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Planning for travel? What to do before the trip

Part of successful aging is to continue doing what you enjoy as long as your health status allows. Travelling may be something on your mind.

Planning carefully is essential for all travelers to ensure their health and safety while abroad. However, there are few extra pointers for older people who travel.

General Suggestions:

  • Many tour operators provide specialise travelling itinerary accommodating the needs of travelling elderly. Consult with several travel agents and find the one that suits you the most.
  • Research on the medical facilities in the localities of where you will be visiting.
  • Get a travel insurance that cover for pre-existing illness – if necessary.
  • Package tour organised by travel agents may be more suitable to self-planned trip.
  • Find out about valuable information on the climate, culture and language of the place of visit.
  • If the trip was planned earlier, getting yourself physically fit with regular exercise may be useful.

Medical check-ups before the trip

Having stable chronic medical conditions should not deter you from enjoying travel.

Make sure:

  • Consult your doctor for a full medical check-up. The types of check will depend on your underlying medical conditions. For example, after a heart attack, the doctor must make sure that there are no more unstable heart vessels or heart muscles before allowing you to travel safely.
  • Some medical conditions or medications may be affected by dietary consumption. Discuss with your doctors or dieticians before the trip. For example, people with heart failure may have worsening of symptoms if there is an increase of salt intake. People who are on a blood-thinner called warfarin would have to maintain a stable intake of foods that affects vitamin K metabolism.
  • If you are a diabetic , travelling far may require you to stagger your medications to fit the different time zone. Having a self-glucose monitor may help. Knowing your medications well and how they work also helps (some medications are sensitive to meal times while others are not).
  • Starting new medications just before a trip may not be advisable in case you develop intolerance to the new medications. Let your doctor know when you plan to travel.
  • Vaccinations are important if you are travelling to places which put you at higher risk for certain infections. For example, meningococcal vaccination is recommended for people doing their pilgrimage in Mecca (hyperlink to vaccination in elderly).
  • Visit your dentist for a check.
  • If you are also having regular consults with other health providers, such as optometrist, visiting them before your travel may be advised.

Regular medications for elderly

  • Medications that are legal in Malaysia may be not allowed overseas. Consult the Malaysian embassies in the place you intend to visit before the trip.
  • It is advisable to take enough regular medication to last you the entire trip. The medications may not be available overseas. Consult your doctor and pharmacist for help.
  • Obtain an official letter with signature stating the prescribed medications that you are taking with you from your doctor.
  • Ask your doctor to add medications bought over-the-counter to the list of prescribed medications.
  • Medications bought overseas may differ in the brands that your body may be familiar with. Some medications do respond differently from 1 brand to another, even though the chemical inside the medications is the same. For example, the thyroid replacement medications.
  • If you need syringes or needles to administer your medications regularly (such as insulin for diabetes), ensure you take enough syringes or needles to last the trip.
  • For some medical conditions, having a medical alert bracelet or pendant (containing your medical information needed during emergency) may help. Ask your doctor if you need one. It would also depend on the language of the countries you plan to visit.

Your luggage

  • Pack simple. Take only the things you need. Do not buy too many things that will increase the weight of your luggage if you have no other means of carrying them back home.
  • Pack everything you need during the travelling on a bus or airplane in the carry-on bag. Don’t insert any important items in the check-in luggage. For example, your regular medications.
  • Having some medications like painkillers, antacids and anti-motion sickness medications in your carry-on bag should be useful.
  • When you are abroad, you will not be doing your routines. You are more likely to forget to take your medication. Therefore, having a pillbox pre-pack with medications to be taken for consequent days of the week may help.
  • If you need glasses, make sure you have a spare.
  • Suitcase with wheels helps you to move easier.

Who can help you to plan your trip better?

  • Your doctor
  • Travel agent
  • Airline
  • Malaysian embassies


Better Health Channel. 2012. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Travel_tips_for_seniors (accessed 25 April 2013)

Last Review : 28 August 2020
Writer : Dr. Cheah Wee Kooi
Reviewer : Dr. Ho Bee Kiau