Can I Travel with a CPAP Machine? Tips and Advice

When you own a CPAP machine or you’re considering buying one, one concern is how can you travel on a business trip, to see relatives or on a prolonged vacation with it? The issue comes partly down to your mode of transport. If you’re flying by air, there are different considerations to when taking your own vehicle all the way or traveling on an Amtrak train, a Greyhound bus, or another transport option.

Let’s look at your different options and considerations when traveling with CPAP equipment.

Flying with Checked Luggage

The TSA officials have stated previously when you need to travel with a CPAP machine, put it inside the carry-on luggage to put in the overhead bin. The idea here is to avoid any issue with a loss of luggage when arriving at the destination which would mean not having your CPAP device that evening when you need to get a good, safe night’s sleep. It’s also possible a daytime flight could get delayed in the air and become a late night one that requires the use of your CPAP unit. This is sensible advice and should be adhered to by anyone who carries a CPAP which them when flying to a destination.

For anyone who already doesn’t travel light, it’s good to know that when bringing important medical equipment, this is not considered a carry-on relating to your limits because it is for medical reasons. It’s worth double-checking with the chosen airline in this regard, but in almost all cases this is the reality. Buying a smaller, slimmer CPAP unit also helps to keep the carry-on size down to an acceptable size too.

Wrap the Equipment in Clear Plastic

You may be asked to remove the CPAP machine from the carry-on bag to run it through the X-ray machine. These machines aren’t always as clean as you would hope, so it’s a good idea to add a layer of see through plastic to seal the entire machine while it runs through the machine. If you have any issues with that, carrying a letter from your doctor explaining your medical need for a sanitized CPAP machine is never a bad idea too.

Some CPAP Units Have Their Own Travel Bag

Not every unit does, but bigger brands often offer a branded travel bag that perfectly fits their model and is designed with TSA agents in mind. Even if one is not given with the device, the manufacturer may sell one separately and it’s worth picking up because it will fit well and avoid the unit sliding around inside an ill-fitting bag where it could get damaged during transit.

Check the Machine is Working Perfectly Before You Travel

It makes sense to verify that the machine is functioning perfectly long before you leave for the airport. If you’re in a major city and there’s an issue, you could be able to get same-day delivery of a replacement part or arrange next-day delivery to your destination hotel to manage the issue without having to cancel the trip. It’s always better to be prepared.

Too Many Adapters?

If you have a power cable that’s been acting up, then consider getting a replacement in case if fails on you while you’re away. There’s always the possibility that a fuse could blow in the plug, so carry a replacement plug and a screw driver with you to swap out the plug if needed. Be aware that if you’re traveling abroad, the current won’t be the same as the US and you’ll need a device to convert the voltage to ensure full compatibility and an international adapter too.

Bring Spare Mask Cushions

You can be using the mask cushion just fine and then suddenly it stops being usable. There’s no predicting when this will happen, so bringing at least one spare cushion with you is a must. If you have other types of spares, then it’s never a bad thing to pack what you can to cover any type of equipment failure, within reason.

Using a CPAP on the Plane

There are occasions on long-haul flights where you’ll need to go overnight and use the CPAP. If this makes you feel too conspicuous, there are some hoodies designed to cover you and your machine to create a bit more privacy with other passengers. Click here to find suitable models that are smaller and won’t clutter up the seating area on a long flight.

Keeping Within FAA Regulations

It depends on the airline, but some require two-days’ notice when a passenger will be bringing a CPAP on a flight with them. This could rule out buying travel tickets at the last minute online or at the airport, so do bear this in mind. Some airlines expect to see labeling confirming that the equipment meets current FAA regulations for safety, so be sure to verify if that’s the case and whether your equipment has the required labeling. Don’t assume you’ll be okay; verify before you fly or better, before you book the ticket.

Consider the Difficulty of Less Travel-Friendly Options

When planning to travel on a Greyhound bus, Amtrak or another form of transport other than your own vehicle, be sure to consider storage space in the overhead bins or under seat storage. If you’ll need the machine to be positioned in front of you to use overnight, will there be enough leg room to do so? You may find that you need to book two assigned seats side-by-side to ensure there’s enough space for you and your CPAP unit without worrying about space for other travelers.

Traveling with a CPAP machine isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it can be done. It’s certainly much simpler when you’re driving to your destination and have easy luggage options. It may be worth making a trip longer to provide greater comfort this way. Failing that, buying two seats next to each other ensures you’ll have enough space on a long-haul flight to use the equipment without being a burden to other passengers. Otherwise, getting seating in an area of the plane with greater leg room is a good idea. Talk with the airline to ensure they permit CPAP machines on their flights and what arrangements are best.

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