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Which TSA-approved pet carrier is best?

Travel is only half as fun without your best friend, so take your pet with you on your next adventure in its own carrier. Dogs, cats or small birds can travel in some cabins, and all of them can be transported in the cargo hold. Once you decide on an airline, contact them to ensure that your pet can travel with you safely. If you are interested in a high-quality, flexible carrier, the Petsfit Expandable Travel Pet Carrier is the top choice. 

    What to know before you buy a TSA-approved pet carrier

    What is a TSA-approved pet carrier?

    A TSA-approved carrier must be: 

    • Airline approved: Call them to verify you have the right carrier for your flight. Not all carriers can be transported in the same way and not all airlines support pets in the cabin.
    • Designed for pet comfort: Your pet should be able to fit in the carrier and be able to stand, sit, and lie down comfortably. 
    • Indicated: Your vet or airline will provide stickers to identify the pet in the carrier and the direction it should lie. You can also label the carrier with any other instructions airline attendants may need for your pet.


    The species of pet can determine if it can go on the trip with you. Many small birds, cats and dogs are OK but reptiles, some rodents or marsupials may not be able to fly with you. However, with the proper paperwork, preparation and financial coverage, almost any animal can be transported. 


    Even if you have a small cat or dog that you are transporting with you on your travels, it may not be able to fly. Dogs or cats with short noses or high-risk respiratory problems should not fly. French bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats are among these flight-resistant breeds.


    Your final destination and each one in between should be considered when you fly with your pet. If you are flying out of the country, you should check to be sure your pet can accompany you when you arrive. Establish the quarantine period it must endure to ensure the trip will be worth it. Additionally, if you are using multiple airlines, you must check with each one to be sure the carrier is sufficient.


    The pet carrier you have must allow your pet to stand, sit, turn around and lie down inside it. Measure your pet and account for puppies or kittens that may need room to grow into their carriers.

    What to look for in a quality TSA-approved pet carrier


    If you can take your pet into the cabin, a soft carrier will be more appropriate. However, if you cannot have your pet in the cabin, you need to get a hard carrier to ensure your pet cannot get crushed by luggage in cargo. Both types can come in assorted colors.


    Any long trip includes the risk of motion sickness and a pet’s need to be relieved. If the carrier is the appropriate size, your pet will not want to go to the bathroom in this space. However, on long trips or layovers, pets may not be able to help it. For this reason, be sure a carrier is easy to clean out, spray down or machine wash.


    Soft carriers often have compartments or pockets to store some essentials. Leashes, food, treats and toys can be kept with your pet in carriers that include storage. This type of carrier lets you save room in your luggage. Some soft carriers even expand to allow more space for your pet and its essentials. 

    How much you can expect to spend on a TSA-approved pet carrier

    You can spend anywhere from $30-$200 on a pet carrier, depending on materials and features.

    TSA-approved pet carrier FAQ

    How do I prepare my pet for a flight?

    Flying your pet does not happen in one go. You should prepare your pet before any new travel experience.

    • Introduction to the carrier: Well before you fly, you need to purchase your pet’s carrier and introduce it to your pet. Before your pet enters the crate, allow it to sit in a familiar room to smell and inspect the crate.
    • Practice run: Ahead of the trip, practice closing your pet in the carrier and taking it on a short ride.
    • Anxiety reduction: If your pet is still struggling to get used to the crate, try using an anxiety jacket or supplement to help it be calm on the journey. 

    What do pets need for a flight?

    A. Pets will need food, water and bowls. Dogs will need a leash in case you can take them out for a walk during layovers.

    What should I not put in the carrier?

    A. Do not put blankets or toys in the carrier with your pet for its safety. Collars should be removed to prevent them from getting caught on anything if your pet becomes distressed.

    What’s the best TSA-approved pet carrier to buy?

    Top TSA-approved pet carrier

    Petsfit Expandable Travel Pet Carrier

    Petsfit Expandable Travel Pet Carrier

    What you need to know: This multi-use carrier for small pets has soft, expandable sides. 

    What you’ll love: This carrier has a removable plush bottom for your small pet’s ultimate comfort during travel. It can be used for airport or automotive travel by rolling it, carrying it using the side straps or using the long over-the-shoulder strap. 

    What you should consider: If you’re traveling by air, your airline may not allow pets in the cabin and soft carriers cannot be stored with luggage. 

    Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

    Top TSA-approved pet carrier for the money

    Pet Magasin Luxury Soft-Sided Pet Carrier

    Pet Magasin Luxury Soft-Sided Pet Carrier

    What you need to know: This is a small, lightweight pet carrier that folds down easily but keeps its shape when fully zipped. 

    What you’ll love: It is made from a durable, waterproof material that is resistant to biting and scratching from the pet. Ideally sized for a cat or small dog, this carrier is easy to carry using its carry handles or padded shoulder strap. 

    What you should consider: This carrier is used for the cabin only. It is too flimsy for any luggage storage and must be carried or placed on a suitcase.

    Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

    Worth checking out

    Petmate Pet Porter Dog Kennel

    Petmate Pet Porter Dog Kennel

    What you need to know: This is a hard pet kennel ideal for airport travel to any destination. 

    What you’ll love: The carrier has ventilation holes throughout and is spacious enough for your pet to travel comfortably. It comes in several sizes to accommodate large or small pets and had an easy-to-latch door that locks into place.

    What you should consider: This carrier will not fit in the cabin and will have to be in the lower luggage area of the plane. 

    Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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    Erica Redding writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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