Traveling while you are on oxygen therapy usually is possible if you plan ahead.
Start by seeing your doctor several weeks to months before your travel date. Ask him or her to:
- Figure out how much oxygen you will need.
- Give you the medical forms that are needed for travel.
- Recommend a doctor in the places where you will travel, in case you need medical care during your trip.
Travel by plane
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved several models of portable oxygen concentrators that can be brought on an airplane. Whether you rent the device or use your own, it must be FAA-approved. Make sure that you bring enough batteries to power your device before, during, and after your flight. And bring extra batteries in case you have travel delays.
- You cannot take your own oxygen tanks on an airplane. You may be able to pack empty oxygen tanks in your checked luggage. You can get these filled at your destination. The airline will supply oxygen while you are in flight but may charge you for it. You will likely have to pay for oxygen for each leg of a trip. And airlines usually do not supply oxygen during layovers, so try to book a direct flight.
- At least 2 weeks before your flight, notify the airline that you will need oxygen. You will need a medical release from your doctor stating that you are able to fly. You will also need a prescription that lists the flow rate and amount of oxygen you use. If you use a portable oxygen concentrator, you will need to be able to respond to any alarms on the device.
- If you need oxygen during a layover, you should arrange for your oxygen supplier to bring tanks to the airport.
- Think about asking a friend or relative to travel with you. He or she can help you with all the details.
For more information, call the Transportation Security Administration TSA Cares helpline at 1-855-787-2227 (toll-free).
Travel by cruise ship
- You can take your own oxygen tanks or concentrator on a cruise ship. Or you can arrange for a supplier to deliver oxygen to the ship before it leaves the dock. You should take enough oxygen to last the entire cruise.
- About 2 to 3 weeks before you travel, notify the cruise line about your oxygen needs. Bring a medical release from your doctor stating that you are able to take a cruise. You will also need a prescription that lists the flow rate and amount of oxygen you use.
- If you plan to leave the ship to go sightseeing, you may want to have an oxygen supplier bring a tank for you to use while you are onshore.
- If you need to have a supplier deliver oxygen for your cruise, it is best to leave from and return to the same city. If you don't, you may have to pay to ship the oxygen equipment back to the city where the ship originally departed.
Travel by train or bus
- You can take your own oxygen equipment on a bus or train. But there may be a weight limit. You may need to bring extra batteries. Be sure you learn the rules before you travel.
- Notify the train or bus company that you will be traveling with oxygen. Bring a medical release from your doctor stating that you are able to travel. You may also need a prescription that lists the flow rate and amount of oxygen you use.
- Make sure that the bus or train stops at cities where you can get your tanks refilled, if needed.
- You may not always have electricity available, so bring a battery backup with you.
Current as of: October 26, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Hasmeena Kathuria MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine