8 Essentials for Traveling With Oxygen

  • active woman using therapeutic oxygen
    You can travel even if you need supplemental oxygen.
    If you need supplemental oxygen at home, you’re not alone. More than 1.5 million U.S. adults do too. If you want or need to travel and your doctor doesn’t object, needing supplemental oxygen shouldn’t stop you. Preparing for your trip will take some extra steps and considerations though. If you do your research and prepare well, you should be able to safely and seamlessly fly or drive across the country or internationally. Learn what you need when traveling with oxygen and how you can prepare for your trip.
  • Midsection Of Doctor Showing Insurance Form To Patient
    1. Have the necessary paperwork and prescriptions ahead of time.
    If you are crossing an international border or flying with oxygen anywhere in the country, you need documentation for your oxygen and your fitness to travel. Every airline has different requirements, so check online or call their medical service to see what forms your doctor must fill out. If your trip requires a changeover to a different airline, check the second airline’s policies. You will likely need different forms. A prescription for your oxygen is essential too. Also check with the airlines if you can bring a portable oxygen concentrator and if not, how the process works.

  • oxygen concentrator
    2. Bring an oxygen concentrator if you can.
    Many people who need supplemental oxygen use oxygen concentrators instead of oxygen tanks. These devices concentrate room air wherever you are and deliver oxygen for you to breathe. If you are traveling by car, ensure you can plug the concentrator into the car’s outlet or you have a portable battery pack you can exchange, recharge or replace as needed. Airlines, train and bus companies have differing rules regarding concentrators, so call all airlines/train/bus lines you will be using at least 48 hours in advance to see what they require. If you must use an oxygen tank, you also need to check with the individual companies about their rules.
  • Senior woman at home with portable oxygen tank
    3. Contact information for oxygen tank refills.
    If you use an oxygen tank, you will need to know where and how to fill up the tank while traveling and at your destination. Speak with the company that provides you with your oxygen at home. They may have partners at your destination (and locations between if you are driving) and might make the arrangements for you. If not, they can explain how to research and reach out to the companies before you leave. This lets the company know you are going to be in the area and what your needs will be.
  • Man going through airport security being examined with wand
    4. Assistance at the airport, train or bus station.
    If you have trouble breathing, walking a long distance in a huge concourse is daunting. Call the airline or train/bus company well in advance to arrange for assistance. This must be done ahead of time because companies have a limited number of available wheelchairs or transport carts, and employees to manage them.

    If you use a concentrator, you’ll need a power outlet. Most airlines now have power outlets with seats, but make sure while you are making your plans. If you’re traveling by bus or train, ask the company if your seat can be near an outlet and make sure they know why you are asking.
  • Man using a mobile phone in Pharmacy
    5. Your doctor’s contact information.
    Bring the contact numbers for your doctor, your respiratory therapist, and the company that supplies your oxygen and devices. If there’s an emergency, the doctors at your destination can reach out for more information if needed.
  • row-of-prescription-pill-bottles
    6. Extra medications.
    Bring all the medicines you will or may need while you are away, plus extras in case of travel delays. Store medications in your carry-on luggage whenever possible. Keep the original bottles, especially if you are crossing international borders. Ask your doctor for additional hard copy prescriptions in case items are lost. Carry an up-to-date list of your medicines, so you can show the local doctors if necessary.
  • cruise ship in the ocean
    7. Medical history if you’re cruising.
    Going on a cruise is a popular travel mode for many people. Most cruise ships have up-to-date infirmaries and the staff are often former emergency room doctors and nurses. If you require oxygen while on your cruise, the cruise line may ask for a doctor’s note documenting that you are healthy enough to travel. Call the cruise line to determine how you will get the oxygen delivered to the ship prior to departure, as well as emergency plans if anything were to go wrong with the equipment or your health.
  • Oxygen cylinder at home
    8. Extra power backups or oxygen cylinders.
    Just as you need to bring extra medicine in case of emergency, you need extra battery packs or rechargers if you are using a concentrator. If you cannot refill your oxygen at your destination, you will have to factor that in as well, plus extra cylinders for problems you may encounter.
8 Essentials for Traveling With Oxygen | Air Travel With Oxygen

About The Author

Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN, has been writing health information for the past 20 years. She has extensive experience writing about health issues like sepsis, cancer, mental health issues, and women’s health. She is also author of the book Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Medications and How to Take Them Safely.
  1. Jacobs SS, Lederer DJ, Garvey CM, et al. Optimizing Home Oxygen Therapy. An Official American Thoracic Society Workshop Report. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2018;15(12):1369-1381. doi:10.1513/AnnalsATS.201809-627WS
  2. What do I need to know about traveling with supplemental oxygen? Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. https://www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/docs/default-source/Disease-Education-Brochures/pff_traveloxygen_downloadable-version.pdf?sfvrsn=eefc968d_2
  3. Use of Oxygen Equipment. Amtrak. https://www.amtrak.com/planning-booking/accessible-travel-services/use-of-oxygen-equipment.html

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 10
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