Traveling with pets has always been a challenge. Given new security procedures, it has become even more trying, particularly when flying. The following are ideas and tips on making the next trip with your furry little friend as smooth and easy as possible.

Pets on Planes

More than 500,000 house pets take to the skies in the U.S. each year. Most airlines allow one pet per owner to fly in the cabin, inside a carrier small enough to fit under the seat. FAA regulations limit two pets per main cabin, so your pet must have a reservation. A one-way fee, plus a veterinary health certificate is required. If there is no space in the cabin, pets must be shipped as cargo, where they are placed into a heated and pressurized portion of the cargo hold.

Security Screening Tips:
  • Remember to confirm your flight and your pet's reservation before leaving for the airport.
  • Give yourself plenty of time at the airport for security screening. Allow at least two hours.
  • Make sure your pet carrier is easy to search.
  • Bear in mind that x-ray machines are set to the highest level, which could harm pets. Ask the security personnel to hand search your pet, and tell them you can remove the animal from its carrier for inspection. Few security personnel are trained to inspect animals, so be patient.
  • Remember that the FAA has limited carry-on luggage to one bag, plus one personal item such as a purse, briefcase, or laptop computer. Even though you're paying extra, your pet will count as your one carry-on, so plan luggage options accordingly.
  • Keep certain documents -- the pet's veterinary health certificate and the airline's documentation showing that the pet's reservation has been made—on hand to show as often as necessary.

If you are wondering which airlines allow small animals in the cabin. The following is a listing of the major carriers' with links to their policies:

Fees for transporting pets continue to rise, and in some cases, cost more than the owner's ticket. The increase is due to tighter restrictions on pet-acceptance policies that came in response to the "Safe Air Travel for Animals Act," a bill signed into law by former President Clinton in April 2000 after complaints about deaths and injuries to animals caused by extreme temperatures while in transit. Airlines became nervous at the implications for violations under the act, and then raised fees or instituted bans to deter pet travel.

International Flights

While most countries allow animal importation, many impose restrictions that discourage the short-term visitor. For instance, England places a six-month quarantine on all imported animals, except for domesticated animals arriving from some European and other countries such as Australia and New Zealand. While most of the U.S. does not practice quarantine, be aware that Hawaii and Guam do.

Jan T. of Mena, AR, would like to ship her two large dogs to Korea. This is a case where the services of a professional pet transportation company would help cut through the red tape involved. Pets on the Go is a great website for locating a shipper and finding answers to related pet travel questions. Bear in mind that Korea quarantines animals.

Booking Pet Reservations Online

Anita A. of Newton, MA, asked if it's possible to book pet travel through Hotwire. Pets are allowed on flights booked through Hotwire, depending upon the airline's individual restrictions. However, Hotwire cannot guarantee that you will be able to travel with your pet because you can't know the carrier until after you buy the ticket. Therefore, it's better to contact the airline directly if you must travel with your pet on a certain date.

Cruise Lines

Many readers, like Susan B. of Lakeland, FL, and Michael D. of Staten Island, NY, are curious as to whether any cruise lines allow dogs to travel with them. With the exception of service animals, no major cruise ships allow dogs in the cabin with people. However, Cunard's transatlantic QE2 allows small dogs in the ship's kennels (dogs are not allowed in the cabin). The dog must be fairly small as the kennels are only 33" x 33" x 29". The kennel has visiting hours three times per day. Also be aware that if you sail into England on the QE2, your dog will have to go into quarantine for six months.

No Pets

Some travelers aren't so keen on people bringing their pets onboard. Sam M. of Cleveland, OH, feels that pet owners who fly with their pets are "selfish" and "inconsiderate" because certain animals pose risks such as allergies. There's truth to what he's saying; however, sometimes leaving pets at home is unavoidable. I've had to transport my cat "Sting" on several job relocation moves across the country. Faced with either driving an aging cat from coast-to-coast or flying, I knew that the latter option was more humane for the cat.

It's in your best interest to be as considerate to other travelers as possible. Flight attendants tried in vain to move me away from people who claimed cat allergies or who just didn't like cats, and wound up putting me -- and the cat -- into first class. I guess every dog (or cat) has its day.

Real Traveler Thoughts

Unless it is absolutely necessary for your pet to travel, Real Traveler recommends that you leave your beloved animal with a trusted friend, family member, pet-sitter, or reputable boarding kennel. The danger of pet travel is not the travel itself, but the stress it puts on the animal. Owners should always consider whether taking their pet along is for their benefit or the animal's.

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