Security has been beefed up tremendously since 9/11, which has, in turn, created longer check-in delays. As a result, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suggests you arrive no less than two hours before your flight [source: TSA]. While you spend some time waiting around the airport, be sure to prepare your pet for the flight ahead.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture mandates that pets traveling on airlines must be fed and watered within four hours of the flight's scheduled departure [source: Airlines.org]. You'll be asked to sign a waiver that certifies your pet has been given food and water when you check in for your flight.
Make sure that you don't stuff your pet with food or give it too much water, however. A pet with a full belly aboard an airline flight may vomit from anxiety or travel sickness. Too much food or water can also lead to accidents inside the crate; not a pleasant way to fly. You'll also want to make sure your pet's food and water bowls are empty and locked inside the carrier, with a bag of food attached to the outside of the carrier. This will prevent spills and will give airline employees a chance to feed or water your pet, if necessary, during a long delay or layover [source: Petco].
Give your pet a little water about two hours before the flight is scheduled to depart, and don't be afraid to ask an airport employee if the airport has a special area reserved for pets' dirty, dirty business.
Taking all of these tips into account can make travel much easier for you and your pet. After all, it's your pet's vacation too.