I have a family member with chronic illness so I know how much extra preparation is required before setting off on any sort of vacation or travel itinerary.
Travelling when you have a chronic illness requires some extra planning — but don’t let that put you off. Just start well in advance, take it a step at a time, and don’t forget to look after yourself first and foremost.
To make the whole process easier, we’ve put together a list of everything you’ll need to prepare, so you can set off knowing you’ve done everything you can to make your holiday as relaxing as possible.
Clearance from your doctor
First things first, make sure you schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your travel plans. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but they’ll be able to clear you for travel and advise you on what your next steps should be, particularly when it comes to vaccinations and bringing any medication with you. If you are traveling overseas this should be done prior to actually booking your travel in case there is something about the destination that causes concern for your particular condition. You should then book a second appointment with your doctor close to your travel dates for a final check and to get any prescriptions you may need.
A travel vaccination schedule
Some destinations require a series of vaccinations before you go there. Your doctor or local travel health clinic can recommend the best course of action for you — one that takes your chronic illness into account. Keep in mind that some vaccinations require more than one dosage and so may need to be done further in advance. For all the latest information on travel vaccinations, visit the CDC website.
A good travel insurance policy
Finding insurance can be more difficult when you have a chronic illness. Prepare to find a suitable policy well in advance, and check the small print carefully to make sure you’re covered. We definitely recommend being completely honest and upfront about your illness and any other medical conditions you have, otherwise your policy could be invalidated if you’re taken ill and need to make a claim. (Check out their guide to travelling with a medical condition for more top tips.)
A copy of your medical history
Should you need to see a doctor or visit the hospital while you’re away, a copy of your medical history will speed up the process considerably. This document should list:
All your medical conditions (including allergies)
The medicines you take to keep them under control
The details of any previous hospital stays and surgeries
It’s worth getting a translation done if you’re travelling somewhere where English isn’t widely spoken.
All your medication and equipment
Check you have supplies to last the duration of the trip and bring extra — even double — just in case. Keep all your medication clearly labelled and in its original packaging, complete with prescriptions, and make sure you pack it in your hand luggage, not your checked luggage. It’s also useful to have a signed doctor’s letter explaining why you have to take each treatment.
Remember: It’s worth looking up if your medication is known by a different name in your destination. This will reduce the risk of confusion at customs.
The address of the local hospital in your destination
Hopefully your trip will be trouble-free, but it’s handy to have all the details of the local hospital, just in case you need to see a medical professional. If this does happen, you won’t waste valuable time trying to find the details you need, because you’ll already have them.
Your travel companions
Finally, don’t forget to brief your travel companion(s) if they’re not familiar with your illness and the way it affects your life. Let them know what your symptoms are, what you need to do to look after yourself, and if there’s anything you can’t do (e.g. any strenuous activities). It might feel a little awkward, especially if you’re travelling as part of a group, but a few moments of awkwardness will save you time and stress in the long run.
Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.