Learn to Fly | Air Travel with Your Chameleon

Airplane in the sky at sunset

In a previous post, we reviewed how to travel with your chameleon during relatively short road trips, most applicable to those taking less than a day to complete.  Today, we are going to review what it takes to help your chameleon fly on a commercial aircraft.  Travel is part of the American paradigm.  Whether it is a cross-country move to pursue a new opportunity, or a quick visit during a summer vacation, the idea of traveling is ingrained within many societies.  With the desire to travel, often comes the occasional airline flight.

While many people are aware that cats and dogs can be flown from one location to another with relative ease, traveling with more exotic pets is not as well covered.  In order to provide some general guidance on what you may be able to expect when traveling with your chameleon, we offer the following basic guidelines to help you get started.

Airline Travel is Not Recommended

First, it is important to understand that commercial air travel is not an ideal situation in which to transport your chameleon.  Traveling by car, while stressful, provides an additional level of control as well as the ability to directly observe your chameleon for the duration of the trip.

It may also be worthwhile to check into specialty shipping services, as they may be able to provide a less stressful experience for your chameleon, and may be better equipped to manage any unforeseen situations that can arise.

Travel Restrictions

You will need to research if your destination, as well as any layover cities, have any requirements or restrictions regarding the transportation of animals into the area.  Not all states or countries permit exotic animals, and this restriction can include animals who are only passing through on a layover.  Before finalizing any travel arrangements, make sure that all points along the way are chameleon friendly.

Get an Appropriate Carrier

First, all animals must be transported in an approved carrier.  The carrier is designed to withstand the physical demands that may be placed upon it during transport and provides a level of physical protection to your chameleon.  You will need to include any required health information with the carrier, as dictated by the airline, and should make sure the carrier is clearly marked with your name and contact information, as well as marked as containing a live animal.

As with vehicle travel, it is ideal if you can make the space as dark as possible, as this may encourage your chameleon to sleep through much of the trip, though the airline may restrict anything that prevents them from having a way to examine the interior of the carrier.  Additionally, make sure your chameleon will have adequate traction, as you may not be able to secure a branch for them to climb on depending on the carrier involved.  Generally, if the carrier must be physically altered to add a branch, it may no longer be considered airline approved.

Contact the Airline Directly Once You Book the Flight

It is important to note that the information here is designed to provide an overview of common expectations or requirements.  Before attempting to travel with your chameleon, or any pet for that matter, it is critical to contact the airline directly to get more complete information regarding their standards.

Most airlines will require you to reserve space for your chameleon in advance, as airplanes may have limited capacity in regards to the transportation of animals.  This is due to the need for a pressurized and temperature controlled area, as not all baggage is transported in that way, and space is often filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Additional fees may apply.

A Chameleon will likely be Checked Baggage

The vast majority of airlines will not permit reptiles as carry-ons regardless of the size or the reptile or the carrier in which it is placed.  With that in mind, you will need to proceed under the assumption that it will likely be kept in an area with other animals, and that the journey will be considered a highly stressful event overall.

With that in mind, it is wise to avoid any unnecessary layovers, especially when a change of plane is involved.  Not only will this increase the total duration of the experience, but it also ups the stress level as the animal carrier will be handled more frequently.  When possible, try to get direct flights.

You should never attempt to sneak your chameleon (or any animal) onboard an aircraft at any time, regardless of the reason.  If you attempt to sneak your pet past a security checkpoint in order to bring them onboard, you pet may be confiscated when you are caught.

Convenience and Cost

Most people would not consider traveling with a chameleon on an airline particularly convenient, and the cost is often high.  Shipping a pet as checked baggage can easily cost upwards of $100 one-way.  Additionally, extreme heat or cold weather may make your pet ineligible to fly as the airline considers the situation to high risk.

If you really have no other options, flying with a chameleon can be done, but other options are likely to be both more cost effective and less stressful.  We will cover information on other transportation options in future posts, including long distance travel by car, as well as an introduction to pet shipping company practices.










On the Road Again: Short Trips with your Chameleon


Whether a pet is furry or scaly, all pet owners will need to transport their pet by car, truck, or van at some point.  Whether it is a quick trip to see the veterinarian or a cross country move, taking the time to handle the process properly will help to lower your stress and the stress experienced by your chameleon as well.

Here, we provide some basic advice regarding how to manage traveling with your chameleon for shorter trips, generally taking less than a day.  While some of this information is universal, longer trips may require additional work.  Regardless of the length of travel, always make sure to bring a supply of food and water in case unexpected delays occur.

Choosing a Box

For the purpose of traveling, a box with solid sides and a top you can secure is ideal.  It can be made of cardboard or another opaque material as long as air flow is maintained.  The primary goal is to create a small, secure space that can be kept fairly dark.

Why is keeping the interior dark so important?  If you put a chameleon in a dark place, it will automatically try to sleep.  Regardless of the time of day, their instincts tell them that, if it is dark, it must be night.  This will help lower the overall stress experienced by encouraging them to sleep through as much of it as possible.

chameleon-350665Setting Up the Box

In order to make your chameleon as comfortable as possible, you want to give them a perch.  The easiest way to provide a somewhat stable perch is to run a dowel or natural branch through the space.  This is often easiest to achieve by creating holes in the sides of the box just big enough to allow the perch to slide through.

Ideally, the perch will be suspended slightly above the bottom of the box.  Underneath the perch, you are going to want to provide some cushioning that will also assist with traction.  Not only will this help if your chameleon falls from their perch, it will also make it easier for them to move across what is likely a very slippery surface.

Let Your Chameleon Settle

Before transporting your chameleon, set them in the box you have setup, close the lid to block the light, and wait about half an hour before proceeding on your trip.  This allows them to explore the space a bit, possibly spending some time scratching at the sides, before settling onto the perch and falling asleep.

After a reasonable waiting period, carefully carry the box to your vehicle.  For safety purposes, especially when traveling alone, your chameleon should be the last thing you bring into your vehicle.  Not only is it unwise to leave the unattended in a vehicle, the internal temperature of the vehicle may vary dramatically in a shockingly short period of time, which can potentially do significant harm to your chameleon’s system.

As You Travel

Just as you want to avoid packing your chameleon’s box in a vehicle too early, you never want to leave the box in the vehicle if someone is not in it and the temperature cannot be managed.  Further, it is important to make sure the box is in a stable position.  While some bumps along the road are unavoidable, there should be no risk that the box with your chameleon will tumble or have another box fall on it.

Travel with Care

There is no guarantee that the trip will be entirely stress free for your chameleon, but by taking certain precautions you can increase the likelihood.  Before traveling across state lines, or to other countries, make sure to check local laws regarding whether chameleons are legal to have, even if you are just driving through.  Not all areas allow private ownership of chameleons in their jurisdiction, which can present a very challenging situation for all parties involved.