Little doggie Rambo is somewhat of a frequent flyer. I only wish that he could earn points for all his travelling. I know that many people think it’s a hassle to travel with pets but it can be a pretty seamless experience. A bit of planning means that your furry friend can enjoy your destination with you.
I’ve received so many emails and messages asking for tips on travelling with pets I figured it was high time I wrote them all down. Regular readers will know that I travel a lot between Sydney and Melbourne – and I usually bring some or all of my menagerie with me. So when it comes to flying with pets, what’s the deal?
1. Booking your pets on the plane
While my furballs would dearly love their own Learjet, this is not going to happen any time soon. So we have to fly regular airlines like Qantas and Virgin. Fortunately, this is pretty easy (and a lot less expensive).
In fact, in some cases, it’s free. For example, with Qantas, your pet carrier is considered a piece of luggage so it’s just part of your regular luggage allowance. If you have an extra bag, you pay for the extra piece. On my most recent flight (yesterday), this extra piece was only $20.
You can’t front up with your pet unannounced. When you book, you need to let the airline know. And unless you have a guide dog, your furry friend doesn’t get to travel with you in the cabin. They go downstairs in the cargo. (This is unlike some airlines in the US which are more pet-friendly.)
Your furry babies need to travel in a “pet pack”. Basically, they are pretty standard pet carriers which you can get from most pet stories or vets. I have a small one for little doggie Rambo. And a medium-sized one which holds both my kitties Rex and Rocky. Most airlines allow two pets in one carrier as long as there is enough room for them to stand up and turn around (but always check with the airline’s website for their rules). I also choose to put two kitties in one carrier – instead of having separate carriers – because then it’s fewer items for me to carry!
2. Before getting on the plane
Let’s get practical here. It would certainly be handy if your furball’s bowels could coordinate with the plane’s schedule. But there are no guarantees that will happen. So maximise your pet’s – and your – comfort by:
* going for a walk well before your flight to give your furball plenty of opportunity to go to the toilet.
* not feeding them until after the flight.
3. Checking your pets in
I prefer to fly Qantas because you can check in your furballs like luggage, right at the terminal. You do need to go to the service desk first to let them know and then you check in your furball at the nearby “oversized baggage” counter. The friendly staff use cable ties to secure the carrier (so that your furball doesn’t break out and run around the airport) and then your pet goes off on the conveyor belt.
This is what happens at Qantas’s Sydney terminal. Similarly, when you arrive in Melbourne, your little furball is waiting at the usual luggage area (along with the other oversized luggage). If you fly Virgin, you need to check your pet in at a separate building which means you need to get there earlier so that you can then go to the main terminal to check in yourself. As I’m a big fan of efficiency, I prefer Qantas.
Here’s Rambo heading off on the conveyor belt at Sydney airport:
4. At the other end
Here’s my tip. Pack some scissors. Obviously, don’t pack this in your hand luggage in case airport security decide you’re a terrorist. Pack them in the luggage that goes in the cargo. Why? Because when you get to the other end, you will want to cut the cables ties asap. Otherwise, you have to wait till you get to your final destination before you can hug your fur-baby. This is particular useful if your furbaby:
* has pooped while on the plane (yes, Rambo has done this. It’s not pretty.)
* is barking the entire terminal down (yes, little dog, BIG noise)
* is distressed and needs some comfort (this has happened to kitty Rocky)
* needs to sign autographs from adoring fans (yet to happen, but I’m SURE the day will come).
In addition, pack some moist wipes – yes you know, baby wipes or anti-bacterial Wet Ones. Hopefully, you won’t have to use them. But if your furballs have indeed pooped on the plane, you want to be able to clean it up quick smart before you get into the waiting cab, car, pet limo.
5. Additional information
Flying isn’t for everyone. Some pets love it (like little doggie Rambo). Others hate it and look almost suicidal by the end of their journey (like fluffy kitty Rocky). We’ve figured this out after a few journeys and basically I know that poor little Rocky is never going to get used to flying. He is a wreck by the end of it. So these days if Rocky is travelling with me, we will drive. But if it’s just seasoned traveller Rambo, we fly.
TIP: Always make sure you have a bowl so that you can give your fur babies some water at the other end. Rambo can get a little confused as he’s not in his usual environment so he doesn’t recognise his water bowl unless he sees me pour water into it.
ANOTHER TIP: Bring additional cable ties. You can get these from the two-dollar shop.You never know when you’re going to need them. I’ve used them on numerous occasions when I’ve had to cut the cable ties (often to pick Rambo up to stop him from barking the airport down) but then have to secure the carrier again.
AND ANOTHER TIP: If we’re flying in winter, I always make sure Rambo has a jumper or jacket on. After all, I’m pretty sure cargo holds and airport hangars aren’t well heated!
On the whole, I LOVE travelling with my furballs. Currently, we mainly travel between Sydney and Melbourne (and back of course). However, my dream is to one day have a luxury Winnebago so that I can traipse around the country with them at my leisure.
In the next instalment of “Travelling with pets”, we tackle … driving long distances. Stay tuned!