Travel and Chronic Illness: It Doesn't Have to Keep You Grounded

New York, NY
September 18, 2001

Chronic illness almost always means medication regimens and home adaptations with special equipment. But it doesn't have to mean staying put. With a little planning, traveling can be possible and even beneficial for those with chronic disease. Here are the top ten travel tips from the National Kidney Foundation:

  • Before buying your tickets, discuss your plans with your doctor. He can advise you on appropriate destinations for people with your condition;
  • Plan your trip in segments. First work on the airline reservations, then ground travel, hotel booking and medical facilities. Be up front about your needs so you can find out what's available. For example, for a fee, airlines provide oxygen for passengers who require it. You may want to find out policies on the storage of medical equipment and devices aboard the aircraft and whether the airline can provide assistance to those who have difficulty walking with early boarding, wheelchairs and baggage handling. Hotels can provide disabled travelers either handicapped-accessible or first floor rooms;
  • Check with your insurance company and know their policies on coverage. If you will not be covered where you are traveling, purchase traveler's insurance;
  • Familiarize yourself with the area surrounding your destination and research the nearest hospital and doctors;
  • If you will be receiving treatment, such as kidney dialysis, talk to the staff at the center you regularly attend about planning treatment away from home;
  • Familiarize yourself with your country of choice's policies on travelers with certain illnesses. Several countries prohibit the entry of HIV-positive individuals;
  • When packing, include extra supplies in your carry-on bags in case of loss of luggage. Diabetics should always carry snacks in case mealtimes are delayed;
  • Always wear a bracelet or other device that identifies your illness. Be sure to carry your doctor's contact information and the names of your medications;
  • Know the symptoms of an acute flare-up of your disease and discuss those possibilities with your doctor before setting off. Ask him to write extra prescriptions in case of emergency;
  • Be sure to focus on good nutrition since it is even more important when you are away from home. Diabetics and those with gastrointestinal diseases are more susceptible to diet-related maladies.

For a free brochure on travel tips, call the Foundation at (800) 622-9010 or try our A to Z Guide.