Traveling with a chronic condition: Tips, tricks and resources

11.19.19

Thanksgiving and traveling go together like mashed potatoes and gravy, but for chronic disease patients, traveling can bring a range of complications and concerns. Luckily, there are steps you can take before you depart to ensure a safe and stress-free trip.

When planning a trip as a chronic disease patient, the adage of Murphy’s law — anything that can go wrong will go wrong — is the best way to prepare. This involves talking with your doctor, planning your necessary medications and informing family and friends along your journey to help you overcome unexpected hurdles.

First and foremost, before you embark on your journey into the unknown, you must learn about your destination, including where you will be staying. Locate nearby hospitals, pharmacies and rest stops to ensure that your journey will be suitable for your medical and physical needs. Also, make sure that your insurance will work where you are headed. The U.S. Department of State hosts a helpful web page that provides you with the necessary travel information for every country in the world.

After you have familiarized yourself with your destination, you should consult with your doctor about your plans and possible activity levels. Every patient is different, and your specific travel needs may vary widely from others with similar chronic conditions. If you’re traveling internationally, consult a travel medicine clinic before you depart. Consulting with your health care provider is paramount before leaving the area with a chronic condition.

By now you have your sights set on the horizon with your travel day approaching. You can continue to prepare by making sure you have the appropriate documents ready. The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) can be a dubious step in the travel process for any passenger, let alone for those flying with medications, syringes, and lifesaving technologies. If you plan on flying, be sure to check out the TSA disabilities and special conditions web page.

If you are worried about having to explain your condition to security checkpoints, perhaps make a TSA notification card or medical ID bracelet highlighting your condition, allergies and emergency contacts. When going through security, be sure to alert the agents of any medications, syringes, implants or electronics that you may be bringing on the plane. Remember to show up to the airport early as chronic patients may be forced to do additional screening processes to ensure that all items are safe to fly. If you are worried about being stopped at airport security, contact passenger support.

Your trip is planned, medications are packed, and doctors have been notified, but there is still one more thing you can do to expect the unexpected, purchase travel health insurance. Travel health insurance can be an excellent financial safety net if you have to receive medical treatment that is not covered by your provider while traveling. Discuss your itinerary with your insurer to see if you are covered while abroad and if travel health insurance is a good idea for your trip.

Now that you have prepared for all possibilities, you can focus on enjoying the journey. Living with a chronic condition can be tough, and traveling can be a refreshing way to change up your routine and experience new things. So, next time you’re worried about traveling, remember, if you’ve prepared accordingly, anything that can go wrong will be no match for your detailed plan of action.

Check out these helpful resources when planning your next trip:

Travelers with Chronic Illnesses by Center for Disease Control

Disabilities and Medical Conditions by Transportation Security Administration

Learn about your Destination by U.S. Passports and International Travel

Medical Conditions that Require a Medical ID by American Medical ID