Going on holiday

Practical issues when going on holiday

Read about travel insurance, medication, oxygen therapy and other practical advice for travelling with a lung condition.

Insurance

You should arrange full travel insurance for yourself before going on holiday abroad. If you are travelling with a friend or family member, check they are fully covered too.

By taking out travel insurance you can avoid huge medical bills if you are taken ill or if you have an emergency during your trip. Look into the cost of this well in advance as you may find it’s too expensive or you may need to find a specialist provider.

Make sure your insurance policy covers all of your medical conditions. If you don’t declare relevant medical information to your insurance firm, your policy may not be valid, leaving you facing a huge medical bill if you are taken ill while on holiday. The price of an emergency air ambulance from the US east coast could cost up to £45,000 for example.

When you’re travelling, keep your travel insurance documents in a safe place, such as your hand luggage. On reaching your accommodation, put them in a secure place like the hotel safe.

Contact our helpline on 03000 030 555 for advice on where to find suitable travel insurance.

EHIC

The European Health Insurance card (EHIC) entitles you to reduced cost - sometimes free - medical treatment if you fall ill when travelling in the European Union. Keep it with you at all times.

With your EHIC, you should be able to get the same treatment as a resident of the country you're visiting. In some countries you may have to pay a patient contribution, also known as a co-payment. Since 1 July 2014, you can no longer be reimbursed for co-payments once you go back to the UK.

The EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. So you should take out full travel insurance before travelling outside the UK. Some insurers now insist that you hold an EHIC, and many will waive the excess if you have one.

You can apply for the EHIC free of charge online. Beware of other websites which may charge if you apply through them.

You can also apply by post by downloading a form, or by phoning 0300 330 1350. 

The European Commission has produced a new app that is a portable guide on how to use the EHIC.

Medication

Give yourself plenty of time to organise medication for the duration of your trip. You may need to ask for extra to cover potential delays or emergencies.

If you have a rescue pack, take this away with you too.

If you take prescription medication, you should discuss your trip with your GP or practice nurse at least two months before you plan to travel. Your GP may write you a repeat prescription if your medication is due to end during your holiday. For extended trips, a maximum three months’ supply can be prescribed if you have a stable long-term condition. Discuss with your GP whether you need emergency antibiotics.

Take a list of your medication and doses with you, and remember to carry your medication in your hand luggage when you are travelling. A doctor’s letter is required if you take liquid medicines exceeding 100 millilitres into an aircraft’s cabin.

If you’re travelling outside the EU, check with your GP whether your medication can be obtained at your destination and whether there are any restrictions on your medication in your destination country. Alternatively, contact the British Embassy in the country you are visiting for further information. You can find details on the British Embassy website or by calling 0845 850 2829.

You will need a letter from your doctor confirming that you need the medication, and you should also keep a list of all the medication you take in case you need to get more during your stay. List the proper names - not just the brand names - and keep all medication in its original packaging. You should also keep a written record with you of any other medical condition you have.

If you are given medication abroad, check whether it can be brought back into the UK. If you are in any doubt, declare the medication at customs.

Holidaying with oxygen

In the UK

Oxygen for travel in the UK is supplied by the NHS. If you rely on oxygen, you can arrange oxygen for travelling within the UK to be provided by the NHS through your oxygen provider. You will need to let your usual oxygen provider know the details of your holiday, including the dates you are going and returning, and where you will be staying. They will arrange everything for you.

You should aim to give as much notice of your needs as you can - if possible, six weeks.  This is most important during busy times like Easter as last minute arrangements can be difficult. However, two weeks’ notice is often enough at less busy times of year. Oxygen suppliers in the UK will only provide oxygen for travel and stays within the UK.

You should ensure that the owner of the accommodation where you plan to stay is happy to have oxygen equipment and cylinders there, and get their permission to store it.

“We arrived at our holiday destination in Cornwall to find that I was fully kitted out to attack those steep hills that surround Polperro bay. With this lot I was ready for just about anything Cornwall could throw at me and I wasn't alone. I met another oxygen breather while walking around the harbour and we had a bit of a chat as you do.” Anthony

If you are planning to travel by plane, it is important to check your airline’s oxygen policy. The European Lung Foundation has details of the oxygen policies of over 100 airlines.

Peter plans carefully

Despite living in Torbay, Peter, 77, is always looking to get away. He relies on oxygen therapy 24/7 for his IPF but he is always planning his next trip.

“You’ve got to remain positive and find ways round things,” Peter says. He’s just back from four weeks in New Zealand and has a trip planned next winter to travel through southern Africa, including visiting Victoria Falls. He’s also explored the arctic, seeing polar bears on the ice; cruised through the Panama canal during a trip to Costa Rica, and travelled through Latin America.

“I always have something to look forward to,” says Peter. Most immediately, it’s a trip down the Rhine to enjoy the wine and the music.

Peter advises careful planning. He takes a battery-powered scooter with him, as he can’t walk too far, and has several pieces of equipment to ensure a constant oxygen supply. His tips are to keep all your batteries charged in case of hold ups and to always choose a seat on a plane with access to a plug. Keep a full set of plug adapters with you too.

He says flights take the most thought. “There’s no standard procedure across airlines”, he says, “so watch out for code-sharing on a long haul fight.” On his way to Australia, his airline changed at Dubai. Peter ended up talking to the pilot to be allowed on the flight after other airport staff were less helpful, despite Peter having a complete set of paperwork.

Abroad

If you need oxygen for use throughout your holiday, you will need to make arrangements for the oxygen to be provided at your destination before you travel. Your home supplier will not be able to provide oxygen for you if you are travelling overseas.

If you are holidaying in Europe, oxygen can be arranged through the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme. You will need a valid EHIC, and you will have to use the authorised oxygen company for the country you are travelling to. For more details, visit the NHS website. Our helpline on 03000 030 555 can also help.

“I went on a great holiday in Alcudia, Majorca. I was able to organise wheelchair assistance at both airports, oxygen on the flight, liquid oxygen delivered to and collected from my hotel through the EHIC system, and hire a wheelchair, which was delivered and collected from my hotel. Even though we have serious illness some things are still possible.” Brian

If you are travelling outside Europe, you will need to contact an oxygen company that supplies the country you will be visiting. To find an oxygen provider you could ask your UK supplier or contact the British consulate in the country you are travelling to. Details are available on the GOV UK website or call 0845 850 2829. Our helpline on 03000 030 555 can also help you.

Some travellers have found that hiring a portable oxygen concentrator in the UK to take abroad is an alternative to arranging oxygen supplies for the majority of their holiday.

You may still need to consider arranging a back-up supply of oxygen for emergencies. If you are travelling by plane, you should bear in mind that airlines have different policies for using and carrying oxygen and medical devices such as POCs on board. Always check with the airline you are travelling with before you book.

Contact our helpline on 03000 030 555 for advice on where to find companies that may be able to provide oxygen for your holiday. There are also tips in our information on oxygen therapy available online or from our shop.

What if I get a chest infection or fall ill abroad?

  • Any chest infection should be completely treated before you fly home. You should have medical approval before flying home.
  • Check what your medical insurance covers.

Preparation

Preparation is the key. Plan your trip in advance, think through everything you need, ask as many questions as you can of as many people as possible, then decide what is best for you.

Always tell a friend or relative where you are and when you expect to return.

It’s useful to make a list before you travel and check it off as you go. You can download and print our holiday checklist to help you.

Our web community is a very useful source of information about other people’s experiences.

Next: View our holiday checklist >

Download our holidays PDF (399KB)

Last medically reviewed: March 2015. Due for review: March 2018

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.