North America Pet Travel Spotlight: How to Get Started

North America Part One

Whether moving a pet from state to state or country to country, it's important to start with the basics. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed in the beginning stages of a pet move when you don't know what you don't know, but the more you start to learn about the process, the more empowered you'll be to make the right choices for your pet.

Based on advice from PetRelocation's domestic logistics team, our North America Pet Travel Spotlight will primarily focus on US domestic moves (moves from one state to another within the United States), but many of these tips apply to any pet air travel scenario. Read on to learn more about the process, and contact us if you're ready to start planning your pet's safe move.  

Pet Travel Crate

Obtaining the right travel crate is a big part of putting your pet's move together. Here's what you need to know:

  • Make sure your pet's crate is actually airline approved. Some brands erroneously make this claim, so it's important to follow the guidelines stated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and/or by the airline itself -- here is United's in-depth pet travel crate overview.

  • The crate must also be the correct size, which may be a little larger than you'd expect. Crate size should be determined by the length and  height of your pet (not the weight) and pets must have room to comfortably stand and turn around in their crates in order to make their trip as safe and comfortable as possible. Here's a video that will help you choose the right travel crate.

  • If you have a very tall dog or a less common pet like a bird or a reptile, you'll probably need a modified crate. Ask your Specialist about how to obtain a custom or modified crate.

  • Certain breeds of dogs (including Pit Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers) need 'reinforced' crates to satisfy the airline rules. Among other specifications, no portion of a reinforced crate may be made of plastic and certain design details must be followed, as well. Read more about IATA's reinforced crate instructions here.

Airlines & Routing

Though it seems like pet travel within the United States shouldn't be too complicated, in reality it can often be tricky to find an ideal route, especially if you're not starting or ending the trip in a major hub.

  • Smaller planes can't accommodate as many pets as larger planes, so regional airports tend to require more advance planning than major hubs. Your Pet Travel Specialist will be able to direct you more specifically, but prepare yourself for the fact that direct routes aren't always possible and your first choice travel date may not always be available.

  • Not all airlines operate with the same dedication to pet safety: Just because a carrier accepts pets, doesn't mean they have top notch pet practices. We recommend researching your options and choosing an airline that places a high priority on pet safety (we often use United or Delta for our own pet clients).


For domestic pet travel, our experts suggest allowing at least two weeks to plan. (Or three weeks if you're hoping to travel during the holiday season.)

  • This allows enough time to obtain the right travel crate, help your pet get used to it if necessary, and make your preferred travel arrangements.

  • Specifically, it's not always possible to book your ideal travel date if you wait until the last minute, so start early to make sure your pet's move goes according to (your) plan.

Country Requirements

Pet travel within the United States usually just means obtaining a vet health certificate stating your pet is healthy and fit to fly, and having an up to date rabies vaccine, but going to Canada and Mexico will require a little more effort.

  • Canada has limited routing options and points of entry and often ends up being quite expensive. It's currently not possible to fly a pet directly into Ottawa or Calgary, for example. 

  • All pets flying into Mexico must arrive in Mexico City, and the customs process can be time consuming and confusing.

  • No matter what, be sure to review all airline and country requirements and/or follow your Pet Travel Specialist's instructions carefully as you prepare your pet to fly.

This is Part One of PetRelocation's North America Pet Travel Series. Stay in touch for more updates and contact us if you're ready to start planning your pet's move.


Banner Photo: Roger Schultz/Flickr


PetRelocation Team




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