|Introduction||The Cost of Travel|
|Preparing for Travel||Author Comments|
|Using an Inverter||Index|
NOTE: For additional information, you can view
IntroductionWe are living in an age of better communications, more reliable technology and improved medications. Those of us on oxygen should feel empowered by these advances to visit far off relatives and friends and see more of our wonderful nation.
I have brought together in this article information to show you that travel by motor vehicle with oxygen can be a reality. What you will find here is information about planning for trips to make them safe and enjoyable experiences at a low cost.
I could have just given you my personal experiences about traveling with oxygen. During the past three years I have made frequent RV (Recreation Vehicle) trips, visiting 30 states, while using both compressed and liquid oxygen.
As with all the articles at my website however, I chose to conduct the basic underlying research that is necessary to provide you with reliable information. I have spoken with a number of oxygen providers and manufacturers during the development of this article. All have graciously provided me with information. You will see many of my sources recognized later in this article with a link to their websites.
But, I would also like to include personal experiences of others on oxygen who have traveled. You will see comments by several travelers in this section, including this first by Lance. Lance read this section and suggested that I include information about traveling by train. He said :
I had a very enjoyable trip via Amtrak and automobile this past July, going from St. Louis, MO to Los Vegas and back. Amtrak's round trip was from St. Louis to Kingman, AZ. From there I traveled by auto to Los Vegas and back to Kingman. I took a Helios portable and a 21 liter reservoir. I used oxygen directly from the reservoir on the train ride except when I moved about the train to the lounge and the dining cars. The reservoir normally weighs 90 pounds when filled. I had to have it filled to a maximum gross weight of 75 pounds to conform to Amtrak requirements. It was filled in St. Louis and topped off at Las Vegas, NV and in Farming ton, NM on the way back. When I reached Kingman, I had the reservoir loaded into the back seat of an automobile for the trip to Los Vegas. There, I used it in my room and used Helios as I moved about the hotel and city. I took along a two-wheeled dolly and bungy cords to facilitate moving the reservoir.Lance suggests that you look at AMTRACK for information about traveling on their trains with oxygen.
So, with that, let us begin with motor travel..
Preparing for TravelYou should be aware that oxygen cannot be delivered across state lines. This means that a trip simply across a nearby state line requires the same preplanning as a trip across the country. I have a personal example for you.
On Thanksgiving Day last year, my wife and I drove from our home in Virginia to a friend's home an hour's drive away in Maryland. When we arrived I discovered that, because of a defective cylinder, I did not have sufficient oxygen to last through the visit.So, plan your travel ahead of time, even if it is just a day's trip to a neighboring state.
Preplanning is making certain you pack up and move with you all the resources you depend upon at home, and arranging for oxygen equipment and services along the way and at your destination. Begin by meeting with your physician and oxygen provider.
1. Discuss your travel plans with your physician, particularly travel at higher elevations, and renew and refill any prescriptions that might expire while you are away.Here are some sources of information about preplanning. See Travel Assistance Tips under Customers & Visitors at Lincare's website. and the Great Escapes Travel Program at Apria 's website.
Using a InverterYou may want to take your concentrator with you to supply your oxygen while you travel in your motor vehicle. If your RV or conversion van has an auxiliary generator, you may be able to run your concentrator from it. In any other vehicle, you may be able to run your concentrator off of the vehicle's engine through an inverter. Check with the manufacturer of your concentrator before running it from a generator or through an inverter.
In a recent article in News from NHOPA , a subscriber and oxygen user from Anaheim, California, tells you the following:
If you have a full size car, a conversion van, or SUV, your vehicle probably has an electrical system that can support a concentrator. Your concentrator would be powered by your vehicle's alternator through an inverter while at the same time the alternator would provide current to the vehicle's other electrical systems. You should check with your mechanic or auto dealer to be certain your vehicle can support this additional requirement before purchasing and installing an inverter.Most concentrators are rated at about 400 watts. The wattage requirement of yours is marked on its side. Because house voltage is 110 volts, only about 3.6 amps (400 watts divided by 110 volts) of house current is required.
Because your vehicle's alternator produces just 12 volts, the alternator needs to produce 33 amps (400 watts divided by 12 volts) to the inverter. For an inverter rated at 90 percent efficient, that's 37 amps (33/.90). So, an inverter rated at 444 watts (12 volts x 37 amps) meets this minimum requirement. Most users however select and install inverters rated at 600 watts or above.
If you use your concentrator on the road, here are some words of advice.
At 54 to 62 lbs., a concentrator requires a lot of strength to lift in and out of your vehicle. You may want to consider owning one that remains in your vehicle all the times. Your oxygen provider may provide you with a second unit for this purpose. If not, you may want to purchase one. There are several compact and lightweight concentrators on the market that you may want to consider for use while on travel. Be aware that the lighter weight concentrators available may have lower Lpm output than your home unit.
Kathie from Montana favors liquid oxygen over a concentrator for travel.
What kind of 02 to take? If you have a van, have your supplier put a liquid tank in it. I don't know what size it is but it is about three feet tall. [NOTE: It's an L-20 reservoir which holds enough oxygen to support the 2 Lpm user for 140 hours.] Just make sure it is secured. I have a Dodge mini van and they put it in the very back and it is held in place by pulling the seat belts for the rear seat back through the seat and buckled around the tank. With extension tubing it can be used while traveling/driving. Your portables can be refilled from it. It isn't that heavy [88 lbs. full, 39 lbs. empty] so that it can be lifted out, placed on a cart and taken to your motel room. I have a little four wheeled cart that I got at Big R for mine that cost around $30.00.
OR- you can have a power inverter (about $150.00 plus installation) installed in your vehicle and plug your concentrator into it but then you have to listen to the noise and in the summer will it overwork your air conditioner and alternator (especially in the mountains). I've tried both ways and prefer the liquid tank.
The Cost of TravelSome folks on travel incur no additional costs for oxygen services. Others pay the full cost for all services. In this section you will find out what I have learned about the oxygen costs while on travel.
I have spoken with oxygen providers and read their policy statements regarding patients on travel. Here are the generalities I have learned.
Such a credit is not very large, but it helps offset a small portion of oxygen costs.
Patients of companies that have several branches may receive the same level of oxygen services at these branches as they receive from their hometown branch.
Here are the personal experience of others with oxygen providers while on travel.
Sherrie from Clearwater, Florida, another member of the COPD List and one who is not on Medicare, tells us the following:
When I went out of town, my home oxygen supplier, Access Medical of St. Petersburg, Florida, contacted Apria Healthcare in Biloxi, Mississippi, and asked them to supply me with the oxygen while I was there. Apria billed Access Medical for the oxygen services I got, and Access Medical then billed my insurance.Tom W. of Palm Bay, Florida, a COPD Support List member who visited 37 states last year in his van, tells us the following:
I have a local provider who has a contract with my HMO. When I travel, I have a small concentrator in my vehicle with an inverter so that I can use it on the road as well as in hotel rooms and soon in my trailer. I also take about eight "E" tanks of compressed 02 to use when I'm out of the vehicle.Kay of South Carolina, another member of the COPD Support List writes:
My previous supplier provided my traveling oxygen needs. When I switched to a newcompany (because they had the Helios) I explained my "traveling service" my previous company was providing. They agreed to provide the same service. There have been a couple of times that they were not real eager and I had to remind them of what we had agreed to. The point that I was trying to make is that if you don't ask for it, for sure you won't get it!
Author CommentsIf you have information about oxygen providers or consortiums of oxygen providers who facilitate the travel of their patients, please help put me in contact with their marketing department. I will try to get information from them added to this website.
You have permission to print this document for your personal use. You also have permission to print, copy, and distribute this document to oxygen users and their caregivers.
Title and buttons courtesy of Ben Ledet, <firstname.lastname@example.org> Creative Director, Parker Medical, Englewood, CO. 80112