Planning a trip abroad?

There’s always lots to plan before you go away, and having cancer means there’s just a few more things to consider to make sure you have an enjoyable and restful time away. We also realise that cancer affects each person differently, and so knowing what to expect and planning ahead can help. That's why we've compiled this handy guide to help you holiday better with cancer.

Things to consider

  • Before you go - Many people worry about coping with being away from home. Whether you’re worried about finding the physical demands of travelling too difficult, or being able to stay on-top of your medication regimen whilst away, our community have lots of tips that can help you manage these challenges.

  • During your journey - Long journeys can be tough at the best of times, but we've got a few ideas that might make the hours go by a little bit more comfortably until you get to your destination.

  • Lymphoedema and circulation - Having cancer makes you a bit more susceptible to blood clots (DVTs), because blood circulation is reduced when you are inactive, making it easier to clot. The same thing happens to your lymph flow, which is why you might also notice your lymphoedema becoming a bit worse when you travel. However, no matter your mode of transport, there are several ways to minimise these complications.  

  • Keeping cool - If you're heading somewhere hot, there are plenty of things you can do to stay cool, and comfortable. These tips could help you have a better night's sleep or a chilled-out midday siesta, helping you to recharge your batteries and enjoy your time away.

  • Staying well abroad - Traveller's tummy, insect bites and medications; they're a pain for any holidaymaker, and when you're travelling with cancer, there are a few extra things you can bear in mind to keep you well and preserve your energy for the things that really matter - relaxing on the beach, exploring a new city, or catching up with friends. 

What can you do about it?

Before you go

Before you go

Top tip: 

"If you're still on treatment but want to go on holiday then just check with your doctor or nurse when the best time to go is so you can avoid high risk periods, like when your cell counts are likely to be low." - Andrew

Tips:

  • Doctor’s letter: Ask your doctor to write you a letter explaining your type of cancer, the treatment you’ve had, and the medications you need to carry with you. Keep this with you at all times while you’re on holiday, as it will be helpful at airport security, at your accommodation, and if you need any medical treatment whilst abroad.
  • Medication: Make sure you carry spare medication in case your trip home is delayed, or in case you lose some. It’s best to carry your meds in your hand luggage to avoid any chance of losing them, but you must also carry a doctor's letter listing your meds in detail.

  • Vaccines: Its a good idea to check with your doctor regarding the country you want to travel to, and any vaccines you might need. During and after treatment your immune system is weakened, so certain vaccines may put you at higher risk of infection. Your doctor will be able to advise you. 

  • Insurance: Depending on your country of origin and the country you’re visiting, healthcare coverage can vary. Make sure you’re covered for any routine or unexpected medical treatments that might arise. 

On the move

On the move

Top tip:

"Don't forget all your pills need to be in their original packaging with the prescription stickers on them to get through customs" - Diane

Tips:

  • Special assistance: Most airlines and airports have provisions to help people who aren’t able to walk or stand for long periods of time. Contact your airport and airline at least a few days in advance of your journey, and they may be able to book you a wheelchair, an assistant to accompany you through the airport and help with your luggage, or they may allow you to board your plane early.
  • Mobility aids: If you find yourself getting tired more easily, or if your journey involves a lot of walking or standing around, a walking stick might be the perfect thing to pack. A folding design will fit easily and discreetly into your bag, or if you prefer to have a guaranteed seat even in the busiest of airports, you could go for a lightweight stick with an integrated fold-out seat. They're also great for museums, galleries or walks along the beach!

  • Comfort when sitting: Once you’re in your seat, an inflatable cushion is an ideal, compact way of relieving any pain caused by pressure from prolonged sitting. They help elevate and re-distribute your weight to avoid pressure building up in one particular point, and can easily be deflated and packed away in your bag while you're travelling.

 

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Lymphoedema and circulation

Lymphoedema and circulation

Top tip:

"When I'm on a flight I make sure I get an aisle seat so I can get up and walk around frequently to help reduce my risks of getting a blood clot in my leg veins" - Nigel

Tips:

  • Loose clothing: Dig out your comfiest travelling outfit and wear it with pride! Wearing loose-fitting clothes when travelling will help to keep your skin comfortable and regulate your body temperature.
  • Compression stockings: Ideal for long periods of sitting, these help reduce blood stasis and improve blood/lymph flow to reduce the risk of DVTs and the worsening of lymphoedema. (Note: to be most effective these need to be sized by measuring your calf diameter).

  • Swollen ankles: Many people get swollen feet and ankles on long journeys, and cancer can make this more uncomfortable. To reduce pinching and promote better fluid draining around your ankles, try wearing soft, seamless socks made from a comfortable material such as bamboo.

  • Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids helps to prevent blood and lymph fluid getting too thick. If you’re experiencing a funny taste when you drink water (a common side effect of chemo), it may help to take some of your favourite teabags or squash with you.

  • Look after your skin: When lymphoedema is flaring up, your skin is more likely to become irritated or sensitive, so it’s a good idea to keep skin clean, moisturised and avoid exposing it to heat or sun.

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Keeping Cool

Keeping Cool

Top tip: 

"My chemotherapy made my skin really sensitive to sunlight so I used to stay covered up and avoided sitting outside between 11am-3pm when the sun is at its strongest" - Leanne

Tips:

  • Cooling pillows: These foldable gel mats are fantastic for helping keep you cool at night in hot weather. You can chill them in the fridge while you’re out in the daytime, and place them on top of your pillow or on other hot spots at night for relief from hot flushes, giving you a better night’s sleep.

  • Comfortable pyjamas: Mosquitos come out at sunrise and sunset, so covering up during these periods will help protect you from bites. Wearing full length, loose-fitting pyjamas is a great way to help keep you covered up whilst staying cool and comfortable, especially if they are made from a lightweight, breathable, natural fibre such as bamboo.

  • Cooling sprays: These keep you cool whilst out and about to help you enjoy your day. They come in 100ml bottle sizes which means you can also take them on board your flight to help keep you refreshed and cool whilst flying.

  • Sun protection: Cancer can cause your skin to become more photosensitive, so it’s crucial to stay in the shade when you can and slap on the SPF 30 or higher. You may find that a suncream designed for sensitive skin works better for your skin if it's irritated or dry as a result of treatment.

  • Cover up: It's good advice for everyone visiting a sunny country, but if you've had hair loss or find yourself more affected by hot weather, it's a great excuse to invest in a sunhat, a parasol or a lightweight headscarf to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. 

 

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Staying well abroad

Staying well abroad

Top Tip:

"I got a nasty tummy bug when I was on holiday and I think it was because of the ice-lollies I used to eat from the street seller. I didn't realise that they used tap water to make them so they are best avoided" - Alice

Tips:

  • Insect repellent: As well as avoiding exposure to insects by covering up, insect repellents offer a further deterrent to insect bites. This will not only reduce infection from insect-carried bacteria and diseases, but will also reduce the risk of cellulitis and lymphangitis, as any break in the skin increases your risk of infection.

  • Eating abroad: As your immune system is likely to be weaker than usual, try to be extra careful about what you eat - now might not be the time to get adventurous about that dodgy-looking street food stall or trendy sushi restaurant! But just in case you do have any new or ongoing stomach upsets, it’s a good idea to take some anti-diarrhoea medication with you, and take care to stay extra hydrated.

  • Mouth gels: If you suffer from mouth sores or ulcers then taking a soothing mouth gel in your travel bag could help you drink and eat enough whilst you are away, meaning you stay well hydrated and energised for every day of your adventure.

  • Pill boxes: Organising your tablets can make it easier to remember when to take your medicines, even when you’re out of your usual routine. The pocket organisers are also extremely useful for keeping your doses safe and secure, ready for taking whilst you are out and about. (Note - Whilst travelling all medicines must be in their original packaging fully labelled with your details to pass through customs).

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Last but not least...

Last but not least...

  • Enjoy! - From all of us at Live Better With, we wish you a truly fantastic holiday, whatever that looks like for you. Whether it’s a long weekend in a new city, a week on the beach, or visiting friends and family further afield, we hope that with a little planning and some help along the way, you’ll get the restful, fun-filled break you’ve been looking for. 
  • If you have any of your own tips and tricks for travelling with cancer, we'd love to hear them! You can share them with us and our whole community on our Facebook or Twitter pages, or by emailing us at theteam@livebetterwith.com. 
  • Check out more of our Community Tips for going on holiday, and for lots of other aspects of living with cancer.