CPAP Travel Tips
If you’ve never travelled with your CPAP, BiPAP, or APAP machine before, you’ll want to read this. At The CPAP Shop, we continually answer questions from people wondering how and what CPAP equipment they need to travel with their CPAP machine; be it through airport security, camping or just on a quick vacation. So, we’ve come up with some CPAP travel tips to help you be fully prepared.
Depending on where and how you’re traveling, you may not necessarily need all of these items. However, it is best to be safe than sorry. We recommend that you store all of these items in your carrying case so you don’t have to remember to pack them.
- Carrying Case: You should have received a carrying case when you purchased the machine. It should have room enough for your CPAP machine, humidifier, cords and CPAP mask. If you need another, be sure it is big enough to hold adapters, extension and power chords, extra batteries, an extra mask, etc. It also should be well padded.
- Manual: While you’re traveling, you may find that you have to use features of your CPAP machine that have been set for you already. In case you run into problems or have questions, keep the machine’s user manual in your carrying case for reference.
- Rx: A CPAP machine is a recognized medical device. You shouldn’t have to prove that you need it. However, a copy of your doctor’s prescription on hand could alleviate any air travel difficulties. It might also be wise to have a notice of medical necessity from your doctor in addition to the prescription.
- Back-up Power: Bring an extra battery (or two). Depending on where you’re traveling to, you might not have an outlet available. Or purchase a rechargeable battery which can give you anywhere from a night to multiple nights on a single charge. These lithium ion batteries are extremely portable and can replace your humidifier within the carrying case. (It is recommended to NOT use the heater with a battery). Some CPAP machine will require an inverter/converter. Check with your CPAP equipment provider for confirmation.
- Extension Cords: You never know when an outlet will be just out of reach. Pack a 6 foot extension cord. Even if you’re planning on staying in a hotel where it’s safe to assume a bedside outlet will be available, there are instances where that’s not the case.
- Adapters: Travelling overseas? Most CPAP machines made in the last two years have the ability to detect electrical current voltage and adapt accordingly. Just to be certain, look up the make and model of you CPAP machine to see if it has this feature. If so, all you will need is a specific plug adaptor for the country destination.
Extra Equipment: CPAP equipment is breakable. We recommend either bringing an additional CPAP mask or parts for you current mask so you are not left without. Also, add an additional filter and even a tube if you have room. This is not expensive equipment but it will get expensive if you need it shipped overnight!
- Unplug the power cord from the wall and the back of the machine. Pack this separately in a front or side pocket.
- Detach the humidifier completely. Drain all water from the water chamber. If you leave the humidifier in place, water can leak into the motor when packed which can cause a fatal motor error.
- Detached all of the tubing and pack this is a pocket as well.
Travelling by Plane
- Travel Light – Carry-on Luggage: We strongly recommend that you carry on your CPAP machine. Newer CPAP machines are much more travel friendly; portable, lightweight and small. Especially if you are a frequent air traveler, these travel friendly CPAP’s make frequent flying much less of a hassle. You may also want to get a Medical Equipment Identification Tag. This tag indicates that your CPAP machine will not be counted as a carry-on piece of luggage since it’s a required medical device.
- Airport Security: As you go through airport security, you’ll be asked to take the CPAP machine out of its case (the mask and tubing can stay) and place it into a bin. Prior to traveling, place your CPAP in a clear plastic bag to keep it clean. The CPAP machine will be x-rayed and swabbed for trace explosives. The reason for an Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) test is that there are certain parts of the machine that don’t appear clearly on an x-ray image. For the ETD test, you can ask the TSA personnel to change their gloves and use a fresh swab to keep your machine as germ-free as possible.
- Compliance: You’re allowed to use your CPAP machine during the flight since it’s a recognized medical device; flight personnel are not permitted to stop you from using it. If you need an outlet, you’ll have to sit in business or first class. This is an unnecessary extra cost just to use your machine. Instead, you can purchase a rechargeable lithium ion CPAP battery. Certain batteries can provide power for up to 30 hours depending on the pressure setting of your CPAP machine. This is perfect for long flights when you want to sleep. Remember to not use your heated humidifier during battery use as it will reduce battery operation significantly.
Travelling by Car, Truck, RV, or Boat
- DC Connection: Most CPAP machines have a DC connection, which allows you to run it off of a 12 volt battery using a cigarette lighter socket in a car, truck, RV, or boat. All you need is a DC power cord.
- Vehicle Battery Charge: Make sure the battery in your vehicle has a good charge before you use it all night, or for multiple nights. You’ll be using your vehicle to go from one place to the next during the day and you don’t want to end up with a dead battery. One way to avoid this is to use a CPAP battery. Remember to check to see if your machine needs an inverter/converter for battery use.
- The great thing about today’s CPAP batteries is that they allow you the freedom and flexibility you need to continue doing the things you love. We have some long-lasting batteries that can keep you complying during camping trips.
- Altitude: All CPAP machines have altitude adjustment. However, some are automatic and others are manual. If manual, the adjustment can be done through the CPAP machine’s menu. Check your CPAP machine instruction manual for automatic or manual altitude information.
- Cleaning: Don’t forget to clean your machine! Traveling for business or taking vacations can distract you from your normal routine. Cleaning your machine on a weekly basis helps prolong its life. Plus, if you’re traveling in an RV, or going camping, your CPAP machine will probably be in the same area where you eat and do other things. There’s a greater chance that it could get dirty. Mask wipes are a convenient way to clean your CPAP mask and machine quickly. Pull some out an place them in a zip lock bag to easy travel.