Nadine Higgins' tips for flying with your pet dog

''It might seem crazy, flying your dog around the country on holiday, but when you compare it to the price of a kennel it very quickly starts to look reasonable. And besides, he’s a member of the family!''

By Nadine Higgins
When our eight-week-old puppy Rico arrived at the airport to become part of our family, I didn't ever imagine putting him back on a plane. But as it came time for a summer holiday at the other end of the country, that's exactly what we did.
It might seem crazy, flying your dog around the country on holiday, but when you compare it to the price of a kennel or farm stay – which surge during holiday periods – it very quickly starts to look reasonable. And besides, he's a member of the family!

1 The costs

Depending on your dog's size, it's not as pricey as you might expect. If your pet is travelling with you, rather than being sent off to Grandma's on their own, they can effectively travel as your luggage.
There's a base charge of up to $100, but as Rico weighs in at just under 40kg, we exceeded our baggage allowance and had to buy an extra bag to cover that weight. Make sure you do, or you'll be stung with excess baggage fees by the kilo instead. If your pet isn't travelling with you, they become cargo and you need to book through an approved pet transporter with additional fees.

2 Getting your pet in the air

Dogs and cats might qualify as luggage, but you can't actually take them in your carry-on. There are strict rules airlines have to follow and the trickiest bit is the carrier cage. They must be able to stand up and turn around – and therefore Rico's cage is the size of a small house.
There are also rules around how the cage locks (so there's no chance they'll get loose mid-flight) and they must have access to water. Give them a chance to get used to it before they fly, so not everything about the experience is foreign. Take poo bags in your carry on – they'll likely need to go when you land!
Nadine's husband Dan takes the lead at the check-in counter.

3 Calming flying dogs

Many humans are nervous flyers, so it's likely animals might find the experience a little scary. My first instinct was a sedative so Rico could zonk out – but Aeropets warned us that a sedated pet has a lower breathing and heart rate, which could be an issue at altitude.
Plus, put yourself in their paws – it would be traumatic if they came to mid-flight with no idea how they got there. We opted to give Rico a little Rescue Remedy, and he handled the flight like a champ.
Rico practices being a paw-fect passenger in his new travel cage.

4 Where to stay

Getting there is only half the battle – you then have to find accommodation that accepts pets. Most of the major booking sites have filters to help identify pet-friendly places – but this can leave you with slim pickings in some areas. We found a friendly conversation with the owner expanded our options, and petscancometoo.co.nz is a great resource.
Then there's transport – we wanted to get an Uber to the airport, but they wouldn't take Rico – even though he's a very polite, five-star passenger!
Rico and Nadine enjoy an outdoor bath after finding a pet-friendly place to stay.

5 Going international

Now you'll really think I'm crazy: we toyed with the idea of taking Rico across the Tasman. We discovered pets don't need to be quarantined when flying between New Zealand and Australia, and many of Queensland's beaches are much more pet-friendly than ours in summer.
Plus, dog care here cost us $750 last Christmas! However, a quote for his trip, MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) paperwork and the required vet visits soon put the kibosh on that idea. If we were crossing the ditch for six months, maybe, but for two weeks? Sorry Rico, we'll bring you home a squeaky koala toy!

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