Travel Tuesday Top 10: Things I’ve Learned So Far About Traveling With a Dog

by on March 12, 2013 · 38 comments

in Pet Travel, Top 10

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As I wrote about last month, I recently got a French Bulldog puppy and to date he has flown with me on 5 segments, 6,527 miles on three different airlines (American, Southwest and Delta). I was nervous about traveling with a pet for the first time since I took him with me in American’s transcontinental business class, and stayed with him at some fancy hotels including the Park Hyatt Aviara north of San Diego, but I also learned a lot from the whole two-week-long experience, and now that we’re safe and sound back at home, I wanted to share my top 10 insights from traveling with my pooch.

If only Miles was accruing miles!

If only Miles was accruing miles!

1. It’s not as stressful for pets as you think: I think my major concern before traveling with my puppy was that it would be too grueling and tiring for him. After all he’s just 4 months old or so and flying cross country, staying in strange places, dealing with a different time zone were all big factors. But he seemed to handle everything in stride. During our time at the airport and on the plane, I was within his sight at all times, and as long as he could see me or feel my hand on his travel carrier, he was absolutely fine. The same was true in hotel rooms – he was just happy to be wherever I was and it didn’t matter that it wasn’t at home. I did have a crate for him and he is still being housebroken, but constant attention and taking them outside for walks is key to avoiding accidents. That said, I think traveling in cargo under a plane must be very stressful on animals so I’m never going to fly him that way, especially because Frenchies can have breathing problems.

Miles loved flying AA transcon business class.

Miles loved flying AA transcon business class.

2. It wasn’t as stressful for me as I thought: I’ll be honest, I’m a totally overbearing father already (as you can see by my Instagram feed, which is bordering on puppy-obsessed)! I barely want to let Miles out of my sight, and I thought I’d have to take something in order to cope with the stress of traveling with such a young puppy, but I tried to stay outwardly calm in order to sooth him, and because he was being so calm, it actually soothed me. Sure, it involved extra time packing and getting through security, checking into hotels and getting his stuff set up in our rooms, but it was easier than I thought, and I was able to relax before long. Though the biggest hassle is not being able to wear my Bose QC15 headphones, because I’m still ultra-sensitive to not bothering the first class cabin- I wouldn’t want to be in la-la land if he ever did start barking mid-flight (something he hasn’t done and hope he never does).

3. It’s expensive: Although in the back of my mind I realized people must have had to pay to bring their pets on a plane and board them in a hotel, before I got a pet myself, I don’t think I ever really considered the expense of it all, however, just Miles tickets cost $125 each way on American and Delta and $75 on Southwest for a grand total of $450. Then there were the hotel bills: a $75 cleaning fee at the Park Hyatt (and that’s just the cleaning fee, no damages or anything – he was a good boy!) and at the St. Regis it was a cool $150 one-time cleaning fee! If your dog is certified as a service animal or “emotional stress” dog, most of these fees are waived, which makes it much more affordable.

Miles the Stowaway

Miles the stowaway on our quick flight up the West Coast.

4. Budget extra time: I’m a last-minute packer and I’m often throwing things in my suitcase as I rush out the door, getting to the plane just as the doors are about to close, but that’s not possible when traveling with a pet. Not only do I have to get all my stuff together, but I have to make sure Miles has everything he needs, from food and treats to his bed and any meds, and that his carrier bag is in order and I have my tickets and the confirmation for his ticket ready to go when we get to the airport. Plus, since he counts as my carry-on, I think I’ll almost always have to check a bag, which means getting to the airport early as well- plus you can’t check in online when you have a dog with Delta or American (Southwest did allow it), which means you need to go to the ticket counter and have them swipe your card and sign a couple forms. Not ideal if you are running against the wire to catch your flight.

5. Bring extra provisions: Traveling with a puppy is like traveling with a small child – you have to bring lots of extra just-in-case provisions with you. After doing some research on the subject, I made sure I had plenty of extra water and treats in case he got dehydrated or hungry, extra bowls just in case the ones I checked got lost, a little bit of his food (again, just in case his food got lost and I needed to feed him once or twice before I could get to the pet store) and extra toys. And I had to get all that into my one carry-on since his bag took up the space under my seat. I have so much more respect for parents who travel with children now!

Miles got quite comfortable in his traveling case.

Miles got quite comfortable in his traveling case.

6. There are other dog lovers out there: One aspect of all this I was really nervous about would be how fellow travelers would react to Miles. Granted, he was very quiet and well-behaved, but you’ll always get dirty looks from somebody. I have to say, though, my experience was delightful. The flight attendants on my flights loved him and took him out to play several times, the doormen at the Park Hyatt asked if he’d like to take a walk around the lobby and wanted to pet him, as did the maids there, and even my fellow plane passengers wanted to get some pets and play with him. I respect the personal space of people who want to steer clear of animals while traveling, but in my one experience, nearly everyone I met was glad to have Miles along. Walking him through airports was like walking with an A-list celebrity. He loves the attention, but after a long flight I often want to get him outside to the pet relief area ASAP, so don’t think I’m rude if you ever see me rushing through an airport trying to avoid eye contact!

Miles and Uncle Eric (TPG Managing Editor) on a recent trip to LA

Miles and Uncle Eric (TPG Managing Editor) on a recent trip to LA

7. It’s tempting to get Miles certified as an emotional stress dog: As I mentioned in my first pet travel article, it’s fairly easy to get your animal certified as an emotional stress dog, and it’s very tempting to do so since, instead of having to jump through hoops to travel and pay tons of extra fees everywhere and adhere to size limitations on airplanes, you can pretty much get everything for free. The ethics of this are debatable and I haven’t done anything yet, but it is still very tempting. While I play by the rules, on every flight there were certified stress dogs and the whole travel experience is much less stressful for both the pet and owner since they can be out of their carrier and don’t have to worry about any fees or extra reservations or dog quotas.

8. You can get some loyalty benefits: Although you usually can’t get miles for pet travel, certain airlines do offer points or discounts, like JetBlue’s JetPaws, which awards 300 TrueBlue points on each flight segment when traveling with your pet.

While the St. Regis Monarch Beach did give us an underwhelmning room with a view of the parking lot, they did try to woo him over with his own bed, bone and bottled water!

While the St. Regis Monarch Beach did give us an underwhelmning room with a view of the parking lot, they did try to woo him over with his own bed, bone and bottled water!

9. Get a hotel room with a balcony: It might seem like a small thing, and I rarely use a hotel room’s balcony on my own, but traveling with Miles, I realized what a great benefit having even a little outdoor space could be. It gave both of us a place to get some fresh air and for him to wander and look at the landscape to see what was going on around the hotel, and it also made for a quick escape when he almost had a little bathroom accident.
miles miami

10. Having a dog makes your life better. I knew I was going to love having a dog, but I didn’t realize just how much how quickly, but I’m already hooked and want to take Miles everywhere possible. Sure it changes my planning requirement, schedule and possible destinations, but it also makes traveling (and life) that much more rewarding, which is better than any miles or points in my book.

Bonding time in LA before I spoke at the LA Times Travel Show

Bonding time in LA before I spoke at the LA Times Travel Show

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jamison

    I’m going to be taking my puppy on its first plane ride in May.. thanks for the suggestions

  • Yi

    Hi TPG,

    I have a 9 months old toy poodle and will take him for an international trip next year. I am planning to let him get used to be in the cabin in the fall, 2013.

    Do you think the business/first class is better than the economy class for a dog?

    Also, I didn’t find that there are official documents that “certify” a dog as an emotional stress dog. Would you please share your experience if you successfully do so?



  • Rob

    That’s a cute dog! Much of what you described about preparation, not disturbing others, etc directly relates to being a parent and traveling with kids.

    However, you won’t get as much of the dirty and impatient looks even when your kids are quiet and well behaved. Kids don’t seem to stir the same kind of emotions in people as dogs do.

  • Michael

    Congrats, Bryan. He’s adorable. As a dog lover, I wonder what will you do when you want to leave the U.S. due to quarantine laws?

  • thepointsguy

    I won’t bring him to any country that requires a quarantine. Luckily as long as your dog is updated on vaccines and has an international microchip, you can bring to many countries in the EU, like Spain, with little hassle

  • Misty

    Your little Miles is adorable.
    Easy to see how you have bonded.
    Make sure you pet always has tags with a current phone number and is Micro Chipped (only real proof of ownership should anything happen).

  • flyinace2000

    Also, the UK recently (Jan-2012) removed the quarantine rules around most domestic animals from most countries.

  • tom coumaris

    Interested if you had to change planes any and how the pet relief worked. Incredibly all pet relief areas I have found are outside past security so unworkable for a change of planes.

  • Goat Rodeo

    I dont get it… flying 100ks of miles without a dog more or less as a profession… then all of a sudden ones pet becomes an emotional stress dog. seems a bit “taking advantage of the system.”

  • Texasaustin

    This blog crossed the line for me with miniature dog photos. I am generally not a hater, but something about people making drama with their dogs just bothers me. I wish I were a bigger man, but I’m not. I am tempted to post a photo of my adorable two y/o, but I won’t.

    I am off the Barcelona and London tomorrow flying BA first class thanks to TPG, so I should cut some slack. Also staying for free at Starwood properties for 10 days.

  • K.P.S.

    First, Miles is adorable and sounds like he is having a great time travelling with you. Second, as a fellow dog lover, I can’t recommend Kimpton Hotels enough when traveling with a pooch. My pup never wants to go home after spending a few nights at their hotels. They never charge pet fees and their staff is so sweet to my pup – she loves all the extra attention and treats they lavish on her. Plus, Kimpton will status match you to their Inner Circle if you have top tier status at another chain.

  • Genghis Temujin Khan

    You need a girlfriend.

  • john

    You mean boyfriend.

  • Chad Warren

    Just An FYI:
    Many hotel chains no longer accept “emotional stress animals” as an acceptable service animal. Technically by they they don’t have to.

    Many hotels will also keep you on the ground floor, or other floors/rooms that are where they always place animals.

    Lastly, please always think of the ladies you never see. A housekeeper with a family has to work extra time out of her already busy day to clean your room with a pet whether you paid a fee or not.

  • Bucky Katt

    I’m surprised at the pet fees at some of the places you’ve stayed. We have taken our sheltie to Fairmonts, as well as most of the Starwood chain (Westin, Sheraton, Aloft, Element), without any kind of fee. We usually have to sign something saying we’ll pay for damages, but at most places they have given us dog bowls, pet beds, treats, etc., and generally welcomed her as an honored guest. Granted, we haven’t been at top-end properties, but still, $150 for the St. Regis is a bit outrageous, even for them.

  • amandawilsonatx

    it’s pretty surprising to me that at your level of exposure and influence that you would broadcast that you’re thinking about a fake ‘emotional support animal’ designation. People like you are the reason that people with valid need for these animals are harassed. It’s one thing to have questionable morals but to broadcast them is just plain dumb.

  • thepointsguy

    People come here for my opinion and it is undeniable that having emotional stress certification makes traveling with a pet exponentially easier and more affordable. I never said I was going to do it- just tempted by it, as every other pet owner I know is.

    People also complain about me broadcasting deals that might end and at the end of the day people come here for my opinion on “inside scoop” and emotional stress certification is a part of traveling with a pet, whether it’s ethical or not.

  • thepointsguy

    Staying at a Kimpton property is on my to do list!

  • thepointsguy

    For sure- I always tip housecleaning well and leave more when there is more to clean up

  • thepointsguy

    Making drama with your dog? How do you figure?

    Pet travel is a pretty mainstream topic, but if the post topic doesn’t interest you, you don’t have to be annoyed by my dog pics.

    Enjoy BA first and your SPG stays!

  • thepointsguy

    I had 2 hours at DFW so I took him outside of security (luckily had TSA Precheck coming back in) and the pet area was a box of woodchips in the garage. Definitely not worth the trip!

  • Dan Nainan, Comedian

    Actually, the law states that you don’t have to have any paperwork or certification – “credible verbal reassurances” are allowed under the law.

    Personally, I see no ethical issue with a fake designation. Bringing an animal along costs the airline absolutely nothing and does not strain the resources of the airline, security or anyone else.

    I can’t tell you on how many flights my sleep has been disrupted by screaming children (especially when I used to fly coach). I’ve never had a cat or dog keep me awake on a 14 hour flight. Passengers get to have a screaming infant on their lap for free…why should people have to pay for a silent dog or cat?

    I move that there should be a certification and the fee if people want to bring infants on board, and the fee should increase the more the baby screams.

  • No2rain

    Its bad enough being inflicted with children – but the parents do not have options and we have all been there. Really happy that some airlines are providing child-free zones.

    I travel Business to be free of hassle. The very LAST thing I want is a bloody dog sharing my space. Has happened on several flights which have totaly ruined the experience I paid thousands of dollars for.

    Pets belong in the hold where they do very well thank you. The only plausible reason for taking pets onboard is if you are emigrating. Not an every-day experience. Why would anyone take a dog on a three day cross country jaunt? The poor animal!

    Then to try to find a way to make the rest of us pay for your plaything? “Emotional stress” as a false reason for taking a dog onboard to disrupt every other person’s experience. How selfish!

    Please stop encouraging people to take dogs into business class. There is no valid reason.

  • Million Mile traveller

    No2rain, you sound like a very miserable person. I suggest you just stay home!!

  • The Voice

    Yes….and a $125 fee for a package that’s smaller than most carryons (which are brought on for free) is fair!! The airlines take advantage of people with pets. How about charging $125 for each carry on bag??

  • Dan Nainan, Comedian

    No, we have NOT all been there. Some of us choose not to have children. Realistically, how many times has your experience been disrupted by an animal? Over hundreds of flights in first/business class, I think I’ve seen a dog maybe once or twice.

    By contrast, many flights are disrupted by children, fortunately not that many upfront (notice how children in first-class are usually much more well behaved? Hmmmm…) but you can certainly hear them if they are towards the front of coach.

    TPG, please continue to encourage people to take animals into business class. After all, they are allowed by the airlines.

  • Tgm4454

    Miles is adorable! As others have mentioned, I have never been disturbed by a dog on a plane but have been kept awake many times by screaming babies and undisciplined children. I don’t understand the dog haters commenting on here. They all sound fairly grumpy to me and I always wonder what is wrong with people who don’t like dogs.

  • Chunyu Chen

    How did you get this bulldog? Adoption or buying? I want one, too.

  • Dan Nainan, Comedian

    If you don’t like dog photos, miniature or otherwise, then my suggestion is that you not click on a link entitled “Travel Tuesday Top 10: Things I’ve Learned So Far About Traveling With a Dog” in the future.

    Or, you can set your browser so that it does not load photos.

    Problem solved.

  • Frank Conry

    I know you have a small dog, and when it comes to traveling small dogs it’s much easier. I have a Giant Schnauzer and would be very interested in any info you had on traveling with larger dogs. I’ve done some research and heard wildly varying stories. The cargo is heated and pressurized, at least, but nothing like the experience you had, I’m jealous!

  • Guesterino

    Speaking of “inside scoop,” that should be the name of a new regularly updated post about your dog’s travels. Get it? Get it?

  • Pingback: Hotel Review: St. Regis Monarch Beach King Executive “Suite” | The Points Guy()

  • Eduardo

    I’ll be keeping up with this since I want to get a french bulldog and I’m happy to hear things have turned out great so far. What I’m really wondering about is what the experience will be like once Miles is fully grown in terms of height and weight, if the airlines will allow him to be fly as checked baggage?

  • Frequent Dog Traveler

    I, too, travel thousands of miles per year and about half upgraded. I have traveled with my small dog and I can’t tell you how great it is to take him with me. The kids/children CAN be left at home, but parents WANT to take their children with them when they go places. I, too, have NEVER been disrupted by an animal, but have many, many, many times by screaming kids and obnoxiously snoring business men in first/business class on long haul flights.

    I started traveling with my pekingese when he was just 4 months, too and it made a world of difference in personality! He’s calm, cool and relaxed and knows he’s going on a trip. He hangs out patiently in his kennel waiting to board and sleeps during the flight. I bring syringes with me so I give him water during take off and landing so he swallows . I don’t know if this helps, but it makes me feel better :-)

    Occasionally, I take him out and he sits on my lap. And, if there is a troubled child, he has even helped out making the screaming kid stop screaming and smile…..everyone on the flight was glad he was there.

  • Frequent Dog Traveler

    All Starwood properties allow dogs, at no charge, along with Kimpton and LaQuinta hotels. The higher end hotels all allow dogs, but charge a fee. Many boutique hotels/resorts allow dogs and fees vary.

    Again, the girl with the Peke. Having him around lots of people, other dogs and different places really socialized him to behave very well.

  • Patrick

    Well I’m not going to going to join in the debate listed below but I will let you know of one incident I witnessed which I found bothersome. My wife and I were recently relaxing in the Air France Graf lounge at Boston Airport, waiting for our Aer Lingus flight to Dublin. A couple walked into the lounge, I would say they were in their fifties, with a rather large dog. It looked to me like one of those large poodles but I was soon to find out that it was a Portuguese water dog. Another lady in the lounge started talking to this couple, and the couple must have been very important because they spoke so loud that they wanted everyone to know their business. It turned out that they claimed this two year old large dog was a service dog. During their important conversation , it turned that this was a show dog on its way to a show in Europe, but now it was travelling in the cabin!
    This seems like the same kind of mentality as the people who fake an illness to get a wheelchair in Disneyland.

  • Greg

    I brought my dog to a Starwood in September and was charged $50 or $75 upfront. Not a deposit, but a charge.

  • Mike

    I would wonder what rights flyers have that don’t want to be in close proximity to a dog?

    Of course, I understand that pets are popular. But I really don’t like dogs, and it had never crossed my mind that I could be stuck on some transcontinental flight with a dog. I can’t even fathom a transcontinental flight.

    Am I obligated to give up my seat and move? What if nobody wants to switch?

    Do they allow cats? How about birds? Maybe my pet pig? Where do they draw the line?

    What if a passenger has a dog phobia? Would their only choice be to take the next flight? I know that airlines will respect food allergies, for example, and not serve peanuts on the plane. Makes me think a wise traveler would get a doctors note in advance.

    No disrespect intended for god owners/lovers… but this was really a shock for me that a traveler might be exposed to this.

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