Pet Travel Carrier Buying Guide

Pet travel carriers are useful for transporting many different types of pets, but they are typically designed for cats and dogs. Pet crates can allow you to safely carry your pet to a veterinary appointment or onto an airplane for travel, including smaller pets that can travel in the cabin in an airline-approved pet travel carrier. Pet crates can keep your pet secure and safe in many types of travel situations, and they are useful at home as well.

Types of Pet Travel Carriers

All three of the different types of pet travel carriers are available for small and large pets, and they all offer a comfortable space for pets to rest during travel.

Soft-Sided Pet Travel Carriers

Soft-sided pet travel carriers are lightweight and portable. Small pets can ride in soft-sided carriers that have a similar look to a purse or a piece of travel luggage. Soft-sided pet carriers are generally the best option for airline-approved crates to accommodate small pets riding in the airplane's cabin. For larger pets, soft-sided pet travel crates are a popular choice for dog shows, dog sports events and other types of environments where dogs require a portable enclosed space. They easily fold for storage when not in use.

Plastic Pet Travel Carriers

Plastic pet travel carriers generally have metal wire windows and doors in a shell of hard plastic. These carriers are the best choice for pets to travel in the luggage cargo area of an airplane. These crates are excellent for dogs who need a space that is well protected, and they can easily stack when hosting multiple dogs. Although these rigid carriers do not fold, they can be taken apart for compact storage.

Metal Pet Travel Carriers

Wire pet travel carriers are popular for dogs who prefer an open space that allows easy visibility from all sides. These collapsing crates fold flat for storage and offer a sturdy surface that is excellent for home, hotel and outdoor use. They are available in large sizes with central dividers so you can house two dogs or create separate potty training and sleep spaces for a young puppy. Strong, crash-tested metal crates are available specifically for safe car travel.

Pay attention to

Design and Purpose

Each of these three types of carriers fulfills a similar need, but the features make them very different in terms of their intended use. If you want to easily be able to carry your small pet, a soft-sided carrier is best. If you need a crate for airline travel, you will first want to determine if your pet is small enough to travel in the cabin, and choose a soft-sided carrier for cabin travel or a plastic crate for cargo travel. You should carefully choose brands that meet the size restrictions and are specifically airline approved.

Strength and Materials

Dogs who are aggressive chewers are not a good match for a soft sided carrier, especially when unsupervised. If a dog begins to chew on the material, he or she will quickly be able to severely damage the carrier and possibly escape. Crates that are made of plastic or wire materials are not as likely to become a tempting chew toy, and they are also easier to clean.


Although small dogs can be carried in any type of pet carrier, large dogs can only be transported in plastic carriers. The crate can be lifted onto a wheeled cart or carried by two people; other types of large carriers are designed to be folded and carried without the dog inside. Some crates are available with wheels on the bottom which can make transport easier.

Car Travel Safety

Pet carriers that are unsecured can cause injury to pets should a car accident occur. A soft carrier provides no protection in a crash, and a standard wire or plastic crate can break or shatter and cause additional injuries to a pet. Metal crates that have been rigorously crash tested are available, and these high-end carriers can be permanently installed in your vehicle for your pet's ultimate traveling safety.


All of the styles of pet travel carriers are available in sizes ranging from small to extra large. However, the actual size of each carrier can vary greatly within the product line; it is important to pay close attention to the carrier's individual measurements to ensure that it is of adequate size for your dog.

Top Brands and Product Lines


These high-end soft-sided pet carriers have a purse-like look and are ideal for carrying small dogs or cats to veterinary appointments or into the airplane cabin for travel. Many of their aesthetically pleasing designs are approved for airline travel, and some styles offer wheels and retractable handles for the convenience of carry-on luggage styles.


Plastic and wire carriers are available in a range of sizes, styles and price points for both cats and dogs. Sturdy plastic carriers for cargo airline travel can be found at PetMate, along with budget options for smaller pets or home use. A wide selection of colors and accessories such as water bowls and carrier covers are also available.

MidWest Pet Products

This manufacturer offers a variety of soft-sided and wire dog travel carriers and covers in a wide selection of sizes. Additional accessories such as bedding, dividers and trays are also available so you can easily customize your pet's carrier for his or her comfort.

EliteField Pet Products

Wire and soft-sided carriers are offered with a range of colors and sizes to meet the needs of many types and breeds of pets. Each portable carrier includes a pad, travel bag, cover, accessory pockets and multiple windows and doors.


This high-end manufacturer of car-safe carriers offers vehicle crash testing to meet the highest level of travel safety for pets. These high-quality steel crates include escape doors, locking mechanisms and the ability to absorb impact and last a lifetime to protect your pets.