It is important to stay healthy during overseas travel. Older travellers may need to take extra precautions to protect their health, particularly those with pre-existing health conditions.

Pre-travel Checklist


Whatever your destination, adequate travel health insurance is essential for older travellers. Existing medical conditions, including recent surgery must be specified in advance. If you have one or more existing health conditions, remember that even with insurance, the standard of medical care is only as good as the medical facilities available.

Plan Ahead

Diabetes, urinary incontinence, chronic airway disease, and many other ongoing medical conditions shouldn’t stop you travelling abroad although they do make advance planning essential. Discuss any concerns you may have regarding the possible impact of international travel and your health condition with your travel doctor or GP.

Get Moving

Sitting in airports and cramped aircraft seats for long periods can increase the risk of potentially dangerous blood clots caused by deep vein thrombosis or DVT. Walk around regularly whenever possible and exercise your lower legs while seated. If time allows, plan stopovers on long-haul trips. 


Carry adequate supplies of all regular medication as familiar brands may not be available overseas. Carry enough extra medication for unexpected delays (See page 60). You may wish to ask your pharmacist about making up medication packs for you if you are on multiple medications.


Always carry your Travel Doctor-TMVC Personal Medical Authorisation, included on page 16 of this booklet, along with any documentation from your GP or specialist detailing your current medical status and all medications you take. On arrival, keep these documents handy as customs officials may request to see them. If you’ve had cardiac treatment in the past, also bring a copy of your most recent ECG.

Having access to a digital copy of these records is also useful in case of lost baggage. Scan copies and email these to yourself so they can be accessed later, if needed.

Oxygen Supply

Angina and chronic airways disease (emphysema) can cause breathlessness, which may be worse in aircraft cabins and at high-altitude destinations. With advance notice, most airlines can provide supplemental oxygen during your flight.

Comfortable Shoes

Advancing age is often accompanied by a reduced capacity for exercise. Poor balance and reduced stability make falls more likely and there is a greater risk of accidents in unfamiliar surroundings. Comfortable shoes for the flight and during your stay are a must.


Hearing and vision impairment can cause confusion in unfamiliar situations, particularly in busy airports with frequent loudspeaker announcements. Allow more time for transits and, if possible, plan stopovers.

Hot Tips

Hot climates can aggravate low blood pressure, particularly if you’re taking anti-hypertensive or Parkinson’s disease medications. Sunburn is also a greater risk on thin or aging skin. Pack SPF 50+ sunscreen and insect repellent.

Traveller’s Diarrhoea

Older people frequently have reduced stomach acidity, increasing the risk of traveller’s diarrhoea and gut infections. Discuss this with your Travel Doctor or GP, who can recommend appropriate medications for these and other common travel health problems.

Cruise Ship Travel

While in general, there are few health risks associated with cruise ship holidays, any travel health advice should always be provided on an individual basis taking into account the personal health of the traveller, and possible activities on shore trips.

Cruising is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry in Australia, providing options to visit many international as well as Australian ports. Ship activities can be fun and sporty if you choose, and being fit to start is helpful. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, ensure they are being optimally managed before you go. See your treating doctor for advice or a check-up.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections can spread very quickly on cruise ships. It is therefore advisable that passengers be vaccinated with the current flu vaccine.


Travellers invariably overindulge in ‘sunlust’ activities while cruising. It is important to make sure you apply sunscreen regularly.

Travel Insurance

All cruise-ship passengers should have travel insurance in case a significant medical event occurs during the cruise, which may require intensive treatment and possibly a medical evacuation.

Food and Water Borne Diseases

Food hygiene aboard ships is usually first class. When ashore, the primary method of protection against food and water-borne diseases in less-developed countries should be through following the rules of eating and drinking safely overseas (using bottled water, avoiding shellfish and uncooked foods). Pay attention to hygiene and use an anti-bacterial cleanser such as Aqium hand gel.

Sea Sickness

There are a number of behavioural measures that can sometimes be adopted to prevent this:

  • Minimise exposure through location in the middle of the vessel where there is least movement, & adopt a horizontal or semi-recumbent position
  • Minimise head and body movements
  • Restrict visual activity by fixing vision on the horizon or some other external stable object – avoid fixation on a moving object, avoid reading and close the eyes
  • Ensure good ventilation
  • Engage in distracting behaviour
  • Avoid large meals, but have frequent small amounts of food.

There are also a number of agents which can be useful in preventing sea-sickness. Anti-histamines have been shown to be effective, but the non-sedating varieties will not work as they do not cross the blood-brain barrier.

Travellers’ Diarrhoea

Diarrhoeal illness usually occurs after having eaten contaminated food while ashore. A variety of germs and viral diseases that cause diarrhoea can spread rapidly in environments such as cruise ships. We highly recommend taking a ‘Gastro Kit’ containing appropriate therapy to avoid losing too much holiday time. Gastro Kits contain prescription based medication so a can only be prescribed with a Doctors consultation.