We combed through the hundreds of pet products we've tested to find the most
useful airline travel essentials—carriers, toys, snacks, and other tools that will put
your pet at ease, streamline travel, and take the headache out of that next cross-
country flight with your small dog.
The first step to flying with your dog is having a firm sense of the specific pet
policies of your chosen airline and flight. The maximum weight allowed for in-
cabin pets varies among airlines but is usually around 20 pounds. Your dog must
also be up-to-date on their vaccinations and be capable of remaining in a pet
carrier for the duration of the flight.
If you have a certified service and/or therapy dog, these rules and guidelines can
vary significantly, so it's crucial to inform your airline of a service animal in
advance. Typically, your airline will ask for a completed Department of
Transportation form, filed in advance of your flight.
But flying with your pet isn't just about knowing airline regulations. Instead, your
primary focus should be on minimizing stress for both you and your dog. Having
all the right tools at your disposal can make the trip a lot less stressful. And
staying calm will help keep your dog calm too.
It meets the requirements of The Civil Aviation Safety Authority so it’s
suitable for in-cabin use on most major airlines (you should still always
check with your flight provider). It’s made to support small pets weighing
up to 18 pounds, and its leather and nylon exterior offers structure and
stability with enough flexibility to slide into under-seat spaces.
When booking your pet, you will often need to provide the dimensions of
your pet carrier. Those limitations typically make soft-sided carriers the
more flexible option, since they can more easily fit the allotted under-
seat space. Our favorite is The Pet Carrier from Away, because it's got
a removable bed, a trolley sleeve for easy carrying, and it's crash test
certified by the Center for Pet Safety, so it guard your dog against the
bumps and jolts of travel.
The carrier’s shape is similar to a gym bag and comes equipped with a
shoulder strap and handles for carrying. There are internal and external
pockets for stashing documents you might be asked to show, like your
dog’s latest vaccine record, along with essentials, like wipes and a
collapsible bowl for water.
Best Travel Bowl
Your pet carrier counts as a carry-on item, so reducing the weight and
bulk of other items you need will keep you streamlined. The Prima
Collapsible Travel Bowl in a size small easily slides into a pocket of a
pet carrier or jacket, and it also comes with a carabiner clip for
placement on a leash. It expands to hold up to 1.5 cups which is more
than enough at one time for most small dogs who will likely only take a
few sips at a time. Before you board you can give your dog water and
then find a place that’s suitable for them to tinkle. But it’s recommended
that you limit the amount of water you give a dog on the plane to reduce
their need to pee.
Best Pee Pads
Many airports have designated pet relief areas where dogs are allowed
to exit their carrier and “freshen up”. We recommend packing a few slim
puppy pee pads just in case you are at an airport that doesn’t offer this
amenity or your gate is too far away from the designated pet pee zone.
The Bulldoglogy Puppy Training Pads are a reliable choice that quickly
absorbs and contains dog pee, making it easy to pick up and dispose of
in a nearby trash can.
Best Travel Wipes
Keep a travel-sized pack of Pogi’s Grooming Wipes in the pocket of
your pet carrier to quickly clean up any spills—like vomit from motion
sickness or a conspicuous dingleberry—and to wipe down paws after they’ve
walked all over the pee-friendly pet relief area. Pogi’s Grooming Wipes are
free of parabens, sulfates, and alcohol, and gentle enough to use on the face.
Each resealable travel-ready pouch contains 20 wipes.
Best Rawhide Treats
Giving your dog a Better Belly Original Chicken Liver Knotted Bone will
keep them focused on a tasty treat. The knotted bones in the mini size
are each around two inches long so they won’t take up a lot of space in
the carrier with your dog. The rawhide used to make Better Belly treats
has been processed to be easily digestible and they contain no gluten,
grain, or artificial colors.
Give your dog a treat and a puzzle game all in one by placing a Kong
Classic Dog Toy in their carrier. The x-small size version of this rubber
toy is 2.5 inches long and 1.4 inches at its widest point. It can be filled
with bite-sized dog treats, your dog’s favorite kibble, and a variety of
dog-friendly foods, but we suggest avoiding peanut butter on a plane
just in case someone on board has a severe peanut allergy.
If you want to make your dog’s carrier more comfortable, we
recommend adding a Blaket. These blankets are made out of soft
woven cotton that’s breathable and machine washable.
Best Treat Pouch
The Dog Pouch has a compartment for poop bags and divided space
inside to carry treats, your phone, and a few other small essentials, like
hand sanitizer and your ID. It can be carried in three styles: crossbody,
shoulder, and fanny pack, to suit your traveling setup and keep you
hands-free. It can also be clipped to your pet carrier or placed inside
your second carry-on item to keep you and your pet within the confines
of your two-item carry-on limit.
The exterior is made with recycled nylon and comes in a variety of
colors with seasonal releases occurring throughout the year. The bag
can be spot cleaned with soap and water and features a
Your Dog's Energy Level
If your dog is high-energy, then you should make sure you have time to take
them for a walk or have them play at a dog park before you make your way to the
airport. Your dog will be pretty restricted to their carrier for the duration of your
time at the airport and on the plane, so it’s best if they are ready for a nap.
• Can my dog sit on my lap on an airplane?
No, for most domestic flights a small dog traveling inside the main
cabin must remain in their carrier and stowed under the seat in front of
you. Should the plane encounter turbulence, having your dog on your lap
could lead to injury.
• Can I purchase a plane ticket to have my dog sit in a seat?
No, most domestic airlines have rules against purchasing a plane seat
ticket with the intention of having a dog use the seat.
• Do airports have dog-friendly areas?
Some airports are more accommodating to the needs of our canine
friends. We recommend checking the official websites of the airports
you and your dog will be visiting to see if they offer designated pet relief
areas and where they are located.