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Packing your dog’s gear for plane travel

While our dog travels in-cabin with us, all of her gear has to be packed for transport in the cargo area along with our own suitcases — and she has a lot of gear (see Dog Jaunt’s travel and packing checklist). Typically, I pack her collapsible travel crate, a couple of crate pads, her tote and her messenger bag in a 28″ suitcase. That works pretty well, and I’ll be writing a separate post about that approach. This time, though, I tried something different.

If Chloe’s not completely tired out when we put her in her crate, she’ll scrape at it disconsolately until she’s really sure that we’re not coming back. That’s hard on the (fabric) collapsible crate we carry, so I thought I’d try an approach I read about somewhere: Pack her normal (hard) crate with her stuff and check that as a suitcase. Brilliant! I thought. It’s got a handle on top, and all the stuff that normally goes in a suitcase will fit nicely inside.

So that’s what we did. We packed her medium-sized Sky Kennel crate with a couple of crate pads, her tote and her messenger bag, and we used a couple of cable ties in the provided slots for extra security. On the bright side, the Southwest ticketing agent didn’t flinch, nor did he charge us extra. On the negative side, although Petmate makes removable wheels for its crates, they’re very flimsy and we didn’t even bother to install ours. (Here is a well-considered criticism of the Petmate wheel kit.) We rented Smarte Cartes wherever we could, but there was a certain amount of unpleasant lifting.

And the result? Well, it was nice to have Chloe’s hard crate for those occasions when we really can’t bring her with us. However, right after we arrived at my in-laws’ house, the handle broke completely off the top of the crate. It was unwieldy enough with the handle; without, it’s a no-op. We’ve decided to leave it behind for future visits, and I’ve bought another 28″ suitcase for the next leg of our trip (happily, my parents own a hard kennel that we can use).

Still, this approach would probably have worked if we had packed less, or lighter, stuff in the crate. I might try it again, in future — especially if I anticipate that I’ll have to leave her behind a lot — but I’ll make sure the whole thing weighs no more than 25 lbs.

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