Blog post

Summertime is for vacations — even if you are on dialysis

Get tips on how and where to dialyze when traveling or on vacation.
summer travel

Summertime is here and if you are like most people, you are ready for a break from the hustle and bustle of your daily routine. Vacation anyone? But what if you are on dialysis? Can you still take a vacation? The answer is an absolute, positive, without a doubt yes! All it takes is a little planning and preparation:

Make a plan

People on dialysis can travel just about anywhere. How about a cruise? Do you like beach vacations, or road trips to visit family or friends? Are you a history buff wanting to visit a historic site, or do you like a laid-back type of vacation?

People on in-center hemodialysis: Once you have set your vacation plans, ask your social worker for help finding a dialysis center that is close to your destination. Plan your "vacation" dialysis center early — at least eight weeks ahead of your trip — and remember some destinations are very popular, so be flexible with your plans. Check with your vacation center a week before you leave to make sure you are scheduled for your dialysis treatments as planned. Many websites can also help you with this part of the planning process. People I work with who are on dialysis have traveled on cruises, and I recently had someone dialyze in Jamaica. Check with your social worker if you have questions about how payments occur for the vacation dialysis center.

People on home dialysis: If you normally do your own hemodialysis treatments at home, you may choose to take your home dialysis machine with you on your trip, or you may dialyze at a center in your destination. One home dialyzer I work with takes his dialysis machine on an RV and travels all over the United States. His dialysis supplies are delivered to various destinations along his route. People on peritoneal dialysis (PD) have the most freedom and flexibility when traveling. People on PD do not require planning for a center — your supplies can be taken with you or delivered to your destination. I have worked with people on PD who have traveled overseas to Romania, India and Italy to name a few countries.

Take it slow: No matter what type of dialysis you do, if you have not traveled for a while, avoid the temptation to do it all on your first trip. This is especially true if you go up in elevation (like from sea level to the mountains), where the air is thinner and you can become more tired. Plan for some down time during your vacation so you come back home relaxed and not needing a vacation from your vacation.

Be prepared when you travel

Make sure to carry an up-to-date list of all your medicines and supplements with you when you travel. Since delays are always possible when traveling, make sure to have enough medicine with you to last a few extra days.

If you are traveling by plane, do not be afraid to ask for assistance while boarding, and carry your medicines with you in your carry-on bag in case your checked baggage gets lost. If you are taking a road trip, pack some healthy, kidney-friendly snacks to have in the car so you will not be tempted by fast food and rest or truck stop snacks. 

However you travel, take a copy of your most recent labs and medical record in case you need medical attention while away. You should also take a list of important phone numbers, such as for your doctor and dialysis center, or make sure these numbers are stored in your mobile phone.

Once you reach your destination, make sure to follow the kidney-friendly food and fluid plan you have discussed with your doctor and dietitian. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than having to make a trip to the ER.

Everyone needs a break, especially people living with a chronic disease. Do not let kidney disease keep you from enjoying what is important to you. If traveling is important to you, make it happen with a little planning and preparation. Happy trails to you!


Sandra M. Lauriat, M.D., FACP

Dr. Sandra Lauriat is a nephrologist with Dallas Nephrology Associates in Irving, Texas. She is passionate about helping patients fit dialysis into their lives, instead of having dialysis run their lives.