Travelling with a health condition

As long as you have been declared “fit to travel”, then an ongoing health condition or a disability shouldn't prevent you from enjoying a holiday. All that's required is a little careful planning.

From checking out the resort facilities before you book to bringing any regular medication with you in your carry-on bag, travelling with a condition – whether it’s your own or someone else's – generally requires a bit of foresight.

The majority of us understand our own health needs better than anyone else – and there is no blanket advice that will apply to all individuals. Generally speaking, though, talk to your doctor before your trip and check whether he or she will approve you as fit to travel. Particularly if you are pregnant, tell your doctor the dates of your planned holiday, as this may affect their ultimate decision.

Practicalities to address may include informing your airline or tour operator about your condition, if appropriate, as well as letting the hotel or accommodation provider know that you require extra assistance during your stay, a special diet and/or a wheelchair-accessible room.

There are strict regulations concerning travelling with certain prescription medicines and bringing them into other countries. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before you leave, and make sure to bring copies of your prescriptions with you. You may also require a doctor's letter and in some cases a special licence from the Home Office. It will depend on the restrictions in place at your destination.

Comprehensive cover

“For those with a pre-existing medical condition, travelling with the right insurance is essential if they are not to be caught out with expensive medical costs should they fall ill while abroad,” says Garry Nelson, head of marketing at AllClear Insurance Services (which is the provider of benenden travel insurance for people aged 66 and above).

Unlike many travel insurers, AllClear will cover people with chronic conditions (subject to screening). If you do not have a comprehensive policy, have failed to declare a condition or change to your condition before you travel, you may not be covered. At AllClear, they frequently insure individuals with: high blood pressure; high cholesterol; various heart conditions; diabetes; asthma, osteoarthritis; back problems; and thyroid problems.

“The difficulty is that many who have a condition which is controlled by medication - perhaps something as common as high blood pressure - do not think to declare it when buying insurance,” he explains. “Simply because the condition is controlled, they’re not experiencing any symptoms and do not therefore consider themselves to be ill.”

The combination of a different climate and a change in day-to-day routine can take its toll on your health. The most common claims dealt with by AllClear (for inpatient hospital treatment in the over 50s) are gastroenteritis; chest infections; heart attacks/angina; respiratory problems; stroke; complications due to diabetes; hip and thigh injuries; knee and lower leg injuries; fainting/collapse.

“Unfortunately heat, physical exertion, increased alcohol intake or a tummy upset can all change the amount of the drug absorbed and distributed within the body,” cautions Garry Nelson. “As such, what might be a stable medical condition at home could potentially be a problem abroad, and, if that condition has not been declared, a subsequent claim for the costs of any medical treatment might not be accepted.”

Further information


Suggested reading

Holiday first aid kit

Top 5 things to know about travel insurance