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14 best travel carriers for dogs, according to editor reviews

Keep your dog comfortable and secure while traveling with these expert-recommended carriers. 
The size, material and safety certifications can all determine which travel carrier is right for your dog.
The size, material and safety certifications can all determine which travel carrier is right for your dog.Kara Birnbaum / NBC News

We all want our dogs by our side as much as possible, and that might include them tagging along on vacations and holiday trips. But traveling with a pet usually involves a range of safety considerations, including gathering the right health paperwork, keeping treats and water on hand and making sure they’re comfortable. Since most airlines and other transportation methods will require taking your dog in some kind of enclosure, the pet carrier you choose is crucial in keeping your dog safe and comfortable. 

We spoke to veterinarians, vet technicians and travel safety experts about what to look for in a travel carrier for your dog and how to shop for one that’ll keep them safe. We also compiled a list of carriers either tested by NBC Select staff or recommended by our experts to consider.

SKIP AHEAD Best dog travel carriers | How to shop for a dog travel carrier | How to help your dog feel calm in a travel carrier

Selected.Our top picks

How we picked the best dog travel carriers

When shopping for the best travel carrier for your dog, our experts recommend considering the following factors:

  • Size: Pick a carrier that’s big enough for your pet to comfortably stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. The carrier should be as long as the tip of the dog’s nose to the base of the tail, says veterinarian Dr. Kristen L. Nelson. Carriers will usually come in a variety of sizes to fit different breed types (though keep in mind that airline-approved carriers have very specific dimension requirements that will usually only fit small dogs under 20 pounds, according to our experts). 
  • Materials and build: Carriers are usually soft-sided and made of polyester or nylon, which are easy to clean and water- and tear-resistant, according to our experts. Choose one with mesh sides to provide a good amount of ventilation. Most importantly, you should opt for a carrier that can stand up on its own and not collapse around your pet or deform easily, says Dr. Christina Carlo, a veterinarian and medical director at VCA Avondale Veterinary Hospital. Hard plastic carriers are usually designed for airplane cargo holds, but they’re a safe and durable option for car rides, too, says Carlo.
  • Airline requirements: Commercial airlines will usually have certain dimension requirements for carriers that go in the plane’s cabin (with the passenger) and crates that travel in the cargo area of the plane. Most airlines like United Airlines, Jetblue and American Airlines have varying dimension requirements, so be sure to visit their site before traveling. 
  • Crash testing: Look for carriers and crates that have undergone independent crash testing by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS), which gives your pet the best possible chance of survival if a crash occurs, says Dr. Wendy Hauser, a veterinarian and special advisor to ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.

Best dog travel carriers of 2024

Below are the best dog travel carriers based on experts’ guidance and NBC Select staff experience. We also include top-rated options and key factors to consider, including the carrier’s material, weight capacity and dimensions. 

Best overall travel carrier: Away The Pet Carrier

What we like
  • CPS certified
  • Mesh sides and top
  • Removable and washable bedding
Something to note
  • Recommended for smaller dogs

This Away travel carrier, an NBC Select Pet Award for best overall travel carrier, is designed for both car and airline travel. It has zip openings on the top and front with see-through mesh to help your pet see out of the carrier (if you prefer to avoid this, there’s a piece of fabric that rolls down to cover their view).

Dog sitting in blue travel carrier
NBC Select updates editor Mili Godio uses the Away pet carrier to take her 15-pound havanese and bichon frise mix, Bella, on the plane.Courtesy Mili Godio

I use this carrier to fly with my 16-pound havanese and bichon frise mix, Bella, because it’s sturdy and makes her feel safe and supported thanks to its durable nylon and leather construction. The mesh gives her enough visibility to know what’s going on outside and helps me keep tabs on her, too. It also comes with machine-washable bedding on the inside that’s soft to the touch, and multiple pockets that keep my belongings and pet essentials accessible during the whole flight. If you’re traveling by car, the carrier has latches on one side that securely fasten to a car’s seat belt system. The Away carrier comes in black and blue colors and you can also personalize it with your initials for an additional $35.

Pet weight: Up to 18 lbs | Dimensions (LxWxH): 18.7 x 10.8 x 10.75 in. | Material: Water-resistant nylon

Best airline-approved carrier: Sherpa Pet Carrier

What we like
  • More affordable option
  • Very well ventilated
  • Removable and washable liner
Something to note
  • Recommended for smaller pets

Another NBC Select Pet Awards winner, this Sherpa carrier is a favorite of CPS founder Lindsey Wolko, who has used it for years to travel with her own pets. She specifically recommends it for air travel because it fits under the passenger seat (it meets the dimensions for most airlines, but always check your specific airline’s requirements before traveling) and has a large zip pocket to store pet supplies like water bowls, leashes and treats. However, it’s not the best pick for car travel because you can’t strap it in using your vehicle’s seat belt system — you’re better off placing it on the floor behind the driver’s seat for safety and to avoid the stitching or zippers to fail, says Wolko. 

Cavalier King Charles spaniel dog sitting in black travel carrier
This Sherpa travel carrier is a favorite of NBC Select manager of editorial operations Shari Uyehara, who uses it to travel with her 20 -pound cavalier King Charles spaniel, Loki, on airplanes. Courtesy Shari Uyehara

NBC Select manager of editorial operations Shari Uyehara uses this carrier to fly with her 20-pound cavalier King Charles spaniel, Loki, and says it’s a great affordable option. Loki can comfortably shift positions during the flight, and the carrier itself is structured enough to maintain its shape while under the seat, says Uyehara. The sides are made of see-through mesh that allows your pet to easily see out of it. Available in medium and large sizes, the carrier also has shorter top handles and a longer shoulder strap to fit your carrying preferences. 

Pet weight: Up to 16 lbs | Dimensions: 17 x 11 x 10.5 in. (medium size) | Material: Polyester and mesh

Best hard-sided carrier: Gunner Kennel G1

What we like
  • CPS certified

  • Great for bigger dogs

  • Durable aluminum frame

Something to note
  • Can't be used as carry-on

This crate earned a 5-star safety rating from the CPS in both the crate and carrier class (the only product to earn a dual certification), and it’s a favorite among our experts. The crate has a thick exterior layer for impact protection, which keeps your pet safe if there’s a crash or a fall, according to the brand. Its reversible door design with an aluminum frame lets you open the crate from either side, and won’t pop open in the middle of a flight, according to the brand. It comes in four sizes — small, medium, intermediate and large — and Gunner offers a size guide that gives recommendations based on your dog’s weight and length.

Pet weight: Up to 30 lbs for small, up to 45 lbs for medium, up to 75 lbs for intermediate and up to 110 lbs for large size | Dimensions: 24.5 x 18.625 x 19 in. (small), 29.5 x 20.5 x 23.5 in. (medium), 34 x 23 x 28.5 in. (intermediate), 40.25 x 28 x 33.25 in. (large) | Material: Reinforced aluminum frame

Best soft-sided carrier: EliteField Soft-Sided Dog & Cat Carrier Bag

What we like
  • Mesh panels on both sides

  • Removable and washable bedding

  • Has a trolley sleeve

Something to note
  • Recommended for smaller dogs

  • May lack durability over time

At just over two pounds, this is the most lightweight soft-sided pet carrier on our list. It comes recommended by Dr. Amber Karwacki, a veterinarian and partner doctor at Heart + Paw in Callowhill, Pennsylvania, because it has mesh panels on both sides and the front to let air in and prevent your pet from overheating, according to the brand. It also comes with removable and machine-washable bedding and has a back sleeve that attaches to your suitcase, as well as loops that latch onto your car’s seat belt system. The polyester and synthetic build is water-resistant and available in six colors to fit your personal style. 

Pet weight: Up to 18 lbs | Dimensions: 19 x 10 x 13 in. | Material: Polyester

Best tote carrier: Wild One Everyday Carrier

What we like
  • Great to take on the go

  • Multi-length carrying straps

  • Safety clip to prevent jumping

Something to note
  • Recommended for small dogs

  • Remains open

If you’re looking for a tote to carry your dog around town or on the train, consider this Wild One carrier. This NBC Select staff-favorite option has a small dip in its design, which allows your dog to peek their head out while you carry them around. “I love that Loki’s weight remains balanced in the carrier, but he still has room to move around,” says Uyehara, who appreciates its stability. It also includes a safety clip that attaches to your dog’s harness, ensuring they won’t jump out at a bad time, according to Karwacki (but be sure to never connect this clip to their collar since it poses a choking hazard). It also comes with carrying straps of two different lengths — one for carrying it like a shoulder bag, and shorter straps to carry it by hand. There is a machine-washable mat on the inside and three exterior pockets to hold all your pet’s essentials like bags, treats and toys.

Pet weight: Up to 20 lbs | Dimensions: 21.5 x 7.5 x 14.25 in. | Material: Recycled polyester outer, cotton interior

Cavalier King Charles spaniel dog sitting in a tote carrier on an orange chair
Uyehara takes Loki on public transportation and around town using Wild One's tote carrier.Courtesy Shari Uyehara

Best collapsible carrier: Roverlund Out-Of-Office Pet Carrier

What we like
  • Washable interior fleece bed

  • Folds flat for storage

  • Removable rear insert

Something to note
  • No mesh top

An NBC Select Pet Awards winner, the small version of this Roverlund carrier is an airline-approved option for both dogs and cats because it’s less than 18 inches long. The straps are all ropes, which our staff found to be more comfortable and supportive than other carrier straps made from typical polyester or fabric. The interior lining is machine-washable and you can also shop the larger version of this carrier for dogs up to 25 pounds.

Pet weight: Up to 20 lbs | Dimensions: 17 x 11 x 10.5 in. (small size) | Material: Water-resistant polyester, mountain climbing rope

Best backpack carrier: Apollo Walker Pet Carrier Backpack

What we like
  • Very well ventilated

  • Adjustable straps
  • Pet can see outside
Something to note
  • Recommended for smaller dogs

This highly rated backpack carrier, which has a 4.6-star average rating from over 4,900 reviews on Amazon, has shoulder straps and two separate straps that buckle around your sternum and waist to help evenly distribute the weight of your pet, according to the brand. It has mesh panels on all sides to let your pet see out and comes with removable fleece bedding to keep them comfortable while creating a sturdy base that can hold their weight, according to Apollo. It also comes with a clip that attaches to your pet’s harness to prevent them from escaping or falling out.

Pet weight: N/A | Dimensions: 12.6 x 11.4 x 16.8 in. | Material: Polyester

Best expandable carrier: Midwest Duffy Dog & Cat Carrier

What we like
  • Expands to give pup more room

  • Comes in multiple sizes

  • Folds flat for storage

Something to note
  • No removable bedding
  • Not as ventilated as others

This Midwest Duffy carrier comes recommended by Karwacki because it’s expandable — the mesh sides open up to give your pet more room to move around and stretch their legs. It has two zippered side openings, as well as one on top to make taking your dog in and out easier, according to the brand. It also folds completely flat, so you can store it away when it’s not in use. It comes in three colors and sizes small, medium and large. 

Pet weight: Up to 15 lbs | Dimensions: 16.3 x 10.1 x 9.3 in. (small), 18.3 x 11.3 x 11.1 in. (medium) and 19.3 x 12.2 x 12.2 in. (large) | Material: Polyester

Best for medium-sized dogs: Arlo Skye The Pet Carrier

What we like
  • Very well ventilated

  • Washable memory foam bedding

  • Can connect to luggage

Something to note
  • No mesh top

This Arlo Skye pet carrier has mesh panels on all sides, making it a well-ventilated option for your pup. It comes with memory foam bedding on the inside that’s both removable and machine-washable, as well as a foldable design you can pack easily in your suitcase or travel bag, according to the brand. It has dual openings on both ends and a back trolley sleeve to place it over your carry-on. The carrier is also highly rated with a 4.9-star average rating from over 60 reviews at Arlo Skye. 

Pet weight: Up to 25 lbs | Dimensions: 17.5 x 11 x 10 in. | Material: Poly-mesh and nylon

Best for small dogs: Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed

What we like
  • CPS certified

  • Washable interior

  • Removable mesh dome

Something to note
  • Recommended for smaller dogs

The Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed is an expert-recommended and CPS-certified option that has breathable mesh and a machine-washable interior — it’s built for plane travel for dogs under 15 pounds. Nelson recommends the Sleepypod because it’s easy to carry and gives the pet privacy while traveling since it’s fully enclosed with a mesh panel at the top.

Like several other carriers on this list, the Sleepypod isn’t limited to airline travel: It straps into a vehicle’s seat belt system, so you can comfortably take road trips with your pet. You can also separate the bottom of the carrier to transform it into a bed for your pet, which makes training easier since they can form a positive association with it, says Wolko. The brand’s Sleepypod Atom is another CPS-certified carrier that’s crash-tested for even smaller dogs up to 12 pounds, the lowest weight requirement on this list. 

Pet weight: Up to 15 lbs | Dimensions: 17 in. (D) x 6.5 in. | Material: Polyester

Best lightweight carrier: Molly and Stitch Alpine Dog Carrier

What we like
  • Stylish design
  • Padded and comfortable
  • Machine-washable
Something to note
  • Not for plane travel
  • Recommended for smaller dogs

This tote carrier is great for smaller dogs, and its lightweight design is convenient to take anywhere. It's a favorite of NBC Select social commerce editor Sadhana Daruvuri, who says her 2-year-old maltipoo Bandit fits comfortably inside. “This carrier is very high quality, and it was so stylish that I would happily use it as an everyday bag,” says Daruvuri. “Cleaning it is also easy — you can just throw it in the wash, and even after repeated uses, the bag looks brand new.” 

Pet weight: Up to 15 lbs | Dimensions: n/a | Material: n/a

Malitpoo in tote travel carrier
NBC Select commerce social editor Sadhana Daruvuri travels with her 14-pound maltipoo, Bandit, using the Molly and Stitch tote carrier.Courtesy Sadhana Daruvuri

Best carrier with pee pad: Diggs Passenger Travel Carrier

What we like
  • CPS certified
  • Includes a bed and pee pad
  • Has multiple pocket
Something to note
  • Recommended for smaller dogs
  • Not as much mesh as others

Diggs is an NBC Select Pet Award-winning brand that makes some of our favorite dog crates. The brand’s Passenger Travel Carrier is great for both plane and car travel: It fits many airlines’ size requirements, and it has custom seat belt clips and a buckle strap to place it safely in your car. It also comes with a Diggs Pee Pad that attaches to the included bed — if your dog chooses to use it, you can open the side panel to swap it out without disrupting your pup, according to the brand.

Pet weight: Up to 18 lbs | Dimensions: 20 x 11.5 x 10.8 | Material: n/a

Best personalizable carrier: Paravel Cabana Pet Carrier

What we like
  • CPS certified
  • Personalizable with name
  • Folds flat for easy storage
Something to note
  • Higher price point

If you’re looking for a personalized option, this Paravel pet carrier — which is the dog-friendly version of the brand’s original Cabana Tote — lets you monogram your pup’s name or initials in the color of your choosing. It also has a washable fleece interior lining, comes with several pockets for storing treats and other small essentials, and it folds completely flat for easy storage. 

Pet weight: Up to 20 lbs | Dimensions: 11 x 20.5 x 11 in. | Material: Paravel EcoCraft Canvas, vegan leather

Best sling carrier: Tomkas Dog Sling Carrier

What we like
  • Easy to take on the go
  • Adjustable straps
  • Zip pockets for small items
Something to note
  • Recommended for smaller dogs
  • Requires physical strength

Designed for small dogs up to 10 pounds, this sling carrier crosses over your body so you can take your dog around town hands-free. The base has a built-in drawstring that adjusts the size of the opening to fit different sized dogs, and the crossbody strap length is also adjustable to fit your comfort level. The carrier includes a safety buckle inside that connects to your dog’s harness to prevent them from falling out, according to the brand. I purchased this carrier for my dog Bella when she was a puppy, and I was able to comfortably carry her around when she got tired of walking. It held her weight well without tearing or damaging the fabric, and the crossbody strap caused less strain on my back.

Pet weight: Up to 10 lbs | Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 3 in. | Material: Polyester

How to shop for a dog travel carrier

Carriers and crates are the most secure type of enclosure when traveling with your dog because they prevent them from escaping and minimize distraction while you’re traveling (especially while driving), says Wolko. But the right carrier for your dog will depend on what type of trip you’re taking, your method of transportation and their temperament. 

When shopping for the right carrier for your dog, our experts recommend considering the size and fit of the enclosure, whether it’s crash-tested, if it meets airline requirements and more.


Your dog or cat should be able to easily stand up, turn around and lay comfortably in their carrier. That means the length of your carrier from front to back should measure about the same, or one or two inches more than the tip of your dog’s nose to the base of their tail, says Nelson. You should add a few more inches for brachycephalic breeds like pugs, pekingese and French bulldogs, though experts don’t recommend taking these breeds on flights because their shorter noses increase the risk of overheating and oxygen deprivation, says Nelson (some airlines even ban this breed from flying in the cargo hold, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association). To determine the right height of your carrier, make sure it measures the same or larger than the height of your pet from the floor to the top of their shoulders, says Carlo.


Place a mat or bed in the carrier to make the space more comfortable for your pet, says Carlo (though you should avoid this if your dog usually destroys their bedding because they might eat the pieces and cause intestinal obstruction). Putting soft blankets or their favorite toy in the carrier can also help them feel familiar and safe, according to our experts.

Whether your dog can see out of their carrier is a matter of personal preference, though our experts recommend mesh so the outside is visible, which prevents your dog from feeling threatened or confused while they’re traveling, says Wolko. 

Materials and structure

Most carriers are soft-sided and made from materials like polyester, mesh and nylon fabric. Consider whether the carrier has structure, meaning it can stand up on its own and won’t automatically collapse around your pet, according to Carlo. You should also look for carriers that have pockets, so you have room for your pet supplies.

You can take a hard-sided, non-collapsible crate or kennel on an airplane, but they must be able to fit under the passenger’s seat, according to Hauser (this might be harder to do compared to soft-sided carriers since they don’t mold to a different size). Plastic hard-sided crates are usually good for transporting your pet in an airplane cargo hold and the cargo area of a car — they’re considered to be the safest option since they won’t lose their shape and provide impact protection in case of a crash, turbulence or hard fall, according to our experts. However, you should avoid metal wire crates because pets might be able to stick their feet or limbs out, which can be a safety hazard while traveling, says Karwacki.

Safety considerations

For car travel, look for carriers and crates that have undergone crash testing by the Center for Pet Safety, a registered nonprofit and advocacy organization that crash tests car restraints and containment devices. This provides an extra layer of safety when traveling with your pet, our experts say.

“Most carriers on the market only prevent distractions [for the driver], which is important, but in a crash, they may not perform as you would expect them to,” says Wolko. The CPS certification tests carriers as an unaffiliated third party. This is important when considering that many brands subjectively “pass” their carriers if they test them in their own labs, which can ultimately give pet owners a false sense of security, according to Wolko.

Though the CPS does not specifically test carriers and crates for airline travel, you can use most carriers that meet the airline’s size requirements and have ample ventilation, according to Wolko.

A CPS-certified crate usually has backup door latches and locking mechanisms to prevent your pet from escaping, which is especially useful if they travel in the aircraft’s cargo hold. “So, if something tumbles, the kennel is so robust that the pet is not getting out,” says Wolko. Most airlines have certain regulations for what carriers to use when transporting an animal in the cargo area of a plane. The International Air Transport Association, a globally recognized trade association for the world’s airlines, details specific requirements for crates to transport animals in the cargo hold, including construction and adequate ventilation (more on that below).

How to help your dog feel calm in a travel carrier

Your pet’s comfort level in their carrier can determine how smooth your travels are. Below, we list a few expert tips about how to get your dog adjusted to their carrier and how to keep them comfortable during long trips.

  • Know your dog’s safety and security preferences. Some dogs prefer more open-sided kennels with better airflow and visibility, while others feel safer with the cave-like security of a molded plastic carrier with smaller windows, says Hauser.
  • Make the carrier or crate their “happy spot.” Allowing your pet to build a positive association with their carrier helps them feel calm and safe while traveling, according to our experts. In your home and before traveling, leave the door open so that your pup can explore the enclosure on their own terms, which demystifies it, says Hauser. After some time, it isn’t uncommon to find pets that preferentially sleep in their enclosures,” she says. Once they get acclimated to the crate or carrier at home, you can then graduate to car trips and, later on, plane rides. Start off with brief trips that increase in duration over time.
  • Make the carrier feel familiar. As we mentioned, putting their favorite bed, blankets or toys in the carrier can help make them feel more comfortable.
  • Avoid any safety risks while on the plane. For example, if you’re traveling with your pet in-cabin, never put the carrier in the overhead compartment of the plane with your pet inside because it poses a suffocation risk, says Wolko. Also, feed your pet before you get on the plane — if they choke or get something lodged in their throat while you’re in the air, they likely won’t get help in time, according to Wolko.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Kristen L. Nelson is a veterinarian and author of “Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life.”
  • Dr. Christina Carlo is a veterinarian and medical director at VCA Avondale Veterinary Hospital.
  • Dr. Wendy Hauser is a veterinarian and special advisor to ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.
  • Lindsey Wolko is the founder of the Center for Pet Safety, a registered nonprofit and advocacy organization that crash-tests car restraints and containment devices for pets.
  • Dr. Amber Karwacki is a veterinarian and partner doctor at Heart + Paw in Callowhill, Pennsylvania.

Why trust NBC Select?

Mili Godio is an updates editor at NBC Select who covers a variety of pet topics, including dog food, beds, treats and toys. For this article, Godio spoke to five veterinarians and pet safety experts about the best carriers for your dog and how to safely travel with them. She also compiled experts' recommendations for the best travel carriers to consider, as well as travel carriers tested and reviewed by NBC Select staff.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.