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How We Travel With Our Dog

How We Travel With Our Dog

We travel everywhere with our dog, Leon. It’s kind of our thing… We’re a digital nomad couple who travel the world with our dog in tow and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It sounds kind of weird at first, but if you meet him at an airport or on the subway, trust me your day will be made! We’ve gotten a lot of questions along the way, so I thought I would share those questions and answers here!

How are you able to fly with your dog and where does he sit? Do you have to pay for him and isn’t that expensive!?

Leon is a registered ESA (emotional support animal), so he’s able to go pretty much anywhere with us which includes planes, trains, buses, etc. So for flights, he walks through the airport with us and goes through security too like normal, flies for free, and sits with us in the airplane on one of our laps.
The rules for being able to have your ESA/Service animal go on a flight with you:
  1. The dog must be well-behaved, listen to the owner’s commands, not bark, and do well on flights.
  2. Sit on your lap or at your feet and not impede the space of other passengers. Basically, the size of the animal cannot exceed the “footprint” of the passenger’s seat (this means you probably wouldn’t have a bigger dog do this, plus, there is only so much space at your feet on airplanes). (Leon is 23 lbs)
  3. Of course, carry all the ESA paperwork with you and the additional paperwork the airline may require.
The only other options of flying with your dog are:
  1. The dog has to be small enough to fit in a carrier and go underneath the seat in front of you on the ground. Also, the dog cannot come out of the carrier at any point during the flight.
  2. If your dog is larger, you essentially check the dog as “luggage” in a crate and they go underneath the plane. Both of these options have fees (different for each airline) and can be quite pricey, plus, neither of them sound like great options… I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a crate underneath the plane wondering what the heck is going on.

When we fly, I bring a folder of all the necessary documents with us. My process goes like this:

  • If going internationally, I first look up the country’s dog requirements and if it’s cool if he goes.
  • When we book flights, I notify the airline we’ll be bringing an ESA through the booking process.
  • I immediately look up what paperwork the airline requires and send it in.
  • 3 days before departure, I call the airline just to make sure they have record of the paperwork sent in and that Leon is going us (this is just to double-check they got it)

Pet Travel Tip: Flights can usually only have a couple of dogs on board, so you’ll want to make sure you notify them when you book the flight.

How does he do on flights?

Leon is seriously the best flying buddy! HE’S BEEN ON 31 FLIGHTS (and counting!) and to 3 countries in the last year and 3 months. He is also the chillest flyer ever. We’ve had people sitting in the same row as us not realize he was sitting on our lap. People always comment on how surprised they are to see how good he is on flights. He loves walking on the plane and greeting everyone as he walks down the aisle. It’s the cutest thing ever and I’m certain he puts everyone in a happier mood! You can just see people smiling and laughing as he jots down the aisle like he owns the place. We also have an airplane pad (foam padding with a pillowcase over it for him to sit more comfortably) on one of our laps. As soon as the plane begins to take off, he looks out the window and watches, lays down, and then sleeps the whole flight. He’ll get up every once in a while to change positions. Seriously, the best!

How does he go to the bathroom when you travel? What do you do about long flights?

Most airports have pet relief areas. So before we get on a flight and immediately afterward, we try to stop by those. Honestly, it doesn’t happen every time because they’re not always nearby, so if after a flight we don’t go to the pet relief area, we get him outside to use the bathroom and will always walk him before going into the airport.
We cut off food 5 hours before a flight and allow minimal water (giving him water and a couple of treats as soon as we land in a travel bowl). To also help with this, we try to book flights in the mornings or evenings. This is great because if we have a morning flight, we’ll feed him dinner the night before and then won’t feed him again until after the flight.

Obviously, if we had a really long flight, he’d have to go to the bathroom at some point and he hasn’t yet mastered the airplane toilet (I wish!). So, we limit flights to 4 hours or less. If we’re going somewhere that the flight will take longer, we’ll just choose to have a layover.

You can find a list of airport pet relief areas HERE.

What do you do if you’re on a road trip and stop to go inside a store or restaurant?

Well, we take him with us for the most part. If we’re going inside a store for a short amount of time, and don’t feel like bringing him with us, we leave him in the car with the windows cracked if the weather is okay outside (we’re very thoughtful of this). We’re also very considerate about bringing him into places that serve food. We really try to not do this, but we definitely have brought Leon into some casual restaurants with us. We explain he’s an ESA and every time they’ve been fine with it especially because he’s hypoallergenic, doesn’t shed, and sits underneath the table by our feet the entire time sleeping. It’s never been an issue.
When traveling, Leon wears an ESA vest, not because he has to, but because it notifies the general public he’s working.
PSA: if you see a working dog, I know they’re dang adorable but please ask before you just run up and start petting them. It really breaks the dog’s focus and gets them excited. Gosh, do we have stories on that topic.

And we just started an Instagram account for Leon because we can haha so check out that hilarity if you’d like. He’s @leongoesplaces ?

If you have any other questions, let me know! I’m happy to answer them.

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10 comments

  1. Thanks for the tips! Getting ready for our 1st flight with my ESA girl and am so nervous. Leon just stands and walks on leash for security? No carrier needed? That’s one my biggest logistic worries is the checkpoint. Our trip to Cali is 6 hrs nonstop- u think that too long for her 1st flight? Happy trails to you and Leon!!

    1. Hi Grace! Yes, Leon just stands and walks on a leash… we don’t use a carrier for him. I think it depends on the size of your dog though. Leon is 23lbs if that helps so if your dog is quite small a carrier might be a great idea. As an ESA your pup can sit on your lap or at your feet. 6 hours is a long flight so I would just make sure she has plenty of time to use the bathroom before getting on the flight and go immediately afterward!

  2. Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

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