5 Most Important Tips for Traveling with Chronic Health Issues

Traveling with chronic health issues can present some sticking points, but in most cases, shouldn’t prevent you from taking a trip. With proper planning and these important tips, you can have as good a time traveling as anyone — maybe even more so! Find out how, below. 

CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn the most important tips for traveling with a chronic health condition, including:

What Counts as a Chronic Condition?

A chronic condition lasts more than a year and requires ongoing management, whether through medical care, lifestyle changes, or both.

Most Common Chronic Health Problems

The most common chronic illnesses in the US include heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and diabetes

As we age, other ailments like arthritis and high blood pressure may become an unfortunate way of life.

But even younger folks end up with chronic health problems.

Fortunately, with proper care, it is still possible to live a rich life while you have chronic health conditions – even one filled with travel.  

Here’s what we mean.

Managing Chronic Health Conditions When You Travel

Having a chronic illness or condition doesn’t have to stop you from living your life

You might have to adapt to doing things in a different way, but you can still do plenty of the things that everyone else is capable of. 

If you love to travel or you’ve always wanted to travel, a chronic health condition shouldn’t stop you from doing so. 

You can still travel to the places you want to see, but you may need to take a few steps to make sure you get the most out of your experiences. 

Here are some of the important things you can do to make your travels enjoyable.

1. Prepare Medications and Supplies

Many people with a chronic health condition will recognize the need for different medications and paraphernalia to help them manage their condition. After all, you do it on a daily basis at home anyway, right?

And packing for your trip is a normal part of getting ready to travel. 

When you have a chronic condition, you also need to make sure you bring all of these essential items. Keep a list of everything you use in a week to manage your condition, from bandages and baby aspirin to ice packs and prescribed meds. 

Think about your condition when it’s in remission or on your best days, as well as when you have flare ups. Be sure your list covers everything you might possibly need. 

Whether you’re packing up vital medication or personal supplies like incontinence pads, one important thing to do is make sure that you have enough. 

You may be able to buy what you need at your destination (do check!), but it’s easier to avoid the trouble and pack enough for your trip, plus some to spare if you have the room in your carry-on.

2. Plan to Be Flexible

When you’re managing a chronic health condition, it’s not always possible to plan your trip down to the very last second. Most of us tend to be overambitious when it comes to planning a vacation itinerary, too.

Instead, build in some down time in your travel plans. 

Even still, you might need to adjust your plans at the last minute if you’re not feeling 100% well, or you’re just having a bad day. 

When you’re planning your trip, think about how you can make your plans flexible, in case you need to adjust them at any point. Look for multiple options that you can give yourself so that you can take things slowly if you need to. 

It could mean that you still have something low-key to do if you’re not feeling up to a planned activity, other than simply sitting in your hotel room. 

You might schedule more ambitious days followed by a day of rest, perhaps relaxing by the pool. That gives your body some time to recuperate. (Let’s admit it, travel can be exhausting for anyone!)

You could also look into renting a scooter, ebike, or other mobility aid to keep your physical exertion to a minimum – especially if a lot of walking is going to make you achy. It just might be the best investment for your trip.

3. See Your Doctor 

Before leaving for your trip, it’s a good idea to see your doctor for a checkup. 

As well as making sure you’re healthy, it can be a chance to renew any prescriptions and talk about any immunizations that you might consider. 

In some cases, you could also need a letter from your doctor so that you can travel with your medication or medical supplies. 

It’s also a good idea to laminate a list of the medication you take, dosage, condition treated, should you need to reference this information while you’re away. Include your emergency contacts, too. Finally, if you have a medical ID bracelet, be sure to wear it while you travel.

You should also go through the “what if” scenarios related to your health condition, and come up with a plan to address each situation, however unlikely. That will help put your mind at ease.

A visit to your doctor is an important step to ensuring that you’re medically prepared for your trip, and have your doctor’s stamp of approval.

4. Take Out Travel Insurance

You’ll want to find out from your health insurer what will and will not be covered abroad. 

Even so, you’ll want to take out an additional travel insurance policy for your trip to be protected – especially when you have a chronic illness. 

Most travel insurance companies will define a pre-existing condition as one that developed or that you were treated for 120 days before your trip. For that reason, when you’re purchasing travel insurance, be sure to read the policy very carefully to make sure there are no surprises. You want to pay special attention to every clause.

Additionally, make sure the insurance will cover the full non-refundable cost of your trip, which includes flight, accommodations, tours, and more. That way, if you have to cut your trip short for additional medical attention, you’re covered. 

It’s bad enough to have medical problems while you’re away – worst still if they are costly. Remember, a big medical bill is not the kind of souvenir you want! 

5. Do Some Research and Learn Something New

Before you leave on your travels, you should make sure you learn any of the rules that you might need to know. 

This can include what medications you can take through airport security and customs, as well as which medications might be controlled in the country you’re visiting. 

It’s also smart to learn to speak the local language concerning your condition, including how to tell people your condition and ask for certain supplies that you might need.

Final Thoughts on Tips for Traveling with a Chronic Health Condition

Your chronic condition doesn’t have to get in the way of your travels. The most important thing is being prepared, and then focus on having a great time! Following these important steps is the basis for planning a trip you will enjoy, despite any chronic health issues.

To learn more about staying in good health as we age, click here.

Photo credits: Woman with map – Leah Kelley (Pexels), all other photos courtesy of Canva Pro.

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.

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