Whether you’re traveling for fun, business, or volunteer work, it can be more difficult to do so if you also have a chronic illness. However, it is not impossible. You can ensure your trip runs much more smoothly by completing the following steps before your next adventure.
Buy Travel Insurance
While most people know that travel insurance can help you recover the costs of common mishaps like lost luggage or stolen items, many policies also provide coverage for health-related issues. For example, in the wake of the COVID pandemic, many insurers will now refund travel costs if your destination is suddenly declared high-risk.
If you are leaving the U.S., consider purchasing additional travel health insurance. Most standard insurance plans only cover emergency services, meaning that you will have to pay for urgent or routine medical care out of pocket. Travel health insurance policies will cover medical costs for doctor’s visits, lab work, and prescriptions. However, like regular health insurance, you would have to receive care from in-network providers to be eligible for coverage. Look through the insurer’s provider directory to find the medical centers that are closest to your destination.
A trip cancellation policy can also bring you peace of mind should you experience a flare-up shortly before or during your travels. Make sure to discuss your condition with the insurer before buying a policy to verify that you qualify for coverage.
Know the Rules
Every country sets its own rules about medications. A drug that you could buy over the counter in the U.S. may require a prescription, or even be banned, in another country. It is very important to research the rules regarding your essential medications.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises all travelers with chronic illnesses to always carry their medications in their original bottles, with legible labels. If possible, also travel with your official prescriptions. Pack all of your medications and prescriptions into a single bag that can fit in your carry-on luggage. Not only does this make it easier to go through security, but it will ensure that you will not run out of medication if your checked-in bags get lost in transit.
Airlines, transit companies, and other types of transportation also have rules about medical devices. Many of these regulations actually benefit travelers with chronic illnesses. For example, many airlines will allow travelers to bring medical devices on board for no additional baggage charge. If your conditions affect your ability to follow any airport rules, notify the airline ahead of time. That way, you can avoid any misunderstandings, and the staff will be able to better assist you.
If you need to perform ongoing vitals monitoring, such as checking your thyroid levels or blood sugar, make sure you pack all the instruments and devices you will need. Medicine manufacturers and prescription availability vary widely by country, so never assume that you can just pick up what you need at your destination. If possible, order a 30-to-90 supply of your medication and medical devices before you head off on your trip. That way, you don’t need to worry about refilling your prescriptions while traveling.
Even if you are planning a solo trip, connecting with other people who understand how it is to travel with chronic illnesses can be a great source of support. You can find threads in destination-specific travel forums where travelers share their experiences managing their illness while seeing the world.
You can also connect with travelers through Facebook groups. While many of these groups focus on travel in general, you can search through posts discussing chronic illnesses. If you prefer to travel in a group or with ongoing support, there are many tour companies and travel agencies that cater to people with moderate to advanced medical needs.
Splurge on Accommodations
Fatigue and low energy spells are common symptoms of many chronic illnesses. You can ensure that you enjoy every moment of your travels by being more selective about your accommodation. If you book a hotel with desirable amenities, such as a pool, rooftop bar, or in-house restaurant, you will be able to plan fun activities even if your mobility is limited. If you can’t find a suitable hotel in your price range, consider a centrally-located vacation rental instead.
If you anticipate that you may need more time to recharge in your room, see if premium options like a room with a view or an all-inclusive package, are feasible for you. That way, you will still get the holiday experience from your hotel.