July 25, 2024

Adventure Destinations League

Navigating Travel Wonders

Finding the right pet carrier for air travel

Air travel with pets is always an adventure. Of course, even the best adventures come with some stresses and struggles. Choosing the right pet carrier can go a long way toward ensuring a comfortable, smooth trip for both you and your pet.

“A carrier is your pet’s home away from home and a haven from the travel unknowns,” notes Michael Leung, co-founder and lead product designer of Sleepypod, a leading manufacturer of premium pet beds and pet accessories. “It’s important to choose products that streamline travel for you while making travel comfortable for your pet, and mitigate stress for you both.”

Determining the best pet carrier option for air travel can be a bit complex. We’ve navigated the details and condensed the most important information for you to help make the best possible decision.  

Paws in the Clouds: Finding the Right Pet Carrier for Air Travel - Image

Photo credit: Sleepypod

Airline regulations for carriers

While every airline has slightly different pet carrier regulations, there are some guidelines that are common to most airlines.

To protect pet travelers and keep them safe, airline regulations for below-cabin pet carriers tend to be very stringent, so there is little wiggle-room in terms of choice. In general, carriers must be made from hard-sided plastic that’s secured with metal bolts. They must be airline-approved, they must be front-loading with only one entry point, and they must feature a secure side lock.

In-cabin carrier regulations offer more flexibility. They may be made of plastic or fabric, and they generally don’t require locks or a specific number of entry points. Hard-sided, non-collapsible carriers have to be small enough to fit easily under the airplane seat. Soft-sided, collapsible carriers can be slightly larger, but not so large that they have to collapse excessively to fit beneath the seat. Carriers should have adequate ventilation and sufficient padding, and must be spacious enough to allow your pet to stand up, turn around,and lie down comfortably.

Flight-specific carrier features to look for

The sights, sounds, and novelty of a flight can be stressful for your pet. Look for a carrier that’s comfortable, with features like soft padding and/or integrated bedding. An integrated privacy panel is a good option for nervous pet travelers, as it will minimize visual stimuli.

Air travel with your pet isn’t just about the flight. You also have to get him through the airport safely and securely. Consider choosing a carrier that’s brightly colored, as this will make it easier for you to spot it in the crowds, and harder for other travelers to mistake it for their own luggage.

You will be required to remove your pet at the TSA checkpoint. A carrier with an integrated tether, used in combination with a pet harness, will help prevent your pet from escaping. The harness will help you easily and safely attach a leash for potty breaks and short walks.

In the hustle and bustle of travel, convenience is key. A carrier with easy-to-reach storage pockets for medications, treats, water, and cleaning supplies can be a lifesaver. In addition, look for a model that can be strapped across your chest, or one that has wheels and can easily be maneuvered with one hand, leaving the other hand free.

Measuring your pet

You can be turned away at check-in if your pet doesn’t meet your airline’s size requirements or your carrier isn’t adequately sized for your pet. Before purchasing a carrier, it’s important to know your airline’s specifications well and to measure your pet carefully, especially if he’s on the borderline in terms of size.

Measuring your pet is a fairly simple process. Using a soft tape measure, measure him from his collar area to the base of his tall for his length, adding a few inches for his head. For his height, measure him from the ground to the tips of his ears. His width should be measured from shoulder to shoulder.

Choosing the right carrier

Determining the specific air travel features you need/want your carrier to have is essential. But carriers vary widely in terms of safety, durability, and security, so it’s equally important to research a carrier’s brand, make, model, and type before purchasing. Ideally, you want a sturdy, water-resistant, scratch-resistant container that closes securely and is safety-tested.   

One carrier model that checks all of these boxes is the Sleepypod Air. It’s sturdy, yet soft, it has a secure closure, and it’s crash-tested to child safety standards. It also offers a lot of flight-friendly features: it comes in a variety of different colors, it has comfortable, integrated bedding, and it’s even expandable for maximum comfort after takeoff and before landing. When your flight’s over, it can be used in the car as a pet car seat, and at the hotel as a pet bed.

The takeaway

While a carrier may seem like a minor detail, investing the time and effort in finding the best possible option can actually work wonders to alleviate stress and ensure that you and your pet have a safe and comfortable flight, no matter where your travels take you.

About TripsWithPets

TripsWithPets is the go-to platform for booking pet-friendly accommodations, offering convenient online reservations across the United States and Canada.

Visit TripsWithPets.com to secure pet-friendly places to stay and find all you need to book the ideal stay with your pets, including detailed and current hotel pet policies and pet amenities.

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Your hotel booking directly contributes to our efforts to rescue more pets, raise awareness, and ultimately provide countless animals with the chance to lead long, joyful, and fulfilling lives.

Join us in this rewarding journey, where every trip you take is a step closer to saving lives and creating a brighter future for beloved pets. Book your next pet-friendly getaway, overnight stay, or adventure with TripsWithPets and be a hero for pets in need.