Vacationing During Treatment: Summer Travel Tips

There’s no reason to skip a summer vacation if you’re receiving cancer treatments. With a few accommodations and a little creativity, you can have a fun and safe vacation. 

More people travel during the summer than any other season. Maybe it’s the warm weather or fond memories of summer breaks during childhood. Once June rolls around, there seems to be a natural urge to get out and explore.

A cancer diagnosis doesn’t change the desire to get out and enjoy a summer vacation. If anything, it may increase your inclination to travel and see more of the world. While it’s often perfectly safe to take a vacation during treatment, there are three accommodations you’ll need to make:

  • Proper nutrition. Your health, as well as side effects from treatment, can change your dietary needs. At home, eating a healthy diet is easier to manage. However, when you’re on the road with limited options, it may become more challenging.
  • Limited travel options. During treatment, and after surgery, flying may be out of the question. The changes in air pressure, lower oxygen levels and being seated for long periods of time can cause a number of health problems—including lymphedema and blood clots. Being in such close quarters with dozens or hundreds of other people also increases your risk of infection.
  • Treatment schedule. Staying on schedule with your treatments is the top priority. If you're undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments, this could restrict how long you can be gone on a vacation.

You may have other limitations, depending on how you react to treatments and what stage of the process you’re in. Before you start planning your vacation, talk with your doctor about vacation limitations. Your doctor and care team can provide advice on where, when and how to travel safely during treatment.

Vacation Options for Everyone

Traveling to another country may not be feasible right now, but there are other ways you can vacation safely. These two ideas can work for anyone, no matter how frequent your treatments are. Plus, they don’t conflict with the restrictions noted above. 

Take a Staycation

Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of cancer treatment. If you’re experiencing extreme fatigue or frequent treatments, getting out of town—even for a few days—can be a challenge. So why not bring the vacation to you? Invite out-of-town friends and family to visit, rent a vacation home in your area and check out the local attractions like a tourist. In addition to being convenient and offering more flexibility, a staycation can also show you a whole new side of your city. 

Find a Weekend Retreat

Traveling a long distance may not be recommended, but there are likely plenty of places you can visit just a few hours from home. A weekend excursion can help you recharge, without taking up a lot of time and energy. You’ll also be able to get home quickly if a health issue arises.

Try to find a vacation destination that’s the exact opposite of where you live. If you’re a city dweller, find a bed and breakfast in a tiny town where you can enjoy the peace and quiet. Already live in a small town? Stay the weekend in the closest metropolis and enjoy the sights. Consider timing your vacation around local or nearby festivals or special events. 

Know Before You Go

No matter where you’re traveling, you’ll need to research the area beforehand and take a few extra precautions while packing. Before you go, know:

  • Which medications you need to bring with you. If your medications are legal where you’ll be traveling and what documentation is needed.
  • Where the local hospital and emergency facilities are located. You can also ask your doctor for recommendations on where to go if there’s an immediate medical need.
  • What's covered on your health insurance plan and whether you need additional traveler’s health insurance.
  • If there are diseases and infections you may be susceptible to during your visit. The CDC keeps an updated list of diseases and infections to watch out for in other countries. They even have a filter option for immune-compromised travelers. Simply select the country you plan to travel to, check the immune-compromised travelers box. You’ll get details on suggested vaccines and medications. But keep in mind, many cancer survivors who are undergoing treatment can’t have live virus vaccines, like the MMR vaccine.
  • Whether other medications could make the trip more comfortable. For instance, ask your doctor about motion sickness medication if you plan to take a cruise.
  • Where you can stop or how you can get up and walk around during travel. You’ll need to get up on your feet at least once every hour to avoid blood clots.
  • How your transportation provider and/or hotel can accommodate your needs. If you can travel by plane, you may need to contact airlines in advance to discuss medical equipment, medications, access to wheel chairs and early boarding options. 

Safety Tips for Traveling During Treatment 

We’ve collected a few more safety tips  recommended for anyone who is currently undergoing treatment:

  • Always carry extra medications with you, in case luggage is lost or your return gets delayed. Make arrangements if your medications need to be kept at a certain temperature.
  • Ask your doctor to provide an overview of your care needs, medications and medical history that you can take with you. If you have an IV port or other implants, that should also be noted.
  • Keep a contact list handy that includes your doctor’s information.
  • Get a medical alert bracelet or band that includes your emergency contact information and current medical situation.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Stick with bottled water, and ask for beverages without ice.
  • Because skin is more sensitive during treatment, you’ll need to pack essentials like sunscreen, protective clothing and an umbrella.
  • Only eat food that is cooked thoroughly.
  • Take hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes with you.
  • Pack healthy snacks that will last the entire trip. 

It’s also important to keep your vacation schedule light. Factor in plenty of down time to avoid fatigue. Instead of trying to take it all in, simply relax and enjoy the new setting at your own pace.