What’s in your suitcase?

View from airplaneAs a PKD patient and transplant recipient, going on trips takes extra organization. I joke that half my suitcase is filled with medical items such as my blood pressure cuff, thermometer, medical journal, ice packs, snacks, first-aid supplies, and medicine. As the year winds down and traveling picks up, now is the time we start to think about germs more than usual. In order to have healthy, safe travels, I’ve put together a few tips and tricks that work for me when I take a trip. I hope they help you, too!

Pre-travel planning

  • Before you book your trip: Tell your nephrologist of your destination and make sure it is safe for you to go there. Ask if there are any special precautions for the country/area you’re visiting. Check if there are any particular vaccines you need or precautionary antibiotics prior to travel. Also, ask if you can take medicine to help with broad-spectrum infections, stomach issues, etc. should a health issue arise during your travels.
  • Packing meds6-8 weeks out: Take inventory of your medicine and medical supplies to determine if it is time to re-order anything. This will ensure you have a large enough supply for your trip and when you return.
  • 3-4 weeks out: Research where the closest emergency room, transplant hospital and/or dialysis center is located at your destination. This way you will be prepared should an emergency arise.
  • 1-2 weeks out: Check ahead to find restaurants that will accommodate dietary restrictions. This is especially helpful for dialysis patients.
  • The week of: Pack your bags! Here is a handy list to use while you pack so you don’t forget any of the necessary travel items.


Five tips for travel

  1. Keep your medical information on hand – literally! If you have one, wear a medical identification band. Also, always carry a spreadsheet of your medical history and all of the medicine you take, when you take it and the dosage.
  1. When traveling to a place in a different time zone, find what med schedule works best for you. If you’re there for a long time, you can slowly adjust your med schedule by one hour per day until you match your normal med schedule. If you are only traveling for a short time, stay on your normal time zone med schedule by being conscientious of what time that is at your destination. You might want to keep a special watch that stays on your home time zone so you never get confused and take your meds at the wrong time.
  1. In airport with maskBe extra cautious of germs. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer often. Also, try not to touch your face, as this spreads germs. Hips and elbows come in handy when opening doors and touching surfaces!
  1. Drink only bottled water. Read more about this in the next section.
  1. Give yourself a break and include downtime in your schedule. Rest is an important factor in staying healthy and is especially important when you are traveling and not in your own bed.

Things to keep in mind for international travel

Clean water can be an issue in some places. In certain countries, do not drink the water at all. This includes teeth brushing, opening your mouth in the shower, ice in drinks, and ensuring bottled water is filtered in an original sealed container, not a reused bottle.

When it comes to food, don’t eat at street vendors or night markets. Don’t eat fresh fruits and veggies that don’t have a thick peel. Pay attention to dairy products in countries that don’t always pasteurize. Read the label and avoid non-pasteurized products. Be careful about eggs being undercooked (a good rule of thumb anyway) as they could carry Salmonella.


This may seem overwhelming but after some time it will become second nature. Being prepared and organized will give you the confidence to have enjoyable travels with minimal health hiccups. I hope these tips will help you prepare for future trips and enjoy your adventures yet to come.

What tips have you learned while traveling?


  1. Barbara Seidman

    If you need to weigh yourself upon arising, many hotels will deliver a scale to your room.

    • Valen Keefer

      Thanks for this tip Barbara!

  2. Lana Stuhr

    Really great information Valen! You can never be over prepared, better safe than sorry!
    I use a lot of disinfecting wipes on the plane, and give one to the person sitting next to me too! I also wipe down my hotel room, light switches, handles and remote control. And don’t forget to wipe down the rental car! 🙂

    • Valen Keefer

      Great travel tips Lana! Thank you so much for sharing, very helpful! Happy and healthy travels! 🙂


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