Having a chronic illness or disease shouldn’t keep you from seeing the world or hold you back from visiting loved ones in different states. While traveling may require a little more prep, with the right plan in place, you can have a memorable and enjoyable experience. Try these expert approved tips for a smoother trip.
1. Check with your doc.
Before you leave, visit your primary care physician or relevant specialist. Let them know what your plans are, including where you’re going, the duration of your trip, and who you’re traveling with. If you’re traveling internationally, you should see your doctor at least 4 to 6 weeks before you leave, as you may need to make special preparations. For international trips, you should also see a travel medicine specialist a physician who specializes in preventing diseases that can be acquired on the road. Make a plan with your healthcare provider, including what to do if your illness gets worse as well as what medical facilities and resources are available in the region you will be staying in.
Sarah Kohl, M.D., a pediatrician and travel health specialist, recommends searching online for an advocacy organization for people with your medical condition. “People have solved the issue of how to travel with this illness already,” she says, “so many of these organizations have a travel page with all the information you might need.”
2. Opt for for travel insurance.
There are several types of travel insurance. Review each one carefully, and talk to your physician about the ones that will benefit you the most.
Trip cancellation insurance kicks in if you become too ill to travel and can be especially handy if you have a chronic illness that tends to flare up.
To cover you during your trip, you can buy medical evacuation insurance, which is specifically designed to reimburse the costs of transporting you to a healthcare facility in an emergency. You should especially consider this one if you are traveling to a remote area.
You’ll also want travel health insurance to cover any treatment received in other countries unless your policy already has international coverage (call your insurance company or check your policy documents to find out).
3. Pack smart.
Keep your medications in their original containers and store them in your carry-on luggage; bring copies of your prescriptions if possible. Make sure you have enough medicine to get you through the entire trip, plus a little extra in case you run into any travel delays.
Take along any comfort items, such as pillows, blankets, or cushions that you use at home. If you tell the airline that you have a medical condition and present a letter from your doctor, they are required to waive extra baggage fees for your medical items, says Kohl. Any medical device that uses a lithium-ion battery may require special handling, so be sure to check with the airline ahead of time, Kohl adds.
4. Use apps and services.
There are lots of tools out there to help you manage your health on the go.
Check out SitOrSquat, an app that locates clean public restrooms (with reviews) while you travel even internationally. Or try the Backpack Health app, which takes your entire health history and shrinks it to the size of your phone.
Services like Special Needs Group/Special Needs at Sea can help if you need to rent mobility aids, medical equipment, or oxygen. They partner with major cruise lines to help people with medical and mobility needs travel more easily. They can even deliver equipment directly to your cruise ship room, hotel, or resort.
5. Take a “pilot” trip.
Kohl recommends doing a “dry run” with your medical equipment, medications, and supplies: Instead of traveling to your “real” destination, go for a short weekend trip a few hours away. “This kind of mini-vacation will highlight anything that can be a potential problem on a longer trip,” she says.
Most important, Kohl says not to limit your travel dreams because of your condition. It will most likely require a little extra planning to find the right destination and support, but it’s possible for you to go just about anywhere.