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A Guide to Traveling with Your Pet

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/25/2006 | Pets and Animals
Have you wanted to visit friends or relatives, or perhaps hike the trails at a scenic park? Did concerns over leaving your pet behind prevent you from going? Traveling with your pet is easier than you think.

Air travel with pets falls into two categories, in-cabin and cargo. In-cabin pets must be small enough to fit into a carrier that will slide under the seat in front of you. Pets too large to fit comfortably in a carrier must travel in cargo. Cargo holds are heated, cooled and pressurized, just like the passenger compartment.

Before you make a reservation, be sure the airline will accommodate your pet. Some airlines do not take pets in-cabin; some discount airlines don't accept pets at all. So if you purchase your airline tickets through the Internet, make sure your pet will be able to travel with you.

Pet passengers require a reservation, whether traveling in-cabin or cargo. Airlines have restrictions on the number of pets they will carry in order to provide safe travel for all. So making your pet's reservation at the same time you purchase your ticket is a good idea. Extra charges for both in-cabin and cargo pets will be assessed.

Purchase a health certificate from your veterinarian. Health certificates are only good for ten days, so if your visit will be longer than that you will have to purchase another health certificate for the return trip.

Your in-cabin pet will need a carrier. These soft-sided carriers come in several sizes, so buy or borrow one that allows your pet plenty of room. Some of these can be bought with wheels to make transport through the airport easier; these also reduce "pet space" under the airplane seat. Window and middle seats have more room underneath than aisle seats due to the seat configurations.

Pets traveling in cargo will need an airline-approved kennel. Generally, these are hard-sided, non-collapsible crates. If your pet already has a sturdy crate it may double as a shipping kennel, but do make sure it is airline approved.

Most experts do not recommend tranquilizing your pet. The motion of the airplane seems to have a soporific effect, causing pets (and people) to snooze. Once in the air you'll find that your pet will probably sleep. A word about training is appropriate here. Crate training your pet will make him/her a better traveler. There are many resources available that will show you how to accomplish this. Time spent training will definitely pay off.

Don't hesitate to join the legion of folks who travel with their pets. With a little preparation can be safe, simple and rewarding.