6 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Flying With My Dog

Written by: Melina Giakas

September 9, 2015

This is my floppy-eared furball Levi. I found him while vacationing in Greece. Needless to say it was love at first sight.

levi 1

For about two weeks I took him around town with me, trying to find him a home. When that didn’t go as planned I decided the only thing to do was to bring my new fur friend along for the 15+ hour journey back to the states.

Traveling from the island of Ikaria back to New York was a bit of a trek. We had to drive two hours to the airport, fly to Athens, get on another flight to New York, and then drive another two hours back to Long Island. Knowing there was no other way around it, I started to crate train my puppy in his airline carrier. After a few weeks, multiple vet visits, endless paperwork, and planning, it was time to set off on our voyage back to the U.S.


At the first airport, I paid my flight fee and was sent on my way through security. As we were walking through, I was prompted to take apart Levi’s carrier and place it on the scanning belt. When I started to walk through the metal detector holding my puppy, a soldier shouted “NO!” in Greek. He came over and grabbed my puppy out of my arms. Seeing the terrified look on my face, he tried his best to explain why he was shouting. “No good. Your dog will become a chicken.” I don’t know what he meant by that, but I was grateful someone was looking out for my pup. As I gathered my things, some more soldiers played with my puppy until we were all set to board.


Everything leading up to Athens had surprisingly been a breeze. I had my pup sitting on top of a luggage cart and we strolled to the check-in counter confident we’d soon be on our way. Of course, this wasn’t the case. After handing over Levi’s paperwork, the man at the counter looked at me with a confused look on his face. He seemed to have no idea what he was doing and I was no expert either. We fumbled through the paperwork together that would allow me to bring my puppy home with me and, just as I was going to pay for Levi’s ticket, he asked to weigh the carrier. He then told me it would not fit underneath the seat in front of me.

levi 4

According to him, this carrier did not meet the airline’s standards. I showed him a spare DIY carrier I had fashioned by cutting the sides off of a soft duffle bag and adding netting, but this one was no good either. After about 20 minutes of him failing to find a manager and my rambling he reluctantly let us through but warned we might be stopped again before boarding our flight.

Luckily we weren’t. Once we boarded the flight I had to put Levi in the soft carrier for takeoff. Since the flight was so long I was able to switch him to the hard carrier and place it underneath my seat. Levi was quiet and relaxed the entire trip up until the last hour. The final meal came around and he could smell the chicken. He went berserk. A total yapping, whining fit for about 10 minutes straight. Like any good parent I put on my best confused face and attempted to hide the fact that the barking chaos was coming from inside my denim jacket. Dogs aren’t allowed out of their carrier and now I know why. Once they’re out there’s really no getting them to go back.

levi 3

After all that nonsense we were finally home! Even though the journey had its ups in downs, in the end it was all worth it. Levi is now a proud Greek American who would love to run a gyro stand if I ever let him (which I won’t because…he’s a dog).

Despite all the frustration in my quest to bring Levi home with me, I learned some valuable tips for the next time I decide to travel with a pup. Here are some ways to make your trip as stress-free as possible:

1. Schedule in some pup prep time (walk, eat, poop, etc.)


This is especially important if you’re going for a long trip. Your pup can’t go to the lavatory to relieve himself and stretch his legs like humans can, so make sure to take him out to do his business as close to boarding time as possible.

2. Pack enough food for the entire trip (plus a little extra).


The last thing you need when traveling with a pet is running out of food. Pack some extra treats and kibble in your carry-on luggage in case your suitcase is lost. It’s also a good idea to keep impawtant paperwork and any medication with you as well.

3. Bring towels to pawpare for poop and other puppy messes.


Basically, you’re packing like you would when traveling with a child. You never know when the next big blowout will happen, so it’s best to be prepared.

4. Exercise your dog in between flights to tire them out.

Woman rests on a bench with her dog as she waits for their flight at the main terminal of Frankfurt's airport

A tired pup is a happy pup.

5. Make sure your carrier is approved for airline travel.


I almost got turned away for not having the right carrier, and I can’t imagine the expenses that would have cost me and my family. If you’re in doubt about whether you have the right travel carrier, contact the airline you will be flying with to get the info straight from the source.

6. Check all the correct paperwork is in order and you know how to identify it.


Just like you need your passport to travel, pups need to have important paperwork with them. Look at your itinerary and look up what the laws are for bringing pets into that country. This is very important to get settled as soon as you decide to book a ticket, because you may need to take your dog in for vaccinations before he is allowed to travel.

Feature image via First Post

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Written by: Melina Giakas

September 9, 2015

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