Travel tips for cancer patients

May 27, 2022 | by Alexander Hantel, M.D.

Planning for a summer vacation is fun and stressful at the same time. If you’re fighting cancer, taking a trip may be even more worrisome. There is also a bit more planning involved before you leave your house.

We’ve compiled some tips to help ease your fears and make your trip as seamless as possible — so you can make the most of it while you’re there.

First, here are some tips to help you plan your trip:

  • Talk to your doctor and make sure you don’t need medical clearance. Some people with cancer may not be able to fly because oxygen level and air pressure changes at high altitudes can be dangerous. Others are at risk for increased swelling. Your doctor may recommend wearing a compression garment or have other suggestions to help you travel safely.

  • Plan your trip in advance and research your destination. Make sure you notify the appropriate facilities, such as airlines, car rental agencies and cruise lines, of any special requirements you may have. Book your flight early to ensure you get a seat with additional leg room, or one on an aisle for frequent trips to the lavatory. Notify the hotel of special requests, such as a first floor room or a room next to the elevator with handicap accessibility if necessary.

  • Pack your medications in your carry-on, not your checked luggage. In addition, bring a copy of your prescriptions in case you lose your medication. It will be much easier for a pharmacy or hospital to verify the prescription. Check the Transportation Security Administration’s website for restrictions on what you can and can’t bring while traveling.

  • Pack your medical records and a list of prescribed medications. Carry a list of all of your medications and dosages, as well as any allergies you may have. Don’t risk being without this information in case of an emergency.

  • Check with your insurance and bring a list of treatment centers. If you are traveling out of the state or out of the country, call your insurance company to see if you’re covered in your area of travel. Compile a list of treatment centers so you know exactly where to go if you need help.

What happens once you’re at your vacation destination? Here are some more tips to keep in mind during your trip:

  • Take steps to stay well. People with cancer may have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 and other infections. Make sure you are up to date with COVID vaccinations, including a booster shot when eligible. Wear a well-fitting mask when in indoor areas of public transportation and transportation hubs.

  • Ask for assistance. Airports are big and they can be exhausting. When checking your baggage, let your airline know that you need assistance to the gate. Ask if someone from the airport can push you in a wheelchair. This can help you save your energy for the real fun.

  • Listen to your body and don’t ignore your symptoms. If you develop a fever, shortness of breath, sudden nausea or vomiting, slow down and contact your oncologist.

  • Eat healthy and stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle around with you and drink water regularly. Also, bring your favorite snacks and eat lightly throughout the day. If you feel nauseated from chemotherapy, avoid dining out at new restaurants due to strong food odors.

  • Protect your skin. Chemotherapy and radiation can leave your skin sensitive to sunburn. Don’t forget to pack a hat, a light long-sleeved shirt and some sunscreen. Read these common sunscreen mistakes to stay ahead of the burn.

  • Practice good hygiene. During cancer treatment, your risk of infection is often greater. Airplanes, buses and cars are filled with germs. Wash your hands frequently to prevent infection.

  • Move, move, move! Avoid sitting for long periods of time to reduce your risk of blood clots. If you are on a plane and sitting is unavoidable, do some stretching or leg exercises to get your blood flowing.

  • Most importantly, enjoy the new scenery. While you want to get plenty of rest to keep up your strength, don’t forget to be in the moment and enjoy yourself. After all, that’s what vacations are all about.

Read 10 ways to stay active while traveling.

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