How to Fly with Your Pet and Not Have It Be the Worst Experience of Your Life

There's nothing better than traveling with a best friend, but when it comes to traveling with man's best friend, things can get a bit trickier. How do you make sure they're comfortable? Which countries can they go to? Are they safe? And to make things more complicated, airlines like Delta have recently changed their pet travel policies. These questions and changes can make flying with a pet stressful, but it doesn't have to be. About 500,000 pets fly every year in the U.S., so it's totally doable, you just need to know a few things. That's why Oyster reached out to an expert at leading pet-sitting community DogVacay.

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Flickr

"Whether your dog is coming with you on the flight or traveling under the plane, there are many things you can do before and after the journey to ensure he or she has the smoothest experience possible," DogVacay's resident pet expert Nicole Ellis, who travels with her Bichon mini poodle mix frequently, told Oyster.com. "Planes are very foreign to our pets, but the good news is that there are many precautions you can take to avoid unnecessary stress on our furry friends. The general rule of thumb is to prepare ahead to ensure there are no surprises, and to keep your dog's routine as consistent as you can. That way, they feel safe and have an easier time adjusting while traveling on a plane, giving you peace of mind."

Here are 18 expert tips to ensure flying with Fido is a breeze.

Before the Flight

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Flickr

1. Before flying with your dog, call the airline to confirm that your dog's crate is the right size to bring on the plane. 

2. Ask the airline if it has any special immunization requirements. You will be asked to show you pet's records at the airport, so will need to make sure he or she has all the correct shots. Also check that they don't expire before your return flight.

3. If possible, try to book a non-stop, direct flight so you are dealing with fewer airports and staffers, making the trip less hectic and more relaxing.

4. Register your dog on the flight ahead of time, as many airlines have a max capacity for the number of pets they will take per flight.

5. Make sure you ID your pet and the carrier. The ID should include your pup's name, all of your contact information, and where your pet is traveling to and from.

6. Practice time in the carrier. Some pets can get stressed in a carrier, so doing some practice drives around town with your pet in the carrier could help him get used to the environment.

7. Don't feed your pup too soon before your flight -- upset tummies are easy to get while traveling. It's best not to feed him anything for the six hours prior to the flight.

8. Before flying with your dog, take him on a leisurely walk (about one hour prior to takeoff if possible). You want your dog to be relaxed, versus fidgety and, well, in need of a walk.

9. Don't give your pet any medications to relax unless specifically recommended by your vet. With the altitude changes, sedatives can cause major repository and cardiovascular problems. These can actually make it so that your dog has a hard time adjusting his body temperature. While flying, the air temperature can change (especially below the plane), and it's vital that your pet is able to regulate his or her body temperature during the flight.

10. Make sure to arrive to the airport early, as it can take much longer to check in with a pet than without.

What to Do If Your Dog Will Be Under the Plane

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Flickr

11. For short-nosed breeds particularly, it's best to travel in middle of the day in colder months, and morning and evening on warmer months. It's not a good idea to fly your pet in cargo during the hot summer months. 

12. Pack a water bottle. The hanging ball mechanism bottles are nice as they are less likely to spill.

13. Make sure your pet's nails have been clipped to prevent them from getting stuck on the crate door, air vents, or other holes.

When You Land

14. Make sure you have your leash handy. Your dog just got off a flight and might be a little scared or curious where he or she is, and you don't want to lose your pup in a foreign city. Even the most well-mannered dogs may act differently upon being in a brand-new place.

15. Once you exit the airport, leash your pup and find an area where he can relieve himself. Some airports have specific pet relief areas inside the terminal or outside of arrivals. Also, offer your pet some water. Some animals may get dehydrated during stressful times and may not have had much water during the flight, even if it's available.

16. When you get to your hotel, set up an area for your pet where the pup can relax in and make it his own. This could include his favorite blanket, toy, and water.

17. Once your pet is set up, go for a nice long walk. This will help calm both you and your pet down, and it is a great way to reward them for the flight.

18. Wait at least an hour before feeding your pup. This gives the dog's stomach some time to settle after the flight.

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