Travelling and holidays with cancer – tips and advice
Just because you have cancer it does not mean you cannot go on holiday or travel. Whether it is going on a long-planned trip, or a last-minute booking, a holiday can provide a much-needed escape. But there are some things you need to think about when planning a trip.
Can you go on holiday if you have cancer?
Yes – if your doctor says you are well enough to travel you should be able to go on holiday if you have cancer.
Avoid booking trips which clash with any treatments. You should also check what travel insurance you can get. If you are travelling abroad, think about how you would access medical care while you are away.
More advice on getting travel insurance with cancer is available here.
Travelling in the UK with cancer
It may be easier to travel in the UK while you are having cancer treatment.
Think about the best ways to travel, what type of accommodation is going to work for you and how you might manage your symptoms.
One of the first things you’ll need to think about if you want to travel in the UK is transport. You may not be well enough to drive yourself. You may worry about being on crowded public transport because of the risk of infection.
Work out what is best for you. You can talk to your care team if you are unsure about things like your current risk from infection.
If you choose to travel by train, you can book help at any station in the UK through the Passenger Assist scheme.
Care while you’re away
Make sure you have enough medication and equipment for the whole time you are away, plus any delays.
You can go to the nearest hospital if you need care while on holiday. You can also register with a local GP as a temporary resident if your trip is longer than 24 hours.
Take a doctor’s letter with you that includes your medical details, a list of your medication and contact details for your cancer team.
Travelling abroad with cancer
Most people with cancer can travel abroad. You might want to visit family or get a much-needed change of scene. But you do need to think about the cost of healthcare and travel insurance.
You may not be able to fly if you have had certain treatments. Talk to your care team if you are thinking of going abroad.
Can a cancer patient travel by air?
You might be told not to fly during or shortly after your cancer treatment. This can be because you:
- Have had surgery recently
- Have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last year
- Have low red blood cells or platelets
- Get breathless after light exercise
If you can fly, there are some things you can do to make your trip easier:
- Get a fitness to fly certificate from your doctor
- Tell the airline about any help you might need at least 48 hours before you fly
- Get a letter from your doctor if you need to take medical equipment through security
If you are travelling in Europe the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) gives you access to state healthcare at reduced cost, or sometimes for free. If you have an old European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) it is valid until the expiry date.
The UK also has agreements with some countries outside the EU for cheaper healthcare. You can view a list of these here.
Always get travel insurance to make sure you can get the healthcare you need. You might find it harder to get insurance if you are travelling to a country with very high healthcare costs like the US.
You can go on a cruise if you have cancer. But insurance for this type of trip can be very expensive. This is because medical care onboard can be pricy. You also need to be covered for anywhere the ship might stop. This includes unscheduled stops.
Let the cruise line know about any help you might need when you book.
If you are travelling abroad, you may need vaccinations. These reduce your risk of getting certain infections.
You cannot have some vaccinations if you have had certain types of cancer or treatment. This means you might not be able to travel to some countries.
You may also need to have vaccines more than 8 weeks before you travel. Talk to your GP as soon as you can.
Having terminal cancer does not mean you cannot travel but you will need to speak to your care team about how to do it safely. Ask about anything you should avoid and what you should take with you. If you are no longer having treatment your risk of infection might be lower.
You might find travelling makes you more tired than usual so think about things you can do to make your trip easier. For example, can you ask for a wheelchair and early boarding at the airport?
Make sure you get a travel insurance policy which covers terminal cancer.
Travelling and chemotherapy
Having chemotherapy does not mean you cannot go on holiday. But you might need to make changes to how you travel or what you do.
Chemotherapy can increase your risk of infection which means you might be advised to avoid crowded places like planes. You might also be having side effects which would make travelling uncomfortable.
Talk to your care team if you are thinking of taking a trip.
Can you travel in between chemo appointments?
You might be able to travel in between courses of your chemotherapy treatment if you are well enough. Talk to your cancer specialists about this. They can offer advice on whether it is safe and how to reduce your risk.
They might also be able to help with practical things like what medical supplies you will need and diet.
How soon after chemotherapy can you travel?
How soon you can travel will depend on your treatment and how you are coping with the side effects. Most people have a lower risk of infection a few weeks after finishing treatment.
Some chemotherapy drugs can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. This can last for several years so think about how you will stay safe in the sun.
Cancer respite holidays
A family holiday can be a welcome break from hospital wards and appointments. It can be a chance to recharge and make new memories.
Lots of charities offer respite holidays for families. There are also lots of options – from holiday parks to secluded cabins to protect your child from infection risks. Below are some of the charities offering respite holidays:
The Youth Cancer Trust also offers free adventure holidays for young people aged 14 to 30 who have been affected by cancer.
Post cancer holiday ideas
A holiday can be a great way to celebrate being given the all-clear. You might like the idea of a sandy beach, a relaxing spa break or an adventure-filled holiday.
Some treatments can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so you might want to opt for a city break somewhere cooler instead of a beach holiday. Your body might have changed so think about whether you will feel comfortable wearing things like swimming costumes.
This is your holiday so plan what works for you now.
You also need to make sure you tell your travel insurance company about your cancer treatment even though you have been given the all clear.
When not to go on holiday
You can normally go on holiday even if you have cancer. You might just need to make some changes like staying in the UK rather than flying.
But there are times when it is best not to travel. If you are in the middle of treatment or need regular check-ups you may need to stay close to your care team. Some treatments can also increase your risk of picking up infections. This means you should avoid crowded places, including public transport and hotels.
Talk to your care team about when it is safe for you to travel.
Having to cancel a holiday due to a cancer diagnosis
If you have been diagnosed with cancer you might need to postpone or cancel any holidays you already have booked.
If you have travel insurance, you might be able to get some or all of your money back. Check the terms and conditions of your holiday booking and insurance policy as soon as you can.
Who to talk to
If you need to cancel or postpone your holiday, talk to the travel company, hotel, or airline as soon as you can. You should also talk to your insurance company to check if you have cancellation cover.
Some airlines and holiday companies will allow you to postpone your holiday for a fee.
Make sure you get travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday. This will help you get your money back if you need to cancel your trip. It can also help cover any medical expenses.
If you are diagnosed with cancer after taking out your policy, tell your insurance company as soon as you can.
Find out more about travel insurance with cancer here.
How we can support you
Our website is packed with advice, including tips on planning a family holiday when your child has cancer.
You can also speak to one of our social workers about holidays for families affected by cancer.
For wider support, contact our social care team via the Live Chat button, 0300 303 5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.