Travel with CPAP wisely - owls

Travel with CPAP doesn't have to be stressful. Here's the ten best ways to prepare your sleep apnea machine, hoses, masks power supplies for your trip. Plus a packing checklist so you don't forget anything. And just in case you're wondering if you should bring your portable breathing device along at all, I've included 6 great reasons to take your device with you.

#10 Get a quality portable CPAP

Positive airway pressure machines now come in smaller sizes than older ones did. You can pack yours up and bring it with you if you have a good carry bag for it and its accessories.

If your machine is bigger, or if you travel more than once in a blue moon, you should have a spare for travel all packed up and ready to go.

All of these now come in travel sizes

  • CPAP (continuous airway pressure)
  • BPAP (bilateral or two-way airway pressure) – BiPAP is the Respironics name
  • APAP (auto adjusting CPAP)

There are travel CPAPs that come in the size and shape of soda cans or smart phones. But like many electronics the smaller it is, the more it costs. Fortunately there are portable CPAP machines that cost much less.

High altitude

Modern CPAP and BPAP/BiPAP machines automatically adjust their settings for altitude. If you are bringing an older machine, talk to your manufacturer about how to make manual adjustments. Consider a prescription for acetazolamide, especially if you will be going to progressively higher altitudes. Mountain climbers without pre-existing sleep apnea use it. 

#9 Have a power plan

International power adapters for your CPAP machine

Don’t forget your power cord

As with phone chargers, people can forget this at home. And don’t leave it behind when you move from destination to destination.

Extension cord

Your bedside table may be too far away from the electrical outlet on the wall.


Most modern CPAP, BPAP, and APAP machines work on 110V AC current (North America) and 220V or 240V AC current (overseas). Check your manual. You will need an international adaptor to plug your power cord into the wall. Here's a list of countries and the plug and socket types that are used there. 

CPAP power cartoon

Backup power

Lithium ion batteries are light and portable. Some CPAP machines have solar chargers built in. Older CPAP machines may need an inverter/converter. Many portable CPAP machines can run on the cigarette lighter in a vehicle but you need the correct DC power cord. Check your manual to find out what your options are.

#8 Stock up on CPAP supplies

If some of your important parts are damaged or wear out, you may not have an easy time replacing them. Bring spares. You also need to keep up your CPAP cleaning regime.


Bring spares in case a filter is damaged or the gets clogged up with dust or smoke.

Comfort supplies

Your mask cushions may not last as long in a different climate, so bring spares. Bring mask liners to avoid “mask face” in another climate even if you don’t need them at home.

Cleaning supplies

  • Wipes or sprays for your mask in travel-sized packages
  • Small bottle of Woolite for weekly cleaning of CPAP parts
  • Campers will have to improvise the sink and warm water
  • Small bottle of vinegar for cleaning the humidifier

Spare mask and tubing

Bring a spare mask and a spare hose tube. You might step on your mask in a dark room or a tent! You might get rips in your hose. Bring parts you have replaced if you can’t buy new spares just for the trip. A roll of duct tape is also a good idea.


Always have a copy of your doctor’s prescription for your PAP on your phone, on paper, and in a cloud account. Do the same for all your other prescriptions!

#7 skipping the CPAP humidifier is best

It’s better to just leave it at home. If you must have it, keep your destination’s climate in mind and take measures to prevent “rainout” (condensation in the tube).

Considerations for travel

  • If you are going to a humid place, you may not need it at all
  • Ensure that it is completely dry before packing and keep it separate from the CPAP – moisture can ruin the CPAP motor
  • CPAP with a built-in humidifier is not recommended for travel because

          1/   It adds weight and bulk

          2/ It may not be completely dry between destinations

  • A heated humidifier may cause “rainout” in a cold location – use the lowest heat setting, use it passively, use insulated tubing covers, or use heated tubes
  • If you can’t get distilled water, use bottled water or boil some tap water. Don’t use flavored water.

#6  Don't bring Alternative therapy devices unless you've tested them THOROUGHLY before your trip

CPAP is really the way to go. You could have a stroke or a car accident if you leave your treatment at home. There aren’t many useful alternatives.

Chin Straps

These are only useful for some OSA patients, and then only in combination with CPAP.  The strap keeps your mouth closed, and, many sleep apnea patients can’t breathe very well through their noses without their CPAP. You could try it in combination with nose strips though. Don’t make this your vacation alternative without trying it at home first!

Oral Devices

This is your best option for a short term vacation from CPAP. This is easy to use on a plane, doesn’t involve equipment or complicated maintenance, doesn’t need electricity, fits in your purse, is convenient for camping. Try it at home before you rely on it as your travel solution!

  • Mandibular Advancement Devices (MAD) are the most common
  • Opens the airway by moving the mandible (lower jaw) forward which forces your tongue forward
  •  The collapsible part of your airway is held open by the forward movement of the tongue
  • Tongue Retaining Devices (TRD) pull the tongue itself forward, take more getting used to, have fewer side effects than MAD


You may not think to bring all the spare parts you may end up needing. You may even forget your CPAP entirely! It’s happened to people.

Have a list of your machine part numbers and the contact details for your supplier or manufacturer. Some manufacturers will even ship what you need to where you are.

You can also bring along a mask kit for rebuilding your mask on the fly. Here is a video on how to fix your mask. And don’t forget duct tape for rips in the hose. 

#4 download CPAP Software

If you are bringing a laptop on your trip, you can also bring along software to analyze changes in your sleep patterns. This is especially useful if you are going to a different altitude than what you are used to. One popular program is called Sleepyhead. Your CPAP stores data on a SD card. A few CPAP machines use a micro SD card, which means you could use the software on a tablet.

Figure out how to use this before you leave home, though.

#3 Take some time and pick a good Travel Mask

You can now find good travel masks in the full face, nasal, and nasal pillow types.

What to look for:

  • Not likely to break – plastic that is pliable and soft
  • Headgear made of fabric – comfortable and easy to pack
  • Comes apart easily – easy to pack
  • Lightweight

#2 Air Travel

  •  Bring a plastic bag to put your CPAP in when they scan it (protect it from germs).
  • Allow yourself extra time because they may also do an explosives scan or Xray.
  • Stay with your machine as airport security examines it, ensure they wear gloves and put all the accessories back in the carry bag.
  • Have a “Letter of Medical Necessity” from your doctor on hand and your prescription.
  • Take your CPAP with you on the plane in case of lost luggage. It doesn’t count against your carryon luggage, because it is a medical supply.
  • If you plan to use it on the plane, make sure your seat will be near an electrical outlet.
  • Put a luggage tag on your CPAP with all your contact info. This is useful if it gets separated from you and also if you end up in a hospital.


Checklist for traveling with your CPAP

It’s all about pre-planning! Practice with your travel gear. Get your paperwork together. Print out a copy to carry with you, keep a photo of it on your phone, and add it to your cloud storage so you can find it anywhere. 

This downloadable PDF will help you prepare and pack for your trip. It has space for you to record:

  • Replacement part numbers
  • Manufacturers' contact and warranty information
  • Power requirements, adaptors, cables and batteries
  • Physician's contact methods
  • What to leave for family & caregivers at home


Because Sleep Apnea Doesn’t Take Holidays. 

Traveling with CPAP devices is something you need to learn to do, like it or not. CPAP is not a cure for sleep apnea. It’s a treatment, like insulin is for diabetics. When you don’t use it, your apnea events and poor quality sleep will return. So will the drop in blood oxygen level that affects every cell and organ in your body including your brain. 

Also make sure you take along medication for any other sleep difficulties that you might have.

Car accidents

Studies show that taking time off from CPAP can increase your risk of having a car accident. If you are going to be driving on unfamiliar roads, maybe in an unfamiliar car, your trip is not a good time to take a vacation from CPAP.


Using your CPAP will keep your energy up so you can enjoy your holiday. This energy comes from having a good sleep and from having healthy oxygen levels in your body.

Existing medical conditions

Avoiding the drop in blood oxygen levels is especially important if you have related health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or a compromised immune system.


Using your CPAP is especially important it you will be visiting a high altitude. Oxygen levels are lower. Your body makes adjustments to your heart rate and respiration rate in a process known as acclimatization. Even with acclimatization, people who don’t even have sleep apnea at a lower altitude can experience it here.

Other people

If you keep your partner, roommate, or a plane full of people awake with your snorts and gasps, you will ruin their sleep and energy too.

Travel CPAP

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