Traveling With Chronic Kidney Disease

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2023

Travel can be a good way to relax, see friends and family, and learn new things. As more people develop chronic kidney disease (CKD), so do the number of people who want to travel while managing CKD.1

Traveling in the early stages of kidney disease can be managed fairly easily. You just need to stay hydrated, stick to a kidney-friendly diet, and continue to exercise. But traveling with more severe CKD or kidney failure requires more planning.2

Traveling at any stage of CKD

Here are a few tips for healthy travel at any stage of chronic kidney disease:1,2

  • Pack your own snacks and meals.
  • Research your dining options ahead of time.
  • Educate yourself on which foods are high in salt, potassium, and phosphorus so you can avoid them.
  • Drink enough fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Order kidney-friendly meals if flying on a flight with meal service.
  • Book your stay in a hotel with a gym or pool, and bring clothes/shoes, so you can stick to your exercise routine.
  • Create a routine at your destination that helps you remember to take your medicines as prescribed.
  • Bring a sleep aid such as melatonin to help you cope with jet lag and other sleep issues common when changing time zones.
  • Monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar closely.

You may also consider going to a camp for people who are on dialysis or waiting on the transplant list. Your kidney care team can help you find one.2

Managing complications of travel with CKD

People with CKD are more vulnerable to infections, especially at later stages. So, infection control while traveling is important. Steps to help avoid infections include:1,3

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Wear a mask in crowds or cramped rooms.
  • Stay up to date on your vaccinations.
  • Use insect repellent in places with a lot of bugs.
  • Avoid cooked foods that have been allowed to cool.
  • Drink bottled water.

If you develop a stomach bug or fever during or after your trip, call your doctor right away. Infections sometimes take a serious turn in people with kidney disease.1,3

People with CKD are at higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a type of blood clot. Getting up and walking around as often as possible on long road trips or flights can help reduce this risk. Staying hydrated helps too.1

Traveling while on dialysis

If you do your dialysis at a center, you may still be able to travel. But you will need to plan and prepare for how you will get dialysis while away from home.2

The first step is to call your dialysis team and your doctors and let them know when and where you want to go. Do this before you finalize your plans so they can help you arrange for dialysis. You will need to:2

  • Find a dialysis center at your destination.
  • Schedule your trip so that you do not miss any dialysis sessions.
  • Think through your method of getting there. It may be more convenient to travel by car than by plane, or vice versa.
  • Make appointments with your away-from-home dialysis center at least 4 to 6 weeks in advance.
  • Find out ahead of time whether insurance will cover dialysis at this other location.
  • Get copies of your recent lab results and medical records to share with the other dialysis center. You may also need to ask your dialysis center to send this information ahead of time.

If you perform dialysis at home, you have slightly different needs. You will need to:2

  • Have a list of dialysis centers at your destination in case a piece of equipment breaks or another problem arises
  • Have your dialysis partner travel with you
  • Arrange to bring your dialysis machine in your carry-on luggage if you are flying
  • Call ahead to make sure the place you are staying has the right kind of electrical outlet for your machine
  • Ship supplies to your destination ahead of time

It may be a good idea to buy travel insurance, especially when traveling overseas. Check into policies that will reimburse you for deposits and cancellation fees in case you have to cancel your plans.2

Traveling while on the transplant list

If you are on the kidney transplant list, you will have slightly different tasks before leaving home. Most important, you should tell your transplant coordinator when and where you are traveling and how they can reach you. In order to to keep yourself healthy while traveling, you also will need to:2

  • Eat properly
  • Take your medicines
  • Get enough rest and exercise

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