Whether it’s a trip to the vet or a longer journey, beardies don’t enjoy big changes in their environment. Transporting a bearded dragon creates stress so it’s important to prepare everything in advance and make sure your dragon’s needs are taken care of during transport.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- What does my beardie need for safe travel?
- How to transport a bearded dragon in a car
- How to travel by plane
- Checklist for travel
Some of the general things you should consider to help you with preparation would be the length of your travel, how long you’ll be away for, and the environment at your destination. From there you can adjust what you’ll need to bring. The article below will help you with the details of how to transport your bearded dragon, what to consider, and provide you with some tips.
How To Transport A Bearded Dragon- Top Considerations
In choosing a carrier, you should factor in size – both for your beardie and your preferred method of travel. Carriers shouldn’t be too big since they may not fit well in a car (for example). Also, you may have a harder time securing bigger carriers in a car. If you are traveling by plane, the airline may have size restrictions as well. In general, your carrier should be big enough for your beardie to be able to move around a bit but not too big that it’ll be difficult to transport.
There are several options for carriers. Most small pet or cat carriers will work well for bearded dragons especially those with padded bottoms and good ventilation for comfort. You can also use a big shoebox for shorter travel as well as plastic bins or Rubbermaid tubs.
Some bearded dragons appear calmer in opaque (non-transparent) carriers so pay attention to what your beardie is more comfortable with. If ever, you can prepare an extra towel to place over clear carriers to help make your beardie feel safer.
With any carrier, make sure these three factors are well met: ventilation, size, and security. For DIY carriers, make sure to poke holes in your shoe or plastic boxes. For store-bought carriers, make sure the net/ventilation holes aren’t too big for your beardie to fit in through. Fabric carriers also run the risk of getting snagged by your dragon’s claws which may cause an injury when it gets stuck. Lastly, always make sure that the lid is secure and your beardie won’t be able to push the lid open and escape (especially for DIY carriers).
Line your carrier with soft towels to keep your beardie comfortable and to safeguard against bumps and slipping and sliding from movement.
Travel will most likely stress your bearded dragon out and cause it to defecate. Having bedding in its carrier will help you with quick clean-ups. Use easy to manage bedding like paper towels or newspaper during transporting your bearded dragon and place them on top of the towels in your carrier.
Make sure you clean up immediately after noticing any poop (you will smell it in closed areas, for sure!) since your beardie will crawl all over it due to the small space. If this happens, cleaning up will be harder especially if you don’t have access to facilities to be able to wash up your dragon thoroughly.
It’s advisable to stay away from wet wipes even if they are marketed as “gentle” or “organic.” A damp paper towel should do the trick.
Ventilation is another important thing to take care of during transport. Make sure your carrier is well ventilated. If you’re using a DIY carrier, a good technique for the best airflow is poking holes on the top and sides. Make the holes on the side smaller than the top ventilation holes so your beardie doesn’t accidentally get its claws stuck.
Since bearded dragons are ectotherms (cold-blooded animals), they will need heat from their external environment to regulate their own body temperature. While you won’t really need to set up your heat lamps during quick transport, there are several things you can do to make sure that your bearded dragon has the correct temperature in its carrier. At this point, a temperature gun will come in quite handy or any digital temperature with a probe that has good accuracy.
During transport, you want to be able to give your bearded dragon a temperature range of about 65-90°F. Pay attention to the environmental temperature as well (in a car, bus, or plane) as you’ll have to adjust your preparations to account for colder temperatures outside especially during winter. If the ambient temperatures are around 75°F then you may not need to provide extra heat for your beardie.
If you need to provide extra heat, you have several options to do so: towels for insulation, heat packs, a bottle with hot water, or a damp towel you can heat up.
Towels are a good way to insulate your carrier to keep heat from escaping. Make sure that your bearded dragon’s carrier is lined with towels to keep it warm and comfy.
Heat packs that use a chemical reaction to heat up (often labeled as hand and foot warmers) are readily available in travel or outdoor gear stores. There are also gel-type heat pads you can microwave for a few seconds that are available in pharmacies. These are usually hot and cold packs with a blue gel that you can either heat up or cool to provide relief for injuries.
These are a great way to keep the temperature warm for your bearded dragon, especially for longer travel times. Make sure to cover these very well with a towel since they can get pretty hot to the touch. The towel will prevent your dragon from getting scalded. Make sure you wrap them securely so your beardie will not be able to dislodge or dig it up in any way.
An alternative to heat packs is bottled hot water. You can use either glass or plastic bottles and fill them up with hot water. Make sure that your plastic bottles are rated to withstand the temperature of your hot water. The problem with these though would be the tendency of bottles to roll around in the carrier which can injure your dragon. If you can safely secure these inside the carrier then it’s a good choice. As always, line these with towels to prevent your beardie from being scalded.
Another good trick is to make a DIY heat pack using microwave-safe sealable freezer plastic bags and a microfiber towel. Soak the towel in water and wring out the extra (just enough that the towel is moist but not dripping). Place it in the microwave-safe bag with air, seal it well, and stick it in the microwave for a few seconds. Take it out and read the temperature with a temp gun (or any thermometer you have). You are aiming for about 90-95°F. The water should heat up pretty nicely and the air in the bag will insulate it to keep it hot for a longer period. This DIY heat pack should keep the correct temperatures for a while but not for really long periods (over 45 minutes).
With any heat source you choose, make sure to cover it well to prevent scalding. It’s also good to place them over at one side of your carrier so that your dragon can move nearer or farther from its heat source as needed. Always remember to monitor the temperature of the carrier as smaller spaces can heat up and lose heat more quickly especially during long travel.
Food and Water
You should pack food that your bearded dragon is familiar with to keep its diet consistent and avoid stress or any digestion issues. Greens and feeder insects can be packed in a small cooler for short to medium-length trips. For longer trips, you may want to consider looking for a pet store at your destination to get your feeder insects.
For feeder insects, it’s easier to travel with worms or roaches instead of crickets. If these are not part of your beardie’s regular diet then you should plan on getting them used to this at least 2-3 weeks before your trip. Crickets tend to smell and can be annoying to travel with. Freeze-dried crickets are also an option but one that isn’t recommended as these don’t really provide good protein for your dragon. It can also cause impaction issues if fed on this diet for too long.
It’s not recommended that you feed your dragon while traveling since they will not have access to a basking light to aid in their digestion. For trips longer than 3 days, prepare to set up a makeshift basking spot for your dragon since you will need to feed it.
To prepare for the trip, your dragon should get a bigger meal the day before and then shouldn’t be fed on the day of the trip. Remember, they will not be able to digest their meal properly with the heat from the carrier alone if you feed them.
Your bearded dragon will also need to keep hydrated especially for long trips so pack a small water bowl or dish they can soak in a bit to hydrate.
Make sure your beardie is safe inside its carrier from any sudden brakes or movement during transport. Small movements that you may not feel can send your dragon sliding in its carrier which can cause undue stress or injuries. Keep it safe from sudden movements by lining the carrier with soft towels. A good technique is to bunch up the towels on the side of your carrier to create a barrier around your bearded dragon.
If you are using a car, you can also put a seatbelt around the box or secure it with some bungee cords. If you’re the one driving take special care not to drive too fast or take sudden brakes and accelerations, so as not to startle your bearded dragon.
Quick Checklist for Transporting Your Bearded Dragon
A quick list of what you’ll need is below which is basically all the requirements for taking good care of your bearded dragon. It will adjust depending on the length of your trip. For example, a quick trip to the vet will not require you to bring most of these things.
- Adjustable harness and leash
- Bedding/Substrate: newspapers, paper towels, bath towels, blankets,
- Cleaning supplies
- Heat sources such as heat pads or bottles filled with hot water
- Local Vet and Pet Store Contact Information
- Snacks, Supplements, and Vitamins
- Tank or enclosure
- Thermometer/ temperature gun
- UVA/UVB light and a basking light/heat lamp
- Water bowl
How To Transport Your Bearded Dragon In A Car
Traveling with your bearded dragon in your own car is a bit less worrisome because you’ll be able to control a lot of factors here to keep it comfortable and safe.
Pack the essentials and prepare your beardie for travel
Depending on the situation at your final destination and the length of your travel, you may have to pack everything that your beardie will need to stay healthy and comfortable which will include food, proper heat and lighting, its water bowl, their tank, substrate, cleaning supplies, a thermometer, and your beardie’s furniture or accessories.
Always double-check the needs of your bearded dragon during travel outlined in the section above. Make sure everything is met especially in terms of ventilation, safety, and temperature.
Check for any restrictions in your final destination
You should always check the restrictions in your final destination regarding exotic animals especially when you are going cross-state or crossing into another country.
It is also wise to check all the local pet supply stores and veterinarians in case you need to stock up on anything or have your beardie checked at your destination.
Heat up your car beforehand
During winter, especially when the ambient temperatures fall below 65°F, you should definitely turn your car’s heat on to maintain a good 70-75°F during the trip. Make sure your car is nice and toasty before you bring your beardie’s carrier inside. This is to avoid sudden changes in temperature especially when it’s already really cold outside.
Make sure you have your heat packs in with your carrier ready before even making the trip from your front door to the garage as the sudden drop in temperature can be really bad for your beardie even if they are inside the carrier.
A good tip for longer trips is to turn on your car’s seat warmer so that the heat from your carrier does not escape too fast because of the cold seat. During summer, you can also cool the seat first so the opposite does not happen and your beardie becomes too warm.
Secure the carrier
Secure the carrier with a seat belt or some bungee cords to prevent unnecessary movement. While the car seatbelt was not designed to completely safeguard a carrier or box in major crashes, it may help in case of such incidents.
It goes without saying that one should always drive carefully especially when you have a pet in the car. Since pets (especially bearded dragons) will not be able to react to car accidents in a way that humans can (such as extending arms for protection), you should be extra careful in driving and avoiding this. Even small, sudden, accelerations or brakes that seem trivial to humans can stress your dragon out in its carrier. So be extra careful when driving to make sure your dragon has a comfortable ride.
Sunlight in the car
Even during cold ambient conditions (such as winter), always safeguard against sunlight hitting your carrier directly in the car. While it may help if you are losing heat in the carrier, it can lead to overheating very quickly because of the heat packs inside, especially if you are not monitoring the temperature closely. It’s best to avoid it altogether and stick to safer methods of heating up your bearded dragon during the trip.
On long trips where you can get out and stretch, try to give your beardie some exposure to natural sunlight to help it with its vitamin D3 and heat needs. Make sure they will be safe once you take them out by providing a harness for them in case they try to scurry away.
How To Transport Your Bearded Dragon On A Plane
Transporting bearded dragons in airplanes runs a lot of risks and should generally be avoided especially if you cannot keep your dragon’s carrier with you in the cabin. There may also be a lot of restrictions against it. If it cannot be avoided, make sure you take all the necessary precautions to keep your beardie safe.
Check if the airline allows it
You will have to do a fair amount of research to prepare for transporting your bearded dragon on a plane. First, find out if the airline allows it and what kind of requirements you’ll need (papers, veterinary clearance, permits, etc.).
Check restrictions in your final destination
It’s also wise to check with your final destination about any restrictions they may have when bringing in an exotic animal. Some states or countries may not allow it at all.
It’s also good to check the nearest exotic animal vet in your destination and keep their contact information handy for any emergencies.
Check the transport conditions
Next, check if you can bring the carrier as a carry-on (with you in the cabin). This is the best option since you can keep a close eye on your dragon during the flight. Ask if there are any size restrictions for your carrier as well.
Otherwise, you may have to check in your carrier (placed in the airplane’s cargo). If this is the case, then you must thoroughly check the conditions of the plane’s cargo or reconsider air travel altogether. Placing live animals in a plane’s cargo is often risky. As an alternative, there are professional pet movers that you can hire.
Clarify with the airline and double-check if their cargo is pressurized and heated. Remember, your bearded dragon will need the correct temperature at all times to help it regulate its own body temp. It’s also good to ask if they can securely fasten your beardie’s carrier so that it doesn’t tumble or fall.
Again, triple check if all these conditions are met, especially in the case of airplane cargo travel to avoid a potentially fatal situation.
Pack the essentials and prepare your beardie for travel
Again, depending on the situation at your final destination and the length of travel you expect, you may have to pack everything that your beardie will need to stay healthy and comfortable which includes food, proper heat, and lighting, its water bowl, their tank (or a temporary enclosure bigger than its carrier), substrate, cleaning supplies, a thermometer, and your beardie’s furniture or accessories.
Always double-check the needs of your bearded dragon during the travel outlined above. Make sure everything is met especially in terms of ventilation, safety, and temperature.
Ensure your beardie’s comfort
Once you have everything ready, you should make sure that your bearded dragon travels in comfort and proper temperatures. Line your carrier with soft towels or hand warmers. Check if the airline will allow portable heat packs (if these have batteries then it won’t be allowed in the cargo) and pack a couple of extras as well. You can opt for the quick homemade heat pack using a wet towel outlined above.
Label your carrier properly
Don’t forget to label your bearded dragon’s carrier properly with your contact information. It’ll be good to provide your vet’s contact information as well (with permission). Airports can be very busy areas so it’s easy to lose your carrier.
Tips For Short Length Trips
Short trips that are 1-2 hours long, to places such as the vet, will require minimal equipment. Usually, you’ll just need your carrier and heat packs. Just make sure that your beardie’s ventilation, temperature, and safety are taken care of. However, it’s good to prepare for any untoward incidents. For example, pack an extra heat source if it’s winter or a bit of food in case something like your car breaking down happens.
Tips For Medium Length Trips
Medium length trips that are less than a day have two extra considerations: replenishing your heat source and cleaning up your beardie’s poop. Your dragon will most likely defecate due to the stress of travel so make sure that you are equipped to clean up after it immediately before it makes a big mess. Closely monitor your bearded dragon during longer trips so you can quickly clean up at the first sign of poop. The smaller space means that your dragon will probably crawl all over it and make cleaning up harder. No worries, you’ll most likely smell it right away in a closed car.
The other thing to consider is replenishing your heat source. If you opted for heat packs, bring a few extra. If you’ve gone DIY, make sure you take note of how to replenish your hot water bottle, for instance, during your journey.
For trips less than a day, your dragon will not need to really eat or drink but consider bringing some extra food and water as a precaution if unexpected incidents happen.
Tips For Long Trips
For trips that are longer than a day, you should definitely pack almost everything you have set-up for your beardie’s enclosure that ensures its good health. The detailed guide in the section above will list down everything you need and give you some tips.
If the trip is more than 2 days, you’ll need to prepare a mobile basking spot setup since you will be feeding your bearded dragon during the long trip. Remember, they will not be able to digest food well in their heated carriers. They need a heat lamp and a UV light source to aid in their digestion. Make sure you take this into consideration to avoid having gut impaction issues during your travel.
In cars, always safeguard against sunlight hitting your carrier directly since this can cause it to quickly heat up. Pay close attention especially in long car rides when things can get monotonous and you can quickly forget to check.
During your stopovers, prepare to take out your bearded dragon so it can get natural sunlight. This will be really good for it since natural light has a lot more UV rays than any artificial bulb. Prepare for this by getting a harness for your dragon or perhaps bringing a nice plastic tub with lining and an open top.
Can I travel with my bearded dragon?
Yes, it’s certainly possible to travel with bearded dragons but traveling stresses them out. Consider having someone take care of them in your absence or looking for a pet hotel that accepts reptiles. If you really have to travel with your beardie then take all the necessary precautions to make sure that the experience is safe and isn’t too stressful for them.
Can you take a bearded dragon in the car?
Yes, you can take a bearded dragon in a car. Just make sure its carrier (or the car) is in a temperature that is comfortable for your bearded dragon. Since they are ectotherms, they will need external heat to regulate their own body temperature. If you are traveling during winter, make sure you heat up the car first before placing your bearded dragon in it. Consider placing portable heat mats or lots of towels in the carrier with your bearded dragon to help keep it comfortable.
How do I transport my bearded dragon to the vet?
A good-sized cat carrier or even a big shoebox (for boots for example) are good ways to transport your beardie for short trips to the vet. Again, make sure they are comfortable inside their carriers by providing lots of warm towels and portable heat packs if necessary. Don’t forget to puncture air holes in your box as well.
Can I leave my bearded dragon alone for a week?
No. Anything over 3 days will lead to some complications for your bearded dragon. Though they are pretty hardy creatures in the wild, they do lose some of that in captivity. They should be fine if left alone for about 1-2 days provided that everything they need is within their reach and you’ve set up automatic timers for your lights and heat but beyond that can be a bit problematic.
Transporting a bearded dragon is always stressful for your pet so make sure you prepare for everything that your bearded dragon will need during the trip. This includes almost everything you need to properly care for a bearded dragon such as a heat source, a UV and heat lamp for longer trips, and food supplies.
Short to medium trips should be fine but you may want to reconsider longer trips or travel that will require boarding an airplane as this can be quite risky. You have to prepare really well for long trips that span several days.
You may opt for a pet transport service as an alternative since these are well experienced with transporting critters. Also, if you’re going on a vacation, you can also consider leaving your bearded dragon with a sitter instead of taking it along.
In any case, the best thing to do would be to prepare and take all the needed precautions to ensure your bearded dragon’s comfort and health during travel.
Comprehensive bearded dragon care sheet you can print to take along for your journey:
Care Sheet – Bearded Dragon
Explaining common myths and facts about bearded dragon care:
Myths and Facts about Bearded Dragon Care
Forum on what may stress out bearded dragons with accounts from owners:
What might stress out my bearded dragon?