Before you travel

From organising travel insurance and vaccinations to preventing DVT and jet lag, here's what to think about before you travel.

Travel kit checklist

  • antiseptic
  • sunscreen
  • after sun lotion
  • insect repellent
  • condoms
  • antihistamines
  • anti-diarrhoea pills
  • rehydration sachets
  • first aid kit

For more on what to pack to stay safe and healthy abroad, go to Travel health essentials.

Travelling abroad is exciting, but with so many things to see and do when you get there, the basics of health and safety are often neglected.

Every year, people living in the UK go on more than
60 million trips abroad. Most have a safe trip, but some people get ill or have an accident and need medical treatment while they’re away. 

Travel vaccinations

Start preparing for your trip four to six weeks before you go.

Read the latest health advice for the country you're travelling using NATHNAC's interactive world map, and check the travel safety updates with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

You may need travel vaccines or, if diseases such as malaria are a risk, you may need to start protecting yourself well in advance.

Prepare a kit of travel health essentials, including sunscreen, painkillers, antiseptic, insect repellent and anti-diarrhoea pills. These will be useful wherever you’re going.

Sexual health experts advise taking condoms with you to avoid the risk of buying fake, and potentially unsafe, brands when you get there.

“Make sure your vaccinations are up to date and check whether you need any extra travel vaccines depending on your itinerary,” says Lynda Bramham, senior nurse advisor for Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA). 

Sun protection

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK, and it’s a growing problem. Each year, around 2,600 people die from skin cancer. 

Skin cancers are caused by damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Protecting the skin from the sun can help prevent these cancers.

Whether you're on holiday or at home, you can protect yourself by following Cancer Research UK's SunSmart messages:

  • Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm.
  • Make sure you never burn.
  • Aim to cover up with a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses.
  • Remember to take extra care with children.
  • Then use factor 15 or more sunscreen.

Report any changes to moles or any unusual skin growths to your GP.

Always take special care of children’s skin. The best way to do this is to cover them up and keep them in the shade. For more information, read the Sun safety Q&A.

Travel insurance

Whether you’re off on a six-month trek to the Himalayas or a family holiday in Spain, it's vital to have the right travel insurance.

Make sure your policy covers your destination and the duration of your stay, as well as any specific activities you might do. For example, don’t assume your winter sports policy will cover off-piste skiing.

When travelling in Europe, make sure you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This will entitle you to free or reduced-cost medical care. However, the EHIC won’t cover you for everything that travel insurance can, such as emergency travel back to the UK.

DVT and jet lag

If you think you may be at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), seek advice from your GP.

On long-haul flights, get up from your seat to walk around and stretch your legs whenever you can. Drink regularly but avoid alcohol. Wear loose, comfortable clothes. There is evidence to suggest that compression stockings are effective in reducing the risk of developing DVT.

To get over jet lag quickly, adjust to your destination as soon as possible. “Set your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you board the plane and try to eat and sleep according to appropriate times in your destination,” says GP Dr Dawn Harper.

Page last reviewed: 18/07/2014

Next review due: 18/07/2016

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Comments

The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

elenora123 said on 29 December 2009

Well… I visit your website first time and found this site very useful and interesting! Well… you guys doing nice work and I just want to say that keep rocking and keep it up!!!!
Elenora

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Caspar said on 14 April 2009

For information on what immunisations you need in each country have a look at http://www.nathnac.org/travel/index.htm

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User97233 said on 08 January 2009

My friend went to France and her daugher was ill, I had to pay £49 to see a Dr and now she can't claim it back according to the NHS trust in our area. IShe has to claim on her travel insurance but the excess is £50, whereas when people come from France to the UK they get free treatment, how is that fair?

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retsil said on 03 June 2008

www.masta.org might be able to help if you have left it too late to get vaccinated at your local GP.

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hopeful traveller said on 02 June 2008

Neither does it tell you where to get vaccinated. The GP surgeries give appointments, but can't fit you in for weeks, so if you need a series of injections, you can't fit them in.
Can anyone on this website offer any useful advice?

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Anonymous said on 26 May 2008

So where do I find information about vaccinations required for travel to a specific country?

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Travel health advice by country

Link to Nathnac website

 

Travel health infomation for each country of the world

Travel health

Advice for people travelling abroad, including malaria, travel vaccinations, EHIC, travel insurance, DVT and jet lag

Going abroad?

If you're travelling to an EEA country, make sure you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Travel insurance

Having both travel insurance and a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will save you a lot of money in case of an emergency

Don’t forget your passport

You can renew your passport up to nine months before it expires – check now

Travel in pregnancy

How to travel safely and comfortably, and when you might need a doctor's note