How Do I Travel with CPAP (tips and best practices)
Traveling with a CPAP machine can sometimes be a hassle. However, with proper preparation, it can be very easy. Let us offer a number of useful tips.
1. Carry-on Only
If you're flying with your CPAP, never pack your CPAP machine and accessories in your checked luggage; always pack it in your carry-on bag. This eliminates the risk of never seeing it again if your bag gets lost.
Did you know that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, carrying your CPAP machine in its traveling case isn’t considered carry-on luggage, and therefore, doesn’t count towards your carry-on quota?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruled in 2009 that airline passengers must be allowed to use respiratory assistant devices, such as a CPAP machine (Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel – May 13, 2009).
If the flight attendant says something about your CPAP being another carry-on, let him or her know that it's a CPAP machine, and under the Americans with Disability Act, it's not counted as an added carry-on.
Also, through normal luggage handling procedures, your machine can easily be broken. You may want to call ahead and find out airline procedures for carrying your machine on the plane to prevent any delays through security.
We have learned that many airlines will not let you use your CPAP machine during the flight because it is not a life-sustaining device. You may want to contact your airline to see if you can make special arrangements. This link will also provide helpful information.
It’s also wise to label your CPAP case with a medical equipment luggage tag.
2. Bring a Doctor’s Note
Getting valid documentation from your doctor stating that you require traveling with a CPAP machine can help things run smoothly through the security line should a problem arise.
Ask your doctor to give you a copy of your prescription for the machine in the event that it is lost, stolen, or breaks down and you need to replace it or you need additional supplies.
3. Keep it Germ-Free
Place your machine and accessories in a clear, plastic bag to protect them from germs and bacteria when going through the x-ray machine.
If your machine must be inspected by an agent, ask that the agent put on a fresh pair of sterile gloves and wipe down the table before handling it to protect the hygiene of your machine.
4. Invest in Travel Size
If you’re a frequent traveler, investing in a travel CPAP machine is a lightweight, compact way to go.
5. Pack Accessories and Extras
Q: Can a CPAP run on batteries?
A: Yes. You can find batteries and power supplies here. Also, please read this article.
Bring a battery backup in case you lose power or you’re somewhere where there’s no access to electricity or an outlet. The battery pack also comes in handy when you are on a long-haul flight and plan on sleeping.
If you’re traveling internationally, check to see that your machine comes with a universal power supply that supports a range of voltages. If not, bring a voltage adapter.
Most CPAP units will automatically convert to the correct local voltage. Check with your instruction manual or manufacturer to confirm this. You may, however, need a plug adapter, as well as an extension cord, in case your outlet is far away.
Q: Which travel CPAP machines are available with a humidifier?
A: Most travel machines come with waterless humidifier options, like the ResMed Airmini and HDM Z2. Currently there is no travel option where you can add water to the unit.
6. Attach a medical equipment tag, identifying the contents as such.
7. Let the TSA security agent know that you have a CPAP machine. Remove it from the bag and have it scanned separately.
8. Keep a record of the model and serial number at hand, just in case.
9. If you're going to use your CPAP machine in-flight, check beforehand if there's an outlet next to your seat, and if you have the right adapter.
10. Make Sure You Have Power Anywhere
If you are driving across the country with your CPAP or are camping, you can still use your machine (depending on the make and model). A common question is:
Q: Can I take my CPAP camping and still use the humidifier?
A: Yes, you can use the humidifier while on battery power. However, this will significantly increase your power usage. You can also turn the humidifier off to save on battery life.
Q: What are good CPAP batteries for camping?
If your machine has the ability to run off of 12V (check your owner’s manual) then you will be able to run your machine off of a battery or plug it into the cigarette lighter adapter in your car / RV if you purchase the proper cables.
Q: Which adapters work with a cigarette lighter for vehicle use?
A: DC adapters. They differ for each CPAP if available.
Respironics sells battery adapter cables for those who wish to bring their CPAP camping into the wilderness. A 12V deep cycle marine battery or a motorcycle battery is recommended for the longest life between charges. The life span of the battery depends on its rating and what your pressure setting is on your machine.
11. Make Sure You Have Enough Distilled Water
Airlines allow you to carry on up to 3.4 ounces of water. So, make sure to bring a small bottle of distilled water with you on board. In addition, have some more in your luggage for when you are not on the plane so you don't have to immediately look for a pharmacy to buy more.
As we mention in this article, use only distilled water in your CPAP humidifier.