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Vacation health care

BEFORE LEAVING

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.

Alternative Names

Travel health tips

References

Basnyat B, Ericsson CD. Travel medicine. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 84.

Freedman DO. Approach to the patient before and after travel. In: Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, Gilchrest B, Paller A, Leffell D, Wolff K, eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012:chap 286.

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.

Update Date 2/7/2016

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