Thursday, May 23, 2024

My dog is too big to fly — I sneak him in with a TSA-approved carrier

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When I laid my eyes on my eyes on that scraggly-haired patchy mutt on PuppyFinder, I knew I had to have him. What I didn’t know was how much I would also need the Lekereise Expandable Pet Carrier Backpack.

The eight-week-old Mini Australian Sheppard-Weiner Dog cross may have been a slightly impulsive mid-pandemic purchase, but he was one I will never regret. I was in my second year of college, traveling across the country at least six times a year, and sharing a brownstone with five twenty-something roommates. Buying a dog was probably the last thing any sane person would do at that stage in life. I did it anyway.

“Trippie” was delivered to my doorstep in perfect condition — paws dancing, tail-wagging, hair flying everywhere, and separation anxiety already in full gear. Within a matter of weeks, he doubled in size; not by height, but by length. I remember the look of utter shock on my mom’s face as she asked, “How are you going to fly with him?” To travel with a pet in-cabin, the combined weight of the pet and carrier may not exceed 20 pounds, per the American Kennel Club and TSA requirements on most airlines. Trippie was supposed to stay under 15 pounds. There was a small problem. At six months old, he was already closer to 25.

I drove frantically from pet store to pet store in search of an airline-approved carrier that might fit my oversized, overweight pooch. Nothing worked. My poor boy would be forced into a curved donut position, hardly having enough room to stand, let alone turn. It was torture. The days till our departure were ticking away, and I had to make a game-time decision: order a carrier last minute from Amazon. I caved and purchased Lekereise Expandable Pet Carrier Backpack, in size XL.

All my fears dissipated as I watched Trippie step into the Lekereise for the first time. The expandable tunnel-like walls offered just enough space for him to lay, roll, stand, and turn. When it came time to pass through security, I simply folded the walls away, hoisted him onto my back, and put my chin down.

Years of traveling later, we’ve still never run into a problem. This airline-approved pet carrier is one of the best pet purchases I ever made. It’s the only way I can travel with Trippie.


Amazon

Pros:

  • Expandable walls offer more room for pets to move and sleep
  • Mesh windows for ventilation and reducing pets’ anxiety
  • Multiple sizes and colors are available
  • Back panel for added durability
  • Padded adjustable shoulder straps and chest buckle for traveling

Cons:

  • Works best with lighter pets (though I’ve had no problem with my 25 pounds dog)
  • The material could be a bit sturdier to help the pet balance while wearing it as a backpack

While hard-sided kennels must fit strict size requirements, most airlines allow some more wiggle room with soft-sided kennels. The Lekereise is made with exceptionally flexible polyester that slides under some seats you may not expect it to fit beneath. It also sits horizontally and vertically, so you can configure the position to meet the needs of the space. When space allows, I unzip the back and unfold the tunnel to give Trippie room to relax.

The backpack feature is a true game-changer in an airport. I moved across the country with my dog, a six-month-old baby, and all my belongings packed into dozens of suitcases. To say I had no spare hands would be an understatement. I probably wouldn’t have made it through without having the option to wear Trippie on my back with this carrier. Not to mention, I’m consistently pleased with the weight-distributing capacity of this bag. The straps are adjustable, and a removable back panel can be inserted for added durability while walking around.

The tear-resistant breathable mesh offers great airflow and provides some visibility (ideal for pets with separation anxiety). You’ll find numerous windows with zippers, so you can reach in and take care of your pet from different areas. I also love the side pockets, which offer generous room for pockets, treats, and bags. There’s even a built-in safety leash to prevent your pet from running away.

The Lekereise Expandable Pet Carrier Backpack is available in multiple colors and sizes and can be purchased with or without wheels.


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Black and orange pet carrier
Chewy

Pros:

  • Adjustable straps
  • Expands from both sides for optimal space
  • Removable plush soft bed cover
  • Insertable hard support board

Cons:

  • Can not be worn as a backpack

For those who prefer a tote-like carrier over the wearable option, consider this soft-sided choice by EliteFeild. This expandable carrier expands from not just one — but both sides to provide optimal space for pets that need room to roam. The straps are adjustable, so you can wear them over your shoulder or carry them by hand. Choose from the 17-inch and 20-inch lengths to find the right dimensions for your pet.

According to some of the raving reviews, it seems that other pet owners have found themselves using the EliteFeild similar to how I use the Lekereise backpack with Trippie. The spacious carrier hasn’t posed any issues for people heading through airport security with their pets.

“I moved from Oregon to Georgia and decided flying was the best way to get here. I really didn’t want to put my dog under the plane,” one happy customer wrote. “He is 25 pounds and 34” long head to tail. He fit just fine and even had extra room. When I took him to check in she just asked to see him in the carrier and said he just had to be able to have room to turn around in it. They didn’t weigh him or measure the carrier. It made his flight more comfortable and we got through all the checkpoints just fine.”


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