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Summer Vacation: Tips for Traveling with CHD

Monday, May 23, 2016

By Paula Miller

Memorial Day signals the start of summer and for many of us, traveling for vacation or to visit family. We look forward to it all year long, particularly after the long cold winter some of us have had this year. 

Planning is important for anyone who travels.  It is the key to having a successful, stress less and enjoyable trip.  Sounds simple, right?   Well, not necessarily for those of us living with congenital heart disease (CHD).  So you might ask – how do I do this and maintain my peace of mind?

As the saying goes, first things first.  In my book, checking with your adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) team as soon as you know you’re going on a trip to address outstanding health issues is the number one thing to do.  This includes talking about warfarin therapy and pacer checks, among other things. You will want to ask your ACHD cardiologist for a letter to take with you that describes your CHD, extra prescriptions, and a copy of your most recent EKG.  I personally don’t leave home without two pieces from the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) – the ACHA Personal Health Passport and the ACHA Travel Directory - in my pocketbook (and that includes times when I am just running around town).  That way, I’m ready in the case of an emergency. If in doubt, ask your ACHD cardiologist for the name of a colleague in the area where you will be traveling.

Make a packing list of your medications and keep the list with you.  This should have the generic and brand name of every medication, the dose and how often you take it. You want to include not only your “regular” meds, but other meds you might need, including anything you take that is over the counter. I always take enough medicine to last the entire trip, plus I throw in extra (2-3 days) in case my flight is cancelled or I experience other delays. I also keep my medicine in a small plastic bag.  This helps keep them organized and makes it easier to find what I need when I need it.  If you are flying or taking a train, I strongly recommend that you keep your medicine in the luggage you are carrying on the flight or train with you; do not put it in a suitcase you are checking.  Even if you are driving or taking a bus, keep your medicine in the vehicle with you. Make sure you take your medications at the time you normally take them in your “home” time zone.  If you’re traveling over multiple time zones, check with your ACHD cardiologist about scheduling times to take your meds.

Taking care of yourself while on vacation will help to assure that you have a great time. Know your limitations and plan activities and excursions accordingly.  If you need to rest, take a break.  While it might be tempting to enjoy foods that are not on your diet, it’s important not to deviate from what you normally eat.  If you are on a restricted diet, follow it as closely as you can.

I’d love to know what your tips for a safe, but fun, vacation are. For more information about travel, please visit Traveling with Congenital Heart Disease on our website, www.achaheart.org. Happy summer!


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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.