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Traveling with a CPAP

This year will be my first time traveling with a CPAP machine. Just curious as to any issues I should be aware of using it in different countries or transporting it. Is it true that it does not count as a carry-on on airlines? Any help or advice is appreciated.

Never check your CPAP machine, always do carry on. I know of a person who traveled with his CPAP. He checked it on an airline. His luggage didn’t arrive properly. (I forgot the exact reason. Missed connection?). Took him a lot of effort and time to get his CPAP machine back. Plus, meant he didn’t have it for sleeping.

Posted by
11151 posts

Airline employees know it is a medical device and do not count it as a carry on. A modern C-Pap should be dual voltage so no issues, Just make sure you have a plug adaptor for Europe, cheap and easy to find.

Posted by
424 posts

I would highly recommend bringing an extension cord, as often the electrical outlets are too far away from the bed to be useful for a CPAP machine.

One thing I found that helped a lot when traveling with my CPAP was to remove the humidifier since I never used it at home. I'm sure it depends on the type of machine you have, but if by chance you don't use the humidifier, by taking it off you will save some weight and bulk.

At least for the U.S. airlines, a CPAP machine does not count as a carry-on. You "might" get a gate agent who questions why you are bringing on three bags, but once they find out it is a CPAP, then it isn't a problem.

Posted by
1428 posts

Just to play it safe, check with your airline. US airlines always let you bring it on board. However, European carriers may not, particularly if the aircraft is small with limited overhead space.

Posted by
170 posts

Other than the pain of lugging it around, I had no issues taking my CPAP machine on a Viking Rhine River Cruise. The airlines do not count it as a carry-on. The only thing is you need an electrical adapter that matches the country you're traveling to. I had to look around a bit for distilled water in Switzerland and Amsterdam, but it wasn't a big deal.

Posted by
135 posts

Thanks for all the info. It helps to ease my anxiety about one more thing!

Posted by
6363 posts

I would highly recommend bringing an extension cord, as often the
electrical outlets are too far away from the bed to be useful for a
CPAP machine.

I would highly recommending buying an extension cord in Europe instead of bringing one, in order to avoid running 230 V through an extension cord designed for 115 V.

Posted by
763 posts

As others have said, most airlines don't have a problem carrying on medical equipment, and don't count it as a carry on, but definitely do check with all the airlines you'll be using. TAP required a letter from my doctor for both the cooler for the medication as well as one for the 1/4" needles that attach to the pen. And they asked to see the letter, which had never happened with United and other airlines.

Posted by
1259 posts

One more suggestion, could be expensive.Your pulmonologist might prescribe one of the newer compact units, specifically designed for travelers. You will need a few weeks to get accustomed to it and have it adjusted.
This site’s generic auto-generated information is nonsense but it lists several interesting units you can look up:

Here are some others (ResMed is not the only maker of excellent CPAP):

Posted by
5835 posts

I will add to the suggestion that not taking/using your humidifer will simplify travel issues. Starting point would be not taking the humidifier unit if that is an option with your machine. My pulmonologist, in response the the Phillips Dreamstation 1 recall, had me discounnect the humidifier and insert a virus filter between the unit and the supply hose to catch potential particulates. This required that I not use induced humidity. (I found that my AHI has been lower than when I used the humidity). (My replacmenent Dreamstation 2 has a humidification section but I keep it dry with no heat to tubing).

Not using the humidifier also eleminates the need to search for distilled (or low mineral) water.

Cleaning is easier. Since you don't use the humidification chamber you may be comfortable not cleaning the tank as only air is going through the tank chamber. I also don't feel the need to clean the supply hose daily, only daily washing the shorter hose that connects the supply hose to the mask unit. This gives me fewer components to dry, a benefit on pack and travel days.

US extention cords rated for 120 vac with UL ratings are typically insulated for 600 volts. The European current is lower than the comparable US current (amps) becasue it only takes half the amperage to deliver the same amount of power (watts) at 220 vac And youlr power supply (typically rate 110-240 vac should handle the local power supply.

Posted by
32201 posts


A few thoughts.....

I've done a bit of travel with a CPAP and while it's one more thing to carry, it wasn't too much of an inconvenience (although I haven't tried it with European airlines yet). It would be a good idea to check the websites of the airlines you'll be travelling with. The unit I have was supplied with a travel bag and everything fits in there nicely.

Most airlines here view this as a "medical device" so it's not included in the usual carry-on allowance. However, you will have to take the control unit out of the carrying bag and place it in the bin when going through security, similar to any other electronic device. I recall reading that a limited amount of distilled water can be packed along as well, in excess of the usual liquids limit but I haven't verified that.

Packing along an extension cord would probably be a good idea, and a light duty North American model should work fine. As mentioned earlier, you will need a plug adapter specific to the countries you'll be visiting. Most if not all electronic products these days seem to have a multi-voltage power supply so it should work fine in Europe. However it's a good policy to check the power supply to verify that.

I've only travelled domestically with the machine so far, so haven't had to deal with the distilled water issue as it's readily available. I always pack the water reservoir anyway. There's a space for it in the travel bag and it doesn't weigh much so it's not a problem to pack along.

Posted by
6363 posts

US extention cords rated for 120 vac with UL ratings are typically
insulated for 600 volts.

The cord is not the problem, the plugs are the problem. North American electrical plugs are not the best, as it is possible to insert them halfway and have exposed live surfaces. Something obviously deemed an acceptable risk with 115 V, but a lot more dangerous with 230 V.

Posted by
6293 posts

I have traveled with a CPAP on several trips to Europe (and many domestic flights) and have never had to remove it from the carry bag. It just goes through the machine with my bags and other stuff.

With regards to distilled water, I don't use it during the trip. The only reason for using distilled water is to keep minerals from accumulating in the tray, but it's not going to make much of a difference during a 1-2 week trip. If it bothers you, you can use bottled water, but I just use tap water and wipe out the tray every few days with a dry washcloth or paper toweling. And I've never had problems.

And as others have said, a CPAP is NOT included in your carry on allowance. This is not a decision by the airlines but is a legal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so there are no airlines in the US that will not follow this.

Posted by
11 posts

It does not count as a carry on (medical devise), Remember to bring an extension cord and a converter plug. I've been bringing mine with me to France for several years and never had a problem. Have a great trip.

Posted by
2 posts

I have lugged my CPAP through Mexico, Cuba and Europe. Like others have said, remove the humidifier, I use my old CPAP for travel. I can pack mine into a childrens lunch bag and it is not a travel set. I may look at purchasing the plug like things that are just placed in your nostrils so I have something on the plane and when electricity is a problem.

Posted by
367 posts

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. 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.

We travel with our Cpap machines. We always end up flying to Europe via AirTransat the past 15 years and they are allowed to accompany us as medical devices.

The first time we took them to Paris we checked into our hotel and went to a pharmacy around the corner just off the Champs Elysees. We asked the pharmacist for distilled water. He thought he had some and disappeared for a good 10 minutes. We were starting to think he'd gone home or something when he returned from the basement with a one litre glass bottle in hand. His last one he announced. It had the type of lid that you'd push a syringe through. We paid 5 euros for it... my wife did the math as we walked back to the hotel... at home she pays 99 cents for a 4 litre jug. We had just paid 20 times the price per litre we pay at home! After that, it was whatever bottled water was in the fridge in the hotels we stayed at. There was just a small amount of scum build up after 18 days.

We later discovered about the only place to get distilled water in France is at an automotive supply store.

Posted by
10185 posts

Clarification: most CPAP users in France get their distilled water in the ironing products section of nearly any food store, large or corner market. It runs around 59-70 centimes a liter. Just don't buy the lavender scented distilled water for a CPAP. In a pinch, Mont Rocou bottled drinking water has the fewest minerals.

Posted by
6293 posts

You really do not need distilled water for your CPAP when traveling. The only reason it is specified is because it reduces deposits from tap water in the water reservoir.

I use bottled water and then once every 3-4 days, wipe out the inside with a clean cloth. That removes any residue. I've never had any problems with it.

Posted by
127 posts

I haven't traveled before internationally with my CPAP, but have in the states. I do have a compact unit. We have an overnight flight and will be in Business class so I'm hoping to sleep and use my CPAP. Will this be possible with mask mandates on board? My enhales and exhales will be filtered so I don't see a health issue for myself or others, but I'm wondering about regulations.

Posted by
40 posts

My husband invested in a travel CPAP, the machine is small (not much bigger than a man’s fist) doesn’t require water, it uses small moist filters that last about 30 days each, although it’s an added expense, the convenience and pack ability makes it so worthwhile, you do have to buy a separate mask as the fitting is different than the regular one he uses at home. It’s light, it works well and goes into carry-on . No more grabbing the wrong case when there always seems to be 3 or 4 on each tour. The cost was about CAN 1200, and worth it for the “no worries” factor.