Traveling with a carry-on pet can be stressful, but selecting a safe, comfortable, and airline-approved pet carrier goes a long way toward a successful trip. While it’s easy to worry about a pet that’s out of sight in the cargo hold, passengers are responsible for the animal’s actions, behavior, and well-being when traveling in the cabin with a dog or cat.
It can be difficult to anticipate a pet’s demeanor during a high-stress day of travel, but having a pet carrier that you can trust for carry-on travel is a big help. Expandable/collapsible pet crates are popular for offering the maximum amount of space. Rolling dog carriers are also popular to avoid muscle strains and to give your pet a smooth ride through the airport.
Before purchasing, be sure to check airline restrictions for pet carriers for carry-on travel. Many flights have maximum weights, dimensions, and—sometimes—specific material. Below, we have reviewed several of our favorite airline-approved cat and dog carriers for any size travel budget.
Petsfit Expandable Airline-Approved Pet Carrier ($35.99 from Amazon)
What We Like: The Petsfit Expandable carrier is one of the best we’ve seen, especially as a budget-friendly option. Our favorite detail is the carrier’s ability to expand and contract. When unzipped, the carrier lies completely flat and appears to be approximately the size of a laptop case. When set up, the sides zip down to provide extra space and comfort for Fido or Fluffy.
Sizes: Three sizes are designed to accommodate pets up to 12lbs, 16lbs, and 20lbs, respectively. The small carrier dimensions are 16” x 10” x 9”. The medium dimensions are 18” x 11” x 11”. The larger option is 19” x 12” x 12”.
Additional Features: All sizes boast a zipper opening for secured entrance, an adjustable shoulder strap for a convenient carry, and durable materials for a long-lasting solution.
Pawdle Expandable and Foldable Pet Carrier ($29.99 from Amazon)
What We Like: Similar to the Petsfit Expandable carrier, the Pawdle provides a similar feature at a lower price point. This is an excellent alternative for pet parents with larger in-cabin animals, as the dimensions are slightly larger and more accommodating than the Petsfit variation. If you choose this carrier, we recommend taking your dog’s measurements and reviewing your airline’s restrictions. The Pawdle can collapse to fit under the seat in front of you, but the height it more than what most airlines allow.
Sizes: This carrier is available in only one size. It is suitable for pets up to 12lbs and measures 18.5”x20.5”x11”. When folded flat, the carrier is 18.5”x11”x1.5”.
Additional Features: This carrier expands to increase pet comfort and air circulation, providing extra space for your furry friend to lounge. Each container features a wide, adjustable shoulder strap and a handle for easy carrying.
Pet Peppy Expandable Pet Carrier ($49.94 from Amazon)
What We Like: At this point, you’ve seen one approach to the expandable pet carrier at two separate price points. The Pet Peppy takes expandability to the extreme, featuring two-sided expansion and an elongated tunnel entrance. Though slightly more expensive, this is an excellent option for anxious pets who need a bit more wiggle room. We also recommend this carrier if you are traveling with two animals in a single container. The best part? This carrier is guaranteed to fit under the cabin seat of Alaska, Delta, Allegiant, Frontier, Hawaiian, jetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, Virgin America, and United Airlines.
Sizes: The Pet Peppy Expandable Carrier comes in just one size. It is built for pets up to 14lbs, and the carrier folds flat to measure 18”x14”x1.6”. The tunnel extends an additional 16” when unfolded, and the expanded sizes provide an additional 1.5-square-feet of space within the carrier.
Additional Features: This carrier incudes a machine washable mat, pockets for treats and toys, a padded shoulder strap, and a side strap to attach to your rolling suitcase handle. Your purchase also includes a pet bowl and a 1-year warranty.
Snoozer Wheel Around 4-in-1 Pet Carrier ($119.95 from Amazon)
What We Like: If you’re willing to upgrade to a pricier pet carrier, the convenience afforded by easily maneuverable wheels is well worth the cost. We like the idea of animals sitting upright in their carriers to explore the world around them—that’s exactly what they can do while in this carrier. Similar to the Petsfit Expandable carrier, the Snoozer Wheel Around folds down flat for easy storage or transport while not in use. It can be worn as a backpack, rolled around on the ground, lain flat, or stand on its own with the pet inside. As a result, this is one of the most dynamic and adaptable carriers available.
Sizes: This carrier comes in three sizes: small, for pets up to 7lbs, medium, for pets up to 15lbs, or large, for pets up to 30lbs. The outer dimensions of the carrier are 17.5”x12”x8” for the small, 20”x14”x11” for the medium, and 23”x15.5”x12.25” for the large. Though the dimensions are technically larger than what most airlines allow, the carrier is collapsible, allowing your pet to fit snugly under many airline seats.
Additional Features: All sizes are equipped with a telescoping handle for easy maneuvering and two side storage pockets for leash, treats, bowls, and food.
Sleepypod Under Seat Dog Carrier ($162.36 from Amazon)
What We Like: This carrier is, quite literally, the whole package. This container is suited for every type of pet transit—from a carry-on carrier to a car seat to a dog bed. The flexible design can fit up to 17.5lbs of pet, but its sides are compressible enough to fit under different-sized seats on airlines. This is essential for frequent flyers, as purchasing a new carrier to conform with each airline’s requirements is a waste of time and money. This carrier is one you will not want (or need!) to replace, as it is of extremely high quality, sturdy, easy to attach to luggage carriers, and useful in a variety of situations.
Sizes: The Sleepypod carrier is available in one size, measures 22” x 10.5” x 10.5”, and is suitable for up to 17.5lbs. The container is designed to provide your animal the maximum amount of space without sacrificing sturdiness or style, and the various access points allow you to reach your cat or dog with ease.
Additional Features: Each carrier comes with a soft, furry insert on the bottom, and the mesh top and sides allow for easy air ventilation.
Sky-Max Modern Collapsible Pet Carrier ($38.39 from Home Depot)
What We Like: If you’re a pet carrier traditionalist, you’ll love the Sky-Max Modern. Unlike the other carriers on this list, it doesn’t expand or roll. This airline-approved, fully collapsible option focuses on the durability of the material rather than additional frills. The entire carrier is composed of breathable and sub-absorbent mesh, and the outside is made of an ultra-durable ballistic nylon. Perfect for small-to-medium pets, this option is guaranteed to fit under the seat in front of you.
Sizes: This carrier is available in one size. It measures 16.1”x9.5”x10” and weighs 2.5lbs. When fully collapsed, the carrier is just 3” narrow.
Additional Features: All carriers come with removable shoulder straps, a built-in leash securer, and a handle bar—perfect for navigating busy and stressful airports.