You’ll typically pay between $95 to $125 each way for your pet to fly in the cabin with you, though the pet fee varies by airline. The cost of shipping your pet in the cargo hold depends on the combined weight of your dog and their crate, as well as how far they’ll be flying—most airlines offer online calculators for getting an estimate.
Wherever your pet will spend the flight, airlines typically require an appropriate pet carrier or crate. The International Air Transport Association, whose guidelines most airlines follow, has a list of pet carrier requirements (we’ve also rounded up our favorite airline-approved pet carriers).
Generally speaking, the crate needs to be durable and have plenty of ventilation, strong handles, and a leak-proof bottom. Clearly mark the pet carrier with the words “Live Animal” and arrows that show which way is up, with a label containing your name, phone number, address, and destination contact information.
In addition to researching airline rules about flying with a dog, look into local animal import laws at all stops along your route, especially if you’re traveling internationally or even to some far-flung United States’ destinations, such as Hawaii. Many places have painfully complicated processes and long quarantine periods—which could mean you’d be separated from your pet for most or all of your trip.
Some destinations do not allow pets to fly in the cabin, even if your dog is small enough to be a carry-on; there are even some countries and states that prohibit pets from flying to, from, or through on a connection, period. Others have specific requirements that may take a while to coordinate, so it’s best to start your trip-planning process extra early if you want to bring your dog. “Some countries require testing and treatment for disease months in advance of travel, so timing is of the utmost importance,” says Bruns.
Also note there are currently special requirements for dogs traveling to the U.S. from a country the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deems high risk for rabies. For example, dogs who have been vaccinated against rabies in the U.S. by a U.S.-licensed veterinarian may return from a high-risk country if they have proof of rabies vaccination and a microchip; are at least six months old; are healthy upon arrival; and arrive at one of 18 specific airports with CDC quarantine facilities.
Before your trip, thoroughly research the departing and arrival airports, paying close attention to any pet relief areas. Familiarize your dog with their crate well in advance of your trip so they are comfortable spending long periods of time inside it. You might even consider taking your dog to the airport’s departure area a few times so they becomes slightly more familiar with this strange place. “Every time I fly with my dog, I look at the terminal map—both the one I’m leaving from and the one I’m landing at—to see if there is a pet relief area,” says Nicole Ellis, a certified professional dog trainer with Rover. “This way, if my flight is delayed, I can give him another chance to go. And as soon as we land, I know where to head.”
Flying with a dog: Day-of travel
On travel day, be sure to get to the airport extra early so you don’t feel rushed or stressed. If your pet is flying cargo, most airlines require you to arrive at least three hours before departure for domestic flights and at least five hours before international flights. You’ll likely need to take your pet to a separate cargo drop-off location at the airport (this is where you’ll pick up your pet after the flight, too), so review your departure and arrival airport maps ahead of time to know where to go.