Traveling with CPAP Guide (10 Answers to the Most Common Questions)

For many, the holidays are a time of travel, and for those with obstructive sleep apnea that can raise some big questions about your sleep health. Should you leave your CPAP at home? Can you use it on the plane? What happens if you can’t find distilled water?

Traveling with your CPAP may sound like a hassle, but with a little bit of preparation it can be as easy as pie! That’s why we’ve put together these answers to the most common questions about traveling with CPAP, as well as some helpful tips along the way.

General CPAP Travel Tips

Can I Skip CPAP on Vacation?

It can be tempting to want to leave your CPAP machine at home and skip your sleep therapy for a night or two, but even one night without CPAP therapy can be enough to bring back symptoms like fatigue, headache, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Why risk ruining your vacation or business trip?

What Should I Pack With My CPAP?

Along with all of your usual CPAP necessities, here are some additional items you may not have thought about:

  • Extra supplies. It’s a good idea to pack extra mask cushions or nasal pillows, headgear, and filters. That way, if something goes wrong, you won’t lose any sleep over it– literally!
  • A copy of your prescription. Hopefully you’ll never need this, but it’s very handy to have if you need to replace your CPAP machine or mask while away from home. It can also be helpful in the very rare case that airport security or flight crew questions your need to keep your CPAP with you.
  • An extension cord. An extension cord is cheap, takes up very little space, and can save you a lot of trouble if there’s not a convenient outlet next to your bed.
  • A DC Converter. If you find yourself without an AC power outlet or a CPAP battery pack, a DC converter can be an inexpensive way to expand your power supply options. These power adaptors allow you to power your CPAP machine from solar panels, USB ports, cigarette lighter outlets, and more!

What If I Can’t Find Distilled Water?

Experts recommend using distilled water in your humidifier because it’s the safest choice for you and your CPAP machine. Strictly speaking, one night of using bottled water probably won’t do any harm, but it’s a bad habit to get into. Over time, spring water and tap water will leave behind mineral deposits which can degrade the performance of your machine and weaken your CPAP therapy. 

In a pinch, bottled water is definitely better than tap water, which can contain microorganisms and chemicals that may be harmful to breathe in. 

How Do I Clean My CPAP While On Vacation?

Keeping your CPAP supplies clean is no less important when on vacation, but thankfully you can do it the same way you would at home. A little mild dish soap and some warm water are all you need. 

If you don’t have those things, or you want to save a little time, CPAP wipes are a quick and easy way to clean your CPAP mask and machine. These alcohol-free wipes are especially convenient when camping or when traveling to a destination where the local water isn’t safe to drink. 

Do I Need a Power Supply Adapter When Traveling Internationally?

Most likely you will need an adapter when traveling overseas. Many modern CPAP machines will automatically adjust to accept voltages between 110v and 220v, or will have a setting that allows them to do so. However, you may be surprised to find that your power cord may not be compatible with the local outlets! 

Luckily, an inexpensive plug adapter is all you need to solve this problem.

Yes, you can fly with your CPAP machine! Since your CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP machine is a medical device, airlines are required by law to allow you to bring them onboard. That said, whether you’re allowed to use your CPAP while in-flight is up to the airlines, so it’s a good idea to call ahead and ask about your airline’s CPAP policy. 

Here are some other tips for bringing your CPAP on an airplane:

  • Ask about power outlets
    While you’re calling about the airline’s CPAP policy, ask if a seat with an outlet is available to power your CPAP device. If not, consider bringing along a battery pack.

Tips for Flying With Your CPAP

  • Make sure your CPAP and battery are FAA approved
    Most modern CPAPs and CPAP batteries and nearly all travel CPAP machines are FAA-approved for in-flight use, but you should verify this ahead of time. Your manufacturer will offer a letter of FAA compliance that you can print out and bring with you just to be on the safe side. (Here’s an example of an FAA letter from ResMed.)
  • Add a medical ID tag to your carrying case
    Most of the time the flight-crew and TSA agents will recognize a CPAP as medical equipment, but a medical ID tag can address that question before it even comes up.  These tags quickly show that your CPAP equipment isn’t just another carry-on item.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to use your CPAP while in-flight
    Some CPAP users may feel self-conscious about using their CPAP in public, but remember that your CPAP is sleep medicine, and your health is more important than appearance. Plus, your seat neighbor will prefer it to loud snoring!

Can a CPAP Machine Go In Checked Luggage?

While you are allowed to put your CPAP machine in your checked luggage, we strongly recommend that you keep it with you instead. That way if your luggage is lost or damaged you haven’t lost your sleep apnea treatment as well. 

In fact, we recommend that you don’t put your CPAP in your carry-on bag either! Check out the next answer to find out why. 

Does a CPAP Count as Carry-On?

Nope! By law, airlines aren’t allowed to count your CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP as a carry-on item. Instead, pack your CPAP, face mask, and other CPAP supplies in their own travel bag, and save room in your carry-on for other important personal items!

Will My CPAP Be a Problem For Airport Security?

No! Most TSA agents will be familiar with handling medical devices, so your CPAP will not be a problem during security checkpoints. Your CPAP machine will probably have to go through the x-ray scanner, so it’s a good idea to pack it inside a clear plastic bag to keep it clean. Your CPAP mask, tubing, and power cord can usually stay inside their travel case. 

A security agent may ask you to open the clear plastic bag if they want to perform an explosives swab test. According to the Transportation Security Administration, it’s okay to ask the agent performing the test to change their gloves before handling your CPAP device. 

As mentioned above, putting a medical ID tag on your carry case can help airport security to quickly recognize that your CPAP is healthcare related and not just another carry-on item. 

Can I Bring Distilled Water On the Plane?

Yes! According to the TSA you are allowed to carry up to 3.4 ounces of distilled water with you onto the plane. That should be plenty if you want to use your CPAP during air travel. 

You’re also allowed to pack more distilled water in your checked luggage as well. It’s a good idea to bring your own distilled water, since you won’t know where or when you’ll be able to find more at your destination.

What Happens If I Forgot My CPAP While On Vacation?

If you’re reading this because you’ve already forgotten your CPAP or because your mask broke and you don’t have a spare, don’t lose hope! Just reach out to Aeroflow Sleep for help.

Your personal Aeroflow Sleep Specialist will already have a copy of your prescription and knows what CPAP machine, mask, and supplies that you prefer. They’ll be able to tell you how quickly they can get a replacement out to you. 

If you’re not already enrolled in the Aeroflow Sleep program, simply fill out our easy qualify form to get started! We help you maximize your insurance coverage so you get the best quality CPAP supplies at the best prices.