Traveling with a Reptile

We all need a vacation now and then and a long extended time can mean you have to bring your buddy with you. I travel frequently and need to bring my girl with me.

At first I was set back and horrified at placing her inside a sealed box, but with the help of great team players at Southwest Cargo, my anxiety has lowered a lot.

Angel in a Shipping Box
Vacation Time!!

I found little help online, other than crude boxes without any comfort or flair involved. The usual it’s a reptile, it’ll be OK, written by the people who think with their brains, not their heart.

I worked hard on this page and on my videos to show you how to give your baby a first class flight in Cargo.


Airlines don’t allow reptiles on board in the cabin, but they do allow them to be shipped in the cargo hold. You can’t just bring them along with you to the check in counter, no you have to pre-plan and do the following:

  1. Go to the cargo office – Meet the team!
  2. Become a “known shipper” with your airline
  3. Locating a proper shipping box
  4. How to make a luxurious shipping box
  5. Day of the flight
  6. Going to the Cargo office
  7. Your Arrival


Tashi and us in San Diego

In advance of your flight, go and introduce yourself.

Bring a photo of your lizard, or bring him with you so they can meet him. San Diego and Reno have been extremely nice to me and since angle is a frequent flyer they all look forward to her travels.

Tell them when your’re going to travel and make sure both offices will be open..

Some open late and close early on weekends and holiday. Sometimes they are closed all together. This happened to me and I had to make special arrangements.


Simply call the main cargo office and ask tell them you want to become a shipper.

I fly Southwest (xxx) xxx-xxxx). I love Southwest. They are attentive, understanding and I have developed a friendship with the crew at the locations I travel. Everyone knows Angel and she gets a first class ride.

For a fee of about $60 you will be given an in home check and at that time you show them a bill in your name

Every year you renew but usually Southwest will cover the cost of the home check

I would never, ever ship by fedex or ups!ship-4186

I have seen empty boxes that I have ordered for shipping my iguana come to me with sides crushed, upside down and extremely hot from sitting in their truck. They did not know nothing was inside.It said live reptile on the box and this side up. SHAME ON THEM!!


Go to your local pet store

For a small lizard the best way to begin is to go to call local reptile stores and tell them that you need a box to ship your lizard in. Usually they have one and will give it to you. It is a good place to begin cuz you can see how they made the holes and how it looks. If they do, wipe it down inside with rubbing alcohol and air it out

Buy Online

You can also buy them online, which is what you may do as your lizard grows and you do as much travel as I do. The ones online offer thicker Styrofoam and this makes for a quieter and more insulated ride.  I bought a large one just for syrofoam and bought a box locally.

Make your own

It is hard to find a box in the right size, so customizing may be necessary. I don’t like to squeeze my iggie into a tight space. She needs to be comfortable, yet not able to walk around. Think of the box being a bed, not a bedroom.

The box should be white. This is a visual to a shipper that it is perishable.

I found a box store in my city I purchased a 20x17x17 and they helped me cut it down to 12x17x17.

The durability of the box is important. On the side of the box is a number which rates the durability of the box. Pet stores don’t use the highest rating, Keep this in mind if you plan on him being a frequent flyer.

Typical reptile shipping box, but not high quality

It must be reinforced and insulated with Styrofoam, making what they call a “double box”. Locate stores that sell TV’s and furniture are more than happy to give you the packings of show models. Use an electric knife to cut the stryofoam. It slices easy and works great! The foam insulates the temperature and the noise, as well as giving the box added strength. If your box is big you can compensate with thicker walls

I don’t recommend ever shipping by fedex or ups! I have seen empty boxes that I have ordered for shipping my iguana come to me with sides crushed, upside down and extremely hot from sitting in their truck. They did not know nothing was inside.It said live reptile on the box and this side up. SHAME ON THEM!!


Your lizard needs to travel in style and comfort. Pet store will just put them in a bag; toss the bag in with a bit of crumbled newspaper inside to keep him in place during any tossing of the box. They will attach a heat or cold pack to the top with tape to keep the box warm or cool. Not good enough for my little ig.

Take a cozy cat bed and sew a pillowcase around the border so she has to stay ON the bed. If she can get around it or underneath it she will. Inside she will examine the edges once she realizes she is secure, she will settle in. You don’t want an adventurouse lizard inside the box. It is a place to hunker down and be safe.

For heat I use a Snuggle Safe, a microwavable pad that will last 10 hours. This insures that , God forbid, there is a delay she will be ok. Simply place it in the microwave for 3 minutes. I find this keeps the box just right.

Make sure to secure it to the bottom. Boxes can get tossed and tipped and thrown, so you need to make sure it will not move. I found a heating pad cover works well. You can zip or snap the snuggle safe inside it.. I add an extra piece of foam board below the Styrofoam to reinforce it and wrap clear tape all the way around. Then I place the Snuggle Safe inside.

Now place the cat bed inside

I add an extra item on the top in case the box is dropped or thrown. (which has happened to me) I prefer something that can be bent to give her head room a small memory foam mat. They are firm and bend so she has head room. It also will insulate the sound more and keep the heat in. That with the cat bed will help soften any blows caused by bumpy landing or misloadings of the box..

Print box labels. You can get large sheets of BOX SHipping labesl UP FINAL no nameshipping lables at Staples. Take a nice photo of her and print up some handling labels with flight info and put it on the box as shown. This is my print up for the box in case you would like to use it, just add your own info where the ##’s are.


MAKE AIR HOLES! You will need to put 4-6 holes in each side of the box. I place them in the corners. You can use a pencil, but to make it neater I use a drill of the same size. Don’t make them too big or think you want to give them a view. You want the box to be dark, You want them to zone out and sleep and feel secure. Lizards enjoy small dark places. They relish privacy. They are the perfect cargo passengers!

Test the box. Without your reptile inside, heat up the snuggle safe and test it about 1 hour after it is sealed and see how hot it is. Test it again in 2 hours. the second hour will be the warmest. This gives you peace of mind in knowing he won’t be too hot.


Let him explore the box and his cozy bed. Intoduce it to  so he is familiar with the feel and smell and can explore it in the light of day.I place the bed in my drawer with my clothes the week ahead of my flight, to give it some scent of me


Prepare by giving him a good meal. Some say don’t feed them, but the main reason is so he won’t poop in the box, I’d rather make sure he is fed just in case. Make sure he gets something juicy like grapes and fruit so he is hydrated.

Try to get him to potty. If not bring some paper towels, just in case.

Get your paperwork in order. Bring a few copies with you for your return trip. They will help you at the counter, but you can put in your address and all.

Check your flight Status on make sure it is on time. Southwest offers a call to you if the plane is delayed and this is a great thing. Just give them your phone when you book your flight online.

Give yourself time. About ½ hour extra to check your little guy in.

Microwave your snuggle safe. Place it in the box 15 minutes before you walk out the door

Place the top piece of Styrofoam in the box. Easy to forget and you can’t travel without it. I’ve almost done this a couple times!

Don’t seal the box. They will want to inspect it, so better to let him ride along

Remember your paper work. If you forget it, they can find you in the system, but it will take more time.

Put a rubber band in for securing the pillowcase

Don’t forget a box of candy for the SW crew!

Let’s go on vacation!


Be calm in the car. Let him ride on the dash, hold the box on your lap, introduce it to him while there is light and he can explore a bit. Just to east his fear and curiosity.

Make sure to request:

“NFG” (Next Flight Guaranteed). This means he’ll be on your flight.

Ask them to call the cargo office in your destination city. I also call from the gate. This makes me feel better and establishes communication before I arrive.

Request special instructions on the bill. This insures handlers will know about your precious cargo.

Request that the box be kept in office as long as it can be.This way he won’t get too hot or cold.

Ask to meet the cargo handler. Personally I bring him a thank you card and my put my phone number on the outside of the envelope asking them to please call me when she is onboard. It they don’t, I call the office while boarding to make sure she is on the same flight I am. I also bring the crew something special.

Ask him to put him in the safest , private compartment on the plane, There are a few different places This way no other cargo can tip on her. Landings can be rough and turbulence can’t be avoided.

Place him in his little bed. I am always happily surprised at how mine loves to snuggle in. and tell him you’ll see her in a few hours. Secure him in.

Go enjoy your flight!!



Upon arrival you need to go to the Cargo office and pick her up as soon as possible.

Gently cut open the box, speaking to him and letting him know it is you.

Slowly remove him from the box and bring him to his vacation spot! Make sure you have brought him familiar items to create a nice sleep spot and lounge area.

Congratulations! You now know how to bring your lizard on a plane with you!