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Sharp Health News

Traveling abroad? Read this first

Jan. 2, 2019

Traveling abroad

You’ve purchased your airline tickets, booked the hotels and packed your bags. Don’t forget this one important step that many well-seasoned travelers often neglect — having a travel plan in place.

“Especially when it comes to international travel, many people neglect to pack important documents or know the limitations of their health insurance plans,” says Jacquie Schwoerke, vice president of Sharp HealthCare’s Global Patient Services program.

Schwoerke offers 10 tips to consider before your next international trip:

  1. Pack your important documents.
    Make sure your passport is current and won’t expire before or during your trip. Don’t forget to pack your health insurance card and your driver’s license or identification card. Make a copy of your passport and keep it in a separate location at home. You might not think to pack your passport for a cruise to Alaska or Hawaii, but maritime law requires a return visit through a foreign port, either Canada or Mexico. You will need your passport.

  2. Consider any medical needs.
    Before you leave, talk with your doctor (if you have any current illnesses) or with your specialist (if you have any serious medical concerns) about your upcoming trip. On your trip, bring details of your medical history, plus an emergency contact number and your primary doctor’s information.
  3. Make a list of contacts back home.
    Make a quick reference list with important contact phone numbers, including health insurance (including travel protection information and ID numbers), a copy of your passport and a travel itinerary. Be sure to provide a copy of this list to a family member or friend at home.
  4. Carry a medication list.
    Make a list of all the medications you or a traveling family member are taking and note the generic names. Carry medications in their original containers, clearly labeled and packed in your carry-on luggage. Bring a list of any allergies you have, as well as what types of reactions you have to those allergens.
  5. Know what immunizations you will need.
    Be up to date on travel immunizations for the country you are traveling to. If traveling with children, don’t forget to make sure they are up to date on their travel vaccines. Older children, usually in their late teens, may not have had a hepatitis A vaccine.
  6. Take care of your teeth.
    Have a thorough dental examination and all necessary dental work completed several weeks ahead of your travels to avoid any unnecessary and uncomfortable dental pain.

  7. Plan ahead for small emergencies.
    Prepare a first-aid travel kit that includes enough prescription medication for the trip, plus an additional seven to 10 extra days’ worth. Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses, and your own contact lens solution.
  8. Protect yourself against germs and illness.
    Pack alcohol-based hand sanitizer that you can easily carry in your purse or pocket. Use it before eating or handling anything that is going to come into contact with your mouth, eyes, nose or face. 

  9. Know what your insurance covers — and what it doesn’t.
    Check with your health plan to see if they provide worldwide coverage and assistance in the event of a medical emergency. The majority of U.S. health insurance plans do not cover you when traveling outside of the U.S., except for the U.S. territories. Consider purchasing a medical travel policy.

  10. Register your trip with the State Department.
    Enroll yourself and your family in the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program, a service of the U.S. Department of State. This is important when traveling to developing countries such as Mexico, the Bahamas or countries within Africa.

“Although not a complete list, these are simple precautions that will save you time, energy and stress while traveling abroad,” Schwoerke says. “A little peace of mind is always a good thing, especially when you’re far from home.”

For more information on staying healthy while traveling abroad, visit

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