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COPD and Travel: How to Prepare for Your Next Trip

COPD Basics

June 27, 2024

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Photography by Luza Studios/Stocksy United

Photography by Luza Studios/Stocksy United

by Jenna Fletcher


Medically Reviewed by:

Adithya Cattamanchi, M.D.


by Jenna Fletcher


Medically Reviewed by:

Adithya Cattamanchi, M.D.


With a little prep work, you can enjoy traveling anywhere you want with COPD.

You can absolutely travel with COPD. It just might take some prep. First, you can discuss your plans with a healthcare professional and your oxygen suppliers. Then, contact airlines, trains, or cruises before you depart.

Airlines often have tight rules that you need to follow, while trains and cruises tend to have slightly less strict rules. Traveling by car also has its own set of challenges to consider.

Let’s break it all down.

Bring a travel buddy

You may feel more comfortable traveling with a family member, partner, or friend. They should be familiar with your medical needs and be able to help if a COPD emergency occurs.

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Traveling in cars

Car travel gives you additional control over how and when you travel, but there are still things to consider:

  • Before leaving, get your car serviced — that includes oil and filter changes and topping off fluids.
  • Consider altitude. Discuss your destination with a doctor before going.
  • Make sure to have jacks, blankets, water, snacks, and other travel essentials in the car.
  • If you’re on oxygen therapy, bring enough oxygen for the trip. Consider using your stationary machine at night in the hotel (or wherever you stay).
  • Roll up windows, use the AC, and avoid peak travel times to avoid pollutants and allergens during travel.
  • Check cellphone access before traveling to ensure you’ll have the ability to contact emergency services if needed.

Air travel

When traveling in an airplane, you may need to consider several factors — particularly if you require oxygen.

When you fly, oxygen is reduced at altitude in a pressurized cabin. This can mean that, even if you do not require oxygen in your normal day-to-day, you may need oxygen while you fly.

Flying with oxygen can be more complicated due to rules and regulations regarding air travel, as well as general safety concerns. Tips to consider include:

  • Get evaluated by a healthcare professional to assess your health and risks. You can also get tested, such as with a hypoxic challenge test, to determine if you need oxygen during air travel due to altitude changes.
  • Learn more about portable oxygen concentrators and flight requirements, including battery usage, the number of batteries needed from the time of your first takeoff to your final destination, additional power, and other regulations, such as not using liquid oxygen containers.
  • Download or fill out any specific form the airline requires for bringing oxygen onboard, and have a healthcare professional fill out the required forms.
  • Arrive early at the airport to account for in-person check-in requirements, getting to your departure gate, reviewing your oxygen concentrator, and other potential delays.
  • On the plane, remember to wear your oxygen mask and take it with you, even for short trips to the bathroom.

If you need to charge your battery and there are no outlets, you may be able to use an outlet at the gate. You may want to bring a short extension cord to use the power.

Air travel can also put you at an increased risk of infection. The CDC recommends the following to reduce your risks:

  • drink plenty of water
  • wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer
  • consider wearing a mask
  • avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol
  • ask about changing seats if someone is coughing near you
  • talk with a doctor ahead of time about medications or vaccinations
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Traveling by train

Traveling by train often has fewer restrictions compared to air travel, but you should still take time to plan your travel with a healthcare professional and oxygen supplier.

The COPD Foundation recommends bringing enough oxygen and batteries to last the train ride, plus an extra 20% of oxygen, just in case.

Taking a cruise

Cruises typically allow passengers to travel with oxygen, but there are still ways to prepare.

Contact the cruise plenty of time before your travel plans to discuss your needs. The American Lung Association recommends calling 4 to 6 weeks before travel. You may need to have a doctor fill out additional forms, approving you for travel.

Make arrangements for oxygen if needed. This may mean deliveries at ports of call.

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Medications and oxygen

Make sure your medications are newly refilled to help ensure you will have enough for your trip. Check the TSA website before traveling to ensure you’re following guidelines for taking medications with you, including packing them in your carry-on bag.

Oxygen can be a bit more challenging, but it’s not impossible. You’ll need to work with your local supplier and a supplier at your destination.

When you talk with your supplier, let them know details about your travel plans as well as how much you will need and can take. They can typically help make arrangements with a local supplier.

Though timing can vary somewhat, you’ll want to plan about 2 weeks in advance to make sure there’s enough time for the suppliers to prepare for the trip.

If staying at a hotel, you should consider contacting them ahead of time to let them know about your oxygen needs. Someone at the hotel will need to sign for an oxygen delivery.

Documents to bring

Consider bringing a folder containing medical information when you travel. Some documents to include:

  • a list of your current medications
  • a letter from a doctor describing your condition and any special instructions
  • oxygen prescription (as needed)
  • contact list, including primary care doctors
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Consider insurance needs

Not all insurance will cover you while you travel out of network or to another country. You may need to purchase supplemental insurance or review your policy before you go.

The CDC offers resources for people who want to learn more about travel insurance.


Traveling with COPD can be a bit more complicated, but it is possible and not hard if you take some steps ahead of time.

Before traveling, make sure you have all your medications ready and plans for your oxygen. Contact airlines, trains, cruises, and hotels ahead of time. You should also travel with important medical information handy.

Traveling with someone else can be both enjoyable and helpful for your safety if you experience an emergency.

With some extra prep work, you can find traveling enjoyable and rewarding.

Medically reviewed on June 27, 2024

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About the author

Jenna Fletcher

Jenna Fletcher is a freelance writer and content creator. She writes extensively about health and wellness. As a mother of one stillborn twin, she has a personal interest in writing about overcoming grief and postpartum depression and anxiety, and reducing the stigma surrounding child loss and mental healthcare. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg College.

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