Holiday Traveling with Your New Puppy

travel checklist traveling with puppy

The holidays are right around the corner! This winter, 46% of Americans are expected to fly home for the holidays, while a whopping 60% will drive long distance to celebrate the festivities with their families.  If your holiday plans involve traveling to be with your family or friends, then leaving your new puppy at home […]

The holidays are right around the corner! This winter, 46% of Americans are expected to fly home for the holidays, while a whopping 60% will drive long distance to celebrate the festivities with their families. 

If your holiday plans involve traveling to be with your family or friends, then leaving your new puppy at home isn’t an option. This article will cover the basics of how to safely travel with your new puppy whether by car or airplane. 


The age of your new puppy will be the factor that determines your travel options. Both domestic and international airlines have strict policies in place to make sure all traveling domestic animals are fully vaccinated. Depending on the age of your puppy, he might simply not be vaccinated to the extent that the airlines require. If that’s the case, then you might have to forego traveling by air and opt instead to drive. If driving isn’t an option, then you might have to stay home with your puppy or leave him behind. 

Make an appointment for your puppy to see the vet right now if you’re considering flying home for the holidays. Do your research and find out the list of vaccinations that the airlines require. Broadly speaking, the vaccinations will likely include rabies, kennel cough, and the combination of illnesses covered by the DHPPV vaccine (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvo). Some airlines require that dogs be vaccinated against canine influenza, Lyme disease and / or leptospirosis, as well. 

This is why we encourage you to research the specifics before you bring your puppy to the vet. During the appointment, ask the vet about the protections your puppy needs before making any concrete travel plans, and bear in mind that many vaccines can take days or weeks to fully protect your pup.


If your puppy is old enough to receive the necessary vaccinations so that he can travel by air, your first order of business will be to keep a copy of your puppy’s vaccination records and a recently issued health certificate, which you can get from your vet within 10 days of boarding your flight. When you’re at the airport, the airline will expect to see these documents, and the health certificate cannot be older than 10 days. 

Your greatest concern when traveling by air with your new puppy will certainly be his comfort. So, here’s what you need to know. His comfort will boil down to the quality of the crate he’s in, as well as where he’s placed on the airplane. 

Most airlines have a 15-pound rule for domestic animals. Animals that weigh 15 lbs or less are allowed to fly with their pet parents in the cabin of the airplane. Animals that weigh more than 15 lbs have to travel in the pressurized, temperature-controlled compartment of the plane’s cargo section. How much does your puppy weigh? If he’s more than 15 lbs, you will need to get an IATA compliant pet crate to transport your fur baby in the cargo section. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines. The IATA represents roughly 290 airlines or 83% of total air traffic. The IATA governs and regulates many areas of aviation activity, including setting standards for traveling pets, and helps formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues.​

When picking out an IATA compliant pet crate, you’ll want to make sure that the size of the crate is large enough for your puppy to stand, stretch out, and roll over. All IATA pet crates are well-ventilated and have hard covers, but you’ll want to increase the coziness for your puppy by providing an appropriately-sized blanket to keep him warm. 

If your puppy weighs less than 15 lbs, then he’ll be able to travel with you in the passenger cabin of the plane. The first thing you need to know about this is that the airline will require you to pay for a plane seat for your puppy even if your puppy must remain beneath your seat inside his crate. This is an added expense that you may need to plan for. And just because you buy a seat for your puppy, doesn’t mean he can sit in it like a human, as cute as that would be!

The good news is that since you’re buying your puppy a seat, no one else is going to sit there, which means you’ll enjoy some extra elbow room on the flight. 

This ties into our next point, which is that during the flight you really can’t allow your puppy to come out of his crate… even if the other passengers beg you! Lots of people love puppies, but letting your puppy out of the crate on an airplane poses many dangers. Not to mention that you wouldn’t want to bother the passengers who might not like puppies, or who are allergic to them. 

This is why it’s so important to choose the right carrying crate for your puppy. You want him to feel safe and warm, and have plenty of room. This can be a tall order considering how little space there is beneath your seat. And yes, your puppy will need to be stowed beneath your seat during the take off and landing of the flight. 

We recommend a hard-cover crate, but you’re going to have to carefully research the correct dimensions. You do not want to find out after you’ve boarded the airplane that your puppy’s crate won’t fit under the seat. For this reason, many pet parents opt for a soft-cover pet carrying case. This might be the best option for you, but be aware that this type of case will not protect your puppy from being accidentally kicked. 

There are many challenges that your puppy will face when flying on an airplane, even if he’s allowed to be in the cabin with you. Airplane cabins are notoriously cold, so you’ll want to come prepared. Pack extra puppy bedding that you can stuff around your pup if you notice his paws get cold during the flight. 

Besides that, keeping your puppy entertained and relaxed should be your top concern. Some pet parents opt to feed their pups calming, over-the-counter supplements that will help their puppies fall asleep and rest. Others bring fun toys that their puppies can enjoy while inside their crates, such as a Kong with a doggy treat inside. We recommend that you bring both. It’s always better to have too many options than not enough! And most importantly, have a small water bowl so that you can offer your puppy water when he needs to quench his thirst.


When it comes to bringing your puppy with you when you go home for the holidays, traveling by air might seem a major ordeal compared to simply driving. But you would be surprised. In a lot of ways, a long car ride can pose challenges that don’t even exist on airplanes, such as motion sickness and panic. 

If you know you’re going to travel by car with your puppy this holiday season, one of the most helpful things you can do is bring your puppy for some “dry runs” to see how he responds. Take your puppy for a drive around the block, or a drive across town, especially if he’s never ridden in a vehicle before. The last thing you want to do is let the 6-hour drive across state lines to see your family for the holidays be the first time your puppy has ever been in a moving vehicle. 

Start small if your new puppy has never taken a car ride before. A 10 or 15-minute drive can provide you with a ton of insight as to how your puppy reacts to being on a drive. 

Now that we offered that suggestion, here are the logistics you’ll need in order to ensure that your drive, whether you go around the block or across the country, is safe for your puppy.

First and foremost, your puppy cannot roam freely within the car. We wish this could go without saying, as it seems like a “no-brainer” from where we’re standing, but you’d be surprised how many new puppy parents let their puppies sit on their laps or sit on the passenger’s seat, only to get seriously injured when there’s need to slam on the brakes. 

Ideally, you’ll want to purchase a puppy car seat, puppy booster seat, puppy seat belt, and / or a hard-covered traveling crate that has plenty of ventilation. These kinds of seats and seat belts will securely harness your puppy just like seat belts do for people. If and when you have to stop short, your puppy will be safely restrained and won’t get injured. Even if you put your puppy in a traveling crate, you’ll need to secure the crate so that it won’t go flying if you abruptly brake or accelerate. 

During car trips, making sure that your puppy has plenty of fresh air to breathe and feels warm should be among your top priorities. You would be surprised, but if your puppy’s crate has ventilation holes on opposite sides and you position his crate so that the sides without holes are facing the vehicle’s vents, then your puppy is not going to get oxygen during the trip.    

Be mindful about where you place the crate and what direction it’s facing. Make sure your puppy will have access to fresh air from the vents or open windows if you’re traveling through warm climate areas, and it’s also important to make sure that the temperature is comfortable for your puppy. Not too hot and not too cool.

The final major aspect to manage when you travel by car with your puppy has to do with motion sickness and potty breaks. You don’t want your puppy to go hungry, but you also don’t want him to eat so much before and during the trip that he gets nauseous and / or has to go to the bathroom way more than usual.

Hopefully, by the time you’re at this stage of your traveling you’ve already gone on some practice drives with your puppy. So, you’ll know if he’s prone to motion sickness and you might even have a good feel for how long he can go before he has to do a number-two. 

Wee-wee pads can buy you a little travel time because you won’t necessarily have to pull over every time your puppy indicates he needs to pee. But there will be no ignoring his need to poop! 

For this reason, you’ll want to make sure he eats and poops well before you climb in the car to drive home for the holidays. Avoid feeding him right before you leave. You should also map out all the bathroom stops along your route. 

Puppies can’t hold their bladder as long as adult dogs, so you’ll need to know ahead of time the various rest stops, parks, and dog-friendly amenities that you can go to along the way. Plan to provide your puppy with a bathroom break every two hours at least. 

Most importantly, keep your puppy on his leash or harness during the bathroom breaks. A cooped up puppy that’s suddenly allowed to be outside could take off like a bolt of lightning if he isn’t on a leash! 

Finally, you’ll want to strategize how you’re going to keep your puppy entertained, relaxed, and also hydrated during the trip. You’ll want to keep some chews and treats on hand, too, since you don’t want your puppy to go hungry. We recommend packing chew toys, a Kong that you can put his favorite treats inside, a stuffed animal, and any other items he loves. Make sure you have a way to give your puppy water in the car, though it’s best to give him a drink during the rest stop breaks. 

Safety Checklist for Traveling with Your Puppy:

  • Vaccination records
  • Health Certificate signed by a veterinarian within 10 days of the flight (for air travel)
  • Pet Microchip
  • Pet Restraint device (for car travel)
  • In-cabin pet carrier or IATA compliant pet crate (for air or car travel)
  • Pee clean-up pads for accidents
  • Collar, lead, leash, harness, and collar tags engraved with your puppy’s name, your cell phone number, and your current home address
  • Portable water bowl
  • Natural pet calming supplement (optional)
  • Pet wipes
  • Chews & treats
  • Pet food
  • Your old T-shirt or socks
  • A current picture of your puppy

That concludes our advice for traveling by plane and car with your new puppy! We hope you have a safe and happy holiday season with your puppy no matter where you travel! 

If you’re ready for a puppy, Petland Texas is the best pet retailer in Texas for upholding responsible, ethical breeding standards. When you take home a Petland puppy, you can rest assured that you’re supporting a reputable brand that only works with reputable breeders. Our puppies come with 3 generations of pedigree records and are certified healthy to ensure you enjoy a long, happy life with your new furry friend.