Vacation health care
Travel health tips
Planning ahead of time can make your travels smoother and help you avoid problems.
- Talk to your health care provider or visit a travel clinic 4 to 6 weeks before you leave for your trip. You may need to get updated (or booster) vaccinations before you leave.
- Ask your health insurance carrier what they will cover (including emergency transport) while traveling out of the country.
- Consider traveler's insurance if you are going outside of the United States.
- If you are leaving your children, leave a signed consent-to-treat form with your children's caretaker.
- If you are taking medicine, talk to your health care provider before leaving. Carry all medicines with you in your carry-on bag.
- If traveling outside the United States, learn about the health care in the country you are visiting. If you can, find out where you would go if you needed medical help.
- If you are planning a long flight, try to arrive as close as possible to your normal bedtime based on the time zone where you are landing. This will help prevent jet lag.
- If you have an important event scheduled, plan to arrive 2 or 3 days in advance. This will give you time to recover from jet lag.
IMPORTANT ITEMS TO PACK
Important items to bring with you include:
- First aid kit
- Immunization records
- Insurance ID cards
- Medical records for chronic illnesses or recent major surgery
- Name and phone numbers of your pharmacist and health care providers
- Nonprescription medications that you might need
- Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses
ON THE ROAD
Know what steps you need to take to prevent different diseases and infections. This includes:
- How to avoid mosquito bites
- What foods are safe to eat
- Where it is safe to eat
- How to drink water and other liquids
- How to wash and clean your hands well
Know how to prevent and treat traveler's diarrhea if you are visiting an area where it is a common problem (such as Mexico).
Other tips include:
- Be aware of vehicle safety. Use seat belts when traveling.
- Check the local emergency number for where you are. Not all places use 911.
- When traveling long distances, expect your body to adjust to a new time zone at the rate of about 1 hour per day.
When traveling with children:
- Make sure that the children know the name and telephone number of your hotel in case they get separated from you.
- Write this information down. Put this information in a pocket or other place on their person.
- Give children enough money to make a phone call. Make sure they know how to use the phone system where you are.
Planning ahead of time can make your travels smoother and help you avoid problems. Let's talk today about vacation health care. Always prepare in advance for health problems you might experience when you travel. Ask your health insurance carrier what they will cover or pay for, and consider buying traveler's insurance when you travel abroad. If your children are not traveling with you, leave a signed consent-to-treat form with their caretaker. And if you are taking medications, talk to your health care provider before leaving. Make sure you carry your medications in your carry-on bag, never in your luggage. Research the health care in the country you are visiting. And if you can, find out where you would go if you needed medical help. So, what should you pack? Well, you'll want to bring several important items on your trip. Pack a first aid kit, immunization records, insurance ID cards, and medical records for any chronic illnesses or recent medical surgery. Bring a list of the names and phone numbers of your pharmacist and health care providers. Pack any nonprescription medications you might need, along with sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. So, what do you do on the road? When you travel, know what steps you need to take to prevent different diseases and infections. This includes how to avoid mosquito bites, what foods you can eat safely, where you can eat safely, how to drink water and other liquids, and proper hand washing. If you are visiting an area where traveler's diarrhea is common, know how to prevent and treat it. Be aware of automobile safety and use seat belts when you travel. Upon arriving at your destination, check the local emergency number. If you're traveling a long way, expect your body to adjust to a new time zone at about the rate of 1 hour per day. If you're traveling with children, make sure they know the name and telephone number of your hotel, just in case they get separated from you. Write this information down and put it in their pocket. Give them enough money to make a phone call, and make sure they know how to use phones if you are visiting a foreign country. As always, a little preparation goes a long way to preventing problems.
Basnyat B, Paterson RD. Travel medicine. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 79.
Swanson SJ, John CC. Health advice for children traveling internationally. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 175.
Zuckerman J, Paran Y. Travel medicine. In: Kellerman RD, Bope ET, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2018. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2018;chap 1320-1326.
Last reviewed on: 2/18/2018
Reviewed by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.