Iowa Sleep Blog

Traveling with CPAP

Monday, March 12, 2018

If you are flying, here are some tips you may have not been aware of. Your PAP device is considered a piece of medical equipment and therefore should not be counted against you as one of your carry-on (You can check with your airline to make sure of the policy). DO NOT put it your checked luggage. Checked luggage are at times subject to rough handling and your PAP may not arrive in the same condition that you left. Also, if you are like me, I made it to my destination, but my checked luggage decided to take a different route. I spent two days without my luggage! You'll want to follow same cleaning procedures as when at home. (Click HERE for link to our blog on CPAP Cleaning Procedures)

Here are somethings I tell my patients who travel to keep in their PAP bag along with their PAP machine.

  • Extension cord with a surge protector or multi-outlet adaptor. Some older hotels do not have convenient outlets at the head of the bed. Also, if there is an outlet, many of us have cell phones and tablets to charge and having a multiple outlet allows them to be charged at the bedside along with having PAP plugged in.
  • 3-prong to 2-prong adaptor (also known as a cheater plug)-this can be a lifesaver if staying in a place with older wiring. Some older outlets lack the 3rd round hole which is the ground and without one of these adapters, you may not be able to plug your PAP in if your unit has this ground pin. Please note that use of this cheater plug bypasses some inherent safety features of having a ground plug and should NOT be used as a permanent solution.
  • If you are traveling outside North America, you may need either a plug adaptor or a transformer. North America normal electrical lines run at 120 volts at 60 Hz and use the plug we are most familiar with. For example, Great Britain’s electrical lines run at 230 volts at 50 Hz. Many current PAP machines can run at voltages between 120 and 240 at 50 Hz or 60 Hz. The only issue would be the need for a plug adaptor. If you have an older PAP machine, it may not be able to operate at the higher voltage to which you would need a transformer to change the 230 volts to 120 volts that your PAP can use. Check your manufacturer’s manual to see what your machine requires. For more information on world standards on electrical, see

If you use your humidifier when you travel, make sure you empty the water chamber before packing your machine. Electrical components and water do not mix! When you get to your destination, find a store and buy some distilled water. Remember if you are flying, you will not be able to bring water with you through the security checkpoint. We do not recommend using tap water in your humidifier because there is no guarantee of the purity of the water as well as there are minerals dissolved in tap water that when the water evaporates, it will leave those minerals deposited on the walls of the water chamber. If you must use tap water, only do so if you are comfortable with the quality of the water, empty and clean the water chamber each morning, and do so on the shortest time possible. Also, when you return home make sure you soak your water chamber in a diluted solution of vinegar 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water for around 30 minutes to dissolve any minerals that have deposited on the wall of the water chamber.

An alternative to taking your home unit is to have a second unit that is just for traveling. That way you do not have to worry about forgetting a mask or an extension cord. There are also some compact units that operate on battery power if you may be away from an electrical source. Many insurances do not pay for a second machine. Visit Iowa CPAP at where they can work with you to purchase a second machine.

Using PAP does not mean you cannot travel. By following some of the before mentioned tips, your PAP does not have to be the focus of your attention. If you have questions, reach out to us at Iowa Sleep by sending us a question or contact our sister company, Iowa CPAP at

Written by Dede Benson, ARNP--Sleep Medicine Nurse Practitioner at Iowa Sleep