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How Much Does It Cost to Fly with a Dog?

Whether domestic or international, traveling with a dog can get complicated. Here’s what goes into the cost to fly a dog—or any other pet.

By Kristina Russo | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor

4 Min Read | December 20, 2019 in Money

 

At-A-Glance

Bringing your dog or other pet on vacation or other trips adds complexity and cost.

It can pay to know the different pet-related policies and fees of airlines and hotels.

Fees and rules can even vary by airline flight or hotel location.

Travel is going to the dogs…literally.

 

More than half of U.S. pet owners are likely to travel with their dogs and other furry companions when they hit the road, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey.1 To meet their needs, the hospitality industry has become more pet-friendly, but traveling with pets remains complicated and costly.

 

Here are some tips to help you manage the rules and, especially, the costs for the next time you set off on an adventure with one of man’s (or woman’s) best friends.

 

 

Cost to Fly a Dog

More than two million pets and other live animals travel by air each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.2 Each airline has its own pet travel policy that adheres to parameters set by the Federal Animal Welfare Act. Those regulations have become more restrictive recently and can impact your travel budget.

 

The cost to fly your dog. Where your pet rides impacts your cost. There are two classes of airline carriage for dogs and other pets, determined mostly by size: cabin and cargo. Expect to pay more for pets that fly as cargo.

  • In Cabin: If your dog/pet fits in a carrier placed under a seat, generally it can fly in the cabin. Twenty pounds tends to be the weight limit, but you should check your airline’s policy for specifics on pet weight and carrier size. Airlines generally charge a fixed fee for dogs and other pets that fly in-cabin, ranging from $50 to $250 per one-way trip.3
  • In Cargo: Larger animals must fly in cargo, where pets are placed in a pressurized, temperature-controlled compartment under the plane. This is similar to the passenger cabin, but its isolation often makes pet owners uneasy. Typically, the price is based on the weight and size of your pet plus its crate. For U.S. domestic flights, the price can be several hundred dollars each way (from $200 to $400 on average for a 75-pound dog).4 Layovers and plane changes can trigger additional fees. It’s important to check with your carrier on prices for specific flights. 

But wait! There’s more cost. Besides the dog’s or other pet’s “fare,” there will be ancillary costs. For example:

  • Bag fees. The in-cabin pet carrier usually counts as your carry-on bag, so you may incur additional baggage fees for your luggage.
  • Cabin carrier. Don’t forget the cost of the carrier: prices start at about $25 but can go much higher.
  • Cargo crate. Required for traveling pets and typically costs from $50 to $150, depending on the size and material (metal or plastic).
  • Higher ticket prices. Whether your pet flies in the cabin or cargo, you may need to budget more for your own ticket: your airline choice and/or choice of flights may be limited due to caps on the number of pets and other restrictions. 

Keep in mind that pet requirements on international flights can be even more complex and, in turn, more costly. And by the way: You can’t buy an airline seat for your pet, even if you want to.

 

On-the-Ground Costs for Flying Your Pet

  • Manual check in. Usually, you must book and check in your pet with a live customer representative, rather than online, curbside, or via self-check-in, which may incur additional fees.7
  • The vet. You may have to factor in the cost of a preflight veterinary visit, since some states require vaccination records.8
  • Implants. Some travelers go so far as to have an identification microchip implanted in their pet in case it gets lost.9
  • Quarantine. If your pet needs to be quarantined for whatever reason, there’s that cost (and inconvenience).

On the plus side, certain airlines will grant your pet loyalty rewards for travel.

 

Traveling with Service Dogs Is Different

Service dogs and emotional-support animals aren’t subject to the same costs and requirements as pets. However, that may be changing, at least slightly. A recent sharp rise in the number of service animals on planes has caused increasing concern about fraud and the safety of passengers and flight attendants. Government regulators are developing guidelines to address these concerns, spurring airlines to revisit their policies as well. Contact your airline for its most up-to-date policy and requirements.

 

Lodging with Pets

Pet-friendly accommodations are a growing trend in the hospitality industry, whether at budget motels, B&Bs, or luxury hotels. To find the best lodging for you and your pet, you can consult lists and rankings on specialty pet websites, as well as features on popular travel booking sites.

 

The cost to room with your dog. While there are a handful of popular “pets stay free” hotels, most hotels and rental homes charge an extra fee. Sometimes they charge for pets per visit, but most often it’s on a nightly basis, ranging from $20 to $100.10 Fees may differ by location within chains. Individual owners set the fees for the homes they rent on sites such as Airbnb and VRBO, so there may be room for negotiation.

 

Beyond their per-night or per-stay fees, even pet-friendly hotels may charge incremental cleaning fees for any pet accidents as well as room-damage fees. Similarly, rental homes may require a higher security deposit in case of pet-related damage.

 

Cost Considerations When Lodging with Your Pet

  • Dog sitter. Some hotels and renters have policies against leaving your pets unattended, which would require finding and paying a local pet sitter or daycare center.
  • Pet supplies. You may have to buy pet supplies and food locally if packing it for the trip isn’t an option.
  • Pricey add-ons. Some hotels offer pet amenities—such as food and treats, events, and other services—but they can be pricey.
  • Ground transport. Shuttle services to hotels may not be pet-friendly, requiring you to find more expensive transportation. 

Because pet policies can differ within a hotel chain, experts suggest having multiple travel reward credit cards to broaden your options.11

 

The Takeaway

Bringing your pet with you when you travel will add costs. Policies and rates can vary significantly by provider or location, so you’ll want to do your research and budget accordingly.

Kristina Russo

Kristina Russo is a CPA and MBA with over 20 years of business experience in firms of all sizes and across several industries, including media and publishing, entertainment, retail, and manufacturing.

 

All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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