Travel With A Serious Health Condition 101Next »
Traveling with a serious or life-changing condition (even during treatment) can still be a rewarding experience as long as you prepare and follow some common sense guidelines. The amount of preparation described in this article may appear discouraging but it actually will not take all that much time - especially when compared to the satisfaction and joy that can come with travel.
MAKING TRAVEL PLANS
Before you consider travel, speak with your doctor.
- Let him or her know about all of the travel you are considering doing, including destination(s) and how you plan on getting there.
- Ask the doctor if it is okay for you to travel to the places you are considering, to travel on the conveyance(s) you are planning, and to do the things there that you are likely to want to do.
- If you have anemia, ask if you will need extra oxygen in an airplane. (If so, let the airline know about your needs when booking your ticket.)
- While you are with the doctor, ask for a summary on his or her stationary which describes your condition, any treatments you are undergoing, and lists all drugs that were prescribed for you. Make at least three copies of the letter before you go. Keep one copy of the letter with you at all times during the trip. Keep the original safe with your tickets or passport. Keep the spare in your suitcase "just in case."
- Choose your destination and make travel plans taking your condition and doctor's advice into account.
- NOTE: If you will be traveling with someone, it is advisable to ask him or her to go to the doctor with you so he or she can ask questions and hear the doctor's advice. It makes it easier for the person to understand your needs and how to accommodate them.
Choose a destination that fits your health care needs and does not pose undue risk of picking up a new disease. Learn what you need to do at your destination to be safe. For example, in some areas of the world it is safer to stick with pre-bottled drinks.
Make travel arrangements that are as easy as possible. For example, a non-stop flight is easier than a connection.
If you are traveling for diagnosis or treatment, click here.
If you will be traveling with a wheelchair, click here.
If you will need a nurse to administer medications, monitor care or to generally help you get around, there are the following options:
- You can obtain a nurse at each place to which you are going to travel.
- You can hire a medical transport service to help you through airports and customs.
- You can hire a nurse to travel with you.
- You can join an organized tour for frail or disabled travelers with nursing care available.
- To learn more about how to travel when you need nursing care, click here.
If you have special needs, learn how to take them into account. For information, click here.
Consider purchasing Travel Insurance in case you get sick and can't go, or get sick while on the trip. For information about purchasing travel insurance with a health condition, click here.
For additional information about making travel plans, click here.
PREPARE FOR YOUR TRIP
- in case you get sick while traveling, do what you can to obtain health insurance and be sure that it covers whereever you travel (or get coverage to fill in the gap, such as if you will travel abroad and have Medicare). Consider how to find an acceptable local doctor and hospital -- or how to get to the nearest one. (NOTE: Check your credit/debit card to see if it has a benefit called something such as "Medical Referral Assistance." It's a program that provides medical referrals to doctors, dentists and hospitals.)
- If you have special needs such as a compromised immune system, you need oxygen, you travel with a service animal such as a guide or signal dog, you need a wheelchair, are visually or hearing impaired ot have speech difficulties, read our article about traveling with special needs.
- If you will need nursing care while traveling or at your destination, click here.
- For additional information about preparing for your trip, click here.
Pack smart. For instance:
- Take an extra supply of drugs in case the trip gets extended.
- If you fly, carry enough of your drugs with you on the plane so you are covered in case your suitcase gets to your destination after you do, or not at all.
- If you may need some type of medical device, find out how to obtain one at your destination - preferably as a short term rental.
- So that you can exercise:
- Pack exercise clothes including athletic shoes and a bathing suit.
- Pack exercise equipment. For example, a jump rope and resistance bands. You can find a free exercise program for a resistance band at the website of the American Council on Exercise, www.acefitness.org .
- For additional information about packing for travel, click here.
Consider downloading an app that will help you know whether your flight is on time, the gate to go to, and information to make life easier in the airport. For instance, consider apps such as: Flight Aware and Inbound Flight.
Take steps to avoid infection during travel, particularly on an airplane.
- For information about how to avoid infection on an airplane, click here.
- For information about how to avoid infection in general, click here.
- When in airports or train stations, use the wait time as an opportunity to get some exercise.
- For example, walk around the airport/station.
- Ask if there are exercise facilities available. Many airports have exercise facilities - or there may be facilities nearby.
AT YOUR DESTINATION
At your destination, consider the following guidelines:
- Follow the precautions you learned about from your doctor.
- Do not push yourself physically.
- Stick as close as possible to your exercise regimen.
- Plan your day to include walking.
- If you are staying in a hotel without exercise facilities, they likely can direct you to a nearby place to exercise (possibly for free or with a price break because you are a hotel guest.)
- Ask about nearby parks or hiking trails.
- Eat nutritiously. It may take more effort than at home, but it is worth the effort.
- Keep up your medical regimen.
- Think ahead of time about what to do in case you become il. For instance, what doctor to call, or what emergency facility to go to.
- Do not ignore symptoms.Seek immediate emergency medical care if you experience a high fever, shortness of breath, sudden nausea or vomiting, or some new pain or symptom.
- Particularly if you have a compromised immune system: be sure the water is safe to drink. Don't eat any uncooked foods.
- Keep in mind our tips for eating out safely.
- If you are traveling outside the U.S. see: Travel Outside the U.S.: At Your Destination
ENJOY yourself. It's why you are travelling. Do your best to stay in the moment. If fear pops up, recognize it for the thought that it is, and change the subject.
If you are traveling outside the United States, additional considerations include:
- Check to see if your body will tolerate any necessary immunizations.
- Locate English speaking health care providers.
- Have your medical summary and related information translated into the local language before you go.
- For more information, click here.
If you receive an income from a government program such as Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), check to find out what happens if you travel for an extensive period of time.
- Travel to obtain less expensive treatment is known as "Medical Tourism." For practical information about Medical Tourism, clich here.
- If you are traveling with a wheelchair, click here.
- If you need a travel agent who specializes in helping people with a serious health condition, look for an agent that is a member of Society For Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH), www.sath.org Tel.: 212.447.7284
- If travel is for vacation, consider imposing a black out on your smart phone and emails. Is it really a vacation if you are reading emails or doing business on the phone? If you do take a communication holiday, give people a way to get to you in the event of a real emergency (for instance, by giving them your itinerary with contact information for hotels etc.)
- For tips about minimizing the cost of transportation, click here.
- While traveling in the United States, you cannot be discriminated against in public places such as hotels because of your health situation. For informatoin, click here.
- You can find out what the weather is usually like at your destination at www.Weather2Travel.com or such sites as www.ForecastIO.com
To Learn More
More InformationMedical Tourism (Travel For Medical Care)