Things to Consider When Traveling with a Pet

looking through a window at a plane on the tarmac

I started this site as a travel blog, but it has turned into so much more.  Since tomorrow is Pet Travel and Safety Day, I thought I would do a post on traveling with pets.  Over the past decade, pets have become more like family members for many.  In fact, many people choose to have pets instead of children.  In light of this, I feel it is important to provide information that can help people and their furbabies to have the best travel experiences possible.

My friends and those who have been reading my blog for a while know that I like to drive around with a bunny on my dashboard.  A few years ago, I had a bunny that rode on the dashboard of my truck from California to Nebraska—TWICE.  It is easier to travel with a pet in your own vehicle because you can basically situate things any way you want.  It is a different story, however, when traveling by plane or train—or on a ship.

bunny on dashboard

Of course, service animals are typically allowed—but I will not be discussing those situations in this post.  There are still some rules that have to be followed but since this involves a completely different type of situation, I will leave that for another time.  In this post, I want to help people who are traveling with a furry friend that is not certified to provide a specific health service find acceptable arrangements.

Is Pet Travel Safe?

The short answer to this is—it depends.  There are a lot of horror stories out there but there are many good ones too.  It is important to do your research.  Some travel sites have reviews from customers.  Yelp is another good place to look.  An excellent forum to find out whether or not a specific airline or other travel agency is a good option is Quora.com.  On this site, you can read about experiences that are already posted or you can ask specific questions about your traveling needs.  It is free to use and addresses a myriad of topics.

airport terminal

Can I Keep My Pet at My Seat?

In some cases, pets can stay with their owners during travel.  There are various requirements when it comes to this.  Regulations have been put into place that specify the age, health, and other issues related to how pets can travel.  The type of pet may also affect whether or not it will be allowed to travel to a different state or country.  I experienced this when I returned to California and had to cross through the customs checkpoint.  The agent asked me where my bunny had traveled and a couple of other questions—and I was driving.

When it comes to flying, each airline has its own rules.  Typically, these rules are based on CDC and USDA guidelines but there is room for adjustments by the various travel entities.  For instance, Delta allows certain small animals to ride in the cabin as long as they are in a carrier that can be slid under the seat.  There is an extra fee involved in this arrangement and a certain procedure must be followed.  It is best to start researching this information well in advance so you can plan and prepare accordingly.

train cars

If you are planning a train ride and want to take your pet along, it is just as important to find out the stipulations that come along with this.  Traveling by train with a pet may be a little easier than flying but there are still some requirements related to the type, age, and health of the animal.  If you are traveling with your pet on Amtrak, your pet must remain with you at all times.  Amtrak does not allow pets to be shipped alone, and there is no designated place where animals travel as there is in airplanes.

Taking a pet on a cruise will prove to be more challenging.  There are few options for pet friendly cruises and your fuzzy pal may not be able to stay in your cabin with you.  Some ships require that pets stay in a kennel while they are on board.  Not only that, but only certain animals are allowed to travel on these floating hotels.  Space for pets is limited on cruises and the perk can be quite expensive.

Which Pets Can Travel with Commercial Agencies?

bird on a glass of soda

For the most part, travel arrangements can be made for dogs and cats.  However, there are other animals that can accompany owners on trips.  I already mentioned earlier that certain birds are allowed on planes.  Reptiles, rodents, bunnies, and even hedgehogs are allowed under certain circumstances.  A veterinarian can be a big help in determining whether your pet can travel with you.  It is always a good idea to double check with the specific agency you plan to travel with.

It is even possible to fly with a pet fish.  I discovered this when I was getting ready to board a flight in Colorado.  I noticed a woman who was holding a small plastic container that appeared to have a fish in it.  When I asked her about it, she said it was her daughter’s fighting fish.  She said the fish was named Stephen—and Stephen had a very interesting story.

fighting fish in a plastic container

Her daughter had come to visit her just before the pandemic started.  Because travel was all but nonexistent, her daughter had been unable to return home to her apartment.  There was really no one who could check on Stephen and take care of him, so her daughter worried the entire time she was at her parent’s home—for nine months.  Finally, she decided just to move to be closer to her parents.  She was unable to make the trip, so her parents flew down to collect all of her things for her.

She was very worried about Stephen and requested information as soon as her parents arrived at her apartment.  Her mother had discovered that most of the water had evaporated and there was barely even enough left to cover poor Stephen’s body.  No one had fed him for months and he was not moving.  Her mother sadly told her that Stephen was no longer with them.  However, she happened to bump the stand that he was on and thought she saw him move.  STEPHEN WAS ALIVE!  She rescued him from his dilemma and packed him up with the rest of the belongings.

fighting fish in a plastic container

The reason he was in a clear plastic container is because that was what the airline required.  There are very specific rules for taking a fish on a plane.  The main prerequisite is the fish has to be secured in a non-breakable clear container.  Since airlines limit the amount of liquid that can be taken through TSA checkpoints, a small Tupperware-type container such as the one Stephen was in is a good option.

So How Do I Go About Getting My Pet Travel Ready?

The first thing that needs to be done when preparing to take a trip with your pet is to find out the rules of the specific travel agency you will be traveling with.  Information can typically be found on the agency’s website, but you may need to make a few phone calls to find out what you need to do.  You will most likely have to get clearance from a veterinarian who will give you a pet travel certificate stating your pet is safe to travel.  There will likely be extra fees associated with pet travel and you may have to follow certain boarding procedures. 

Sacramento, California, Airport

It is advisable to determine which pet travel accessories you will need for the trip as well.  An appropriate crate or other travel container will be necessary.  Small food and water dishes can be used to care for your pet’s dietary needs.  You may want to bring along some special treats as well since your buddy will likely experience some stress during the trip.  Potty pads may be a good idea as well.  With the proper planning and preparation, you and your furry friend will have an enjoyable trip.


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