the bathroom for your pet to use and then discard it in that tiny bathroom trash can (that no one wants to touch).

    Right before any flight, we let our dog stretch his legs with a game of catch. The extra preparation means your dog will be focused and prepared for adventure. Service Dogs are still dogs, and a restless dog can become distracted, so this is an integral part of getting our pup ready for a day of travel.

Airport Security

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA): Small pets (and Service Animals) are allowed through the checkpoint. Please remove your pet from the carrying case and place the case through the X-ray machine. You should maintain control of your pet with a leash and remember to remove the leash when carrying your pet through the metal detector. Animal carriers will undergo a visual and physical inspection.

When flying with my Service Animal, I find it easier for us each to walk independently through airport metal detectors. Although this might not be something you’ve considered, it can reduce the time required to get through security. It helps avoid confusion or unnecessary alarms and is worth training for ahead of time.

If this is your first time traveling with your Service Animal or a pet, you can practice this skill by using your doorway at home for trial runs.

A Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog

Potty Breaks

Due to an increase in the popularity of pet travel, most airports now have designated Pet Relief Areas for animals. Some have indoor and outdoor areas for pets, which makes it helpful if you have a layover or if fido decides he has performance anxiety and wants a more private space. But on that note, pet travel is considerably easier if your pet is not picky about where they do their business and can eliminate on command.


  • AIRPORT PET RELIEF GUIDE: American Service Pets has a beneficial breakdown of the pet relief areas in over 100 airports across the country. This guide contains information about traveling with your ESA or PSA, including the Department of Transportation’s travel requirements. You can check out the complete guide here.

Pet-Friendly Transportation

Uber Pet FAQs:
  • Service Animals: Following federal law, Uber’s policies on service animals allow Service Animals regardless of whether it is a pet-friendly Trip. Service animals are permitted to accompany riders on any ride without an extra fee.

  • To request an Uber Pet: It’s easy to order an Uber Pet directly; scroll through the vehicle options at the bottom of your screen and select: Uber Pet.

  • How many and what type of pets can I bring?: You are allowed one pet on each Uber Pet. You may bring one small animal, such as a dog or a cat. There are no breed or size restrictions. However, it is left to the driver’s discretion whether any additional pets are allowed.

  • Does it cost extra to take Uber Pet?: There is an upcharge to bring along a pet. If your pet leaves sheds excessively, leaves waste, or damages the vehicle, you could be charged a cleaning fee.

Tips to avoid being charged a cleaning fee:

    • Bring a blanket or towel to cover the seat and reduce any risk of damage or mess.
    • Keep your pet restrained on a leash, harness, or in a carrier.
    • Ask if the driver has a preference for where your pet should sit.
    • Don’t leave your pet unattended.
A Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog

Health & Safety

In your planning process, leave time to make appropriate arrangements for your pet. It is the owner’s responsibility to verify the dog’s health and ability to fly.


    Before traveling, you should ensure that your pet’s microchip information is up to date AND that your pet wears a collar tag with your updated home address and cell phone number.


    Gather all the relevant records you need and pack them in your carry-on, where they are easily accessible. Each airline requires slightly different health records. Check the requirements at your point of origin and destination well in advance of your trip. Most airlines will require vaccinations, vaccination records, and health certificates for your animal. Often they don’t ask for them, but you have to be able to provide them when asked.

    • When traveling by plane, schedule a visit with your veterinarian within ten days of your trip. Your pet will need updated rabies and vaccination certificates. You must provide proof of this updated certification (basic approval to travel) at most ten days before your departure date.



    Some destinations may require a quarantine period for your pet. The locations most often requiring pet quarantine are Australia, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore.

A Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog

Travel Essentials

  • Carriers & Crates:
    Unfortunately, there is no industry standard approved carrier for pets flying in the cabin. Check with your airline on the specific dimensions that they will allow. I recommend using a soft-sided case with an expandable feature. Soft-sided cases can be squeezed under the seat to fit within the guidelines of various airlines.

  • Harnesses & Travel Essentials:
    When selecting travel gear, consider how you will navigate TSA/Security Checkpoints with these items, and items that can fold or collapse are a bonus for saving space. Non-metallic harnesses make security checks simpler. You can find my favorite supportive and comfortable harness for Service Animals here. For tested and tried recommendations, visit here.

Plan For Incidentals

For travelers, this has been a year crowned by flight delays and looong lines at security. No one loves being rushed or running through the airport to catch your flight. Plan to be early with your pet because traveling with a pet will take you a little longer at security checkpoints. The extra time also allows you to visit the pet relief area and take a walk before your flight.


If your flight does get changed or delayed, the BEST way for you to get help is to be kind to airline employees. They receive the brunt of frustration from tired and grumpy passengers. A little kindness can go a long way. With the timing of any delay, consider if your pet needs food and water again before boarding. If the delay means your pet will miss a meal time, you may need to feed it and then make a trip to the pet relief area.

Once you arrive at your destination safely, rehydrate your pet by giving them plenty of water. Have fun making memories, and enjoy your trip!

A Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog
ESA or PSA Certification?

The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!


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