How to fly with your pet onboard
When I decided to move to Luxembourg, I was already a deeply devoted fur mama. I had no idea what moving was going to be like, except that my baby boy was going to be right there with me. Thankfully, I was a cat mom and not a German Shepard mom so I knew he was going to be able to kick it in economy with me.
When I began searching out how to travel with my little babe, I felt the internet had everything but helpful articles. I know a lot of people ship their pets in cargo, but I couldn’t even consider doing it. Way not in my comfort zone. I was determined that we would find a way to do this flight, hand in paw.
Here's what we learned:
Don’t buy any kind of “passport” from an online website. Your vet has all the paperwork you need.
Find a vet who has done this before and who you trust. It's a scary process because potentially your pet's life is at risk if things aren't done correctly.
If you have questions, call the government body in charge (even if you trust your vet). They are by far the most helpful and up-to-date in regulations.
Your pet may not need the strongest medicine in the market.
Prepare yourself for lots of phone calls. Don't try to handle this online only.
Do your research on airlines. Some have weight restrictions and some don't. I have a chunky little boy, so I avoided any airlines with a weight limit.
I actually spent a ton of time on online shopping for pet passports. After hours looking through all the documents, I came out even more confused. This isn't as challenging if you're not switching countries. But if you are, then you need to know the laws of the country traveling from, to and in between. It's too much to handle on your own, and all these documents are going to be free at your vet.
My general vet was actually quite nice when it came to the normal check ups and vaccines. But when it came to the travel requirements, it was just short of a disaster. I felt there was a never ending stream of confusion on what I should do, and on what they should do. There were constant calls back and forth: sometimes the advice was right but often times it was wrong. In the end, this was an unnecessary stress and I wish I had considered doing a bit more research to find a vet who had more experience in the process.
USDA to the Rescue
The USDA APHIS was my saving grace. Once I finally hit the bottom and felt like I had no idea how I would pull this move off, I decided to send an email to APHIS. They responded right away and were incredibly helpful. This is where I felt I should have started the process. At minimum, you should chat with APHIS pet travel folks weeks ahead of when you need to process your pet's paperwork. The certification needs to be within 10 days of your travel, and requires quite a bit of work. I was able to prepare exactly what I needed and was able to advise my vet more clearly about what was required for my situation.
Try Herbal Medicine
I paid for the strong pills from my vet to "knock out" my cat for the flight. He gets a little stressed normally in the car and starts meowing so I thought he was going to need it. But a week or two prior to our travel, I decided to try out the herbal travel calmer. He did such a great job with it that I decided we were going to use only this for our journey (and said a lot of prayers I was making the right choice). The best part was that it was just a dropper, so I could put it in his water, but in a pinch, could get it into his mouth. He was awake, but calm the whole flight and it calmed me down to see him a little relaxed in the process.
Once you have found a few flight options which seem realistic, it's time to make some phone calls. You need to speak with someone to find out what the restrictions are (weight, carrier size, etc.). Delta was best for us. I managed to find a direct flight (I was really, really trying to avoid layovers) to an airport within a couple hours of my final destination. They had no weight restriction, so bonus points for me. You may feel annoying, but you need to call, book, then call again to book for your pet. And if you're like me, you'll call a few more times just to make sure everything is ok!
Have you ever flown with your pet? I'd love to hear your experiences / advice in the comments below!