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Devastated - does a CPAP mean the end of independent travel.

We are 2 weeks off a 3.5 month trip of cruising and 6 weeks in Europe independently - and we have medical professionals saying that my partner probably has sleep apnoea. He's doing a sleep study next week- the respiratory dr is saying it will change his life - but I must admit all I'm seeing yet another bag to cart around and wondering if our backpacks will need replacing by porters! Does Europe even have porters anymore?

Can someone please tell me that the newer, small no humidifier models are better than the huge box which my mother-in-law had years ago - and which had to be in the corridor because it was so noisy. He's been diagnosed through the public health system and I'm sure they will provide the cheapest/largest machine for free. But we are prepared to throw money at this and I'm wondering if I just buy a travel machine this weekend on spec ( and money back guarantee). He's currently booked in for the sleep study in a week which is only a week before we leave - so we kinda need to be very proactive on this.

And the thing is although he has sleep issues he doesn't stop breathing - I've spent hours listening to his breathing at night. - so maybe we can put the whole thing off until we return in November.

Ironically they are all very apologetic because he can't drive until the sleep study happens - but that's not a huge issue - I can easily do the driving on our trip - and we weren't do a huge amount of car hire anyways. I'm far more concerned about getting bags on and off trains/buses/boats/hotels etc.

I suppose I just want someone to tell me to stop panicking and it will be OK - but if you could tell me how big/heavy these things come in with all the required gear I'd be grateful.

Posted by
9 posts

They make travel cpap's, but they can be expensive. My husband just brings his home cpap. If the mask fits correctly you should hear no sound. It is one more thing to carry but it is worth it. He has traveled several times with it. My sister is a flight attendant and has to bring it on all her trips.

Posted by
367 posts

The irony is that he doesn't snore normally - apparently I do LOL. And is if true you have to lie on your back to use them - because if that's the case he's gonna refuse to use one - he can't sleep on his back - not because of his breathing but because it hurts his back

Posted by
3713 posts

My husband uses a CPAP. It has a humidifier and the whole thing with the hoses and other supplies fits into a very light padded case that measures 6x8x15. The case has a strap that is adjustable and long enough to wear over the shoulder or cross body.

It's his daily driver CPAP. He has no special travel one. The forced air part for him is not a mask, but rather nasal pillow cannula similar to this. The hose that goes between the machine and the head gear is long and very flexible. He sleeps on his sides, never on his back, and he never gets tangled up. As a medical device, it doesn't count as a carry-on and you do want to carry it on.

He resisted using a CPAP device for years because the first one he had was like a torture device. It was also very loud and noisy for both of us. The only time I hear this one is if the nose pillows slip a little.

He finally agreed to try a CPAP again when he was told he had pulmonary hypertension by an anesthesiologist prior to surgery and that it was caused by his sleep apnea. Once he got the new CPAP, his sleep improved dramatically and he never goes anywhere without it.

It's dual voltage so it works in Europe. It requires distilled water, but we had no trouble finding that in Portugal, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, France, Istanbul, Greece, The Netherlands or Belgium. The one challenge is having an electrical outlet close enough to the bed to plug it in. We solved that in Belgium by buying a European extension cord.

US Medicare covers most of the cost of the machine, its accessories and supplies. Our Medicare supplement pays almost all the rest. What we have to pay is a pittance.

Your situation in New Zealand may be different, but I don't think the PITA machines exist anymore. My husband's looks like this. He's had it for many years. It's now currently under recall. I'd expect that a new one will not have the issues the recall is about.

So, don't panic. If his sleep study says he needs a CPAP, believe it. However, unless your public health system is a lot more efficient than our Medicare, he may not even be able to get a machine, accessories and supplies in the week before you leave. I guess that could be both a good and a bad thing.

Posted by
367 posts

Thanks @Lo - that size would be about 40% of his bag which is international carry on size - how much does it weigh? The sleep clinic people seemed confident that if he needed one they would trial him using one the same night. I must admit I'm amazed at the speed that they are moving on this - but I think its because he crashed our car and the motor transport act suspends him from driving until he has the sleep test, I also think that's why the government will fund the machine if he's bad enough. I do expect to probably have to pay some of the costs if we want a small travel machine- which I can't even imagine why you wouldn't!

Posted by
434 posts

It will be OK! I've used a CPAP for over two years now and it helped immensely with my daily fatigue. I was not getting enough oxygen to my brain, haha. I also use the nasal pillows (not a full mask) and can sleep on my side. It does take getting used to just like any other new thing. My Phillips machine is fairly small, and very quiet. I also checked into getting a travel size one, but the cost of $600+ was more than I was willing to pay.
I've flown once within the US with the machine so far and plan to take it to Italy this fall. Yes, it's another bag to deal with, but the health benefits are worth it. I take a carry-on suitcase and use a backpack for my personal item. The CPAP doesn't count towards the carry-on restrictions because it's a medical device. Never put it in checked luggage on the plane.

Ask the doctor about types of machines to use or not use and if it's OK to delay using it until you get back from your trip, if indeed he's able to get it before you leave. Good luck!

Posted by
5 posts

A CPAP will change his life so much that you won't care about lugging the box around.

Posted by
7987 posts

My spouse needed a BiPap for many years until surgery solved his issues. It is similar to a CPAP but pushes air both in and out. We traveled all over the world with it including in several third world countries without any problems. Used bottled water in humidifier. It was very quiet. It does not count as one of your carry ons as it is a recognized medical device. We had a doctor’s letter with it but never had to show it. Relax, it won’t affect your travel plans and will help your husband. It comes in it’s own carry on case and is carried on separate from your luggage. We put it in the plane’s overhead storage area watching that no one put anything on top of it.

Posted by
214 posts

My husband has sometimes packed his CPAP and all parts in his backpack but he mostly carries it in its own case. That case has a sleeve on the back that allows it to slide over the handle of his carry on roller bag. It doesn't add much weight. It is often scrutinized at security but just as often, not. He can use with water or not. He bought demineralized water, often in the laundry products section, on our last trip, but has also used plain bottled water.

There are several types of masks. It often requires trial and error to get the most comfortable and effective one. The machine is very quiet. When his mask isn't on right, the snoring happens! But that is infrequent and he can sleep on his back or side quite easily.

Posted by
214 posts

Here's a post I made a while back:

I'll leave out all the details but keep an eye on your CPAP (and everything else) when going through security. At a very busy and rushed trip through TSA recently, my husband's CPAP was removed from his backpack (he didn't use the CPAP carry case since he had extra room in his backpack for all the parts) and not replaced! My husband was a bit harried at the time due to the chaos all around and he had no idea TSA took it out. He saw them put his backpack through the x-ray a second time but never spotted the removal. Hundreds of miles later, at our destination, he discovered it missing. Our kind airport lost and found folks found it for us (hours after we had been through security; it was still there) and shipped it overnight to our destination. It did not arrive until after we had left the vacation spot 10 days later! VRBO owner shipped it to us and I had quite the battle with the carrier over the charge for the overnight service that never happened. l
Long story short, full refund was granted but it was quite a challenge. Luckily, his apnea is minor but his snoring - that's another story! Challenging sleeping for me....

Lesson learned - CPAP will always go in it's own travel bag that slips over his luggage handle and we'll be more watchful.

Posted by
254 posts

My husband has been using a CPAP for over 15 years and has traveled all over Europe with it. It measures 7.5 by 5.5 in inches and is 4 inches tall. Weighs about 6 pounds and he carries it on in it's own case. It doesn't count as your carry on since it's medical equipment. Airport security is used to them, about 1 time in 10 they'll check it more carefully but usually not. It's super quiet, I can never tell that's it's even on. He's mostly a side sleeper and that's never been an issue. He wasn't told with his first one years ago that he should use distilled water so he just uses tap water or bottled in places like Mexico where the water isn't good. He keeps an extension cord in the case because there aren't always enough outlets at bedside.

Posted by
6782 posts

A family member has a newer CPAP. The unit, including humidifier is smaller than a Kleenex box. The hose and mask are minimal and unobtrusive. Maybe you have more limited options in NZ, but the technology has changed rapidly since she started using one. Dont panic. Life is not over. Many, many people travel with them.

Posted by
169 posts

There are things within one’s own power to do to mitigate sleep apnea. May be good to wander down that road and see if it helps. None of them may be accomplished within your two week timeframe before your travel, but may help to not have your future travels become trying.

Posted by
6950 posts

Being on CPAP and travel with the regular home unit is no big deal. We just returned, and I had my CPAP and my wife's BIPAP in the same case. Airport security sees them all the time.

Most people on CPAP are in no danger if they travel and don't use their CPAP. Half the CPAP users rip the masks off in the middle of the night anyway. You might feel a little downturn in energy mid afternoon without the CPAP.

But I do know of a couple of people that are literally choking in their sleep without the CPAP and they're the exception. And I knew one guy that kept going to sleep mid afternoons at traffic lights--severe case. He was grounded from driving because of severe sleep apnea and falling asleep causing traffic accidents.

Most CPAPS are dual voltage and all you'll need is a plug adapter that fits the country you're going to. I have all the adapters and even a light bar for the European countries and the U.K.

Posted by
37 posts

Look into the ResMed Mini travel CPAP. It is very small, has no humidifier chamber, and has strong reviews. I have a Philips Respironics travel CPAP, and can stuff it into my carryon. Unfortunately, there is an enormous recall on for the last year of almost all Philips brand CPAPs, so there is a worldwide shortage, but maybe NZ has that situation under control. Go online and search for travel CPAPs, but the sleep study is really necessary to determine if a CPAP or a BiPAP is more appropriate. Unfortunate timing.

Posted by
381 posts

No it does not mean the end of independent travel. My husband has traveled with a CPAP for 20 years, all over Europe and on a Mediterranean cruise. Over the years the units have gotten smaller and lighter and the masks and hoses have improved tremendously. He does not use a humidifier and takes his home unit on the road—never had a “travel” unit. As noted by others they are dual voltage so you will only need a plug adapter. We keep an extension cord in the carry bag because occasionally if we stay in an older property there are no outlets close enough to the bed. The carry bag for his current unit has a trolley sleeve which makes it easy to handle as part of our luggage. One other tip—most bags are black and easy to leave behind in an overhead bin. Mark it with some kind of brightly colored item to make it stand out. I would never pack it in our regular luggage even if there were space.

Posted by
15 posts

When my husband got his CPAP ten years ago, we bought a travel one. It went on many trips and he always left his humidifier home.

He recently got a new one because of the Philips recall. This one's not travel size, but it's about the same size as his old one because they've gotten smaller. It fits over his nose so it's not a full mask. We haven't traveled overseas with this one yet, but it has a setting to switch to if you aren't using the humidifier.

Posted by
367 posts

Thank you all for your interesting stories. I'm not worried about flying - its far more getting on and off trains/buses/boats. So it definitely needs to fit in his backpack.

@David - he went to sleep while driving near home and is temporarily grounded from driving until the sleep study. That's what started all of this as they were worried that he'd had a much more serious medical event to cause the black out (he hadn't). He's sleeping much better now that they've discovered and treated an undiagnosed lung infection - and he's recently recovered from Covid. So hopefully that's all it is.

I talked to the sleep clinic and they did say there was an issue with getting travel cpaps with availability - I didn't know it was a recall- just the general supply chain issues. I have found a local supplier of Resmed model which appears in stock - its not the same place as he's doing the sleep study - but if they can't provide what we need we'll buy elsewhere.

Posted by
4590 posts

Hi Lissie, my husband has used a CPAP for several years. When he travels, he doesn’t take the humidifier portion. He puts the machine in his backpack and also brings a carry on suitcase. I bring a carry on suitcase and a small daypack, so we both can easily get on/off trains. I sleep SO much better since he started using it.

Posted by
28098 posts

Dear LIssie, I'm so sorry you and he are going through this... Cooped up, then Covid, then crash the car, then banned, then have to get this machine to haul around after the stress of a test.

So sorry it all piled up. I'm sure it is the last thing you needed. But at least nobody was killed (I hope - I think we might have heard) and he's getting treatment, and you can continue to travel.

You've had some great advice from those in the know. I'm afraid I can't help because I have no personal experience, but I wanted to say I'm behind you in this new phase of your life (and your partner's) and I think it can only get better...

chin up...

Posted by
13674 posts

Lissie, while having no personal experience with a CPAP, I can assure you that, if the amount of questions that appear on the forums about them are any indication, lots and lots of people travel VERY successfully with them. Yes, it's sort of one more thing but certainly not a tragedy. Had your DH been seriously injured or worse in that car crash? Different story. So take a deep breath, OK? You've lots of support here. :O)

Kathy H suggested, if he's already better since the infection has been addressed and has recovered from recent COVID, what does his doctor say about not even starting to use the appliance until after your trip, assuming he's willing not to drive? If that's a possibility, it would take some stress off your plate.

Posted by
144 posts

Hi Lissie, I’ve traveled to Europe a few times now with my regular (not travel) CPAP and yes, it’s a hassle having a third item to carry and keep track of but for me it’s worth it for the sleep quality. My companion will usually carry my purse/day bag on and off the plane, train, etc. so each of us only has 2 items to carry. I don’t go out of my way to find distilled water, I just use tap water and clean the minerals from the chamber when I get home. I was dreading taking it the first time but they are so much smaller and lighter now than they used to be that it’s not much of a bother. I hope all goes well for both of you and wish you a fantastic trip.

Posted by
242 posts

When I first got my CPAP about twelve years ago, I didn't bring it along on trips. Heck, I didn't even use it that much at home because I hated the idea of it so much. But once I actually buckled down and started using it consistently, it has become a way of life and I find it extremely difficult to sleep without it. I brought my big CPAP machine on several trips and finally realized that I could take the humidifier off of the machine, which made it much less bulky (I didn't use the humidifier at home, either). I've travelled to many international destinations and just carried the CPAP in the bag that came with it without any issues. Yes, it was a 3rd bag but not that big of a deal. Almost a year ago, I purchased one of the travel CPAPs (cost about $1000 but to me, well worth it). It is so small that I can put it in my personal item and eliminate the 3rd bag. I put the CPAP hose in my carry-on if there isn't room for it in the personal item. Much of my travel is with two other friends (we are all females, mid-60's) and we use public transportation and trains in our international travels. So I think you will be pleasantly surprised how easy it will be for your husband (and you) to travel with a CPAP. Sounds like you have a wonderful trip ahead!

Posted by
367 posts

Kathy H suggested, if he's already better since the infection has been addressed and has recovered from recent COVID, what does his doctor say about not even starting to use the appliance until after your trip, assuming he's willing not to drive? If that's a possibility, it would take some stress off your plate.

I'm starting to that that's a real possibility. His sleep is so much improved now - 2 days out of the hospital. Yes him not driving on this trip is really not a problem - we are only looking at hiring a car a couple of times and I can easily do the driving - we're not doing huge distances and need to share the driving. I've got more experience driving on the wrong side of the road too. He will just have to up his game on using google maps :-)

Thanks everyone for the support - it is really helpful - he collapsed in China a few years ago which was life threatening and involved a medivac - I think I've got a bit over-reactive to anything to do with his health and travel! So even before Covid we couldn't do the travel we wanted to - this in a lot of ways is a re-run of a big trip we had planned in 2018 which ended within 10 days of the start of 4 months travel - so I think I'm getting pretty paranoid LOL

Posted by
29 posts

I traveled internationally for 10+ years with a "regular" cpap before I finally (in the last month) spent the money on a travel version. True, the cpap and its accessories meant another bag to handle but so many people have them now the airlines, cruiselines, etc. are all quite used to them. They don't count against baggage allowances (tho take a copy of your prescription if you are using cheapo lines like Ryanair) so it's really just the hassle of carting it which you will adjust to, like everything else. On one trip I used a simple wheeled carryon for my things with the cpap in its own separate bag on the plane. Then once I arrived at the airport in Italy, I unzipped the expansion section of my carryon and reshuffled the contents so the cpap was nestled at the bottom. (Easier if packing cubes are part of the picture.) Then off I went on the bus!

Posted by
1243 posts

Lissie, your partner will receive a case with his CPAP so there is no need to put it in his carry-on or personal item.

Posted by
367 posts

Just a follow up on this. He did the sleep trial and they sent him home with a machine on trial for a week. Its OK he says - he slept the whole night in bed which doesn't normally - but he doesn't think he's getting any extra sleep. At this stage he's not fussed about taking it with us and if that means not getting his licence back until Nov that's probably less of an inconvenience for this trip (I can do the driving and we're not doing a huge amount anyways).

Posted by
28098 posts

thanks for the update.

Sleep is a funny thing. He my not know if he actually got more sleep. Or better yet, got better sleep.

Good luck, and continued success....

Posted by
6782 posts

The newer CPAP machines can monitor your breathing and sleeping patterns, and report via wifi to the provider, who in turn reports to your physician. There is some kind of report it generates which you can see yourself online. I dont think that thats just a high-end machine, but the standard one my relative was issued. We were able to tell a difference in behavior right away - better temperament, more energy, less napping, and lower blood pressure. And yes, she doesn't sleep more, just better quality, deeper sleep.

Posted by
269 posts

I'm late to respond but here's my experience. I have used a travel CPAP for the last 15 years and had no problems traveling in Europe, australia. Asia and the US. I've also gone tent camping with it.
I purchased a Z2 portable CPAP, but there is also the ResMed AirMini that is just as small. It has a Q-lite humidifier piece, but for travel I do without a humidifier. I repacked everything into a 13" x 4" x 10 case and put it into my travel backpack (along with my iPad) and I carry it on the plane. The carry on backpack always gets extra scrutiny in the airport security scanners but I've never been asked to go to the second level of searching or asked to take it out and have it inspected. (but I have had to do that with my iPad) I have a tag on it that says medical equipment inside. If I need to carry it separately on the plane, medical equipment is not part of your carry on allotment. I carry international electrical travel adapters and it all works, no transformer needed.
I used to carry a retractable hose that retracted down to 12" but switched back to a regular 6 foot hose. I carry an extension cord, just in case.
Because of the need for electricity every night, I stay at decent hotels. No alburgues, youth hostels or dormitory rooms for me.
One time, aboard a Princess cruise, there was no plug by the bed, so the stewart brought me a 25 foot orange industrial extension cord that I plugged in across the stateroom at the desk where the electrical plug was.
At one time, I had a travel lithium battery that I could plug it into and use it on the airplane, but i became too self conscious using it on the plane. so now I don't use it on an airplane- and I don't sleep very well on the plane. So I always come into a new place a few days early before a tour to recuperate, and sleep, and relax.
I've used it camping, but that's a whole different story and setup. I won't bore you with the details.
The only hassle I've had was losing and leaving parts in hotel rooms. In my last US trip, I lost my nasal mask. So I went onto Amazon and bought another one and had it delivered to an Amazon locker in the next city I was going to be in 3 days. I made sure the amazon locker was outside and I picked it up in the late hours of the night when I arrived in the town. so now i carry some spare parts.
So, to answer your question. yes, get a portable, smaller Travel CPAP. I did, and I'm still traveling the world.

Posted by
367 posts

OK still not very happy. They reckon his apnoea was quite bad 25-35 when he did the sleep over. We now have the same machine to take away. At least its dual voltage and doesn't require special water. Its a 16x9x8" bag though which is black and looks like an expensive camera bag and doesn't clip onto a roll along or fit in his day pack.

Asked about the resmed air mini but told its not recommended for people on blood thinners (pradaxa). Too late to argue as we leave tomorrow.

At the moment the machine can come for the fist part of the trip which includes a 34 day cruise. After that we already need to find storage in Barcelona for our cruise bag anyways so the jury is out whether it stays in Barcelona or comes along for the backpacking part of the trip in Europe.

Posted by
28098 posts

when life sends you lemons make lemonade...

Have fun on your trip - I hope it works out really well for both of you...

Posted by
1381 posts

I no longer use the case my CPAP came in.
I brought the whole little suitcase as an "extra" medical carry on the first few trips, but these days I am generally traveling alone and need to be able to carry everything by myself.

Without the humidifier part, the rest of my CPAP goes in my wheeled backpack. With that on my back, I can also pull a 22" wheeled bag. Perhaps a larger backpack would eliminate the need for another bag for your DH.

Posted by
367 posts

Yeah European airlines are restrictive he has an osprey 2-wheeled carry on which is the legal size plus a small backpack he uses a personal item. Anything big enough to hold this machine plus the rest of his stuff would be too large for carry on. Anything bigger than carry on is a right pain getting on and off trains etc.

Posted by
317 posts

Lissie, you've gotten a lot of valuable advice and experiences here - and I hope your trip is going well so far. I'd just like to offer one more bit of help. Since my CPAP bag was a necessary and allowed extra carry-on, I was also able to put other things in there that eased the load of my (very full) official carryon, including a power strip, headlamp, hairbrush, and any other loose miscellaneous stuff I thought I'd need at the end of our travel day. We needed both the power strip and an extension cord for our cruise earlier this year due to the cabin placement of the outlet - glad we'd thought ahead. Also glad we'd carried it on, because another friend had their power strip removed from their checked bag as a forbidden item by the cruise line's security. They couldn't retrieve it until the end of the trip.

Having said that, I will be trying out a travel CPAP this month (just received it the other day) and hope it will work well for our upcoming Europe trip. My DH has had great success with his travel model, and so I'm giving it a try to lighten our load even further.

And yes - our family and friends have experienced better quality sleep, not especially longer stretches of sleep, after using CPAPs, and the better blood pressure benefits are important to note, too. It's worth it. :-)

Have a great and safe trip!

Laurie