Our 7 tips for travelling abroad with a pre-existing medical condition


We all need a holiday sometimes. Whether it’s to relax completely by a sunny poolside, explore new surroundings, or just spend precious time with loved ones, holidays have an amazing ability to make us feel refreshed and energized. In fact, studies have proven that experiences like holidays have a much longer-lasting effect on our happiness than buying material things. 
However, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you might think that going on holiday abroad is difficult, if not near impossible. Or, you might be so overwhelmed by the thought of dealing with your condition while you’re in a different country, that you think booking a holiday just isn’t worth the hassle.
But there’s no need to feel that way. With the right research and preparation, you can take that much-needed trip and relax, letting your day-to-day stresses melt away. Here at Insurance Choice, we specialise in finding pre-existing medical travel insurance and can help you get you on your way, taking into account your specific healthcare needs.
Here are our 7 tips for travelling abroad with a pre-existing medical condition to help you start planning for your next trip:

  1. Decide what kind of holiday you want

First things first: decide where you want to spend your holiday abroad. Choosing the right destination when you have a pre-existing medical condition can make all the difference to your holiday, so think carefully about how far you want to travel, what climate you will feel most comfortable in, and what kind of activities you want to do on your trip.
If you don’t fancy being stuck in a stuffy plane for hours on end, a short-haul flight can take you to any number of European countries in just a couple of hours. Or if you want to go further afield, think about whether you would like to fly direct, or break up the journey with a stopover somewhere in the middle to stretch your legs. Try to make the journey as relaxed and as easy as possible so that you don’t exacerbate your symptoms with tiredness or stress.
The climate at your chosen destination is also very important: think carefully about whether extreme cold or heat can actually make any symptoms of your existing condition worse. Look at what the weather might be like for your destination during the time you would like to go and make sure you will feel comfortable while there.  
Think also about what you would like to do on your holiday. Are you happy to stay in an all-inclusive resort, where you can fully relax and have all your drinks and meals provided to you without having to leave? Or would you like to explore outside of the resort and immerse yourself in the local culture? Try to adapt the kind and level of activity to your specific condition, making sure you aren’t pushing yourself too much.
Finally, do some research on what medical services are like at your chosen destination. If you’re staying near a big town or city, there will likely be no problem accessing medical treatment and consultations, but it will become trickier if you decide to go a little off the beaten track.

  1. Check in with your doctor

Before you actually book anything, make sure you speak to your GP about your ideal holiday plans, including where you’d like to go, how you will travel, and what you want to do once you get there. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether this holiday is advisable given your health condition, and, if not, perhaps discuss with you a more suitable destination or type of holiday. 
Once you’ve had this important discussion with your doctor and you both feel satisfied that you are in a position to travel abroad, you can start making plans. Just remember to leave enough time before your departure to make sure you have time to prepare everything. Your doctor should be able to advise you on what kind of advance preparations you will have to make in order to travel with your condition.

You must be aware that if you travel against the advice from a medical professional, your travel insurance policy would be invalid.

  1. Get any vaccinations and travel medication

Depending on your destination, you may require vaccinations or special medication. For example, you might need to get a tetanus booster, or a course of vaccinations for Hepatitis B. If you’re travelling to a country with a tropical climate, you may also need to protect yourself against malaria by taking anti-malarial medication. The UK website Travel Health Pro has a comprehensive guide to vaccinations and medications travellers should consider for all travel destinations.
Vaccinations are especially important if you have a weakened immune system because of your condition, or as a result of the treatment of your condition. But vaccines can also be unsafe if you have weakened immunity depending on whether they are ‘live’ or ‘inactivated’. For example, patients undergoing chemotherapy should not be given live vaccinations during chemotherapy or for at least six months after treatment, as live vaccinations actually give you a weakened version of the illness you are being vaccinated against. 
When you speak to your doctor about your intended holiday destination, they will be able to discuss with you any vaccination requirements, and whether these are advisable based on your medical condition. They will also be able to tell you how much time you need between your immunisations and your departure date.
Couple watching the sunset over the ocean

  1. Purchase your pre-existing medical travel insurance

Whatever your holiday plans, securing specialist travel insurance that covers your pre-existing medical condition is absolutely essential. Even if your doctor has given you the go-ahead, and you feel absolutely fine to travel, you never know if you will need to seek emergency treatment on holiday or cancel it before you have even left home due to your condition.
Seeking medical attention abroad can result in an eye-watering expense, especially if you require emergency treatment. However, if you have travel insurance with medical cover, you can usually get cover for emergency medical care for up to £10 million, and access to 24-hour medical emergency assistance virtually anywhere across the globe. In addition, you can make an insurance claim if you need to postpone or cancel your trip due to your condition if you have declared it up front.
As specialists in non-standard insurance, here at Insurance Choice can help you avoid the stress of arranging pre-existing medical travel insurance that covers your particular circumstances, allowing you to relax and look forward to your well-deserved break. We can arrange cover for most conditions – even those with a terminal diagnosis – and have no upper age limits on our policies because we believe everyone should have the opportunity to travel. You can arrange your insurance with us as soon as you have booked your holiday to protect yourself against cancellations and put your mind at ease.
If you plan to travel within Europe, make sure you apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which gives British nationals eligibility for free or reduced-cost government healthcare within the member states of the European Union, plus the countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. However, as the NHS has strongly advised, the “EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance” and that it “is, therefore, important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy in place before you travel.”

  1. Arrange your medication and any other special requirements

If you need to take regular medication for your condition, make sure you arrange enough for your trip, plus extra just in case. It’s a good idea to pack your prescribed medication in your hand luggage so that if your airline temporarily mislays your checked baggage you will be able to continue with your medicine as normal. Liquid medications should also be taken on board with you, as the cold temperatures in the luggage hold of the plane can affect them. Splitting your medicine into two or more separate bags will also give you added protection in case of loss.
Some medications may be subject to different rules when you’re travelling abroad, so check with your GP about whether you might need to inform the airline in advance about the type of medication you will be taking with you. If you are flying across different time zones, also ask your doctor about how to manage the timing of your medication.
If your doctor advises you to take an oxygen supply for your medical condition while you are away, you should similarly inform the airline that you would be doing this, as you will not be allowed to board the plane with an oxygen cylinder without prior notice. You may be able to arrange an oxygen supply at your destination, in which case, you only need to worry about arranging a portable tank for your journey to and from your destination. 
You may also need to arrange additional assistance with the airline, for example, if you need some extra time to get on board the flight, take any additional equipment, or require in-flight care. Talk to the airline’s medical team before you fly so that they can make the arrangements to make your journey as stress-free as possible. 

  1. Take all of your medical documentation

When you’re going abroad with a pre-existing medical condition, it’s a good idea to get all of your documentation in order before you head off. This might include a letter from your doctor that includes their contact details, copies of your medical prescriptions, details of any allergies, and a list of all the medication you take for your condition, including the names (brand name and generic name) and dosage required. Some conditions require people to wear or carry special medical tags, IDs or cards with them. If this applies to you, make sure you have these in your hand luggage.
If you’re flying and have an implanted device like a pacemaker, artificial joints, or any other internal device, make sure you have a doctor’s note stating this, and let the airport security staff know before you pass through any scanners. The magnets used by airport security especially affect cardiac devices, and scanners should never be held over the device itself. 
Finally, ensure you have packed all of your medical travel insurance certificate, including the emergency medical helpline number and policy number.

  1. Take care of yourself on your holiday

When you’re on holiday abroad, it can be easy to get carried away by the excitement of new places and new experiences. It’s easy to come back from a holiday a lot more exhausted or sunburnt than you had planned. So while you should definitely have as much fun as possible, it’s also good to keep your health in mind. 
Firstly, depending on your destination and the climate, protect yourself from insect bites. Not all mosquitos carry malaria, but these bites can cause discomfort, and sometimes become infected. Mosquitos are typically more active at dusk and dawn, so wear loose clothing to cover your legs and arms to avoid bites, and spray skin with a good insect repellent.
In hotter temperatures, make sure you don’t get dehydrated: carry around a bottle of water, making sure it comes from a safe drinking water source, and take frequent breaks if you plan to spend the entire day outside. The sun is at its hottest between 11am and 3pm so do your best to stay in the shade during those times. Whenever you go out into the sun, make sure you protect yourself with enough sunscreen, topping it up every few hours and after every time you go swimming.
Finally, remember to pace yourself. While you may want to pack in as much activity and sightseeing as possible, it’s also an important time for relaxation and recuperation.
Arranging a holiday abroad can create as much anxiety as excitement when you have a pre-existing medical condition. However, by making time for proper arrangements and following these best practices, you should be able to take the stress out of travelling and enjoy your much-needed holiday.
No matter what your health circumstances, remember that Insurance Choice is a specialist in non-standard travel insurance, and can take away the hassle of finding pre-existing medical travel insurance that is tailored to your particular needs. So why not get a quote from us today, and start planning your next adventure?