Traveling with a Chronic Illness: Making the Most of Your Trip

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Chronic illnesses should not hold you back from enjoying travel, whether you’re doing it for leisure or business. However, traveling can be a challenge in and of itself. Add chronic illness on top of common traveling woes like missed flights and lost luggage, and you might be hesitant to plan your next vacation.

Despite the challenges that you might face, there are lots of ways you can make traveling easier while dealing with chronic illness, such as:

Complete the rehabilitative phase first

If your chronic illness requires you to go through a rehabilitative phase, it is imperative that you put off travel plans until you complete it. Receive home health care for your rehabilitative phase to reduce travel time and preparation. And after you are done with your treatment, give yourself a few weeks to rest before you start planning for travel. In this way, you don’t put your body through more stress than necessary, which is bound to happen when you travel.

Consult your healthcare provider

Visit your healthcare provider or a travel medicine specialist to get your necessary prescriptions or medicines. It is recommended that you do this at least a month before your intended travel dates to give yourself enough time to prepare.

During your appointment, discuss your itinerary with your provider. They will prescribe destination-specific vaccines and travel medicine, if necessary. Don’t forget to remind them of the maintenance medication you take to avoid your travel medicine from causing drug-to-drug interactions.

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Get travel health insurance

Your local health insurance might not cover healthcare expenses in other countries. If you are traveling out of the country, obtain travel health insurance to cover costs if you find yourself needing healthcare in your destination.

Aside from travel health insurance, you should also consider getting trip cancellation insurance and medical evacuation insurance. The former type of insurance covers your trip’s costs if you have to reschedule or cancel your trip because, say, you are not well enough to travel. The latter covers transportation costs to high-quality healthcare facilities in case of an emergency, which is especially important if you’re traveling to areas that are far from the main hospitals.

Research specialists and hospitals

Try to see if there are specialists in the area you’re traveling to so that you can get immediate medical attention if you have a flare. When looking for a hotel, don’t forget to check where the nearest hospital or urgent care facility is located.

If you are traveling to a country where you don’t know the local language, bring a card that describes your condition in the local script. Wear a medical alert bracelet if needed.

Plan for plenty of rest

Most people with chronic illness often feel fatigued when traveling. If this is the case for you, it’s safest to plan for plenty of rest throughout your trip. For example, if you visit two tourist spots in one day, allow yourself a few hours of rest in between to recoup.

Similarly, ensure that you get enough sleep every night of your trip. Don’t overload your itinerary. If you want to visit more places or do more things at your destination/s, extend your trip instead of trying to do everything within a short amount of time.

Prepare for your flight

If flights are particularly challenging for you, these tips might help make them more manageable:

  • Ask the flight staff for help whenever necessary
  • Bring noise-canceling headphones, a neck pillow, an eye mask, and other things to make your flight more comfortable
  • Walk around the cabin at least once every hour to stretch your legs
  • Select an appropriate in-flight meal when booking your flight; pack your own snacks if necessary

Research restaurants

If you have dietary restrictions, look up restaurants ahead of time to ensure that they can accommodate your needs. It’s also recommended to pack ‘safe,’ non-perishable food if you can’t find an appropriate restaurant right away. Alternatively, go grocery shopping.

Bring a laminated card with your dietary restrictions (e.g., gluten-free, low-sodium, no seafood) if you don’t know the local language.

Bring a companion

Traveling with a companion that is familiar with all of your conditions can make your trip easier and safer. If this is a viable option, bring someone you trust and who knows what to do if you get severely sick during the trip.

When you’re traveling with chronic illness, there is no such thing as being over-prepared. And with these tips, you can make your trips at least a little bit easier for yourself and your companions.

Do you have a travel experience that you want to share? Feel free to leave your stories in the comments below!

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