Planning for your trip checklist
There can be lots to think about when travelling with cancer. This information and our checklists can help you prepare for your trip.
Before you travel, it is worth getting advice from a health professional about:
- whether it is safe for you to travel
- suitable destinations
- any issues because of the type of cancer you have, your treatment or side effects
- vaccinations to protect you from infections in some parts of the world
- arranging medical supplies – for example, if you use oxygen
- taking medicines abroad
- what to do if you have any problems while you are away.
Ask your cancer doctor or specialist nurse for advice. Or talk to your GP, practice nurse or a travel health professional about your plans.
You may find it helpful to print a copy of our planning and packing checklist.
It is helpful to take information about your health with you when you are travelling. You can show this to healthcare providers if you become ill while you are away. You may find it helpful to take photocopies of any important documents or scan them onto your phone or laptop.
You can ask your GP or cancer doctor for a letter that explains your diagnosis and treatment. Or if you get copies of your hospital letters, you could take those. They often contain a summary of your diagnosis and treatment.
You should also ask your GP or cancer doctor if you need any of the following:
- a doctor’s letter confirming you are fit to travel for travel insurance
- a fit-to-fly certificate
- a doctor’s letter explaining if you need to take certain types of medicines abroad.
Your GP may charge a fee for some types of letters and certificates. They should tell you what the fee is before they do the work.
If you are travelling abroad, you can look up translations of key phrases about your health and treatment. For example, you may want to know the name of the cancer or a type of treatment.
It is not always easy to be certain that the translation of medical terms is correct. You can try using a foreign language dictionary, a translation app or the free online translation service at translate.google.com
You may find it helpful to use our planning and packing checklist as you organise your trip. This includes a form you can print and use to record useful details that you may want to take with you.
The planning and packing checklist is also available in our booklet Travel and cancer. It is quick, easy and free to order a copy. Sign up to create your free be.Macmillan account. Log into your account and choose the booklets you want to order. Complete your order and we will send your items in the post.
- Have you spoken to your cancer team, GP, practice nurse or a travel health professional about whether you are fit to travel?
- Do you need a companion or helper to travel with you?
- Have you told your travel company and accommodation about your needs? This may include your travel agent, airlines, ferry company or tour operator.
- Is there extra support you can arrange during travel, such as at the airport or train station?
- Do you have a Global or European Health Insurance Card (GHIC or EHIC) to take with you?
- Have you found suitable travel insurance and packed your travel insurance policy?
- Do you need to take a doctor’s letter, travel certificate or proof of vaccination?
- If you are going abroad, have you checked the latest travel advice on gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice?
- Have you packed suncream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, a wide-brimmed hat, and suitable clothes and glasses to cover up in the sun
- Do you need any vaccinations for the country you are visiting? Speak to your GP, practice nurse or private travel health clinic at least 8 weeks before travelling if you can.
- Do you need a letter from your doctor to take your medicines abroad?
- If you are carrying enough medicines to last 3 months or more, do you need a personal medicines licence?
- Have you got enough medicines to last your whole trip? You may need extra supplies as well.
- If you are travelling to different time zones, have you spoken to a health professional about taking your medicines at the right time?
- Do you need to take anti-malarial tablets?
- Do you need to take any medical equipment such as stoma supplies or arrange oxygen supplies on holiday?
- Have you packed important medical supplies or products? These could include:
- compression stockings to prevent blood clots
- face masks and alcohol hand gel
- a cool bag if you are travelling with medicines that need to be kept cool
- insect repellent containing up to 50% DEET (diethyl-m-toluamide)
- antiseptic cream, in case you get a cut, scratch or graze
- anti-diarrhoea medicines and rehydration sachets.
It is helpful to tell travel companies in advance about any needs you have that could affect your travel. This includes travel agents, airlines, ferry companies and tour operators.
You could tell them about:
- any problems you have moving around
- whether you need a wheelchair
- equipment or medications you need to take with you
- whether you are likely to need oxygen during the trip due to breathing difficulties
- help or support you may need at different times during your trip
- whether you are travelling with a companion
- whether it would be helpful to sit in an aisle seat – for example, if you have bowel or bladder problems
- your dietary needs.
Try to tell them as much as possible about how cancer affects you personally. This will help them understand what support you may need at different times during your trip.
You might find these tools helpful:
- The Association of British Travel Agents checklist for travellers who are disabled or less mobile.
- The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) factsheet about travelling with additional needs or a disability.
Most travel companies have a medical officer who can help you decide whether it is safe and practical for you to travel. You can contact them before you go on holiday and ask for help to plan your journey. They can usually also be contacted during your trip.
In some cases, companies may ask questions about your condition to check if you are fit to travel. You may be asked to complete a medical information form (MEDIF) or get a letter from your doctor.
It is a good idea to check with railway companies in advance whether specific train lines and stations are suitable for your needs. Many trains in the UK and abroad are wheelchair accessible. You can ask about:
- train compartments for people who use a wheelchair
- lifts or ramps to access the train
- help from trained staff with getting on and off the train
- toilets suitable for travellers who are disabled.
In other countries, contact the railway company to ask what help is available during your journey. You can also check the information on the railway company’s website. There is a list of European railway company websites at eurail.com
In England, Scotland and Wales, a Disabled Persons Railcard gives people who are disabled or have a progressive medical condition cheaper rail fares. If you are travelling with another adult, they also get the discount.
In Northern Ireland, for information about fares for travellers who are disabled, visit nidirect.gov.uk
If you are disabled or have problems moving around and are travelling by ship from the UK or Europe, you have a legal right to free help. Tell the carrier, travel agent or tour operator when you book, or at least 48 hours before you travel, if you need:
- help getting on and off the ship
- special accommodation
- special seating
- to bring any medical equipment with you.
The facilities available on ships can vary. Most modern cruise ships have disabled-access cabins. But places may be limited and it is a good idea to book early.
There may be restrictions on taking some medical equipment, such as oxygen cylinders or large mobility aids. This is more likely to be the case if the ship is small and space is limited. Speak to the company before you book the trip to find out more.
Always tell a cruise line or ferry service if you need to travel with a carer. Your carer may be able to travel for free.
If you are worried about sea sickness, ask your GP, cancer doctor or specialist nurse for advice. If you have anti-sickness medicines as part of your cancer treatment, these may help. But check with your doctor first.
Parking and driving
In the UK, the Blue Badge scheme generally allows you to park for free in restricted areas if you have severe mobility problems. The Blue Badge is also recognised across Europe, but the rules differ between countries. It is important to check in advance where, when and for how long you can park with your Blue Badge.
You can find more information about driving in specific countries on the following websites:
The International Automobile Federation has a guide for travellers who are disabled. You can use their website to find out more about driving and parking in different countries. You can also download and print a Parking Card, which explains in the local language that you are disabled. You can leave this next to your Blue Badge when you park.
The sunflower lanyard scheme aims to help people with non-visible disabilities get support in public places. People with a hidden, or not so obvious, medical condition or disability may choose to wear a green lanyard, wristband or badge with a sunflower design. This shows they have a hidden condition and may need extra support.
Sunflower lanyards are not recognised everywhere. But many UK organisations, shops and travel companies now understand what the lanyard means. You may find it helpful if you need extra support while you are travelling in the UK.
Some organisations provide sunflower lanyards for free. Or you can buy them from hiddendisabilitiesstore.com
Planning a trip can be exciting but it may also feel overwhelming. You may have lots to think about or questions you want to ask. Macmillan is here to support you. If you would like to talk, you can:
Below is a sample of the sources used in our travel and cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
GOV.UK. Guidance: Disability and travel abroad. Updated June 2019. Available from www.gov.uk/government/publications/disabled-travellers/disability-and-travel-abroad [accessed January 2023].
GOV.UK. The Green Book: Immunisation against infectious disease. Updated November 2020. Available from www.gov.uk/government/collections/immunisation-against-infectious-disease-the-green-book [accessed January 2023].
National Travel Health Network and Centre. Travel Health Pro. Available from travelhealthpro.org.uk [accessed January 2023].
Travel and International Health Team, Public Health Scotland. Fit for Travel. Available from fitfortravel.nhs.uk [accessed January 2023].
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been approved by members of Macmillan’s Centre of Clinical Expertise.
Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.
The language we use
We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.
We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:
- use plain English
- explain medical words
- use short sentences
- use illustrations to explain text
- structure the information clearly
- make sure important points are clear.
We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.
You can read more about how we produce our information here.
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