Tips for Traveling With Pets: Airline and Hotel Policy Roundup

by on April 22, 2014 · 24 comments

in Pet Travel

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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.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 12.05.45 PM

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

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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  • Lyubomir Grigorov

    No ferrets? :(

  • baccarat_guy

    Delta was great traveling BOS-AMS. As you know, no dogs in BusinessElite; buy my Mr. Leo and I were treated to priority (late) boarding; 3 seats blocked in Y and access to the Boston-Logan SkyClub. Customs was also relatively seamless in AMS, and included the requisite “chip-scan” and documentation review (of course, our documents were in order). Doing it again, but this time AMS-BOS mid-summer. Should be easier, since dogs can roam Amsterdam-Schiphol “freely” unlike Boston-Logan.

  • Goat Rodeo

    you go the “comfort dog” route?


    My fear is what if the cabin lost pressure and your dog was traveling with you. What would you do?

  • baccarat_guy

    Considering how dangerous it is to drive in a car on an American highway; that’s sort of like saying “I fear I’m driving on I-93 outside of Boston and I get in a car accident with my dog; what would I do.” Seriously, air travel is so safe; and how many times have folks really been on a plan that lost pressure? When you start to worry about things like that, my response is “I guess you never drive in a car on a highway, since it’s so dangerous.” :-)

  • Fido

    You should update your post to include Kimpton (and others) that have the decency to not charge a (bullsh*t) pet fee.

  • thepointsguy

    Not sure why you’re not seeing it, but Kimpton is there in the post.

  • Quack

    Is miles also an EXP on American?

  • Robert

    You forgot to mention Quatar airlines, where one falcon is allowed to travel free of charge!

  • Kathy S

    Aloft hotels (Starwood) also tend to have a very good pet policy – No deposit in many places and they also will loan you bowls and a bed. We had a great experience with our pup at the Aloft in Asheville, NC.

  • Marlin

    In my experience almost all SPG branded hotels (not just Aloft) have a great pet policy, never stayed at one that had a fee.

  • Best Hearing Aid Centre

    Thanks for sharing the complete guide.

  • bellclip

    Loews also has a great pet policy.

  • thepointsguy

    I’ve stayed at several higher end hotels (like st Regis monarch beach) that have hefty fees. Guess it depends by property

  • thepointsguy

    Yep.. He loves AAe even got a junior aviator logbook and wings on his first flight!

  • thepointsguy

    What baccarat guy said- there are always risks to life- losing cabin pressure is pretty rare. But it so, I’d put the mask on me before helping him!

  • Danny M

    Definitely depends on the property. Typically, Four Points are not pet friendly; however we just stayed in one in Punta Gorda, FL and there was no fee and they even had “pet friendly” rooms. Some properties have non-refundable fees….others are free….just be sure to call in advance.

  • LT2345

    and they have a great pet experience!!!!!!!

  • Rob

    Your publicist is a genius. Excellent PR move to get such a dog to show around ;)

  • Bob Hobson

    Thanks for the tips, Here is one more I would like to share that goes in a little different direction. We all know that there is extra commotion and distraction when traveling with pets which can lead to leaving things behind. I found this out while traveling to Canada with my son and dog when my laptop got left behind at a cafe. Luckily for me I had a tracer tag on it. A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on the website and I was sent a text message (and an email) before I ever even knew it was missing. I was able to recover it before leaving Toronto. I’m not sure what would have happened had I not discovered it until the next day when I was 400 miles away. The tags are available through They saved my trip and I now have them on almost everything that goes with me on a trip.

  • Haley Bach

    Pet Prejudice

  • Tania

    I’m not sure if anyone can help me with this. I am trying to fly from LAX to BEY (Beirut) and I do want to take my baby with me (French Bulldog). She’s about 23 pounds. I know that her breed is only allowed in the cabin area. Could anyone tell me how I could take her with me? Is it safe? I would probably fly British Airways or Turkish Airways. She has all her shots.. and is microchipped already. It just worries me with her being 23 pounds. Thank you!

  • Judge Smails

    Is a kennel/soft liner carrier required for under the seat in the cabin? If so, what’s the dimension limits on that?

  • Ashley

    I’ve been living in Brazil for the past year and I got myself a French Bulldog while here. Now it’s time to go back to the US and I’m trying to figure out how to bring him with me. I can’t leave my baby behind!
    This site has been extremely helpful, but I have some questions. Any help is appreciated!
    He is over 20lbs, what can I do?
    Do the same rules apply for the in-cabin carrier (he must be able to stand up, turn around, ect in his carrier)?

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