Thursday, April 17, 2014

Super Holly, Fly in the Sky!

I have posted before a bit about my must haves when travelling with Holly, but air travel with a pet is still the thing I am asked about the most, so I figured I'd do another post expanding on our tips and tricks, since Holly and I are about to take our 9th (!!!) plane journey together.

Because of the risk factors associated with cargo travel, Holly only travels in cabin  with me under the seat in front of me, so all tips and tricks below are in regards to having an in-flight puppy accompany you on your journey!

Most of the questions I get about plane travel are in regards to Holly's size. At 20lbs, Holly pushes the limit for the maximum pup weight required for in cabin travel for most airlines, and many international airlines require that weight combination include your pet's carrier (domestic rules tend to be a bit less strict). Most airlines have a $75-$100 fee for each way you travel with a pet. We only fly Southwest Airlines because they do not have an in cabin weight limit for pets, just the requirement that they fit comfortably within an airline approved carrier, which brings us to...

The beloved Sleepypod Air! I know I have talked about our love for our Sleepypod before, but it is truly the perfect solution for those with a medium sized travel companion. Holly is long and fairly tall, so it was important to me that we find a carrier that she fit comfortably in for our fairly long flights back and forth to Colorado. When it is expanded, the Sleepypod Air measures in at a comfy 22 inches, giving Little Holly plenty of legroom to stretch out and sleep. I also like the feature that allows the carrier to collapse to an under-seat friendly 19 inches for takeoff and landing, but I have never had an issue with Southwest even with the carrier left at its full size.
The Sleepypod really earned its name--Holly knocks out as soon as she climbs in!
The thing I was most nervous about the first time we flew was the security screening. Now I have learned how to speed up the process and almost match my pre-Holly screening efficiency! Some airports require that those travelling with pets use a designated line (the same line families or those travelling with approved medications are in), but most allow animals in any line within the security checkpoint. You must remove your pet from their carrier and hold them while going through the metal detector and having your hands checked by the TSA (Holly has also had a couple of quick pat-downs, but usually she just gets a pat hello!). The carrier is then scanned with the rest of the luggage in the X Ray machine. The most difficult part for us is the post screening portion, where I have to perform a unique form of acrobatics involving simultaneously depositing her back into her Sleepypod, putting my own shoes back on, and grabbing my laptop quickly enough to satisfy the disgruntled travelers waiting for the line to move along behind me. Traveling with a pet is certainly an adventure!

As for the actual flight itself, I personally don't feel comfortable with the use of sedatives on Holly because many of them have not been FDA approved for high altitudes. Instead, I schedule my flights later in the morning so she can have a good long walk and meal before we leave, and try to give myself enough time arriving to the airport so I am not flustered and in a hurry, but not so long that she starts to get restless. The only times we had issues were when I was running to a flight that moved gates, and the time our flight was delayed 3 hours--that lead to a restless Holly AND a restless Mommy, though the Southwest attendants at the gate gave us permission to take Holly to the family restroom with a wee wee pad so we would not have to go back out through security to take care of business (pro tip for the future!).
All the travel worries are worth it when Holly gets to play in my parent's big yard!
Have you traveled with your pets? What tips and tricks do you recommend for a safe & happy flight?

Until Next Time, Darlings!

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