Traveling Tips for People With COPD

Traveling Tips for People With COPD

Checklist before you travel 

  • Did you notify your doctor? If you’ve been in the hospital recently, check with your doctor for clearance before traveling.
  • Did you obtain the necessary paperwork to travel? (You may need a letter from your health care provider that verifies all of your medications, including oxygen.)
  • Do you have a copy of your oxygen prescription? Carry the prescription with you. You will need to show the prescription to travel personnel.
  • Do you have the name and phone number of the following health care professionals with you: your doctor, your respiratory therapist, your oxygen supplier and home health care company representative (if applicable)?
  • Do you have enough medication with you? Remember to pack all medication and supplies in your carry-on luggage.

Also keep a list of current medications with you at all times.

  • Are you wearing your emergency medical identification?

Additional tips for travelers on oxygen therapy

  • Call your home health care company and tell them where you’re going and how you’re getting there. They can help you arrange for oxygen when you arrive.
  • Learn how to use your portable oxygen system and know how long the oxygen will last. Check ahead to see if you need oxygen refills to complete your trip.
  • Did you contact the travel carrier (airline, cruise ship, bus) before your scheduled departure? Did you ask if there will be a fee related to oxygen use?
  • Do you have any questions? Ask your health care provider(s). 

Using oxygen doesn’t mean you can’t travel, but it does mean you have to plan ahead. Plan ahead for changes in time zones and increased or decreased activity. Additional tips follow, based on your mode of travel.

Call the airline several weeks ahead of time to obtain the airline’s policy and make arrangements. The airline will need a letter from your doctor, a brief medical history, and a current oxygen prescription.

  • You will need to leave your own portable oxygen tank at the gate before boarding the airplane. Please make arrangements in advance so you can leave your portable unit at the airport with a family member or plan to have your oxygen supplier pick up the unit.
  • You cannot bring or use your own oxygen on the airplane.
  • You will need to make arrangements for oxygen delivery with the airline and your oxygen supplier. The airline will charge a fee travel may be only payable in cash.
  • Arrange for oxygen during layovers and when you arrive at your destination. Direct flights are recommended whenever possible.

Bus or train
Call the local terminal management several weeks before you depart.

  • Tell the management that you are traveling with oxygen and request seating in a non-smoking area. You will probably be able to take your own oxygen on board.

Cruise ship
Call the cruise line 4 to 6 weeks before you depart.

  • The cruise line will need a letter from your doctor, a brief medical history, and a current oxygen prescription.
  • You’ll need to make prior arrangements to have your oxygen units delivered directly to the cruise ship before you depart.


  • Don’t allow anyone to smoke in the car.
  • Open the window a crack.
  • Place the oxygen unit upright on the seat beside you. If possible, secure the oxygen with a seat belt. Place extra oxygen units flat on the floor behind the seat.


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