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If you’re battling pre-existing health conditions, or reading about the latest disease outbreak in the news, you may be inclined to push off your travels, or may even find that merely the idea of planning travel causes you anxiety. Depending on your medical problems, or based on public health alerts in the country you plan to visit, here are some tips for traveling with health concerns.
Obviously, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, it’s prudent to know the medical care system in the destination you plan to visit. If you’re traveling to a small Caribbean island, is there a hospital on the island? A specialist? How are evacuations or health emergencies handled? Much of this information may be written up on local destination websites, blogs of expats who have moved to the region, or even forums and message boards.
If you’re on prescription medication, be sure to pack it in your carry on. And, don’t forget to get a doctor’s note or equivalent if you’re traveling with pills not clearly marked. If you need over the counter medicines, check what the country laws are on bringing in medication so you don’t run into any issues at the airport or with customs.
If you are going to need a wheelchair or assistance at the gate, it’s best to arrange this ahead of time if you can. Make sure your reservation is marked clearly so there is a wheelchair waiting for you during your connection and on arrival. Also, be wary of the seat you book. If you have a physical disability or visible injury and you book an emergency row seat, you’ll most likely be moved, which could leave you in a pretty uncomfortable middle seat your entire flight.
Aside from hotels that offer handicapped accessible rooms, some are now offering hypoallergenic rooms as well. These may include special bedding, down-alternative pillows, etc. If you want to ensure a non-smoking room due to smoke allergies, be sure to confirm that the hotel actually has one available. Specify in the reservation, call the hotel, or send them an email. While many properties around the globe are non-smoking, some countries still offer a majority of smoking rooms, so be diligent when doing your search.
Issues like the Zika virus are obviously on the forefront of people’s minds, so it’s important to research what the local media is saying when there are health outbreaks or epidemics. Don’t rely solely on the big networks and mass news sites, as they may tend to sensationalize things a bit. Here is where message boards and expat forums can also come in handy if you are really worried about the overall situation in a particular region. It’s also wise to purchase travel insurance in case things do change between the time you purchase your tickets and when it’s time to travel. When in doubt, call your travel insurance provider BEFORE you purchase your policy to make sure you are covered. In some cases, especially in relation to health outbreaks, you may need Cancel For Any Reason insurance.
Be sure to visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s website, which contains a lot of helpful information for travelers with health conditions and checklists on what you need to know before traveling, like vaccinations, etc. Be sure to notify your doctor and family where you are traveling, especially if you have serious health conditions.
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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