Holiday travel and pets


image courtesy of flickr user michaelwhays

I recently came across a list of tips for traveling with your pet – timely, considering many of us are starting to plan for the holidays. The top tip – calculating expenses – got me thinking. How much does it really cost to travel with your companion animal nowadays? And is it really worth it?

Wildly varying in-cabin costs

We’ve all experienced the nickel and diming increasingly common among airlines. Baggage fees, booking fees, and the like make it nearly impossible to accurately compare fares. Once you add the wide variety in pet-related fees, the cheapest ticket may not turn out to be such a great deal.

According to the aptly-named, fees for bringing your pet in the cabin range anywhere from $69 to $125 – double that for round-trip flights. 

Getting the right pet carrier

If you’re bringing your pet in the cabin with you in a carrier, it will be required to fit in the space under the seat in front of you, so it’s best to reserve a seat that isn’t in the bulkhead row. Airlines can enforce different restrictions on how big a carrier you’re allowed to use for your in-cabin pet. has collected the various airlines’ pet policies, with links to the airlines’ own pet travel pages.

If you don’t already own a carrier that conforms to your airline’s dimensions, buying a new one can cost anywhere from $30 to $100. Remember that your pet carrier will usually count as your one carry-on or personal item, so plan your packing accordingly.


If you have a long trip ahead of you, or just don’t want to submit your pet to the stress of travel, there are alternatives. Are they cheaper than traveling with your pet, though?

The boarding kennel I’ve taken my dog to here in Portland charges $25 per night for boarding with brief daily exercise included. Adding on walks and a bath (it’s always nice to come back to a clean dog!) costs extra. Portland pet sitters can cost anywhere from $20 per night for a cat who only needs looked in on once a day to over $50 per night to have someone stay overnight in your house and walk your dog several times a day.


Assuming an average pet carry-on fee of $100 each way and $50 to buy a carry-on approved carrier, it can cost $250 to bring your pet with you! For a four day trip (common for those of us visiting family at Thanksgiving), a pet sitter or boarding kennel will only cost between $100 and $200 – and you’ll avoid stressing yourself and your pet with the hassle of air travel.

All other things being equal, it may make more sense to find a reliable pet sitter or kennel to care for your pets if you’re traveling by air, especially for trips less than a week long. 


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