The world has so much to explore and enjoy, so why do you feel restricted when planning your vacation? Traveling with a medical condition can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be a burden or hinder your ability to have a fun time. It is entirely possible to travel safely – as long as you take the right precautions.
Disclose your medical condition
First and foremost, don’t underestimate the value of a good travel insurance policy to cover your medical costs should you need treatment while you’re away. Remember, you can also get insured for cancellation, curtailment and trip interruption. These protect you against any unforeseen illness or accident that could prevent you from traveling after you have booked your vacation. To comply with your travel insurance terms and conditions, be as honest and accurate with your medical condition as possible. Disclosing this offers the most protection for you when traveling abroad.
It’s also good to have someone with you when you travel, and telling that person about your medical condition can help ease your mind. Confiding in someone else could also potentially save your life if something were to happen (hopefully not!), since that person could inform a doctor what condition you have and what medication you are on. That person could also remind you to take your medication if you forget – you probably aren’t following your normal daily routine while on vacation.
Carry your basic medical information on you
Whether you’re traveling with someone or alone, it’s most useful to have your basic medical information on you that includes your:
- Primary care physician contact information;
- Health Insurance information;
- Travel Insurance information
- Names and dosages of medications;
- List of allergies and current illnesses.
Print or write them onto small cards and carry a couple of them (so you have spares). It will be very useful if you can’t speak for yourself since it will tell emergency medical personnel a lot of what they need to know.
Be prepared to answer questions about medicines at airports/borders
Although customs officers see hundreds of people daily with medical conditions, they still need to make sure that you don’t fall foul of any customs regulations. Make sure you know enough about your condition and medicines so that you can clearly and confidently answer basic questions. Have your doctor’s number on hand just in case, or get him to write a letter of support. (You can contact TSA at least 72 hours before traveling to find out more about screening policies, procedures, and what to expect at security checkpoints).
We know that for some, it’s impossible to try and list every medication under the sun, and state what is and isn’t accepted. Sometimes, you may need a license for taking some medicines abroad (like strong painkillers) – this can be obtained from your hospital, GP or hospice. Therefore, you need to carry out your own research before traveling. You can then plan ahead and reduce the risk of being caught out last minute by a drugs law along the way or in the country you’re visiting.
Also, have the doctor’s letter include the details of your medical condition and a list of medicines you are taking with their doses. Keep it with you at all times so that if you lose them, you’ll also be able to replace them easily. Make sure your travel insurance providers can help with replacing any lost medication or prescriptions while you’re away.
Carry medication in your carry-on bag in its original container
Travel can be unpredictable – like delayed trains, canceled flights, and lost baggage. Avoid putting yourself at risk when you run into difficulty by having your must-take medicines with you in your carry-on.
Also, pill boxes are a great way to sort and see if you’ve taken your daily dose or not. The downside of it – they’re a bit of a nightmare when it comes to figuring out which pill is which. For travel purposes, take your original containers with the labels attached (as well as your pill box if you want). It may take up a bit more space, but you’ll be glad you did if anything goes wrong.
Research your destination and find out your medical care
It’s always a good idea to look up how insurance works in other countries. Take the opportunity to check medical care providers in your chosen destination. Also do a bit of research on:
- Local doctors that can specifically treat your condition if there’s an emergency or if you run out of medication;
- The potential cost of visiting a doctor in another city or country (this is important, with or without insurance);
- If you need to, bring any type of documentation in case you need to see a different doctor;
- If your mode of transportation or your destination is wheelchair and disability friendly.
Consider contacting your travel insurance provider’s team to find local medical care information, and keep their details with you so that you can get in touch in case of emergency. You should also state your conditions, allergies, and other requirements when booking a transportation and your destination.
Have a backup plan and don’t overexert yourself
Hey, stuff happens when traveling, so it’s important to have a backup plan, just in case:
You drop your medication
Have copies of your prescriptions, a travel assistance services line to call, and your physician’s number on hand will make replacing them easier.
You’re in an accident and unconscious
Your medical alert bracelet and wearing your basic medical info will help those emergency responders know what to do.
While holidays can be an exciting time, you should make sure that you don’t overexert yourself or cause yourself harm – whether this means hiring a wheelchair, avoiding the swimming pool, or double-checking ingredients before eating. Remember to stay sensible on your travels. The last thing you want to do is end up in a hospital during your vacation.
These general tips apply to anyone with a medical condition, and although some may seem like common sense, it’s surprising how many people often forget the basics in all the excitement of jetting off for their vacation. It’s the responsibility of each traveler to know their health conditions and be aware of the safest ways to travel with those health conditions. After all, a medical condition doesn’t mean you’re permanently grounded, it just means you have to put a little more planning into how you travel.