Having oxygen on holiday

Before you arrange your holiday, it is important to speak to your doctor to make sure you are fit enough to travel. You should do this well in advance of your trip. This will give you enough time to make any necessary arrangements.

Planning ahead will help things go smoothly so that you can relax and enjoy your holiday. At the moment arrangements for supplying your oxygen when on holiday depends on where you live.

First, you need to contact the place you are planning to stay to explain what your needs are and get permission for your oxygen or equipment to be delivered there. This is up to you to do. It's a good idea anyway if you have any sort of medical needs to make sure that the accommodation you choose is suitable. So the chances are, you will have already spoken to them and explained all this before you booked your trip.

Provided you are asking for the same sort of supplies you have at home, you call your usual oxygen supplier. They will fill in all the necessary forms and send them to the local oxygen supplier for where you are staying. The local supply company will then deliver the oxygen and install any equipment you need. One oxygen supplier, Air Liquide, say they need at least 3 days notice. But this may vary for other suppliers and of course the more notice the better. So it is a good idea to arrange things as soon as you know you are going to travel. 

For different types of oxygen supply

If you are going to need a different type talk to your doctor or specialist nurse. You will need another prescription for the new oxygen supply. This will all then be arranged as above through your usual oxygen supplier. But they can't give you something different to what you normally have without a prescription. 

Holidays within the UK

Your usual oxygen supplier can deliver your oxygen if you are going anywhere on holiday within the UK. This applies whether you use cylinders or an oxygen concentrator. There are places where you can't take liquid oxygen, such as the Isle of Wight or the Channel Islands. But your supply company will be able to explain this and what you need to do. They can also help explain what you need to do if you are going abroad.

If you are visiting England or Wales

Your GP needs to contact the oxygen supplier in the area where you will be staying to arrange oxygen for you. The NHS Choices website has a list of oxygen suppliers and the areas they cover, with their phone numbers. Your GP will give the supplier your details so that they can contact you. This will be either a prescription or a form. The health authority in the area where you are staying will cover the cost.

If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland and want to holiday there, the local pharmacist in the area can arrange your usual supply of oxygen. You need to arrange this through your GP at least a couple of weeks before you go away.

Oxygen supplies for holidays abroad

You need to make your own arrangements for the supply of oxygen if you go on holiday abroad. Although suppliers aren’t required to provide a service outside the UK, they are usually very helpful and are able to advise you on what to do.

You need to allow plenty of time to sort it all out. And again, you need permission from your holiday accommodation owner for the delivery and installation of the equipment. You will have to pay for the supply of oxygen.

Before you arrange your holiday your doctor needs to write a letter saying that you are fit to travel. You need to carry this letter with you. If you are travelling in Europe, remember to take your European Health Insurance Card and to arrange travel insurance. 

Getting to and from your holiday

You also need to think about the oxygen supply for your journey to and from your holiday destination. This depends on whether you are:

If you regularly travel by car you may not need to make special arrangements. But it is important to make sure that you are fully prepared, especially for a long journey. If you don’t normally travel by car you should check with your oxygen supplier about what you need, including any specialist equipment.

Ferry companies vary in what they will help with. Contact them before you book to check exactly what they can do. Some are able to help with oxygen supply if they have enough notice. They may be able to get you on and off the ferry first, or have special parking places for people with disabilities.

Plan your route in advance and contact the rail company you want to travel with. Let them know what you need and who will be travelling with you. They may then be able to offer help with your journey. This may vary between train operating companies.

Plane travel is more complicated and airline companies vary in what they can provide. You will need to contact the airline you want to travel with to check:

  • their policy on taking oxygen on the plane including any costs
  • whether you need to complete a form or get a doctor’s certificate saying you are fit to fly

You may also need to ask them:

  • what support is available at the airport
  • who can help you with luggage and boarding the plane
  • if they supply oxygen at the airport

The airline need to know how much oxygen you usually need and whether you need it continuously or for short periods only. They will also want to know who will be travelling with you.

The British Lung Foundation has helpful information on travelling with a lung condition, including summaries of airline oxygen policies. This is a good starting point, but of course you should check with the airline directly before you book.

Coming to the UK on holiday

If you are visiting the UK from overseas, you need to contact a local doctor where you will be staying, to ask about arranging oxygen. You may be able to become a temporary resident if you are staying somewhere for more than 24 hours but less than 3 months. This doesn’t automatically mean you have the right to free NHS treatment.

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