Travelling with a health condition
Kyle Dine is an avid traveller who manages severe food allergies to peanut, tree nuts, egg, seafood and mustard. He is the founder of Equal Eats, a company that helps people communicate dietary restrictions abroad by providing professional translation cards.
When I was young, travel seemed intimidating to me. Managing multiple life-threatening food allergies conditioned me into being a homebody who enjoyed comforts of home, with minimal risk-taking. Once I started venturing out into the world, I learned that travelling can be such a wonderful experience, and worth the extra planning and preparation to stay safe. I’m happy to share some of my best tips so you can have a great trip and manage your health needs at the same time.
Before booking a trip, there are several things you need to consider. First, double check that your travel insurance policy covers your condition and any related complications. You should also research nearby hospitals and healthcare facilities in your destination, in case you need medical assistance. Some countries have different emergency numbers which is important to be aware of ahead of time.
If you require medication, make sure that you are equipped with enough to cover your entire trip, plus a little extra in case you run out or any get lost. Be sure to keep with you rather than packing it in your luggage, in case it gets lost or delayed.
Accommodation is another important consideration. Depending on whether you are looking to have your own kitchen, or have specific needs for your condition, choose a hotel or Airbnb that can helps you feel like home away from home.
When booking flights, notifying the airline in advance of your condition and being aware of their specific policies can make a huge difference. For travelling with food allergies, I have often asked to pre-board to have time to wipe-down my tray table and seat area in case my allergens were present on a previous flight.
Lastly, research the local cuisine and plan ahead for any dietary requirements you may have. Have a communication plan, especially with language barriers by using cards like Equal Eats, and pack a stash of your own safe food.
When packing for your trip, there are several items to consider bringing with you to make the trip easier. These may include:
- A medical ID bracelet or necklace, which can provide vital information in case of an emergency. I wear one with all of my food allergies listed.
- A kit with any necessary medications and medical supplies, such as epinephrine or inhalers.
- Snacks and drinks that you can rely upon in the case you can’t find safe food. I typically bring a ton of granola bars for energy.
On the trip
While travelling, be sure to communicate your medical needs and precautions to any travel companions. Teach them how they can help you avoid a medical issue, and what to do in case of an emergency.
If you find yourself unable to participate at something, try not to feel like a burden or disappointment to others. Your health needs come first, and adventures can always be adjusted on the fly. I’m often the reason we can’t eat at certain restaurants, but I always try to be proactive in researching safe places that others would like.
Mental health impact
Travelling with a chronic health condition can be challenging, and it’s normal to experience feelings of anxiety or self-doubt. However, it’s important to keep things in perspective and remember all of the positive impacts that travel can have on your mental health.
Travelling can provide a sense of adventure, excitement, and new experiences, which can help to boost your mood and reduce stress levels. It opens your eyes, while providing opportunities to connect with others and create incredible memories.
Personally, I love travelling with a journal which helps me write down thoughts, feelings, quotes, and moments. After reading these journals afterwards, I’m taken back to that point in time and filled with warm memories. That alone starts the travel bug again in me! I’ve also taken part in meditation classes while travelling which provided a well needed rebalance at times.
Is it possible to experience the beauty of travelling the world and manage a chronic health condition? Absolutely! Some of my favourite travel moments include eating safely in China, seeing a concert in Cuba, ziplining in St. Lucia, dogsledding in Finland and getting lost in markets in Morocco.
With careful planning and preparation, as well as flexibility and communication, you can see the world safely. Bon voyage!