How do I travel with a CPAP machine?

How do I travel with a CPAP machine?

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What’s inside?

  • Should I take my CPAP on holiday?
  • How do I power my CPAP while travelling?
  • Do I take my CPAP humidifier with me?
  • How safe is the water for my humidifier?
  • How to make travelling with CPAP easier


Should I take my CPAP on holiday?

There’s a presumption here you have a CPAP machine following a sleep assessment and an all-knowing sleep professional says you need one to help extend your life while sleeping.

If this is the case, it’s usually a good idea to use it whenever you can.

However, I know a few people who intentionally skip a night of CPAP even during their normal at-home routine. They often have differing reasons for this… some have never gotten used to using CPAP and need an occasional night-off. Others get regular nasal congestion and find it difficult to breath at all… and strapping a wind-tunnel to their face just makes matters worse.

So, I guess the real question is… How would you manage without CPAP for the time you are away?

This is a big question as the length of your trip versus how badly you need CPAP therapy could be a tricky one to assess.

For those short one or 2 nights away, it could be worth testing yourself ahead of time by trying to go without your CPAP for that same period of time while still at home. If you can’t manage without your machine while at home, you’ll definitely need to take it on your travels.

If you’re a regular traveller, it may be worth getting your hands on a smaller travel CPAP machine. There are a few options around. These are just a few easily found on Google, but it would definitely be worth conducting your own shopping research as new tech appears frequently:

UK: Travel CPAP UK


EU: Travel CPAP EU

OZ: Travel CPAP Australia



How do I power my CPAP machine while travelling?

Okay, you’ve decided to take it with you. What next?

Well, it isn’t going to be much use to you if you can’t power it up.

There are various power options from the straightforward plugging it into external sources to seeking nature’s help. Here’s a few to consider:

Mains Power

If you are staying somewhere with plug sockets then you’re life just became easier.

Although a sense-check on your own equipment should be done, most modern CPAP machines will work globally with nothing more than a travel-plug adapter.

I’ve used my UK supplied (240 volt AC) Resmed AirSense 10 in various countries including throughout Europe, the US, South Africa, Australia and China without any problem. The only time it failed on me was when I plugged it into an aircraft electrical supply while on a long-haul flight. I thought I’d killed the machine, but it worked perfectly again when plugged into a proper supply back on the ground.

To combat this, it may be worth considering obtaining a battery. Camping batteries work fine, so long as you can carry something bulky. For air travel you may be better considering something such as an external battery. I asked around and, overall, the consensus was the Medistrom Pilot.

Just to make things less straightforward, it comes in 2 flavours – 12 volt DC and 24 volt DC. Which one works for you will depend on your machine. For example, Resmed are 24 volt and Dreamstations are 12 volt. The label on your machine should make it clear what DC voltage it expects.

Here’s some links to the Medistrom and others to get you started:

UK: Travel CPAP Battery UK

US: Travel CPAP Battery USA

EU: Travel CPAP Battery EU

OZ: Travel CPAP Battery Australia

For the more adventurous or eco-conscious traveller, solar-powered chargers for CPAP batteries are available. These are particularly useful for extended off-grid adventures. Nobody I spoke with would admit to ever using a solar charger, so I’ll need to look into that deeper on another day. For now, here’s some starting points:

UK: Solar CPAP Power UK

US: Solar CPAP Power USA

EU: Solar CPAP Power EU

OZ: Solar CPAP Power Australia


Do I take my humidifier with me?

If you have a machine that can run without the humidifier, it comes down to personal choice.

For road-trips, I take it. After all, there’s little hassle in packing it with the rest of the kit in the car and if I can’t find decent water, I can just switch-out the humidifier on my Resmed 10 for the blanking plate.

Air travel is different though, as the more you take with you… the more you have to lug around. Much depends on how uncomfortable things are likely to get without the humidifier.

Some high-humidity destinations may be more user-friendly, but having tried all carry-options I now leave the humidifier at home and live without it. At least I can still breathe.


How safe is the water?

Any search through online groups will hit you with a mountain of opinions on what water is safe for CPAP.

As far as I can tell, the lower the mineral content the better. The summarised version of this is that if you can get your hands on distilled water, you at least know what you are getting. Failing that, bottled water seems to be the next best choice… lower mineral content being the goal.

At home, I use boiled tap water every day. Given I live in a soft-water area, this seems to work okay. However, I once killed a humidifier tank by using boiled tap water in a different soft-water area. Although soft-water has a lower mineral content than hard, not all soft-waters are the same. In my case, some minerals from my home area had embedded themselves into the tank, which looked clean as a bell. However, when mixed with soft-water minerals from the other area they didn’t get on and left a huge amount of reactive scale in the tank. Not something you want to be breathing in.

So, sticking with distilled or short-term bottled for your travels should see you okay.

Using the local tap-water probably isn’t a good idea. Although, if it’s your only choice it would be good to do a bit of research into the local water quality before you leave.


How to make travelling with CPAP easier:

To check or not to check?

Given you’ll be using your CPAP on a daily basis, you can’t afford to have it go astray.

Never, ever, check it into the hold on aircraft. Luggage goes AWOL every day. To be fair, the airline usually know where it is, but that usually means it didn’t get on the same plane as you so it’ll be a few days before you are reunited.

Worst case, they lose it altogether. Not worth taking a chance on.

Keep it safe. Keep it with you.

Although the odd story exists of belligerent gate-crew arguing about that ‘extra bag’ you’re carrying, I’ve never heard of anyone being refused when it is made clear that the bag contains medical equipment needed to keep you alive. Most airport security and airline crew can spot a CPAP bag from a mile away. They’ve seen it all before.

Some medical professionals provide doctor’s letters as evidence. I’ve never had one of these and I’ve never hit any problems so far… touch wood. But… if you get the chance to get a bit of 3rd party qualification… take it!


Have a Plan B

Should you have machine issues while travelling, it would be prudent to know where the nearest supplier or maintenance shop is. This could be supplier dependent, so worth checking with them before you leave.


Keep it clean

Keeping your equipment clean while traveling is crucial. Bring travel-sized CPAP cleaning wipes and wipe down after every use and whenever you suspect something unwanted got anywhere near it.

Not trying to raise any concerns here, but I’ve heard of cockroaches and ants getting into machines and hoses while unsuspecting users are out enjoying the delights of their new-found world.

If you have any doubts at all, probably best to clean your kit and pack it away in your travel bag after every use.


Stay hydrated

Staying well-hydrated can reduce the necessity for high humidity levels from your CPAP machine, making it easier to manage without a humidifier if necessary.


Are you insured?

Check if your travel insurance covers your CPAP machine and any accessories. This can provide peace of mind and financial protection in case of loss, theft, or damage.


Enjoy you’re break!

Traveling with CPAP can seem overwhelming at first, but with the right preparation and knowledge, it can be a breeze. The key is to plan ahead, understand the logistics of using your equipment on the go, and always have a Plan B for unexpected situations. Whether you're crossing oceans or exploring new terrains, your CPAP machine can be a seamless part of your adventure, ensuring you get the restful sleep you need to fully enjoy your travels.

Go forth and find new worlds!

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