Older Adults and Healthy Travel CDC recommends making sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before travel, which includes additional doses for individuals who are immunocompromised or booster doses when eligible. Follow all requirements and recommendations at each location during travel, including wearing a well-fitting mask and following recommendations for protecting yourself and others. If you are traveling internationally, check the COVID-19 Travel Health Notice for your destination and visit the International Travel webpage for requirements and recommendations.
If you are an older adult considering international travel, learn what precautions to take to stay safe and healthy during your trip.
Before you travel
Check CDC’s destination pages. Check CDC’s webpage for your destination to see what vaccines or medicines you may need and what diseases or health risks are a concern at your destination.
Make an appointment with your healthcare provider or a travel health specialist at least one month before you leave. They can help you get destination-specific vaccines, medicines, and information. Discussing health concerns as well as your itinerary and planned activities with your provider allows them to give more specific advice and recommendations.
Tell your doctor about
- Any chronic medical conditions such as hypertension and asthma.
- All destinations that you will be visiting
- The types of accommodations where you will be staying such as hotels, hostels, short term rentals, boats, camping etc.
- The purpose of your trip such as to visit friends and relatives, business, or adventure travel.
- Timing and length of your trip.
- Planned activities, such as climbing at high altitudes, scuba diving, humanitarian aid work, or taking cruises
- All medications that you are taking.
Make sure you are up-to-date on all of your routine vaccines. Routine vaccinations protect you from infectious diseases such as measles that can spread quickly in groups of unvaccinated people. Many diseases prevented by routine vaccination are not common in the United States but are still common in other countries.
Some routine vaccines for older adults include the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine, zoster or shingles vaccine, and an annual flu shot. Learn more about what routine vaccines are recommended for adults.
Take recommended medicines as directed. If your doctor prescribes medicine for you, take the medicine as directed before, during, and after travel. Counterfeit drugs are common in some countries, so only take medicine that you bring from home and make sure to pack enough for the duration of your trip, plus extra in case of travel delays. Learn more about traveling abroad with medicine.
Keep a paper or electronic record of your medical history with you during travel.
Cruise Ship Travel
Travel Topics of Interest for Older Adults
Travelers with Chronic Illnesses
CDC recommends making sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before travel, which includes additional doses for individuals who are immunocompromised or booster doses when eligible. Follow all requirements and recommendations at each location during travel, including wearing a well-fitting mask and following recommendations for protecting yourself and others. If you are traveling internationally, check the COVID-19 Travel Health Notice for your destination and visit the International Travel webpage for requirements and recommendations.
Although traveling abroad can be relaxing and rewarding, the physical demands of travel can be stressful, particularly for travelers with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, or arthritis. With a little planning and preparation, people with chronic illnesses can have safe and enjoyable trips. If you have a chronic illness and are planning an international trip, visit your health care provider or a travel medicine specialist at least a month before you leave. Some chronic illnesses and medicines, such as steroids, can weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to travel-related infections.
Before You Go
- Learn about health and safety concerns at your destination.
- Make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist or your health care provider to get needed vaccines and medicines at least a month before you leave.
- Discuss your itinerary with your health care provider to make sure you get any destination-specific vaccines and medicines, such as yellow fever vaccine or medicine to prevent malaria.
- If the travel medicine specialist prescribes any medicine for travel, make sure he or she knows what medicines you routinely take, to prevent drug interactions.
- If you plan to be gone for more than 30 days, talk to your doctor about how you can get enough medicine for your trip. Sometimes insurance companies will pay for only a 30-day supply at a time.
- Pack a travel health kit with your prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines (enough to last your whole trip, plus a little extra), first aid supplies, and your health insurance card.
- Pack all your medicines and medical supplies in your carry-on luggage. You don’t want to be without them if your suitcase gets lost!
- Medicines should be in their original prescription bottles, and you should also carry copies of your original prescriptions.
- If you need oxygen or other equipment, notify the airline well in advance. The TSA Cares Helpline (toll-free at 855-787-2227) can also provide information on how to prepare for the airport security screening process with respect to a particular disability or medical condition.
- Prepare for the unexpected.
- Find out if your health insurance covers medical care abroad—many plans don’t! Consider buying additional insurance that covers health care and emergency evacuation.
- Make sure you have a plan to get care overseas, in case you need it.
- Carry a card with information about your condition, including any drug or food allergies, written in the local language. If appropriate, wear a medical alert bracelet or other medical jewelry with this information on it.
There are three types of insurance every traveler should consider buying. These may be especially important for travelers with chronic illnesses.
- Trip cancellation insurance covers the cost of your trip if, for example, you have to reschedule or cancel because you are too sick to travel.
- Travel health insurance covers the cost of health care received in other countries. Even if you have health insurance in the United States, it might not cover you overseas.
- Medical evacuation insurance covers the cost of transportation to high-quality health care facilities, in the event of an emergency. This type of insurance is important if you will be traveling in rural or remote areas.
When selecting an insurance policy, always read the fine print, so you are sure that it covers what you need it to cover.
Cruises are popular among older adults. However, cruise ships can create an ideal situation for diseases to spread. Common diseases that spread on cruise ships include norovirus, that can cause diarrhea and vomiting, and respiratory diseases like influenza and COVID-19. To help prevent getting sick, make sure to wash your hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. Wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
If you feel sick before your voyage, reschedule your trip. If you feel sick during your voyage, report your symptoms to the ship’s medical facility and follow their recommendations.
Plan for the Unexpected
Get travel insurance. Find out if your health insurance covers medical care abroad. Travelers are usually responsible for paying hospital and other medical expenses out of pocket at most destinations. Make sure you have a plan to get care overseas, in case you need it. Consider buying additional insurance that covers health care and emergency evacuation, especially if you will be traveling to remote areas.
There are different types of travel insurance such as trip cancellation insurance, travel health insurance and medical evacuation insurance. Learn more about travel insurance.
Enroll with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment ProgramExternal Link (STEP). Check for and monitor any travel advisories for your destination. Enrolling also ensures that the US Department of StateExternal Link knows where you are if you have serious legal, medical, or financial difficulties while traveling. In the event of an emergency at home, STEP can also help friends and family contact you.
Learn basic first aid and CPR before travel. Bring a travel health kit. Learn the numbers for emergency services in the destination you are visiting.