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. 

Editor’s Note: We updated this article in September 2022 to keep the info up to date.

woman traveling with chronic health issues

CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn the most important tips for traveling with chronic health issues, 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)
  • 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 a life filled with travel.  

Here’s what we mean.

Managing Chronic Health Conditions When You Travel

planning travel chronic illness

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

You might have to adapt to doing things differently, 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. You may need to take a few steps to make sure you get the most out of your experiences, though. 

Here are some of the important things you can do to make your time traveling with chronic health issues more enjoyable.

1. Prepare Medications and Supplies

medication packet

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 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’ll want to pack enough for your trip, plus some to spare if you have the room in your carry-on.

If you think you’ll have trouble sleeping, you might see what options are available from a gummy manufacturer. Don’t worry, not all Gummies are CBD-based. You can also get gummies with vitamins, probiotics, and other helpful ingredients.

You may be able to buy what you need at your destination (do check!). You can also get your prescriptions online to save time.

2. Plan to Be Flexible

ladies at pool

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 with planning a vacation itinerary, too.

Instead, build in some downtime in your travel plans. That’s important for anyone, truthfully – but even more so when you’re traveling with chronic health issues.

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 that means relaxing by the pool to give your body some time to recuperate. (Let’s admit it, travel can exhaust anyone!)

You could also look into renting a scooter, ebike, or other mobility aid to keep your physical exertion to a minimum. Especially keep this in mind 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 

checking heart stethescope

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. 

Your doctor may provide additional tips for traveling with chronic health issues specific to your condition.

In some cases, you could also need a letter from your doctor. This letter will allow you to travel with your medication or medical supplies. 

To keep your medical info organized, you might laminate a list of:

  • The medication you take
  • Daily dosage
  • Condition it treats
  • Physician’s contact info
  • Emergency contacts

This will be helpful should you or someone with you need to reference this information while you’re traveling.

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. Then, come up with a plan to address each situation, however unlikely.

Being prepared will help put your mind at ease.

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

4. Take Out Travel Insurance | Traveling with Chronic Health Issues

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. This is of particular concern 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 carefully to make sure there are no surprises. You want to pay special attention to every clause.

What if you have a medical emergency and need to be flown home for treatment? Find out if that scenario is covered by your travel insurance.

Additionally, make sure the insurance will cover the full non-refundable cost of your trip. At minimum, this should includes your:

  • Flights
  • Accommodations
  • Tours

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 travel souvenir you want! 

5. Do Some Research and Learn Something New

online travel research

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.

You’ll also want to know 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. Make sure you know how to tell people your condition and ask for certain supplies that you might need.

Final Thoughts on Tips for Traveling with Chronic Health Issues

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 a good basis for planning a trip you will enjoy, despite traveling with chronic health issues.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What health conditions should you not fly with?

You should consult your physician about the safety of flying with your medical issue. Some health issues and certain medications may not be suitable for taking a plane to your destination. For instance, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Stroke, communicable diseases, and recent surgeries are a few that are generally on the “no fly” list. In that case, you’ll want to consider alternatives to flying when you travel.

What are conditions that would require medical clearance?

When you book your flight, you’ll want to let the airlines know of certain health conditions to ensure your comfort and safety. Among them are: Anaphylaxis, Heart Disease, Lung Disease, Late Stage Pregnancy, and whether you’re traveling for medical treatment. Depending on the airline, they may ask you to submit a certificate from your doctor stating you are fit to travel by air. Additionally, you made need to get clearance for medical equipment, like a nebulizer, syringe pumps, and CPAP equipment. That’s why it’s good to book your flights early so you can get all your paperwork and clearances in order.

What is the most common illness during international travel?

Believe it or not, the most common illness during international travel is traveler’s diarrhea. It’s something to be prepared for, especially if you are traveling with a chronic illness. Traveler’s diarrhea is contracted by eating food and drinking beverages that are contaminated. Be sure to research your destination to find out if this is a risk and how to protect yourself (i.e. don’t drink the water, ice-cubes, etc.). You may also want to travel with loperamide (Imodium) and check with your doctor if symptoms worsen. And, be sure to stay hydrated.

Next Steps

Now that you know the basics of traveling with chronic issues, look next to these articles for more helpful information on health and travel:


Photo credits: Pexels, 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.

18 thoughts on “5 Most Important Tips for Traveling with Chronic Health Issues

  • September 12, 2022 at 2:35 am
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    I believe this is an important topic as there are people who want to travel but worry about their health and medical condition. This is very helpful to me and others. That is from a person who has been diagnosed with depression.

    Reply
    • September 12, 2022 at 9:36 am
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      Thanks for your comment, Ossama. I’m glad you appreciate the need for preparing to travel with health conditions. From what I know, depression is so often misunderstood and goes undiagnosed for many. Understanding our own mental health is key to living (and traveling) well. Wishing you safe travels ahead!

      Reply
  • September 11, 2022 at 12:00 pm
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    I’m 60 years old and although I’m healthy, because of my age I do prepare better for travel, especially overseas. It is very smart to get travel insurance and very important to read all the terms concerning things like pre-existing conditions so that you understand what your coverage includes. I think almost everyone has some condition or another that could cause problems while traveling. I like your idea of asking “what if?” and being prepared for worst case scenarios.

    Reply
    • September 11, 2022 at 12:44 pm
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      Sounds like you are a smart traveler, Tami! I’m glad you found a helpful idea in this article. 🙂

      Reply
  • September 10, 2022 at 7:57 pm
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    I appreciate your suggestion as we are all going to have some chronic pain because we are not getting any younger. Thanks to your beneficial recommendations, I won’t have to worry as much about developing a chronic condition in the future when traveling! I’m pinning this since it is a truly pertinent piece.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2022 at 8:35 pm
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    My father had diabetes. So, whenever he came to visit us and it was usually for 5-6 months, he had to go to the doctor and asked for supplies for 6 months and a letter from his physician if the airlines asked about it. Fortunately, he never had problems during the flights. I know how important it is to consult with your doctor before you go traveling. I think the hardest part is food because even when you don’t have chronic health issues, you tend to eat more than normal during travels.

    Reply
    • September 10, 2022 at 9:13 am
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      Umiko, these are such good points! I’m glad your father was able to visit you for extended periods, despite diabetes. When my dad traveled by RV in retirement, he would find doctors he could go to ahead of time to get his monthly infusion. And for anyone with dietary needs or limitations, eating healthy foods will be important on the road!

      Reply
  • September 9, 2022 at 5:44 pm
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    These are some of the great tips for people traveling with pre-existing medical conditions, especially when you’re traveling alone or with kids. I had a terrible experience of traveling with my kid with autism.

    Reply
    • September 9, 2022 at 6:27 pm
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      Glad you liked the tips, but I’m so sorry you had a bad experience traveling with your child!

      Reply
  • September 9, 2022 at 1:33 am
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    Traveling with a chronic health issue must be a challenge. On the other side I have some friends with a chronic illness and they travel frequently. They usually know their body very well and are quite aware what is possible for them and what not. Great tips for someone who is considering to travel with a chronic heath issue.

    Reply
    • September 9, 2022 at 9:30 am
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      Thanks, Natasha! I’m glad your friends have found a way to travel despite chronic health issues.

      Reply
  • September 8, 2022 at 4:47 pm
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    Great info shared, and it’s important to have everything you might need to address your medical concerns. With an aging population who still want to travel this would be extremely important to work with your doctor and look into travel/medical insurance.

    Reply
    • September 9, 2022 at 9:31 am
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      I agree! Considering medical needs is an important part of planning any trip as you age.

      Reply
  • September 8, 2022 at 6:18 am
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    Taking travel insurance is so important when you are travelling with a chronic health problem. You never know when the symptoms will kick in and you will need to go to a local hospital. Depending on which country you are travelling to, this can be very expensive. You will already be worried about what is happening, there is no need to add the worry of how much your trip to the hospital will cost – travel insurance will cover it.

    Reply
  • September 6, 2022 at 12:46 am
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    These are all good tips and a summary of health safety tips and being prepared starting with working with your doctor, getting your medications ready and having insurance for your travel. All good stuff for anyone with health related conditions and how to incorporate those into your travel plans

    Reply

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