PFF Insights

Summer Travel: Practical Vacation Tips for Those with Pulmonary Fibrosis

by Dr. Amy Hajari Case
June 03, 2024

Summer is nearly here with kids out of school, longer days, and warmer weather. Many people will be planning vacations with family and friends. If you are living with pulmonary fibrosis, you may find that travel is a bit different than it was before you were diagnosed, but a little extra planning can go a long way to make that summer vacation both accessible and enjoyable.

As with all vacations, the first things to consider are where to go and how to get there. Driving to a laid-back beach town will have different considerations than an overseas sightseeing trip or a week on a cruise ship. If you are using a travel agent or tour company, they may be able to assist with medical equipment, such as an oxygen concentrator at your destination or mobility solutions, and help you plan a balanced itinerary that meets your needs.

Most patients who use supplemental oxygen can travel safely, but know that it may take more planning ahead to do so. If you intend to fly, talk to your doctor to make sure you know if air travel is safe for you and how much oxygen you will need in-flight. Airlines allow portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) for use on planes but not compressed gas tanks. You will need to contact your airline to find out if any paperwork is needed and if there are special requirements for your POC. For example, many airlines require you to carry extra batteries with you on the plane. Some of the POCs with the largest batteries are not allowed by some airlines. If you are traveling overseas, make sure you have the correct type of power adapter so that you can recharge your device. Even if you don’t use supplemental oxygen normally but are traveling to high altitude or flying, talk with your doctor about whether you will need oxygen for your trip.

If you need oxygen with sleep, check with your oxygen supplier on whether you can safely use your POC overnight. If not, you will need to work with your supplier or a local supplier in your destination to rent a device that meets your needs for your trip. It may take some time to find a supplier in your destination who can meet your oxygen device needs, so start planning this part of your trip early.

You can learn more about traveling with oxygen in our brochure “What do I need to know about traveling with supplemental oxygen?” (opens in a downloadable PDF).

Another important consideration is what to do if you should fall ill on your trip. Talk with your doctor about signs or symptoms that would warrant urgent medical assessment. Know where you would go for acute medical care, and carry a list of your medications and medical history with you. Travel insurance plans cover cancellations or interruptions, but some plans also offer coverage of medical costs or medical transport in the event of an emergency.

Finally, remember to take care of yourself on your trip. Plan your itinerary to include some down time to rest and recharge, and let some of your activities be optional, so you can opt in if you’re feeling up to it and use a little down time if not. If you have medications that need to be taken with food, be sure to take time for meals or carry snacks with you. Consider using a mobility aid, such as a motorized mobility scooter or wheelchair. It may not be something you need every day, but it can go a long way to conserving energy and oxygen while you’re traveling.

Above all, enjoy yourself and your time with friends or family. And maybe send us a postcard or tag us on social media and tell us where you’ve been! Have fun!