Flying with an Ewok

So Nicholas and I welcomed a tiny Ewok into our family in February! And by “tiny Ewok,” I mean a Brussels Griffon pup named Wicket 🐾

Welcoming a new pupper has meant many things for us — one being an unexpected shift in plans that were made before she joined us. A major consideration we had was whether we’d be bringing her with us on a trip back home to Las Vegas to see my parents.

Being the neurotic person I am, I did all my research and tried to plan for all possible scenarios (you’ll see what I mean as you read on…)

I put up a poll on Wicket’s Instagram asking if anyone would be interested in how we went about prepping her (and ourselves) for the ~6 hour long flight and we heard the “YES!” loud and clear! I’ll try to share as many resources as possible and what we’ve learned from our experience.

Obviously, this should go without saying but, check with your vet to make sure your pup is safe and healthy to fly! You know your pupper best and you should be flexible as to what they’ll need.

A Couple Notes

  • Wicket is crate trained — meaning she sleeps in a crate at night and when we are not home. We know this is a sensitive subject where people feel strongly on both sides but we are glad she has a safe place to retreat to when she needs it. That said, we also strongly believe that her crate training helped with her quick adjustment to the Sherpa bag as well as to the new environment in my parents’ home.

  • Wicket is not an Emotional Support Animal or Service Dog — this meant that she had to stay inside her bag for the duration of the flight.

  • This trip was to visit my parents, which meant we could pre-ship some bigger things (weewee pads to last for the week, crate, bed, small bag of kibble.)

  • Wicket is turning 6 months old this week so many of these points may not apply to an adult pup!

  • Check with your airline for any specific documentation you may need or carrier size constraints.

  • We are not experts! Take any and all things listed here as a “one pawrent to another” type advice. What works for us may not work for you and your pup!

 

We are grateful for our (Insta)friends!

Lucky for us, we’ve made some great Instagram friends over the past couple months and we’re so grateful for that! One friend we are so grateful for is Jedi the Shih Tzu — who travels quite often! Some things we learned from Jedi’s mom:

  • Bring out your pup’s travel bag 1-2 days before the trip. This way, they’ll know they’re coming with you and won’t get anxious when you start to pack.

  • Some special “travel only” toys live inside the zipped compartments of the travel bag so they know it’s only for travel!

  • Throw an old shirt in the bag so they can have your scent while they’re inside the bag. (We did this when we were first crate training Wicket as well!)

  • Bring some sort of chew so they have something to do while inside the bag.

  • Remember your pup is highly sensitive to your emotions so stay calm!

  • Pack some sort of water bottle for your pup — it can get hot under the seat.

 

Shopping List

From the moment we knew we would be taking Wicket on this trip, I started doing research and compiling a shopping list of sorts. Here’s what we bought specifically in advance for the flight:

  • An Airline Approved Pet Carrier: Thanks to WTFrenchie (and thanks to past-us for the foresight) we purchased the Sherpa carrier in Medium before we even planned to bring Wicket with us on this specific flight. This was actually the bag we drove her home in!

  • Gel Cooling Pad: We purchased a size small. We weren’t 100% certain we would need this but it folds up nicely and I kept it in my backpack. Once I felt that airflow wasn’t great below the seat, I unfolded it and moved it underneath her.

  • A Water Bottle: Following Jedi’s advice, we purchased the mini version of the bottle we’ve linked here. Wicket doesn’t love drinking from a collapsible bowl (and that wouldn’t have worked well mid-flight anyways). The great part of this is that we were able to carry the empty bottle through TSA and then fill it on the other side. The water also goes straight back into the bottle so no need to find somewhere to pour it out.

Packing List

Something we had to consider was that the pet carrier takes the place of one piece of carry-on luggage. Nicholas and I try not to check luggage unless absolutely necessary. We managed to pack all our things into (1) Away carry-on suitcase, (1) Thule backpack, and (1) lululemon backpack. Keep in mind the things I’ve listed below are things that we did not purchase specifically for this trip! Most of the items below either fit inside my backpack or in her Sherpa bag.

  • WeeWee Pads: Wicket isn’t 100% house-trained yet and she can only hold it for ~6 hours. We had 3 in my backpack for the flight there and were able to “restock” at my dad’s place for the flight back. Based on our original flight time, we would have been okay but we all know flights get delayed and our flights in and out of JFK were both delayed. We also wanted to prevent the rush of trying to find a pet relief spot once on the other side. As she hit the 5 hour mark while we were in-air, I grabbed a weewee pad and unfolded it on the bathroom floor for her to do her business.

  • A Blanket: Wicket has an array of blankets that she uses at home (we like to say she makes little “nests”) and we brought a clean one with us on the flight. Remember how I said I was prepping for all possible scenarios? Beyond the blanket providing a bit of “home” and a place for her to create a nice little bed for herself, I also wanted to be prepared for if it was (for some reason) really cold on the flight.

  • Treats: We packed a couple different treats for this trip, given that we were away for 5 days. I bought a set of the plastic baggies from Muji and the 3 small bags nested nicely inside the larger one.

    • Training Treats: We kept up Wicket’s daily routine of 10 minutes a day of training!

    • Potty Outside Treats: Since she’s still training to be house-broken, we brought enough of these along so we could keep rewarding her good behavior.

    • Dope Dog Treats: We typically purchase these in-person at Shop Dog & Co. but I’ve linked directly to Dope Dog’s website. We tested these treats in the recommended doses about a month before the trip to see how Wicket would react to them and if they made a difference. We’re glad to say that on this trip, we’ve seen her be confident in a new environment and not have separation anxiety when away from us. I won’t claim to be a CBD expert (because I’m not) but in the 4/20 edition of Argos & Artemis’ newsletter (go subscribe to their weekly newsletter — you won’t regret it!), Noël mentions a couple points that I’ll paraphrase below.

      • No — CBD will not get you or your dog high.

      • Note that there aren’t enough clinical trials being done on CBD in the United States right now so you are taking this at your own risk.

  • Rescue Remedy: I can’t recommend this product enough. I’ve used this before with other dogs I’ve had to help with separation anxiety when they first come home and I always keep some on-hand for vet trips. We ended up not using any at all during this trip but it was nice to have with us in case we needed it!

  • Toys: We brought a selection of her favorite toys for different reasons:

    • “Flat” Lambie — her first Lambchop toy that we’ve had to take the stuffing and squeaker out of. Lambie has helped her get comfortable inside her crate and adjust to the bag she has to ride in when we go on the subway. So naturally, she had to come with!

    • Nylabone — for her to chew on in the Sherpa bag

    • Tennis ball

    • 3 x small plush toys

  • The Common Sense things: Vaccine records, Harness, Leash, Collar, ID tags, Extra poop bags

Pre-Flight

  • Flight to the West Coast

    • Her Sherpa bag had these things inside it:

      • Blanket, Nylabone, Flat lambie, an old t-shirt, Vaccine records (outside pocket), empty water bottle (attached to the D ring)

    • Wicket did not eat for about 6 hours prior to the flight.

    • We took Wicket on a decent walk about 3 hours before we were set to head to the airport.

    • Once at the airport, we took her to the pet reflief area — luckily (H/T to Jedi the Shih Tzu) JFK’s Terminal 5 has an amazing outdoor space that even has a little dog run that they can run around in. We let her relieve herself and put her back inside her bag while we grabbed a bite to eat.

    • With about an hour left to go, we took her back up to the Wooftop for some more rounds of fetch and some potty relief. She got a teeny bit of water at this point so she could stay hydrated. We fed her one of the Dope Dog treats about half an hour before we boarded.

    • The flight was delayed so she did sit in her bag for quite some time just napping.

  • Flight Home

    • Unfortunately, this was the morning I came down with some sort of stomach bug :( Originally, we had planned to be up at 6am with her, feed her, tire her out a bit and head to the airport as it’s not as long a drive.

    • We had a five hour delay this flight so good thing we brought training treats and her favorite toys. We were able to play fetch and do some “puppy push-ups” to get some energy out before the flight.

In flight

  • As mentioned earlier, she’s not a ESA or Service Dog so she had to stay underneath the seat at all times. To our surprise, she slept through the majority of both flights! Even through the really bad turbulence on the flight out of NYC!

  • On the flight there, she had a potty break in the bathroom of the airplane on a weewee pad.

  • On the flight home, we brought her out of her bag for a bit but she ended up not needing a potty break.

Post-Flight

  • I looked up whether there were pet relief areas at our destination airport ahead of time. The signs were well displayed and easy to find! We took Wicket immediately for a potty break once we got there.

  • As for the flight home, unfortunately, due to our delay, the Wooftop was closed so we had to improvise. I leashed her up and took her into the bathroom with me. She used a weewee pad and we were all set for the taxi ride home!

 

Lessons Learned

  • She reads into our emotions much, much more than I thought she would. Jedi’s mama told me to be aware of this but I definitely felt that we were bouncing off each other’s anxiety. I hate flying and when I got anxious, she acted up.

  • Help your pup get comfortable in a small confined space beforehand! Don’t leave it to the last minute. The more they feel safe and at home in their traveling bag, the easier your trip will be.

  • You’ll be sacrificing some sleep at your final destination if (1) it was a long flight and (2) if you land late in the night. Both flights, thanks to delays, put us at our destination past midnight. After sleeping for 6 hours and being in the bag for even longer, the last thing Wicket wanted to do was sleep more.

All in all, we had an amazing trip with Wicket and we would definitely fly with her again. We kept saying, “She was so good at 6 months! Imagine what she’ll be like when she’s all grown up!” Her next trip will be in a car, which we learned this trip that she loves so there won’t need to be this extensive list of random things to pack to bring on a plane (hopefully?) but we’re hoping one day she’ll get the chance to experience Best Friends Pet Care and the pet-friendly WDW resorts!

Let us know if you have some more tips we haven’t covered that have worked well for you in the past or if our tips here have helped you plan for a trip!