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Tips for Flying and Traveling with a CPAP Machine


No matter where you are in the world, and why you are there, getting a great night’s sleep is vital. That’s why it’s essential for people who suffer from sleep apnea to travel with their CPAP machines. Travelling with a CPAP machine, especially by plane, may seem strange, but with all the people who fly daily, it’s safe to say that it’s an everyday occurrence.

If you are flying to another city or country and are concerned about traveling with your CPAP machine, here are a few tips to help the process go smoothly.

Know Your Rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) categorizes CPAP machines as medical devices, which means they can be carried on board any airplane by law. Since CPAP machines are recognized as medical devices, airlines will allow you to carry them on without counting them as “carry-on luggage.” Keep in mind that if you will need to use your CPAP machine while on board an airplane, you may need to notify the airline a few days in advance. United Airlines, for example, requires 48 hour’s notice for anyone planning to use a ventilator or CPAP machine while flying.

It’s always best to check with your airline for their individual policies and procedures before flying. It’s also a good idea to bring your prescription along with you to prove that your CPAP device is medically necessary.

What About the TSA?

While airlines and the TSA have different rules and guidelines, the TSA notes that their officers are very familiar with CPAP machines and are trained to recognize them when they come through security checkpoints. Keep in mind that the devices will likely need to be taken out of carry-on bags when going through a checkpoint. To avoid having to place your machine directly into a bin, consider protecting it in a clear plastic bag. This will keep your CPAP machine clean and free of germs.

Remember that the TSA generally doesn’t allow fliers to take large bottles of liquid through checkpoints. If you need to use humidification on the plane, you will have to purchase water before boarding.

Packing Your CPAP Machine

It is highly recommended that you pack your CPAP machine in your carry-on luggage, not your checked bags. This will ensure you have your CPAP machine with you in case your checked bags are lost or sent to the wrong city, which is an all-too-common occurrence for travelers. If you think you will need to use your CPAP machine in flight, place it in a bag underneath your seat so that you have easy access to it at all times.

You should also make sure to empty the humidifier chamber when not in use to prevent it from leaking into your bag.

Bring Extra Supplies!

When you travel, things can break, get lost or even occasionally stolen. That’s why it’s best to bring extra supplies with you. Some CPAP accessories you may want to bring extras of include:

  • Battery pack
  • Power supply
  • Mask and tubes
  • CPAP cleaning wipes

Can You Go Camping With a CPAP Machine?

If your travels bring you to the great outdoors, remember that your CPAP machine can go with you. You will want to bring extra battery packs and may even want to invest in a solar battery charger.

Remember: Smaller is Better

If you travel a lot, it’s best to invest in a secondary “travel only” CPAP machine. There are sleep apnea machines for sale that are smaller, lighter and much more portable. They fit nicely into suitcases and travel bags without taking up too much space and they usually have small, portable battery options. Investing in one of these machines will allow you sleep easy no matter where your travels take you.