Tips for Traveling With Pets: Airline and Hotel Policy Roundup

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My life changed back in January 2013 when I added a new member to my family – my French bulldog Miles (get it?). Since then, the little guy has traveled all over the US and to Canada with me, and I can’t imagine life without him. However, traveling with a pet is a whole different experience, and I’ve learned a lot over the past year and a half. Not only are there great strategies to maximize pet travel, but there are also concerns, policies and strategies to make the process fun, painless and rewarding. In fact, I appeared earlier today on the Canadian talk show The Social to discuss the best ways to travel with your pets, and I’ll be participating in a Travel + Leisure Twitter chat next Tuesday, April 29, from 2:00-3:00pm ET, so be sure to follow me @thepointsguy and participate!

Going through security we got to skip the ***
Me with Miles at the TSA. Even puppies have to go through security screening!

It pays to know the policies of the major airlines and hotel chains since many do allow pets to travel with their owner, but impose fees, restrictions and other guidelines that you will need to know. I always check as a resource on pet-friendly airlines, accommodations and experiences wherever I happen to be traveling.

So I wanted to round up the pet policies of the major North American airlines and hotel chains in one place as a handy quick reference.


Air Canada
Type of pets allowed: Cat or dog
Number of pets: N/A
Weight: Maximum of 22 lbs. for pet and carrier combined
Age: N/A
Fees: In-cabin: $50-100, one-way. Checked baggage: $105, one-way.
Kennel size: Hard-sided kennels can not exceed 21.5″ L x 15.5″ W x 9″ H. Soft-sided kennels cannot exceed 21.5″ L x 15.5″ W x 10.5″ H. As checked baggage, a carrier must be no more than 115″ in linear dimensions (L + W + H).
Note: You can’t bring your pet with you in-cabin if you’re traveling in Premium Economy, International Business Class, or on one of Air Canada’s three-cabin Boeing 777-300ER (77W) aircraft.

Miles is not impressed with the baggage delay
Even Miles has to wait for checked bags to come out.

American Airlines
Type of pets allowed: Cats and dogs; however, brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs  (such as French bulldogs, like Miles) and cats are not allowed as checked luggage
Number of Pets: No more than 7 pets on a flight
Weight: Under 20 pounds
Age: Dogs and cats must be at least eight (8) weeks old for travel
Fees: $125 in-cabin pet, $175 checked pet, no charge for assistance animal
Kennel size: Nor more than 19″ L x 13″ W x 9″ H, and pet must be able to stand and turn around with no restriction

Delta Air Lines
Type of pets allowed: Dogs, cats, household birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, marmots – all on domestic US flights only. Reptiles, amphibians and fish accepted as cargo only.
Number of pets: Four in the main cabin; two in either First Class or domestic Business/BusinessElite; not pets allowed in international First Class or Business/BusinessElite. Pets are only allowed onboard subject to space availability, so be sure to arrange pet travel in advance by calling (800) 221-1212.
Age: At least 10 weeks old for domestic and international travel
Weight: For in-cabin travel, each pet must not exceed 20 lbs.
Fees: For in-cabin travel, $125 one-way for routes within the US, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico; $200 outside the US, except for Brazil, which is $75 USD, one-way. When exiting Canada, this fee will be charged in CAD, and when leaving Europe, it will be charged in EUR. For pets traveling as checked baggage, the fee is $200 USD/CAD/EUR, each way.
Note: Two pets between 10 weeks and 6 months of age are allowed to travel in the same kennel if they are of comparable size and weigh less than 20 lbs. each, and will be charged as one pet.
Kennel size: To be accepted in-cabin, a kennel must not exceed 40” L x 27” W x 30” H and 31 lbs.; please see the wide range of Delta’s kennel-size requirements for more specifics.

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Type of pets allowed:
Number of pets: Limited, call in advance
Weight: Combined weight of pet and carrier may not exceed 20 pounds
Age: Must be at least 8 weeks old for travel
Fees: $100 each way
*TrueBlue members traveling with their pet will earn an additional 300 TrueBlue points for each pet fee paid
Kennel Size: Cannot exceed 17” L x 12.5” W x 8.5” H

Southwest Airlines
Type of pets allowed:  Small, vaccinated domestic cats and dogs can travel in-cabin under the seat in front of you.
Number of pets: No more than 5 scheduled pet carriers per scheduled flight
Weight: N/A
Age: Must be at least 8 weeks old for travel
Fees: $95, each way per pet carrier
Kennel Size: No larger than 19″ L x 14″ W x 8.25″ H

United Airlines
Type of pets allowed: Domesticated cats, dogs, rabbits and birds to travel accompanied in the aircraft cabin on most flights within the U.S.
Number of pets: One pet per flight is allowed in United Global First, United First, United BusinessFirst and United Business. Four pets per flight are allowed in United Economy on all United and United Express flights.
Weight: N/A
Age: Must be at least 8 weeks old to travel
Fees: $125, each way. There is an additional $125 service charge for each stopover of more than four hours within the U.S. or more than 24 hours outside of the U.S.
Kennel size: Hard-sided kennels can not exceed 17.5 ” L x 12 ” W x 7.5 ” H. Soft-sided kennels cannot exceed 8″ L x 11″ W x 11″ H.

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US Airways
Type of pets allowed: One small domestic dog, cat or bird per passenger allowed in-cabin; no pets are allowed in the cargo compartment.
Number of pets: Limited, call in advance
Age: Must be at least 8 weeks old for travel
Fees: $125 pet fare each way, per pet carrier
Kennel size: Hard-sided carriers up to 17 ” L  x 16 ” W x 8″ H.  Soft-sided carriers up to 17″ L  x 16″ W  x 10″H.
Note: Carry-on pets are not allowed on flights to/from Europe; South America; the Middle East; Antigua; Bridgetown, Barbados; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and St. Lucia. Only dogs and cats are allowed on flights to/from Costa Rica.
Emotional support/service animals: Allowed in-cabin. To make arrangements for the transportation of an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, please call Reservations at (800) 433-7300 at least 48 hours before your flight.

Virgin America Type of pets allowed: Cats and dogs, in-cabin only. No pets are accepted as checked baggage. Number of pets: One pet (in carrier) per traveler, per seat Age: At least 8 weeks old, and weaned Weight: Total weight of the animal and kennel can’t exceed 20 lbs. Fees: $100, each way Kennel size: Cannot exceed 18″ L x 15″ W x 8” H, and must fit beneath the seat in front of you; soft-sided carriers are strongly recommended by VA. Emotional support/service animals: Emotional support animals require a licensed medical professional’s letter to prove their necessity. Service animals require an ID card and harness, and are not required to be in a pet carrier. Note: A veterinary certificate verifying a pet’s vaccinations (including those for distemper and rabies), dated within 15 days of departure, must be presented in order for a pet to travel to Mexico. HOTELS Like airlines, hotels are increasingly catering to travelers who want to bring their four-legged friends (and in some cases, winged and scaly creatures as well!) along. Here are the policies of the major chains. Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 10.53.29 AM Best Western: There’s no universal pet policy here, but over 1,600 of the chain’s hotels are pet-friendly and they even have famed dog whisperer Cesar Millan as their spokesperson. Species/Size: Best Western pet friendly properties will allow up to two domestic dogs in a rented room, with a maximum size of 80 lbs per animal. Other pet types such as cats, birds, monkeys, snakes, or other animals are allowed at the discretion of each property and require prior approval from the property. Fees: There may be a maximum $20 per day charge for each room with a pet or multiple pets or a maximum per week charge of $100. A refundable damage deposit of up to $50 per stay may be required of all guests with a pet. Club Carlson: There is no single pet policy for this chain that includes the Radisson and Country Inn & Suites brands, but there tends to be a per-night charge of $25-$75 per pet. Some hotels only allow guide animals, and some do not allow pets at all though, so be sure to check the individual property you will be staying at.

DoubleTree offers many pet-friendly properties.
DoubleTree offers many pet-friendly properties.

Hilton: The pet policies vary from property to property and brand to brand, but here are the standards at a few of the Hilton brands. Hilton itself: $50-$75 non-refundable fee, one pet per room, up to $75 DoubleTree: 120 properties allow pets but require a non-refundable service fee of up to $75. Embassy Suites: $50-$75 non-refundable fee, pets up to 55 lbs. Hyatt: You can find a listing of Hyatt’s pet-friendly hotels here. Rates vary by property, but in general, here are the guidelines: Participating Park Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Regency, HYATT and Grand Hyatt locations offer the following for your canine companion: • A dog welcome letter and door hanger at check-in • A special dog bed, bowl, ID tag, welcome card and amenity in guestroom • A designated dog walk area complete with convenient, fully stocked cleanup stations • A non-refundable cleaning fee will be charged to the guest (varies by hotel)  – usually $75-$150 Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.30.03 AM Participating Hyatt Place and HYATT house locations welcome: • Two pets per guestroom or suite • Pets that are housebroken and do not exceed 50 pounds • Most HYATT house properties welcome both dogs and cats • A non-refundable $75 cleaning fee will be charged to the guest To participate in the pet program: Inform the hotel you’ll have a pet (or pets) staying with you at least three days in advance of your arrival. Ask for a referral to a reputable kennel if the Hyatt hotel you are visiting does not offer dog-friendly rooms. All exempt hotels have these on file. Keep in mind, only dogs weighing 50 pounds and under or two dogs under a combined weight of 75 pounds are permitted. Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.26.53 AM IHG: This chain includes brands like Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, and offers pet-friendly listings by country. Rates vary by brand and property, but tend to be around the $200 mark for Intercontinentals, $50 at Holiday Inns, and $100 at Hotel Indigo locations.

Kimpton: Probably the pet-friendliest of the bunch with the most comprehensive list of pet amenities among the chains. Restrictions: None. Per Kimpton’s site, “Our pet policy is simple. We welcome any pet, regardless of size, weight, or breed for zero fees or deposits at every Kimpton Hotel.” Amenities: Cozy pet beds for loan, food and water bowls, fresh water and snacks in the lobby, personal greeting from management, concierge list of local pet-friendly attractions and businesses, and even a Director of Pet Relations at select locations to greet you with an enthusiastic wag.

Kimpton is one of the pet-friendliest chains.
Kimpton is one of the pet-friendliest chains.

Marriott: 1,275 hotels among Marriott’s 3,500 properties are pet-friendly. The restrictions, fees and amenities vary from property to property, but there tends to be a non-refundable sanitation fee of $75 per stay. Ritz-Carlton: There is no universal pet policy, but many of the hotels in this Marriott-owned luxury chain allow pets up to 25 lbs with a one-time cleaning fee of $125-$150 depending on the property and a $50 per night boarding charge. Starwood: This is the hotel chain of brands including Westin, W Hotels, St. Regis and Sheraton. Pet policies vary by property but usually include a $75-$200 one-time non-refundable cleaning fee and allow dogs up to 75 lbs. W Hotels in North America offer their PAW – Pets Are Welcome – program and give dogs amenities including pet beds and food bowls as well as a welcome bag of treats, gifts and bags for waste. W’s tend to allow dogs up to 40 lbs and charge a $100 non-refundable cleaning plus a $25 per day boarding fee. Spending Strategy Remember, even if you end up paying extra fees to bring your pets along, there are ways to maximize your points and miles for it. If you have the Platinum Card from American Express then you can select the airline you tend to fly as your rebate partner and receive up to $200 a year in statement credits on incidental fees, such as checked bags and in-flight refreshments, are charged by the airline that you enrolled. That pet fee should then get rebated, but just make sure that you select AA beforehand. If you are paying an airline fee out of pocket, I recommend paying for that fee with your Premier Rewards Gold, so you get 3x points per $1 as this pet fees show up as an airfare charge.

Miles travel case feat
Miles in his trusty travel case.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred gets you 2.14x points per $1 on every dollar spent on airfare and hotels, so if you are going to get hit by a pet fee, you might as well try and maximize your points earning, and if you do have to spend anything then you should maximize that purchase. The card earns 2 points per $1 spent on travel, including airfare – and that actually ends up being 2.14 points per dollar once you factor in the 7% annual points dividend.

On the hotel side of things, both the Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus earn 2x points per $1 on hotel purchases including pet fees up to $50,000 per calendar year, so you can use them to earn bonus points as well. Another option it the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard because if you use it to pay for incidental airline and hotel fees – such as pet charges – then you can redeem your miles for those fees once they hit your statement at a rate of 1 cent per miles and remember, you get a 10% miles refund on travel redemptions with the card, so your return on spending is 2.2%. So even though you’re paying extra, there are ways to make the most of it and rake in the bonus points.

For more information, check out these posts:
My New Journey: Learning To Travel With A Pet
Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Traveling With A Dog
Tips For Traveling With A Small Dog
Using Miles to Fly With Pets
Maximizing Points and Miles on Pet Food and Supplies

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