Travel with CPAP: great nights sleep away from home

In this article I will tell you about:

  • How you can travel with your CPAP machine;
  • What you need to do if you go overseas
  • What you Need to Know at the Airport
  • Powering your CPAP Machine
  • Best CPAP Travel Machines
  • Supplies You’ll Need.

Getting a good night’s sleep: that’s what CPAP is all about. But when you’re away from home what do you do?

CPAP Machines–especially modern ones–are very portable. Most can accept multiple voltages (110-230V) which means it can work overseas as well.

For CPAP to go you will need to be aware of the following issues:

  • Operating Environment
  • Power Supply
  • Airport Regulations
  • Airline Regulations
  • Access to Distilled Water.

Operating Environment

If you travel to a warmer/dustier/colder climate your machine will have to cope with the new location.

  • If your new location is dustier you will need to make sure your filters are cleaned and you have spare disposable filters.
  • If you’re going into a warmer or colder climate you get rain-out where condensation forms in your mask and tube you may need to get a heated hose or hose cover.
  • If you go to a drier climate you may have to take an additional humidifiers.
  • If you go to a hot environment you will likely sweat more and that will affect your mask seal. You should use mask liners in that case.

What is a CPAP Battery Pack?

Going camping? Not near any plugs? If this is the case then consider a battery backup system.

Battery back up provides power when you don’t have electricity. In general a battery pack will last two nights use. Ideal for a weekend camping trip.

Battery backup is also very useful when traveling to a country with irregular power supplies.

Battery packs are expensive, $150-$400 and in general are for specific brands of machine. There is a universal battery pack costs $300 and can be used with other machines.

Can I take my CPAP on a plane?

Since 911 what you can or can’t take with you on a plane seem to change every weak.

Before traveling make sure you get a letter from your doctor saying that the CPAP machine is needed for your health.

Airlines sometime insist on the machine being put into checked baggage.

Never let them do this:

  • Luggage gets lost and you need that machine.
  • Luggage is treated roughly and your machine is a delicate piece of medical equipment.
  • If you get put up into a hotel for a delayed flight you may not have access to your checked luggage.

If you take your machine with you then expect it to be searched at the airport. Make sure you have all of the power leads and fully charged battery packs. You’ll need to demonstrate that the machine works.

When the machine is being searched make sure you’re present to ensure that it’s being handled carefully. You can also make sure that all the parts are packed up.

when traveling with your machine make sure you empty your humidifier of all water. If you spill the water on your machine it will break down.

You should ideally use distilled water in your machine. But distilled water is difficult to transport:

  • you can’t take a large bottle of liquid in your hand luggage, and
  • it’s too heavy and bulky for checked baggage and you will be charged with excessive baggage fees.

If this is the case you have two options:

  • buy locally
  • use boiled water, ideally bottled water.

Buying locally can be difficult especially with a language barrier. Consider asking your tour operator to have a bottle available when you arrive at your destination.

I know with cruise lines this is a request that they handle easily.

But if you can’t get hold of distilled water then use bottled water.

When you get the bottle make sure that the cap isn’t opened. Sometimes the bottles are reused ad filled with local tap water.

Ideally you should boil the water but if not you just have to make do.

Note: on cruise ships the tap water is drinkable so can be used as well but ask your steward to make sure it’s boiled.

Do I Need Special Travel Insurance?

If you travel with medical insurance you must tell the insurer about your sleep apnea. It will raise your premiums but if you get into trouble they’ll cover you.

Can I use my CPAP on the plane?

You can use your machine on the plane. BUT you must, must, must call the airline first to get permission. The regulations vary greatly by airline.

Can I carry my machine in my hand luggage?

At the time of writing CPAP machines are considered a medical device and not considered as hand luggage. Therefore you should be able to bring it on board without paying additional hand baggage fees. But again, check with the airline.

What about CPAP and Electricity Abroad?

Electricity varies widely overseas: 110V, 230V, three prong plugs, two prong plugs….

If you’re planning to travel with CAP you should first check that your machine will work in the required voltage.

Most machines automatically adjust but check with the manufacturer. Some machines have a switch on the back that you have to select wither 110V or 230V.

You will also need a plug adapter. This will allow you to plug your machine into the wall socket.

I also take an extension lead/power bar with a surge protector. Unless I’m traveling to England I get the extension bar there because you can’t use a 110V extension bar in a 230V country and vice versa.

The surge protector protects your machine against any dangerous spikes. Remember the quality of electricity varies country by country and a surge protector protects your machine.

The extension lead is very helpful because you don’t know where the power outlet will be and having that extra cord makes all the difference.

Again on cruise ships they are normally 110V with North American plugs. Beware though the table to put your machine on is very small so you may have to put it on the floor where it’s dustier so extra filters are needed.

What are the Best Portable CPAP Machines?

Your existing machine will probably be okay to travel with but if not there are dedicated travel CPAP machines.

The main features are:

  • Lightweight (less than 3lbs)
  • Automatically work on 110V and 230V

Machines to look at:

  • DevBliss Intellipap AutoAdjust (APAP)
  • Philips PR60 Series Auto (APAP)
  • ResMed10 Autoset (APAP)
  • PR60 Series Plus CPAP

What about CPAP Supplies?

When traveling with your machine make sure you have:

  • Filters: disposables one because you can wash the reusable ones anywhere
  • Mask Liners: to improve your mask seal
  • Specialty wipes to keep your mask clean
  • Host cleaners to clean your hose if you’re away from more than a week.