My obsession with castles is well documented, but until recently, I hadn’t stayed overnight in a castle in Germany. This spring, I found my happy place, my readers, and it’s called Schlosshotel Hugenpoet outside Düsseldorf and Essen. From gorgeous grounds to friendly staff, this is such a glorious place to stay.
Is it really a castle?
Oh yes, in fact, the first recorded mention of the place is in 778, as Charlemagne’s royal manor. The family that took over the estate after this, in the middle ages, were sometimes referred to as Hugenpoet. This romantic name actually translates to ‘toad pond’ in old German. Like nearly every large building in the area, the castle was destroyed in the Thirty Years War, and then rebuilt in 1647. This rebuild forms the framework for the castle you see today, with updates in the late 19th century. It first becomes a hotel in the 1950s.
What’s it like to stay there
The rooms vary, depending on where you are in the building. My room was in the old stables building. It was spacious, with a hallway complete with closets and suitcase storage. The bathroom was all beautiful lighting, gorgeous deep bathtub, and separate shower. I had a view over the stone bridge at the entrance of the Schlosspark, and when I pushed the windows open on arrival, the birdsong flowed in. I was ready to move in, I have to say. A word on the staff as well: everyone I interacted with were genuinely friendly and lovely.
Walking back to your room after a spectacular meal, or stepping out for a breath of fresh air in the morning – it is hard to explain how beautiful and amazing this place is.
In the morning, I took a walk through the gardens. Throughout the Schlosspark behind the castle there are benches, chairs, and loungers tucked into little corners.
Michelin Star dining on site
I had the pleasure of trying Chef Erika Bergheim’s menu while I was staying at the Hugenpoet. It was a Her Michelin-starred restaurant Laurushaus is in the former tithe barn (where the surrounding farmers would store the goods due their local baron or duke). It’s a cozy space, with a limited number of tables, and a small private terrace open in the summer. If you have your heart set on dining here, it’s worth noting that the restaurant is only open from Thursday through Saturday, and has several closure periods throughout the year (including the last two weeks of July). Book early!
Heavenly breakfast, cake, and more
If you’re looking for a less fancy option, there’s the more relaxed Hugenpöttchen restaurant overlooking the Schlosspark. That’s where you’ll have your excellent breakfast, with creative house-made jams and excellent coffee to order. Fresh tulips in bud vases graced every table. The restaurant is open for lunch from 12 noon, and continuously until dinner with cakes and treats created by the in-house patisserie available for mid-afternoon requirements. Of course, if you’re looking for a basket backed for a romantic picnic in the Schlosspark, with some notice, they can provide that for you too every Sunday from May until September (with 48 hours notice).
Where is this amazing place?
About a half-hour by car outside Essen or Düsseldorf, or about 45 minutes by train plus a short taxi ride. There’s lots of explore nearby, like the Zeche Zollverien, a huge old industrial site now transformed into art spaces, restaurants, and several museums.
Can you do this hotel with kids?
Yes! I have it straight from the hotel staff themselves. There is a little fenced playground at the end of the courtyard, great for smaller kids, including somewhere for adults to sit. There’s the Schlosspark behind the castle of course, which you’re welcome to roam around in. Not only that, there are special events for kids including an afternoon meal and castle manners lesson, that ends with a little run around outside of course, and cooking and baking classes as well. Possibly my favourite idea though, is the in-house babysitting. Contact the hotel ahead of time, and you can arrange a babysitter for the evening while you enjoy a romantic meal downstairs in the castle restaurant. How glorious would that be? If you’re looking to stay at the Schlosshotel with kids, book one of the junior suites or the larger suites, and let the staff know you will need space for children to sleep.
Some great times to visit
Christmas time, from the end of November to just before Christmas Eve, is a magical time to be in Germany. The markets in Düsseldorf and Essen are both gorgeous, and the Schlosshotel itself has its own market, in 2019 it’s on 5-8 December. In the summer months you can take advantage of their picnic baskets, and explore the local area, including the Zeche Zollverein, which has events on all summer.
Book your visit right here:
Getting to Schlosshotel Hugenpoet
As I mentioned above, you can get to the hotel from either Düsseldorf or Essen by train in about 45 minutes, getting off at the nearby station of Essen Kettwig Stausee, A short taxi ride from the station will have you arriving through the picturesque gates of the castle in no time. By car, it is about half an hour.
Book your train journey in English here:
This stay was included as part of a press trip exploring the region, organized by Nordrhein-Westfalen Tourismus. All opinions expressed are my own.
Everyone I speak to who stops in Heidelberg for a day trip wishes they had stayed longer in our picturesque little German town – so I’ve collected up some of the best hotels in Heidelberg based on where our friends and relatives have stayed while in the city. These are recommendations from people I know, not just a list I pulled from some hotel website.
Best hotels in Heidelberg
Hotel am Schloss
You can’t get much more central than this modernish hotel located in the same building as the bottom of the funicular up to the castle. It is a bit of a maze to find your way in (the entrance is via an elevator to the left of the ticket booth), but once you’re up there, enjoy the terraces, skylights, and beautiful views over the Altstadt. The rooms are definitely bigger than your average European hotel, and there are a few apartment rooms available with separate bedrooms, and even one with a kitchenette. I met up with an American family who were staying here, and they were pleasantly surprised with the size of their room, and they raved about the breakfast. You’re moments from the Altstadt, but off the main street enough for it to be quite quiet (I have friends who live around the corner, they report it’s fine, even during Christmas Market season). If you’ve rented a car, this hotel has parking which is unusual in the Altstadt.
We’ve been watching this brand new Heidelberg hotel as it was built in our neighbourhood. If you’d like to be a little out of the main drag for a quieter weekend, this is your ideal spot. This hotel is right on our local Marktplatz, complete with little playground, local kids playing soccer against a 12th-century church tower, twice-weekly market, and three different restaurants to choose from in the square. Every warm evening the tables under the leafy trees, locals and visitors alike enjoy dinner in the sunshine. You’re a two-minute walk from the Neckarwiese, the meadow along the river Neckar, with fenced playground, plus a natural stone water playground, beach volleyball nets, riverside cafe, and on sunny afternoons and evenings, every Heidelberger enjoying themselves. If you want to head into the Altstadt and the castle, you can either hop on a bus, or walk along the riverside until you get to the old bridge – it’s about 15 minutes.
This hotel is luxury on all fronts. The staff is faultless, and the hotel is across the river from the castle and the Altstadt, so you can secure a gorgeous view. Rooms and common areas are opulent and impressive, and there’s a little garden in the back in benches. They have their own in-house spa as well. The hotel restaurant is on a boat, moored on the riverside in front of the hotel. You can book a dinner or brunch cruise on the restaurant boat as well (non-guests can book too). It is gorgeous, there’s no question of that, but the price tag reflects this. If you’re looking to splurge, we know several people who have stayed here and it’s just as impressive as it looks.
In the quiet Neuenheim neighbourhood just over the river from the Alstadt, the Hotel Heidelberg Astoria also benefits from being in close proximity to the local Marktplatz, like the Rafaela. This hotel is spread across two large houses down a quiet side street. It’s a little less helpful for families as the rooms are smaller, but if you’re looking for a two-person getaway, this is a great find. The main house with the lobby and breakfast room is very large and airy inside, and you’ll find the furnishings are quite modern. The staff are very friendly and helpful, and they got to know us a bit as we were in and out with our in-laws who were staying. It’s worth noting they don’t have air conditioning, but you’ll find this isn’t unusual in Germany. Rooms are provided with fans, however. Again, you’re close to a little playground here, and a five-minute walk from the river meadow. And possibly the most important thing – you’re two minutes from our favourite gelato in town.
I know a lot of you travel on points, and Marriott is a common choice for North Americans heading overseas. My husband has stayed in this Marriott several times, and though it’s a bit dated, it’s very clean. The garden right on the river Neckar is a highlight, you can sit out here and enjoy a drink. It’s worth noting this hotel is a little further from the Altstadt and the rest of the sights, and while the walk there isn’t too far, it’s not a super picturesque one. You can expect decent-sized rooms, air conditioning (that’s worth noting, lots of hotels don’t have it), and a restaurant full of heavy duty wood paneling. It’s vey easy to get in and out from the motorways, and there’s ample parking if you’re renting a car and doing day trips. It’s worth noting that US hotel chains are relatively quite expensive, so unless you’re using points, you will find better value elsewhere.
We love the Ibis chain of hotels and they are always our first choice. Rooms are basic, clean, and straightforward, but the rates are also reasonable. Breakfasts are always great, and staff have been unfailingly polite and genuine. I think we’ve stayed in over 20 different Ibis hotels across Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France. This Ibis is right next to the main train station, which is not usually my favourite place to stay in any given town, but our train station area is not as depressing. It’s also where you can catch trams into the old town, or walk through the train station to the new Bahnstadt neighbourhood to sample their selection of excellent newly built playgrounds and public spaces. This is the cheapest option on the list, and you’re paying less being next to the train tracks. Check with the hotel, often you can book a second room for 50% off if you’re all one family.
Strasbourg in eastern France is a great home base for exploring Alsace and south western Germany. Because this region, from Alsace all the way over to the Rhine in Germany, has shifted between France and various kingdoms of German princes and dukes. This means a glorious combination of German and French influences in everything like architecture and food. This also means there’s loads of different places to visit within easy striking distance: from huge theme parks to quaint winemakers’ villages, Dostoyevsky’s favourite casino to famous castle ruins.
This 19th-century spa town on the edge of the Black Forest has been a getaway for French and German people for over 200 years. Take a relaxing day at one of the historic thermal spas, tour the art galleries and shops, and relax. I recommend a good four hours at the Caracalla Therme spa baths, which do allow children, and even offer a childminding service if you’d rather enjoy the waters and steam rooms on your own. You can skip the clothing-free German sauna experience and still enjoy the waters in outdoor and indoor pools, steam rooms, and even a brine inhalation room. It’s a very relaxing experience. Afterwards, make sure to try some of the local food, like Maultaschen (a sort of German ravioli, often served in broth) or Käsespätzle (cheesy egg noodles topped with fried onions) paired with a local wine. Baden-Baden is a quick half-hour by train from Strasbourg (book your train here in English Strasbourg-Baden-Baden), or you can arrange a half-day tour with a guide from Strasbourg.
On the edge of the Black Forest is Freiburg im Bresigau, a picturesque university town. There are plenty of canals, and little streams that appear out of nowhere, running down specially made channels in the streets and sidewalks (local legend says if you step in one accidentally, you are destined to marry a Freiburger). The medieval old town was completely destroyed during the Second World War, but meticulously rebuilt. It’s full of sidewalk cafes, playgrounds, little courtyards, and holds the title of the sunniest spot in Germany. The city also housed a large contingent of the French army after the Second World War, so there’s a distinct French flavour to the cafes and restaurants, though you will still find it easy to get a glass of Baden wine, as there are many vineyards in this region. It takes about two hours on the train one way to get to Freiburg (book your train here in English Strasbourg-Freiburg).
South of Strasbourg is the popular day-trip destination of Colmar. Many towns were ransacked during the French Revolution, but Colmar managed to emerge nearly unscathed, so the old city centre has buildings ranging from the 13th century to the neo-baroque early 20th century. If you’re a fan of the Studio Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle, you will quickly notice the landscape of this animated film is heavily based on Colmar. It’s really worth booking a tour on one of the little boats in Little Venice, as well as one of the little train tours, as you see two completely different parts of the town. Remember to look up, as the houses are painted with complicated details all the way up to the eaves. Colmar is gorgeous any time of year, but it’s truly spectacular from May onwards, when all the flower boxes are out with their riots of colourful flowers tumbling down. You’re right in the middle of Riesling central here, so make time for a meal of local specialties like tarte flambée, a thin-crust sort of pizza with a creamy cheese, lardons, and onions, and pair it with a local wine. Coq au Riesling is of course a traditional dish here, which is chicken poached in the local white wine. It’s often served with potatoes or Spätzle. This is a very easy town to navigate with kids with its small scale and many courtyards. Colmar is a quick 30-minute train journey from Strasbourg (book your train here in English Strasbourg-Colmar).
Just north of Colmar is Riquewihr. This is tiny walled medieval village right in the middle of the region’s vineyards, and it is properly picturesque – in fact it has been named one of les plus beaux villages de France, or one of the most beautiful French villages. It is almost entirely preserved from the 16th century, and every corner is an Instagram moment waiting to happen.
We were there in February, when it’s probably at its least attractive and we still had a lovely time. You can climb the hills in the vineyards (if you’re with kids, keep them away from the vines, this is someone’s livelihood after all) above the town, and wander the streets. The restaurants here don’t really cater to budget travellers, though lunch set menus are not too bad, so I’d suggest heading back before the dinner hour. You can also check out Kayersburg Castle ruins above the town. Riquewihr is not served by the train, but it’s a 25-minute drive from Colmar. You can take a guided tour of several of the surrounding villages from Colmar, which solves the transport problem.
Europe’s biggest theme park is probably one you’ve never heard of. Europa Park is in the Black Forest, and has been run by the same family since its opening in the 1975. There are 13 roller coasters, and regions all over the 950 thousand square meter park for Russia, Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Iceland and many more. There are loads of water rides, themed hotels and restaurants for many of the regions, and endless shows and entertainment. Anyone who has grown up in the region will get misty eyed at the mentioned of Europa-Park, remembering fondly school trips and special summer holidays. The park still closes for the winter months, so check ahead for opening times. You can arrange for private transfers to and from the park from Strasbourg.
Haut Koenigsbourg Castle
This castle south of Strasbourg was built in the 12th century, and both the Habsburgs and Wilhelm II have owned it at one point or another. Haut Koenigsbourg was restored extensively by Wilhelm II in 1900-1908 roughly to the era of the 1700s, with heavy emphasis on its Germanic roots. This was Wilhelm’s attempt to bring the newly acquired Alsace region into the German empire and make them feel included. While the reconstruction does lean a bit heavily to the Romantic idea of castles that fuelled the huge castle-rebuilding boom of the early 20th century, historians now admit it was not entirely badly done, and does reflect the lines of the original buildings and fortifications. You can tour the castle on your own with an audio guide, and unusually, this castle is open year round. There is a tavern on site, and in the summer months a snack bar with outdoor seating too. If you want to save a few Euros, pack in a lunch and eat in the picnic area, you can even book a picnic table under cover from the elements ahead of time, just contact the castle ahead of time. From March to December there is a shuttle bus running from the Sélestat train station, which is a 20-minute train journey from Strasbourg (book your train right here in English Strasbourg-Sélestat). It’s worth noting you can’t take buggies into the castle, so be prepared to park it outside and carry or walk with any children.
Our gorgeous old town on the river Neckar, long pedestrianized main shopping street, and huge romantic castle ruins looking over everything make Heidelberg a very popular day trip for everyone visiting the area. Of course, as a resident I would tell you to stay for a weekend, but a day trip is lovely too. Take in the city museum first, then have a leisurely lunch before heading up to the castle – and do the guided tour! Sitting between the Pfalz, the Black Forest and Swabia, the food options here are extensive. You can enjoy Flammkuchen (the German term for a tarte flambée, it is the same dish), tender Schwarzwälderschinken (Black Forest ham), Maultaschen (Swabian ravioli type pockets served in broth) and Spätzle (tender egg noodles). It’s a little further afield than some of my other suggestions, but Heidelberg Castle is very impressive, and as we often make the journey from Strasbourg to Heidelberg with guests, I think it’s worth it if you’re keen on the history of the region. It’s a 2-hour trip by train (book your train right here in English
Strasbourg-Heidelberg), or a 90-minute drive from Strasbourg to Heidelberg.
Black Forest Open-Air Museum
This is one of our favourite places to bring out-of-town guests in the region. While Freiburg and Baden-Baden are on the edges of the Black Forest, the Black Forest Open-Air Museum is right in the depths of it. You get a real sense of what it was like to live and farm in the forest 300-400 years ago. There are quite a few huge old houses, filled with furniture and tools of the time. Volunteers in costume demonstrate local crafts and skills, and you can greet horses, pigs and chickens. There are several exhibitions just for kids to clamber through, and a great playground with a little cafe and tables right there. The larger restaurant is great for a coffee and a big slice of the eponymous cake. It’s very different from Strasbourg and the surrounding area, so you will definitely feel like you’re seeing something new. It’s a good two hours on the train from Strasbourg but there’s a stop right by the museum that is open in the summer, but it’s an hour’s drive by car.
Not far from Frankfurt is the Hessenpark, an open-air museum that has over a hundred historical buildings from the region all in one place. It’s open year-round, and has an impressive events schedule including cooking regional food, making local crafts, music making, and more. You can get to Hessenpark in about an hour from the center of Frankfurt, so it makes an ideal day trip.
I love open-air museums. We are a history-obsessed family, but even if you’re not, it’s such an easy and enjoyable day out. When you’re traveling with kids, they can run and jump and explore without an adult constantly asking them to be quiet. Other adults get some time to actually read the information without being tugged onto the next thing. It’s win-win really.
What is the Hessenpark?
In the 1970s, this park was created to conserve the history of the German state of Hesse, and take older houses that were being dismantled in villages all over the region. When a historic house can’t be preserved in its original location, it is carefully dismantled and recreated in the Hessenpark, using historically accurate materials as far as possible. Now, there are over 100 buildings arranged in several little clusters in the Hessenpark, and it’s still growing. When I originally read there were a hundred buildings, I thought, surely they are counting sheds and whatnot. But oh no, there really are loads and loads of huge buildings to explore.
One of the coolest things about this place is being able to walk up to a random building, and the door is unlocked! Kids love this part, because when else can you wander through a village and poke around in all the shops and houses? Some are set up as exhibitions, some are arranged with period furniture as they would have been 200 or 300 years ago.
How long should we plan for a trip to the Hessenpark?
It is easy to spend a full day at the Hessenpark and still not see everything. Between exploring the buildings, watching demonstrations, having lunch, letting kids burn off steam in the playground, and shopping, I would say not to budget less than a day here. You won’t want to feel rushed. Ideally, you could stay overnight and split up your exploring.
When is the best time to go?
The park is open year round, but as much of it is outdoors, spring through autumn is preferable. There are more activities going on in these months, as well. However, we visited in January, and it was still lovely, and there was lots to do. In Advent (late November through to Christmas Eve, 24 December) there is lots going on with a Christmas market and special events all through the park, so that would be a magical time to visit as well. They also do special events for Karneval (end of February, early March) and Easter. Check the event calendar on the Hessenpark website to see if there’s a specific demonstration you’d like to see.
What is there to do at the Hessenpark?
You pick up a map upon arrival, and just wander, opening doors at random and exploring inside. The state of Hesse was known, 200 years ago and earlier, mainly for farming, wool production and weaving, flax production, and basalt quarrying. There are buildings or sites dedicated to all these traditional types of work in the park, even a little basalt quarry. As well as weaving, Hessen women were well known for their traditional openwork embroidery, and there is a fascinating upper floor of a house dedicated to examples of this fine work.
There are all the traditional workshops you would expect to find, including basket weavers, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, printers, roper makers, millers, and even historic firefighters and their equipment. Not every building is staffed, but you can peer in at the equipment, all set out to be used, like the workers have just stepped out for a moment. There is a full-sized windmill, a water wheel, and working farm buildings. There are chickens wandering around, pigs, and goats. In fact, the museum has been working to preserve local livestock breeds, so they aren’t just your regular farm animals you can see here. In fact, this museum is playing a vital park in keeping some of these breeds from extinction. Look out for the Coburger Fuchsschaf, literally a ‘fox sheep’, that has naturally red wool when born. There’s also the Meissner Lop rabbit, a long-eared black rabbit with gloriously shiny fur that was kept by Hessian farmers. We met some Thuringian goats, which are now endangered. However the Hessenpark goats are in fine form, in fact the kids regularly jump over the fences of their pens and wander around for awhile. The colourful local chickens walk around, completely uninterested in anyone, despite the trails of fascinated small children they have behind them.
There are also several places of worship in the park. A synagogue, and several chapels from different areas of Hesse, including a working organ that gets a work out every month or so with singalong events.
Eating and drinking
There are several places to have a meal or a snack on site. The Wirsthaus Zum Adler is a traditional inn on the market square, near the entrance, that serves traditional Hessian food, and there’s a biergarten around the back (it’s under renovation in 2019, unfortunately, check the site in case it’s open again). The Alter Markt restaurant is part of the hotel in the park, and it is also in the market square, right next to the Zum Adler, and it’s open every day from 6.30am – 10pm.
In May 2019, a Kaffeehaus is opening on the market square, also attached to the Landhotel, and they will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-5pm. Perfect for a spot of coffee and cake, I think.
Down by the playground in the North Hesse area is the Martinsklause, a pub-type restaurant with displays on brewing beer in the area. They have a lovely terrace seating area looking over the playground. This one is only open on Saturdays and Sundays however, from 11am-4pm.
The bakery in the market square is open daily from 10am-6pm March to October, and you can get bread, pastries, brezel, and cakes here. A perfect in between option if you’re not up for a full meal.
When we visited in January, there was a small wheeled cart selling bratwurst in buns in the corner of the market square, and inside the Delikathessen, they were making hot waffles to order.
There’s a hotel in the Hessenpark?
Yes! The Landhotel Zum Hessenpark (literally translates to country hotel to the Hessenpark) is right on the market square in the museum. Rooms range from €75-95 per night for a single room, €99-129 per night for a double room, and €129-159 per night for a triple family room. All rates include breakfast in the historic Alter Markt restaurant. To book, you need to fill out a form on the Landhotel Hessenpark website (in German only I’m afraid, but it’s pretty straightforward). I think I’m going to ask for a night at the museum (literally!) for my birthday this year. How cool is that?
There are several places to pick up some traditional wares within the Hessenpark. The Delikat(h)essen has shelf-stable foods to take home like mustards and vinegars, as well as plenty of beautiful pieces of kitchenware, and humorous mugs and tea towels. Next door is the Trachten shop, selling traditional clothes like dirndls and lederhosen, but they also stock tin toys, books, postcards, and more little pieces. Just so you know, dirndls and lederhosen are not costumes, but traditional clothing and many German people wear them to weddings and important family events, so don’t expect to pick one up on the cheap. A good dirndl, with all its assorted pieces, easily costs upwards of €250, particularly from a quality Trachten shop like this one. Lederhosen start around €200.
There is also a woodworkers shop with wooden toys, games, and housewares, as well as many versions of the traditional Hessian stool, called a Schawellsche, and wooden trays for apple wine glasses, another traditional product of the region. One of the most popular shops is the brush shop. Family-owned for three generations, this little workshop continues to turn out brushes and brooms of endless varieties, for specialty tasks like brushing down your felt hats, to cleaning lamps, this is the place for you. When we visited, we couldn’t even get in the door as so many people were coming in and out. The goldsmiths is not just a historic building either, but an actual working jewellery maker. You can even arrange to do a one-day class in jewellery making on site, though you have to book ahead as the courses are only for four people at a time and they are popular. There are lots of weddings at the Hessenpark, and you can even arrange to make your own wedding ring, guided by the jewellers, which I think is just lovely.
Hessenpark entrance price and hours
The Hessenpark is open 1 November to 28 February only on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-5pm, with last entry at 4pm. From 1 March – 31 October, they are open daily from 9am – 6pm with last entry at 5pm.
Entry price is as follows:
Children and students €1
Children under 6 free
Family ticket €18 (2 adults plus up to four children 6-17 years old)
50% family ticket €9 (1 adult plus up to four children 6-17 years old)
Dogs (including a dog poop bag) €1
There’s free wifi near some of the buildings, which is marked on the map you can pick up for free where you buy your tickets.
There aren’t guided tours or audio guides, but you’ll find informative signs outside each building, in several languages, as well as detailed exhibitions in some of the buildings as well. The map you pick up at the entrance is easy to use and very clear.
How to get to Hessenpark
Take the bus or train to Wehrheim or Neu-Anspach / Anspach Bahnhof. In Wehrheim, board the 64 bus, and in Neu-Anspach/ Anspach Bahnhof board the 63 bus and exit at Neu-Anspach / Hessenpark. From Frankfurt main train station, this journey takes a little more than an hour. The bus stops directly in front of the Hessenpark too!
On weekends and holidays, there is a direct bus service (no. 5 bus) from Bad Homburg / Gonzenheim and Bad Homburg / Bahnhof to Hessenpark.
You can book your ticket in English here:
Hessenpark is about half an hour from Frankfurt, there is ample parking close to the entrance.
A CPAP machine is piece of medical equipment those of us who have sleep apnea use to keep our airways clear while we sleep. It’s not something we can leave behind when we go on vacation. My sleep apnea was diagnosed in 2011, so I have lots of experience of traveling with a CPAP machine. There are a few things to know when you travel with your machine.
Prep for airplane travel
When you’re planning your trip, take stock of your supplies. Do you have a fresh filter, and enough nose pillows? Give your equipment a clean before you go, and empty your humidifier of water and dry it well. Most CPAP machines come with their own travel bag, and if yours doesn’t get a padded one ahead of your trip. You won’t want to pack your machine in your suitcase because if it gets lost or stolen, you will be thoroughly unhappy. Your CPAP won’t count against your carry on allowance as it is medical equipment, and if you want to sleep on the plane, you will want it with you. It’s a good precaution to have a copy of your CPAP prescription with you, but to be honest, I’ve never had anyone ask about it.
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Using your CPAP machine on the plane (or train)
Many airlines want 48 hours notice if you would like to use your CPAP on board the aircraft, but again, if you forget this, you will probably be okay – I have never had anyone say anything about it. Don’t forget, millions of people have sleep apnea and travel with CPAP machines, so airline and security staff see them all the time. You will want to be sure to have a power adapter with you, and check ahead of time if your seat has a power outlet that will support your machine. You can check Seat Guru for details of your plane layout ahead of time. If you’re traveling by train, you can request information about the best seats to reserve with access to an outlet with the train company.
If you absolutely have to sleep, your best bet is to have a battery pack for your CPAP machine with you en route. A CPAP travel battery is an investment, but if anything should be delayed, or you don’t have the right adapter when you arrive, it’s nice to know you can sleep properly.
Tips for getting set up at the hotel
I like to pack a travel power adapter with several outlets and lightning cable slots. This is not a transformer, so you will want to make sure your CPAP machine is dual voltage – it should say on the bottom, or on the big block attached to your power cord. If you’re in doubt, call the manufacturer. However, the vast majority of machines made in the past 10 years are dual voltage and will work fine with a straight power adapter.
Traveling in Europe particularly, there’s likely to be only one outlet by the side of the bed, and you will have to unplug the lamp to use your CPAP machine. If you have an adapter with lightning cable slots, you will at least be able to charge your phone next to you instead of across the room (such a pain).
If you’re staying more than one night, make sure to tuck your mask and hose up around your machine, not tangled up in the sheets. If you had to put your machine on the floor, put it on a desk or the nightstand, even if you have to unplug it. Again, hotel housekeeping has seen loads of these before, but make their job easier by storing it neatly. It’s much less likely to get your hose stepped on, kicked or the whole machine dumped on the ground if it is neatly put away without dangling wires or tubes.
You CAN camp with a CPAP machine
You can wilderness camp with sleep apnea! You will need the right CPAP travel battery for your machine, the right charging infrastructure (a car charger adapter, or just a travel plug adapter), and a bit of a plan. If you’re backpacking, you will want to consider investing in a travel CPAP machine for the weight and size factor. I’ve detailed the options when it comes to travel CPAP machines below.
Is a travel CPAP machine worth it?
Travel CPAP machines are mini versions of a regular CPAP machine, often doing away with the humidifier. They can be as light as 300g, and the size of a drink can. Sound amazing? I know, it does to me. The downside is the cost, and as we all know, CPAP machines are not cheap, and investing in a second machine just for travel requires some thought. Check with your doctor or sleep apnea specialist to make sure you’re getting one with the right options (auto pressure or not, humidifier or not), but I recommend shopping around once you confirm which model will work for you.
Some of the travel CPAP machines available:
The cheapest one I’ve found with good reviews is the Transcend EZEX Mini CPAP machine (check prices), which is tiny but does not come with a humidifier. You will want to make sure you get the right version for you, the one with auto pressure is more expensive. This one does not come with a humidifier, but you can buy a separate unit. You can also get a travel battery, and even one with a solar charging option.
The Respironics DreamStation Portable CPAP machine (check prices) is another popular choice for a small travel CPAP machine. The DreamStation has a feature that preheats the water in your humidifier (should you choose to get the attachable one) 30 minutes beforehand, and there’s a smart humidifier setting that measures the humidity in the air and adjusts your humidifier’s output to prevent rainout (that’s when the humidifier is working too hard compared to the moisture in the ambient air, and you end up with water in your hose making crazy noises).
The Resmed Airmini CPAP machine is the one I have my eye on. I use a Resmed machine at home, so I’m interested in this one. It has a waterless humidifier, but that function doesn’t work with full-face masks. It weighs only 300g too.
Something to consider is your CPAP cleaning regimen. I am guilty, like so many others, of not cleaning my equipment enough. I really like the look of these little cleaners because they are tiny and you can easily travel with it. However, if you’re already set up with something like the SoClean system at home, a good clean before and after your trips
I would say, if you travel often for work or have a long trip coming up, a travel or portable CPAP machine is huge. I wouldn’t recommend using a travel machine as your everyday CPAP solution as most of them don’t include humidifiers as standard. You’ll want to stay with a full-size machine like a full-size DreamStation.
CPAP accessories for travel
There aren’t that many things you need to travel with your CPAP machine.