Going on holiday

Holidays abroad

Many people with a lung condition think they cannot travel abroad, but this is not true.

As in the UK, packages differ, so shop around. Always check with your doctor or health care professional to make sure you are well enough to travel before deciding where to go, and always check and plan your arrangements in advance.

How do I get there?

Ferries

Many ferry companies have lifts, toilets and other facilities accessible to people with disabilities. They can also give priority loading and special parking spaces to vehicles with disabled passengers.

Trains

Eurostar trains have been designed to cater for passengers with special requirements. Some coaches have wheelchair access and allow oxygen containers on board. If you are travelling further afield in Europe, contact the relevant European train company for its policy on travelling with oxygen.

Car

Check whether your insurance company requires a green card – a document that makes it easier for vehicles to move freely across foreign borders.

In the UK, Blue Badges allow drivers of passengers with severe mobility problems to park close to where they need to go. Blue Badges are recognised across the European Union, so you can take advantage of parking concessions each country provides. Find out more on the GOV.UK website

Margaret’s advice:

Margaret enjoys cruising around the world. Over the years, she’s seen the Canaries, the West Indies and the Mediterranean from the deck of a cruise ship. Margaret has COPD and uses ambulatory oxygen. Taking her mobility scooter helps her explore places like Venice, Dubrovnik and Agadir.

Early in 2014, Margaret was diagnosed with lung cancer. After radiotherapy treatment, she was cleared to travel by her chest consultant and oncologist, and a note was made in her records.

“Don’t give up. Get on the phone and talk!”

When she booked a cruise to Norway and Iceland, she called the insurer recommended by the cruise company. She was turned down. But Margaret persisted, and the company asked a different broker: "They then quoted me £2,797.27. I love the 27p! After hoots of laughter I approached an insurer recommended by my oncologist. They gave me cover for a fraction of that price."

The insurance covered Margaret and her husband. It made provision for him to stay with her if she became ill and needed to go to hospital anywhere during her holiday.

Margaret recommends that you persist and ask to speak to a manager about your personal circumstances when finding insurance. She’s used to being turned down initially, but always gets a good deal in the end.

Flying with a lung condition

Your lung condition does not necessarily prevent you from flying. Discuss your travel plans involving flying with your doctor. Most people with a lung condition, even if they use oxygen, can travel on planes.

If you use oxygen therapy, you should ask your doctor if you might need additional oxygen on the plane. You may need to have a fitness to fly test to assess your oxygen need at altitude before you fly.

Once your doctor has given you the go-ahead, contact individual airlines to discuss your requirements and find out their policy about carrying and using oxygen on planes.

The European Lung Foundation provides information about the oxygen policies of over 100 airlines.

If you are planning a long-haul flight and use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), you should consider whether you might need to use your machine during the flight. Some airlines have restrictions on what machines are permitted for use on board. Others may require you to fill in a form before you travel.

Many airlines have a medical officer or dedicated unit for disabled passengers or those with special medical requirements. Contact the airline before you book to discuss your needs.

When you contact the airline, find out what assistance is available at the airport as well as on the plane. Important things to know include:

  • the airline’s policy on carrying and using oxygen and medical devices such as CPAP machines
     
  • if the flight is code-sharing. This is when a flight has one airline’s code and flight number, but is operated by another one. You will need to check with each airline involved about their own oxygen policy
     
  • the exact length of the flight, and whether delays are likely
     
  • how you confirm your fitness to fly
     
  • the facilities available at the outgoing and incoming airports. These might include assistance to get you from the airport lounge to the departure gate and on to the plane; the use of wheelchairs, and whether oxygen is available at the airport

You can find out about facilities at UK airports on the Airport Guides website.

Information about facilities at airports outside the UK can be found on the A-Z World Airports website.

“The airline was brilliant when we went to Tenerife last month. I was allowed to ride my scooter all the way to the plane. Then they loaded it on and when we arrived they got it out of the hold for me to ride through the airport.” A member of our web community

Next: Practical issues when going on holiday >

Download our holidays PDF (399KB)

Last medically reviewed: March 2015. Due for review: March 2018

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.