10 Helpful Tips For Travelling With A Chronic Illness

Friday, 17 August 2018
Living with a chronic illness can be quite challenging. Day-to-day functioning can often be dang near impossible. With daily life skills often being unachievable, one may question: will I ever be able to travel abroad? The mind starts to race with a million questions. What happens if you're overseas and you get a flare-up? Am I able to get all the recommended travel vaccinations? Will I ever be well enough to travel? 

The short answer, yes you absolutely can travel with a chronic illness! It's may not be as stress-free as someone who doesn't have a chronic illness. But, with the proper planning, consultation, and personal drive international travel is possible! 

When I was first diagnosed, my concern was never the inability to travel but what would happen if I was abroad and got sick. I've been fortunate that with enough planning and sheer dumb luck to stay relatively healthy during my travels. However, there have been a few trips where I've fallen ill. It didn't make the journey any less incredible because I was prepared!

Here are my tips for slaying your next holiday even if you have a chronic illness:

1. Consult with your doctor
Before your holiday, it is imperative that you consult with your doctor. Tell them where you're going. Ask them what vaccines you will need. Ask if any of those vaccines are contraindicated with your condition. And also consult on best practices to keep you healthy whilst overseas. 

My doctor and I were able to develop a comprehensive health plan to help me stay as healthy as possible on my upcoming travels. I'll be travelling immunocompromised so being able to prep my body for the stressors of travel, contact with foreign viruses and bugs, and unfamiliar foods is incredibly important to me. 

2. Get a Letter From Your Doctor
It can be incredibly helpful to have a letter from your doctor while travelling. If there are specific accommodations you may need, the letter may help you gain access to these services. You will also need a letter if you are on medications that are illegal in the country you're visiting. 

Sometimes it can be helpful to have your doctor give you a comprehensive report of your condition and most recent bloodwork and test results. That way anything goes wrong while abroad, the doctors have an idea of your past medical record. 

3. Meds, Meds, and More Meds
Do you take daily meds? What about meds you use as PRN's? Whatever medication you use or may use, pack it! It's better to be over prepared than under prepared. A few extra tips: 

- Always check the medication laws in the country you'll be visiting. When travelling to Australia, I had to travel with a doctor's note for one of my medications because it was not legal in Australia. 

- Refill any medication that is running low or bring extra scripts with you. This way you'll ensure you'll have enough during your holiday. 

- ALWAYS keep your medications with you. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT pack them in your checked luggage. All medication MUST go in your carry on or purse. Why even risk the opportunity of lost luggage. 

4. Travel Health Insurance
Hopefully, you won't ever need it but if you have a chronic illness it is imperative you always have travellers insurance. You do not want to get sick overseas and end up with a massive hospital bill. Who wants to go in debt on holiday? I always go for the top tier coverage. Yes it can be expensive, but it's worth it. 

5. Know Where the Local GP or Hospital Is
Nothing is worse than falling ill and not knowing where to go. Your focus should be on getting better not scrambling to find a doctor. Do your research before your trip or on arrival. This way you'll know exactly where you need to go (and which doctors will accept your travel insurance). 

6. Listen to Your Body
This is probably the most important tip of them all. I cannot stress this enough. YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! If you're tired, take a rest day. If you have energy, do whatever the heck you want. But do not push yourself. It's not worth pushing and being stuck in bed the rest of your holiday. 

7. Plan Ahead
Look into some of the activities available to you during your travels. If there is an absolute must see on the trip, plan to do that on the first few days. Leaving it to later in the trip increases the likelihood you'll miss out. 

I tend to make three lists when I'm travelling. One is my ideal completely healthy list. The second is my must-sees, and doable symptoms flare list. And the third is comprised of activities I can do when I'm feeling really poorly. This way, depending on my health, I can pluck from the lists as needed. 

8. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! 
I literally cannot stress this point enough! You should be drinking at least 3L of water per day. This includes the days leading up to your trip. If you're well hydrated, you're less likely to catch anything from the flight. 

Not only will staying hydrated help to prevent illness but it will also give you a bit more energy. Throw a dissolvable vitamin into your water for an extra immunity boost. Staying hydrated helps ensure I'm able to get out and explore when I'm travelling. 

Bonus hydration: If you're adequately hydrated and you happen to fall ill, it's less likely that you'll end up in hospital. Not staying on top of your water intake is almost a sure fire way to land your booty in hospital. And no one wants to be in hospital in a foreign country (especially if you're travelling solo). But if you do, please refer to point #5. 

9. Be Aware of What You Eat
This can sometimes be tricky, especially if you do not speak the local language. If certain foods trigger your condition, you may want to do some research on local cuisine to find foods you can eat. 

When in transit, you often do not get much of say in the meal the airline provides. I always phone the airline ahead of time to notify them of my allergies and food restrictions. Often, they can only cater to one or the other. When this is the case, I pack a few extra snacks that I know I can eat. It's come in handy more times than I can count. 

10. You Do You
If you want to sit your booty in a lawn chair, sippin' Mai Tai's, and reading smutty novels your entire holiday. Do it! If you want to scale Mt. Everest and run a marathon while on holiday, DO IT! How you choose to travel is entirely up to you. NEVER let someone make you feel bad because you need to take a couple days to rest. Listen to your body and do you baby girl!  

Travelling doesn't need to be impossible! If you want to travel, do not let your health stop you! Plan ahead, consult with your doctor, and then get your booty out there and enjoy your life! 

To all my spoonies out there, how do you prepare for a holiday? What tips do you have to help inspire other spoonies to travel?

And until next time...
Stay curious!


  1. Great tips here! My grandmother before never did want to go around. It seems that because she has arthritis, she feels that she should stay home already and not see places. She does not want to be wheeled because she thinks it's showing off your illness. My grandma was really weird in that aspect. She died after a miserable life :(

  2. These are really great tips there are many people who fear to travel due to illness.

  3. Good to keep in mind. I imagine it can be tricky having a chronic illness, but it's great that traveling is still able to happen.

    1. It may be a bit more complicated but its definitely possible!

  4. This is such an interesting post - I don't really do much travelling since I've been diagnosed with my illnesses as I worry about how my body will cope. This post gives me some hope it is possible.

    1. I used to be terrified to travel. But then I realised that I can't live my life in fear. I was given some great therapeutic techniques that helped me break down my goals vs what I was capable of doing and this helped me realise I could travel. I just needed to travel differently to my healthy friends.

  5. Oh! i know the suffering. I have been facing this for past few years. It really becomes difficult to travel, with all the precautions

    1. It definitely can be a struggle. But totally worth it! Wishing you all the best!

  6. This is great info that you are sharing. That way people with chronic illness need not to be afraid of traveling.

  7. These are great tips for people with chronic illnesses. My mother-n-law is legally blind and it can be a challenge especially at busy airports.

  8. Excellent tips, I also have a chronic illness. I once went on a holiday and one of my medications in checked luggage got lost. I was short medicine! Since I was not at all prepared for this scenario!

  9. These are great tips and I am sure by following these tips people who have chronic illness will definitely enjoy their trips.

  10. These are really wonderful tips! I don't have a chronic illness, but these are still helpful for parents of small children. One of the first things I do when we travel is to make sure we have a first aid kit and allergy medicine in case one of the kids gets stung or develops an allergy that we never knew about. It's always a good idea to know where to get medical attention if something happens.

  11. I travel with chronic pain although not chronic illness and could also use these tips for that. I've got to check out travel insurance in the upcoming months. I think it's a smart option.

  12. As someone who lives with a chronic medical condition, I really appreciated this post. It does require more careful consideration when we travel.

  13. Now, this tips are amazing. I believe in planning and listening to my body when traveling. This is something I tell my daughters often too.

  14. I love this. I've been afraid to travel long distances because of my chronic condition. It's good to know I have options.

  15. Hydration is such a big thing when you are out on a trip with an illness. And definitely make sure to get to your doctor and figure out the medicines you need ahead of time. And get all the shots you need as well.

  16. Good tips! Hydration is super important, specially if you are traveling with a cronic ilness!

  17. This is such and informative and helpful blog post for people with chronic diseases. You don't really want to ruin your adventure of because of your chronic illness. Thanks for sharing.

  18. These are helpful tips! I know for sure that it's not easy to travel with illness but it's possible.