As PAP therapy should be continued every night wherever you are, it is essential that you take your PAP machine with you when you travel. If you are flying you should carry your machine onboard rather than check it. The TSA's position is that CPAP machines are permitted to be carried through security checkpoints, subject to screening. For screening, the machine will need to come out of its case and be placed in a bin prior to being sent through the X-ray, but the facemask and tubing can remain in the case. If you like, you can place your CPAP machine in a clear plastic bag before you put it in the bin before being X-Rayed. After your machine is X-rayed, it may need to undergo an Explosive Trace Detection test where a small white swab will be run over the machine and then analyzed for trace amounts of explosives.
You should always check with your airline to ensure the airline will allow you to carry and use the PAP machine onboard prior to travel (the best place to start is usually checking the rules and service contact number from the “Special Travel Needs” page of your airline’s website). Note that in almost all cases you will need to provide your airline with at least 48 hours advance notice before you travel. As a general rule a PAP machine can be used onboard if it can be verified by a manufacturers’ label or otherwise that the unit meets applicable FAA requirements.
In order to have a seamless experience, follow these best practice tips:
Carry your prescription or a letter from your doctor certifying your need for PAP therapy
Obtain the approval of your airline’s special travel needs services department for use on the flight and carry a copy of an approval letter from them if they provide one
If you need to use AC onboard to power the device, find out from the airline what cord and or adapter you need to bring with you (note that many airlines are getting stricter about use of your PAP machine using their power source and may require you to use battery power)
Understand how carrying your PAP unit affects your carry-on allowance (is it additional to your airline’s 1 or 2 item carry-on allowance or not?)
Obviously the smaller your machine, the easier it will be to travel with it. Some new machines like the Transcend are making traveling with CPAP so much easier. If you travel regularly you should consider investing in a Transcend as a second “travel” unit. Weighing less than a pound, it's small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. And it's completely unique heat moisture exchange humidification keeps the whole system small, compact and hassle-free. This is important, as use of any “reservoir” style humidification system that comes with all other brands of machines is not recommended on board. We sell Transcend units at discounted rates in the Classic SleepShop.
To travel with your existing CPAP, battery packs can be purchased to allow use when there is no AC connection available. If you plan to travel by boat or motor home, most manufacturers offer a 12-volt DC power cord that can be used to operate their CPAP systems. The cord plugs into a standard cigarette lighter socket found in most vehicles.
Most PAP machines today are designed to operate on both AC and DC battery currents. In the United States, the AC current from wall outlets is 110 volt and most batteries produce 12 volt DC current. Overseas, the AC current is usually 220 or 240 volts. Newer CPAP machines all have universal power supplies that adjust for different voltage inputs automatically enabling the machine to operate on any AC current from 100 to 240 volts without any adjustment. Older CPAP machines usually have a switch that must be flipped to use a 240 Volt power outlet. If you are using an older machine it will pay to check with your supplier to see if your machine needs an external converter to change the voltage. Remember that an adapter will likely be required to plug a US power cord into a wall outlet in a foreign country.
Unplug the device and pack the cord and power supply in the front compartment of the carry case
Verify that the humidifier water chamber is empty and completely dry to prevent water from spilling in the device during travel. You may want to place the humidifier water chamber in the collapsible front pocket of the carrying case with your mask and accessories in case you do not have time to dry the humidifier properly.
Pack Your Power Cord - Just like people commonly leave cell phone chargers at home or in the hotel, we frequently get called from travelers who left their CPAP power cord. Check to make sure your cord is packed with your machine.
Bring Spare Parts and Back-Up Mask - Like the power cord, items get left behind or misplaced while on the road. Having back-up parts and a back-up mask will make sure that you are not caught without equipment.