Sami and I are always traveling. You can see this on our Instagram account. We take a lot of road trips, but we’re also fond of going by air.
In time, I learned a few tips that have made air travel with my little pup easier.
While traveling with your dog for the first time may seem difficult, these tips will make it a lot easier, hopefully:
1. Make sure your Westie can fly in the cabin
The most important thing for us was to be sure we can take Sami in the cabin with us. You can do that with some airlines, so check their pet policy before. As an idea, we flew Aegean/Olympic Air from Lisbon to Athens and back and we had almost no issues.
Airlines have a weight limit: most of the times 8kgs, but I saw airlines with a limit of 6kgs as well. This includes the weight of the travel crate/travel bag you use.
Keep in mind that even if some airlines accept dogs in the cabin, the destination airport might not allow your dog to leave the plane. The airports in the UK and in Ireland are like this. We travel quite often to Ireland and we need to send Sami to the training school for the period, unfortunately.
2. Schedule an Appointment with Your Vet
Before you take your pet on vacation to another country, it’s a good idea to take your Westie to the vet. Here are a few reasons why:
- Check your Westie’s overall health and wellness.
- Confirm if your Westie’s vaccinations are current and give you a certificate to take with you.
- Check if your Westie’s microchip for pet identification is ok. You need a microchip for most countries, so I assume your dog has one. Our Sami was already chiped when we got him.
- Renew any medications you need for your Westie, prescribing you enough to last you the entire trip.
- Discuss the possibility of sedating your Westie before traveling with you. I have never had to sedate Sami on my travels because he’s a well-behaved dog and I don’t think you’ll have to take this measure either with your Westie. But it’s still advised to check with your vet.
- Complete a health certificate if required by the airline you’re traveling from to your destination. The country where you’re taking your Westie may also require it.
- Check and treat your Westie for ticks and fleas. Most foreign countries expect dog owners to get this treatment before bringing their pet over.
3. Bring Your Westie’s Regular Food (and Bottled Water)
When you visit another country, there are chances the food there will not sit well with you and you’ll get sick and then better.
The same is true for dogs. And I might be ok with me risking spending a night on the toilet, but I don’t want to take that risk with my Sami.
Bring the food that your Westie normally eats at home with you on your trip. If you’re really paranoid or you don’t trust the water at destination, you can also bring bottled water with you. Of course, you can also buy water bottles when you get to your destination and this is a much better solution.
When we flew to Greece last summer we also took with us, on the plane, his travel water bottle. This one is a life saver, since you can put back the water your puppy doesn’t drink. Read more about it here, where we wrote a much more comprehensive review of how we use it.
4. Bring a Crate/Travel Dog Carrier
One of the reasons I trained Sami for a crate/travel bag is because most airlines require it. This will keep your Westie safe during the flight. He can use the crate to sleep in when he reaches the hotel. I recommend you buy a crate with the following features:
- Large crate, which allows your Westie to stand, turn, and lie down with ease.
- Strong crate with handles and grips and no interior protrusions with a leak-proof base covered with absorbent material.
- Ventilation on both sides of the crate with knobs or exterior rims to ensure proper airflow.
- Place a comfortable mat, his favorite toy, and a water bottle in the crate.
- Label the crate with your name, address, and phone number.
We used the bag you can see above, in the photo. It’s expendable, so it’s a lot bigger than it looks. Still, there was one time, in 6 flights, when an airline employee thought it was too small. We should her that the bag becomes bigger, but she still wasn’t too happy about it. She let us go, anyway, but you should call the airline to be sure.
Sami was a 6 months puppy when we flew with him and he was around 5kgs (12 pounds). Now, that he’s bigger, we might choose a different bag when we fly.
5. Choose a Good Pet-Friendly Hotel
Of course, you need to choose a pet-friendly hotel to stay in. I always search for pet-friendly hotels beforehand and book a room. I ask the hotel before hand if it’s ok, even if the site says it’s ok. I want to be sure.
Keep in mind that most hotels charge you an additional fee for the dog. We paid from €5/night to €40/night. Ask before getting there.
When you’re searching for a hotel, see if they have any size or breed restrictions. Usually your Westie meets their pet criteria, but make sure he respects the hotel staff, guests, and rules property. Other rules to follow include:
- Keep your Westie as quiet as possible. Sami is a barker, just as all Westies are, which is why training him to “Stop” barking is so important.
- Never leave your Westie unattended. Most dogs will bark or destroy property if you leave them in an unfamiliar place alone.
- If you must leave your Westie in the hotel, place him in the crate, but never leave him alone for more than several hours.
- When we left Sami alone in the hotel room, we let the reception of the hotel know. We also gave them our phone number and asked them to call us if Sami disturbs the other guests. This way, we could come back to the hotel as soon as possible.
6. Health Problems to Prepare for
Constipation is one of the most common health problems that most pets suffer from when in a foreign country. The common causes of constipation include lack of exercise, anxiety about being in a strange place, or infrequent stops.
Ask your vet what you should give your puppy for constipation and have it with you, just to be safe.
When we flew to Greece, Sami also had some issues with his paws. Because he wanted to run around after the Greek cats while in the leash, he was really pushing in the ground and he got some scratches. We took him to a local vet, though, and she gave us something to put on his paws.
Also, if you fly to a country with hot weather, be careful with your puppy’s paws. They can really get burnt on the ground or sand, so avoid, if possible, going out with your dog after 10-11am and before 5-6pm.
7. Prepare for Nausea
Your pet may suffer from nausea if traveling in the car or airplane with you. This can cause them to vomit or salivate a lot. Talk to your vet about it before hand. You can give your pet B-complex supplementation to prevent nausea.
Keep some wet paper towels or napkins at hand. If your pup makes a little mess, it’s easier to clean it up this way.
8. Book a Good Flight
One important tip I want to leave you with is that before you book a flight to your destination, try to book one with the least hours and layovers. Although it might be a bit more expensive, it’ll be good for your dog because he may have to wait outside before he can board the airplane.
Another tip: book an overnight flight. This way, there’s a much bigger chance for your puppy to sleep. Before going on the plane, take some time to play with him outside and consume his energy. Most of the airports have a small park/grass space in front or on the side, where you can play with your puppy for 20-30 minutes before going through security.
Finally, if the flight is longer than 17 or 18 hours or the airline doesn’t give you the option to travel with your pet as extra baggage, you can book the transport of your Westie through a cargo company with experience in pet travel. Truth is, though, after we’ve read some stories, we don’t want to put our Sami through that kind of experience. So we decided that if we fly on a vacation that’s a long way from home, we might just leave Sami home, at the training school. He loves it there anyway and we really don’t think we could be ok with him flying as cargo.
As with everything, flying with your puppy is about preparation. Be sure you know the airline rules, the hotel’s policies and the way your puppy reacts in general.
Our first trip with Sami on an airplane was a little bit scary for us, but he was a great boy and we had a lot of fun. I hope you will as well.
Also, here’s a video of Sami sleeping in the Athens airport, before boarding the flight to Lisbon.