Blog post

Travel while on dialysis? Absolutely — with preparation

Many people living with kidney failure find ways to make holidays, relaxing vacations, family reunions, wanderlust and dialysis work together.

Holidays, relaxing vacations, family reunions, wanderlust, dialysis. While these things may not seem to go together, many people living with kidney failure find ways to make it work. They are not letting dialysis tie them down and limit their options for travel.

We asked our followers on Facebook and Instagram about their experiences with travel as people on dialysis. Many shared their love of travel and gave tips to make the process easier.

Pros: Most people said they can and do enjoy traveling while on dialysis. Some who dialyze in-center ask their dialysis social worker to schedule treatment appointments in centers near their destination, while people on home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis (PD) travel with their equipment. People who dialyze at home order their dialysis supplies in advance of their trips and have them shipped to where they will be staying.

Travel is important to Jennifer H., who says, "I try not to let dialysis take over my life. I have family and friends out of town. I go to hemodialysis in-center and also work as a full-time teacher." She says travel is also a mental health boost, noting that the staff at centers she has visited in other locations have been very good and professional. "You just have to make arrangements with the dialysis travel service ahead of time," she notes.

Vincent, who travels around the country for his job, always pre-arranges dialysis appointments at a center, which "is a lot easier with help from a social worker."

Ebony, a globetrotter and person on PD, does not mind the extra effort to travel. "I set time aside during activities to do my exchanges, and I also travel solo," she says. "My last trip was Iceland, but I have been to Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Paris, Italy, Greece and Dubai, and Mexico is in two weeks." Her doctor even loaned her a big suitcase to pack her equipment and medicines.

Before R. Daniel received a kidney transplant last November, he traveled both domestically and internationally while on dialysis. "It takes some planning — six months out," he notes. His advice? "Life is too short, don't use dialysis as a crutch."

"I love to travel!" says Jennifer K, who is on PD. "I shipped my supplies ahead; requested extension tubing because you never know exactly how far away from the machine the drains will be; packed my immediate need supplies and figured out how to navigate multiple airports without checking any bags."

Catherine says she started home dialysis "so I can go on a nice vacation without finding somewhere to do my treatments." Cheryl, who used to be on home dialysis, agreed, saying, "The equipment traveled with me and supplies were delivered to my location. That was the best."

Arturo, who works at a dialysis center in Mexico, says his center frequently accepts people on dialysis who are traveling from the U.S., Canada and Europe. "You can ask your medical team to help you plan your vacation," he says. "Traveling means that you are improving your quality of life, even if you are on dialysis."

Cons: Though most comments reflect positive experiences people have had traveling while on dialysis, some shared negative experiences as well. Others shared financial concerns, as well as reasons they wanted to stick close to home.

Rafaela once had a problem getting treatment because a doctor missed an appointment. "They wouldn't do it unless I was seen by a doctor," she says.

Desiree did not travel much, but when she did it felt overwhelming: "Planning my treatments, meds and the kidney-friendly food plan." Jessica and her husband, who is on dialysis, feel the same way: They have only taken one week-long trip since he started treatments. "It was so much work that we decided to do two-day trips now," she said.

Several respondents said they deferred vacations to be near home in case the call for a transplant came. "I do not like to travel due to being on a transplant list," said Pat. "Always afraid I might get called. Oh, how I wish I would get called."

Tammy goes away for long weekends, but not extensive trips. "I prefer to be close to home and at my hospital with my doctors" in case she gets sick.

Dale says he wants to travel, but has not because he is concerned about going to a dialysis center where he does not know the staff. Jennifer H. encourages anyone who has not traveled while on dialysis to do it. "Just try it! I've had good experiences with the centers I've gone to while traveling," she says. "Actually, you get treated extra special! Don't let fear keep you from living a full life even while you're on dialysis." Carolyn agrees: "I did not know the caregivers beforehand. I had faith they were trained like my home center and they were. I enjoyed my trip."