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What You Need to Do the Day Before Your Pet Flies

Published on: February 15, 2023  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

schnauzer wearing sunglasses

You’ve been preparing for your big move for weeks. Or, more likely, months if you’re moving overseas. You’ve sorted through your belongings – and your pet’s personal stuff – deciding what to ship and what to leave behind. You found your passport, and you’ve assembled all the paperwork necessary for your pet to fly to their new destination. You’re all set to depart tomorrow.

Are you ready? 

This is your last chance to double-check all those preparations. By the time tomorrow morning rolls around, you won’t have time to make any last-minute adjustments, and your mind will be elsewhere anyway. You’ve worked so hard up till now to keep your furry companion calm and happy despite move-related changes. Today, you need to stay focused on that along with everything else you need to accomplish. 

So here’s an updated checklist that will help – things you should do today before your pet flies tomorrow. 

Remember the calendar and checklist we recommended you make, to get your pet ready for her move? Now is the time to take one more look back over that calendar. Reviewing all those checked-off tasks will give you extra peace of mind you could probably use right now. 

First, confirm your pet’s reservation, whether they're traveling in-cabin or as cargo. 

Separate pet items to ship vs carry-on

As you were sorting belongings, you decided which of your pet’s things to pack in your luggage and which you wanted to carry with you. You’ll undoubtedly want to pack your suitcases today, so it’s smart to set aside the carry-on items right now. That way they won’t wind up in your luggage where you can’t get at them during your journey. 

You’ll need several take-with items if your pet is flying with you in the cabin:

  • Travel carrier – hopefully you chose a Sherpa style with a shoulder strap because they’re more comfortable to carry and easier to tuck under the seat in front of you
  • Travel documents (vaccination certificates, health certificates, permits, airline forms, etc.)
  • Leash/collar/harness (even if you have a cat – the last thing you want is for them to get frightened and run off in the airport)
  • Portable water dish
  • Treats and snacks (watch it, though, you don’t want to overfeed them while en route)
  • A small toy or chew stick to keep them amused
  • Poop bags and perhaps wee-wee pads
  • Print out a map that shows where the airport’s pet relief area is located – one for each airport where you’ll be on the ground 

If your pet is flying as cargo, you won’t have access to them during the flight, and the permitted items are fewer. You’ll still need a few things in hand for pre-flight and arrival:

  • Travel documents as noted above
  • Leash/collar/harness (remove the tags, though, and keep them on your person)
  • Food/water bowls that latch onto the inside of the kennel door
  • Zip lock baggie with 2-3 servings of dry food

In your own luggage, you should pack:

  • Enough pet food for a few days (dry kibble is lighter than cans!)
  • A few of additional toys
  • Copy of your pet's paperwork

Prepare the travel kennel

If your pet is flying as cargo or accompanied baggage and you are bringing them to the airport, double-check the airline-approved crate to be sure it’s in tip-top shape. If you’ve done a good job of familiarizing them with it, they have spent lots of time exploring it and sleeping or eating in it. Make sure it’s clean, inside and out. Do that early in the day, so any chemical smells can fade away.  Better yet, just use a damp cloth to wipe down the kennel, so it doesn’t lose its familiar smell – that’s an important anxiety reducer for your pet. 

If your pet is a large dog, you may want to disassemble the kennel for easier transport to the airport. Put the hardware in a zip lock bag and tape it to the kennel so you’ll have everything on hand when you need to reassemble the crate. If anything is missing, the airline may not accept your pet. (Make a mental note that you’ll need time tomorrow to reassemble the kennel once you get to the cargo terminal.) 

Line the floor of the carrier with a thin bed (no more than 3 inches thick), a thin blanket, t-shirt, or towel that smells like home, and potentially a pee-pee pad. Do not use shredded newspaper. It’s not all that comfortable, and the ink can rub off on their fur.

Attach the water and food dishes per your airline’s instructions. 

Play with your pet

The best way to alleviate pre-travel jitters – for you and your pet – is to get some exercise and together-time. Set aside extra time today, busy as you are, to play with your kitty. Take your dog to the dog park, for a run or walk, or play a rigorous game of fetch. And spend time just petting and cuddling with them. The endorphins will do you good, and your close presence will reassure your furry family member.

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