How to Fly with Pets

While I already talked how Ben and I took Kit Kat, Shanti, and Omni from India to Mexico, I wanted to write a general guide on how to fly with pets. There’s a LOT that goes into it from buying the right crates to making sure your pet isn’t freaking out, so here are all my tips here.

How to Fly with pets

Managing the paperwork & preparing your pets

This is key! You need to have the flights, paperwork, and all the legal aspects ready to go. I wrote about the paperwork necessary for my pets in this article. It has resources and links you can use to see what you’ll need for your pets. You’ll have to show this to the airline and customs.

Try to get this sorted and the crates ready months in advance so you can crate train your pet. You might even want to put them in the crate, move them to the car, and drive around so they won’t panic when the first time that happens is to go to the airport.

What You Need to Buy to Fly With Pets:

IATA cages for each pet

Make sure they’re correct sizes and they must be from IATA verified. We bought ours on Amazon and there were no issues. The crates are really easy to put together but make sure you don’t lose any of the screws especially if you need to take the crate apart for transport and then put it back together. Mine came with a little plastic water bowl, but we switched that out for a metal bowl as the plastic ones were targets for my pets – they wanted to chew them! Many airlines won’t allow the crates unless they are IATA verified. As for sizing, we went up a size for both of our pets who were borderline so they would have more space. You need to check the requirements for the airline (hence, already have the flight booked) and make sure you aren’t going over their weight and size requirements.

Cat carrier to carry on

Our cat came with us as a carry-on. We chose a carrier multiple carry-ons from Amazon and they really are mostly the same, however, some have a cool zippered side that can come down and make more room for your pet once you are on the flight or during the layover. My cat really loved that. I recommend getting a few and trialing them to see which is the best size (make sure it’s a product that can be returned). If your cat cannot turn around and stand up without their head touching the top, then it’s too small.

Pee pads

You need these for the carry-on and some airlines will allow you to put this in the checked crates. We did with Air Canada. Some airlines won’t allow it and some websites will say not to as your pet could get nervous and try to eat them (causing injury or death). It depends on your pet’s temperament. Ours wouldn’t eat them so we felt confident it was okay. The cat wouldn’t go in his carrier – and he was in it for 24 hours!

Water bottles

You can get a crate that has water bottles or buy one that you think is better suited. You can also then get a funnel which you can cable tie to the crate and easily fill their bowl up without opening the crate.

Proper Harnesses for each pet

You DO have to take your pet out of the checked crates AND the carry-on crates to go through security. I recommend a harness because then it’s pretty fail-proof for them not being able to get out of it and run off (which was my worst fear). Just note that for the checked pets, you have to take all of the collars, harnesses, and leashes off of them before you hand them over to board the plane.

Quality leashes and collars

Don’t cheap out on the collars and leashes. You should get ones that are hardcore and won’t break. If you pet was ever going to try to get out of a collar, this would be the time! We also made them quite tight so that there were no “oops” moments of the pet backing up and pulling their head out of the collar.

Tags with pet names + phone numbers

I get them made on Etsy sometimes but you can also get them made at any pet store or buy them online. This is really important. If you are flying internationally (we moved from India to Mexico) and your old number won’t work, make sure the number on the pet tag is one that is actually reachable.

Laminated photos and signs for the cages

taking pets out of india

We laminated copies of the pet paperwork and photos of the pets (a close-up and a side view) which we put on top. All the water bowls and funnels were held on with cables ties. Also, you must secure the door of the crate with cable ties when you hand your pet over so no one accidentally opens their crate! We also duct taped water bottles on the sides of the crate so that people had no excuse to not give our pets water during the layover.

Medicines + products to help east the trip

This is really a personal decision. We bought MANY types of products from calming drops to chewable melatonin treats and tried them out ahead of time. They seemed to work but the day of the journey we panicked worried that it could slow their heart rate. Every website has a different view on whether or not to give meds. Most vets say it’s okay while PETA says no way. It’s up to you! Airlines WILL NOT accept your pet if it looks sedated. Linked below are the ones we tried. The pets didn’t love the treats so we had to put peanut butter on them.

SynergyLabs Richard’s Organics Pet Calm; 4 fl.oz.

NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid Plus Melatonin 180 Soft Chews 13.9OZ

For more flying tips:

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About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Rachel en Route July 19, 2018 at 5:26 am - Reply

    Wow, there is a lot more that goes into flying with animals than I originally expected…

  2. Cassie Goodluck-Johnson July 22, 2018 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    Funny enough we just brought our 2 cats down to Merida as well. Wish we had seen this before as it would have saved a lot of headaches. We tried to be diligent about getting everything in order and it all seemed fine. Cats slightly content about flying (boy cat passed out the entire flight, girl cat literally cried tears down her face until we were told by our flight attendant we could hold her in our laps; we were lucky that they are “emotional support animals” so we could take them out of their carriers.) We got through to the border and were told the medical paperwork we had was filled out on the wrong form so the cats could not enter the country. Thank god their was a vet in Cancun that was not far away that came over and filled out the paperwork for $50 US dollars to allow the cats in. We had zipper issues with the Pet Peppy, but upgraded to the Mr. Peanut cat carrier and it seems to be a little stronger with the bonus metal safety clasp for the zippers. Still need to buy another carrier to replace the Pet Peppy which zipper broke several occasions, but luckily our boy cat didn’t try to escape despite the fact it would have been easy for him to do so. It was an adventure to say the least! Love your blog and if you are still in Merida we would love to meet up for coffee and talk traveling with you?

    • Rachel Jones July 23, 2018 at 12:10 am - Reply

      Glad it all worked out! I’ve met others who said they needed a vet to come into Cancun airport to help clear as their paperwork wasn’t exactly what was needed. Awesome they allow that. Yes, we are living in Merida! Are you based here permanently? Would be great to meet :P

      • cassiegoodluck July 24, 2018 at 12:31 am - Reply

        Yes!! we would love to meet up. We are planning on hanging around the Yucatan until January or February but not permanent as we just started our travels and this is our first stop. What is your favorite coffee shop? We like Estacian 74, Marago on Paseo de Montejo if you like others we are open.

  3. thebritishberliner July 24, 2018 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Great guide Rachel. ‘Love it! ‘Love it! ‘Love it! And my lovely pets!

  4. Elizabeth Higgins July 28, 2018 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    For someone with dogs, this post really is a gem, Rachel! I have gotten anxious, mad, and clueless as to whether or not to bring our pets when we travel. I know there’s a lot going on behind the traveling process but after reading this piece, I have gotten confident that we can definitely try bringing our pets for the first time. So, thank you for sharing! I am sure I’m not the only one you’ve helped regarding this dilemma.

  5. Claire January 12, 2019 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel, thanks so much for all this info. How did you determine the right size crate for your dogs for them to be comfortable? I had a look on Amazon buts its a little overwhelming what to choose and how/what to measure to get the right one! Also did you spend time getting your dog used to the crate? If so what process did you do? Thanks again!

    • Rachel Jones January 13, 2019 at 10:27 pm - Reply

      We did measurements multiple times to see which one, then since we were on the fence, we sized UP. We figured more space is better, and I think it was the right way to go. Our first dog, Shanti, was crate trained as a puppy and actually likes going inside. The other one we rescued at one year old and he had never been in a cage and hated it. We did a lackluster crate training – you have to stick with it and Omni just hated it so it was basically he’s just going to hate it no matter what kind of thing :(

  6. Sherrie Jarius March 20, 2019 at 3:27 am - Reply

    Love this article – but one of my biggest fears you have brought to light… to sedate or not to sedate?? I’ve got an older cat & 2 scaredy cats & I honestly think flying will just be soooooo traumatic for the 3 of them… Its a 6 hr flight with a single stop in TX and I wonder how that’s going to work if I can’t sedate… UGH!! Is that kind of info on the airlines website so I can find out in advance? And another MASSIVE question is do they charge you a full price ticket for each animal? Mine I’m sure will be crying in terror the entire flight so I wonder also… where do they put them? In with luggage?? Its all so overwhelming… I was supposed to be driving out across the entire country & down into Central Mexico from NJ but my ride cancelled as she was going to be off exploring on her own… dunno if the drive would be any better, truthfully!!

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