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An alternative to a wheeled carrier, for your larger in-cabin pet

If you have a very small dog — say, under 10 lbs. — you have it made, as far as flying goes. There are any number of charming over-the-shoulder carriers that slip easily under your seat, and if you (like me) have an iffy back, you can find wheeled carriers that also work well. If I were you, I’d buy the Creature Leisure Pet Pilot XL, and call it done. [1/31/13 Phooey!! It looks like this product has been discontinued.] In fact, I did buy the Pet Pilot XL for Chloe — but it’s just a hair too small for a 13 lb. dog. Sadly, so is every other wheeled carrier I’ve found — except the large wheeled Sherpa bag, which is way too vast to fit comfortably under an airplane seat and wobbles horribly behind you if you walk at anything faster than a trudge.

Fine, you say, I’ll just put my dog’s carrier over the handle of a wheeled carry-on, and the carry-on will let me roll with my dog through the airport. Although that’s an excellent solution if you’re traveling with a companion, it won’t work if you’re on your own. Your dog’s carrier officially takes the place of your carry-on, leaving you with room only for a “small personal item” (which has to be stowed in the overhead bin, since your dog’s carrier is in the under-seat space).

So imagine my excitement when I saw, in the Magellan’s catalog, a wheeled carry-on that has a detachable shoulder strap and looks plausibly like a small personal item — here it is on the ground, with its handle extended:

And here it is with handle tucked away, and strap attached:

I’m not going to say it’s small, but it’s no bigger than some purses and backpacks I’ve seen. The strap is the key feature, I think, that makes it seem less like a carry-on — plus, once it’s over a shoulder, the handle and the wheels are out of sight. Roll to the gate, then board with it over your shoulder and your dog’s carrier in your other hand, and I can’t see anyone stopping you. It’s a nice design, too — there’s a big central area, uncluttered by internal pockets or file folders, a Velcro-closed pouch under the lid for your 3-1-1 bag, and several outside pockets. One word of caution: Despite what the product description says, the side pockets could fit a slim umbrella, but a water bottle? Not any water bottle I’ve ever seen.

Actually, two words of caution. Part of the reason the Getaway Wheeled Under-Seat Tote is plausibly purse-like is that it’s not as deep as most carry-on bags. Instead of being 11″ deep, it’s only 7.5″ deep. Chloe’s preferred in-cabin carrier, the large SturdiBag, is 12″ deep, so it sticks out about 4″ when it’s in place above the tote (pet carrier sizes vary, but yours too is likely to stick out a bit). Keep an eye — and, more importantly, a hand — on the assemblage, once your dog’s carrier is resting on top of the tote, so the whole thing doesn’t tip over.


  • Gery Osowiecki

    Interesting – so are you saying that the dog carrier replaces your carry-on-bag instead of your “personal item”?

    Some years ago (at least ten, maybe twelve) my wife and I bought two carry-on bags from Rick Steve’s Europe Through the Backdoor. I opted for the classic carry-on bag (which I usually use in back-pack mode), while Vicki elected the roll-aboard. Note, btw, that they recently introduced a bag that can be either rolled or carried as a backpack… The two bags we have are absolutely identical in size. As additional plugs, both bags have been around the world multiple times, and are still going strong…

    When I travel with Alfie (11lb rat-terrier mix) I have him in his sleep-pod and I have my Rick Steve’s Classic Backpack on my back. I have considered several times to see if I can borrow Vicki’s bag (with the wheels) or maybe ask for the new bag (both wheels and backpack) as a birthday gift… But now, if I read this post correctly, the only reason I’ve been getting away with this, is because the airline (we only traveled on Airtran and South-West so far) considered my backpack (which in no way will ever fit under the seat) to be a “personal item”… how interesting….

    If what constitutes to be an “ok” item to bring on-board (in addition to the dog carrier) must be a “backpack”, or a “purse” then, I for one, would be interested in further information on the new rolling backpack ( I’m definitely going to pop into the store in Edmonds Wa, next time I’m in the neighborhood to check it out, and see how well it might accommodate Alfie’s sleep-pod….

  • Hi, Gery! Yes, that’s so — here, for example, is Delta (“Your pet in-cabin counts as one piece of carry-on baggage.”). But wait! I went to Southwest so I could attach a second example, and they have new language: “The pet carrier counts as either a carryon item or a personal item.” And look at American: “A pet kennel counts as either a passenger’s one carry-on bag or personal item”! Thank you, Gery — it certainly used to be that your dog’s carrier took the place of your main carry-on, but it looks like the language has changed on me. I’ll go through the list of U.S. airlines and see if others have lightened up, and write a post with the results.

  • Gery Osowiecki

    Here’s another follow-on thought. Suppose that you have the dog carrier on top of your wheeled suitcase/purse/back-pack-on-wheels… What will the dog think of being on a surface that is 20 or 25 degrees away from horizontal? Will she be happy just resting against the “leeward” side of the bag, or will she start panicking?

  • I’ve done it a lot with Chloe, Gery, because I usually travel with my husband, and I loop her carrier handles over his carry-on while we’re in airports — she is indeed at an angle, but doesn’t seem to mind at all. I’d be very interested to hear if other travelers with dogs had a different experience with their tilted pup.

  • Mary

    What about using a folding dog stroller? I’m flying for the first time in about a week and have ordered one for the trip. I can’t imagine trying to wander around through the airport with a 15 pound, squirmy dog in addition to food and my already-heavy purse by myself. According to the airlines, I can gate check the stroller just like human parents would. I’m hoping it will also make her more comfortable as she can really stretch out in it and actually stand up during our 4 hour layover. 🙂

  • Mary

    When I said I’m flying for the “first time,” I meant with my dog. Obviously, I’ve flown before. lol.

    Also, I wanted to say THANK YOU. You have given me SO MUCH hope. My baby is a little on the large small dog size (about the size of your dog), and before I came here, I was totally convinced that I was going to have to find a way to ship her back home. It was so frustrating and nerve-wracking. But now I know I CAN do this. Not just that, but I feel totally educated on what will happen once I get to the airport. I’ve got a Sturdibag in the mail headed towards me and a spot on the plane reserved for her. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for helping me get my baby home. 🙂

  • Well, now, why not?! I’ve never even thought of that! Will they bring the stroller up to the plane door when you land, or do you have to get down to baggage claim to retrieve it? I.e., can you use it during a layover? If so, that would be a very pleasant solution. Please let me know how it goes — might you consider sending me an e-mail about it that I could turn into a post?

  • Mary

    Yes, I’ll let you know how it goes and provide pictures and perhaps a brief summary. 🙂 but i called the airline to ask and make sure and as far as i understood, as long as it folds up like a baby stroller, they treat it the same (take it when you board, give it back when you land). super excited. i’d always wanted to buy a stroller, now i finally had the excuse to spend the money. lol

  • Megan Mitchell

    Hi! One product we love is the wheeled Snoozer pet bag. It has straps so it can be a backpack or travel on it’s wheels through the airport. I saw a lady pulling her dog through the Denver airport and chased after her to get the brand name. My rather large Shih Tzu who no way will fit in my previous Shih Tzu’s large wheeled Sherpa carrier fits beautifully in this one!

  • Heather

    Hi there – I have found your blog extremely useful – thanks for all the tips! One question – do you know where I can find the Creature Leisure Pet Pilot XL that you’ve reviewed and mentioned above? I’ve searched through but it looks like it’s no longer made? We are flying with our dog for the first time and I really wanted to buy that carrier after all of your good reviews (our dog is just under 10 pounds). Many thanks in advance. Kind regards, Heather

  • Oh, dear, Heather — I think you’re right. I just visited their page too, and don’t see it at all. And Paws Mahal doesn’t have it either. Ding-dangit, it was a great carrier. Now then, as far as you’re concerned, there’s mine that you could have, if you like. It’s been used, on the trip I describe in the post I wrote reviewing it, but nothing bad happened to it. You’d want to vacuum Chloe’s hair out of it when it arrives, but if that’s workable for you, I’d be happy to put in into the hands of someone who can use it. If so, send your mailing address to [email protected] and we’ll make it happen! I’ll update that post, too, so other people don’t get their hopes up.

  • Heather

    Mary-Alice, thank you so much for your kind offer! I have just sent an email to the address you provided. I’d love to have the carrier, only if you are sure you won’t be missing it! It sounds perfect for our little 9lb Havanese Lucas! We both send our thanks to you!

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