So you’ve got your adorable ESA and you’re feeling healthier than you have in years.
With your new companion, you feel like you can accomplish anything – make new friends, climb a mountain or even get on a plane!
For those with anxiety associated with flying, or even those who have never traveled with an animal before, traveling with a pet can seem like a huge deal – which it is in some ways. The good things is as long as you’re prepared thoroughly, things can go as smoothly as ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ – and it can be a game changer.
Being able to travel with a pet can give you a newfound sense of freedom, and motivate you to get out there and grab life by the horns!
If you’re nervous about your first foray into traveling with your ESA, don’t be, because this a round-up of everything you need to be prepared (and then some!).
Get That Paper
First and foremost when diving into the world of traveling with an ESA, it’s essential to have your documents up to scratch. This is the most important part of traveling with an ESA – without them, you won’t be going anywhere!
So what do I mean when I say documents? The golden ticket of travel for ESAs is an ESA letter.
An ESA letter has certain requirements to be considered legitimate and to allow your pet to board an aircraft. It must contain:
- Your name
- That you have a disability as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders
- You are unable to perform at least one of the most important activities of your everyday life because of this disability
- The ESA is prescribed to you by a licensed mental health professional
- The Federal Regulations that protect you
Be aware that unfortunately there are multiple scams around that take advantage of those looking to obtain an ESA letter online, so do your due research before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Remember – the only official non-airline document you will need to travel with your ESA is an ESA letter. Other companies purporting to supply ESA certificates, or put your pet on the ESA register are likely sneaky fraudsters out to get a piece of the emotional support animal pie.
Give the Airline a Heads Up – Well in Advance
As you probably already know, many airlines have been cracking down on ESAs recently, and that means organization is key for those traveling with one. In the past it was possible to arrive at the airport with an ESA without any prior notification to the airline. For the most part, that has all changed now, and the majority of airlines have implemented a minimum 48-hour notice period for those wishing to travel with their support animal.
So the second commandment of flying with an ESA? Plan, plan and plan some more. The sooner you notify the airline you’ll be traveling with your furry assistant, the better. Once you have your documentation organized and you’ve alerted the airline, that’s all the boring bureaucratic business out of the way for good! See the Delta Emotional Support Animal policy for example.
Preparing Pup (Or Puss) for Travel
Okay, so we all know there are weirdos out there that love airports. I should know, I’m one of them. But for your average miaower or woofer that’s probably not going to be the case. Ear-shattering announcements over the loudspeaker, depressing overpriced food offerings and thousands of people rushing around in self-important stress bubbles – not exactly pet-friendly!
Before you even think of rocking up to the airport with your ESA, you should take the time to prep them for it, so they can bring their A-game. If you’re not sure of the best way to prepare your pet for travel, or want some cool hacks, you can find that information right here (add outlink to my other article ‘How to Prepare Your ESA for a flight’ here?).
Know Your Rights
This one’s a biggie. With all the crazy stories in the news right now (we all know about the peacock…and the gerbil…and the squirrel, sigh) the general public and airline staff may understandably be wary when it comes to ESAs. That’s why it’s important to know your rights when traveling. Having everything in order and following all the rules goes without saying to have a positive experience traveling with an ESA. But it’s also a great idea to have easy access to the law covering your right to travel with your pet (the Aircraft Carrier Access Act) either electronically or in hard copy. You should also have easy access to your chosen airlines ESA policy so that if any issues arise, you know exactly where you stand.
The Ultimate Packing Test
In the wise words once uttered by a rapper about to take the stage:
If you had
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip?
Yeah, yeah, I’m showing my age quoting these lyrics, but if you fail this packing test you might lose yourself (in the airplane muzak).
Having the perfect pet tote with you when are on the move with your ESA can seriously make or break your trip. You want to nail this one – trust me! Ensure you pack the following in your pet’s travel kit, as a minimum:
- Collar and leash
- Paper towel
- Poop bags
- Pop-up water bowl
- Empty Water Bottle (Fill it up after Security)
- A variety of treats
- An emergency First Aid kit
This will help to make sure you’re prepared for anything your pet throws (or poops) your way.
Well, that’s it, everything you should need to get traveling with your ESA, pronto. Go forth and use it well!