Article

Traveling while having kidney disease

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Medically reviewed by
AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
Last updated
November 4, 2021

With some planning, most people with kidney disease can travel for work or pleasure. In fact, a trip or vacation can be a great way to relax and have something to look forward to. Talk to your doctor about your travel plans and use the tips below to prepare for your trip and stay safe while traveling with kidney disease. 

Can I travel while on dialysis?

Yes. With some planning, dialysis patients can travel by plane, train, boat or car just like anyone else. However, you will need to make a plan to do dialysis while you are away from home:

  • Plan for dialysis. You may need to find a dialysis center at your destination or ship supplies ahead of time if you do dialysis at home. 
  • Choose the right location. For example, if you need dialysis several times a week at a dialysis center, choose a destination closer to home so you can arrive before your next scheduled treatment. 
  • Choose your travel mode. Think about how you want to travel to best meet your needs as a dialysis patient, such as whether to go by plane, train, boat or car.

Using a dialysis center at your destination

If you do hemodialysis at a center, you will need to find another center at your travel destination. Friends or family at your destination may be able to share the name and address of a dialysis center near them. Many dialysis centers also have a staff member to help you arrange for care away from home — ask your nurse or social worker at your center to connect you.

To get the care you need during your trip, you may want to:

  • Make arrangements with a local center at leastfour to six weeks in advance.
  • Ask about the cost of treatment and whether it can be billed to your insurance. If you use Medicare, treatments outside of the U.S. are not usually covered. If you use Medicaid, treatments outside of your home state are not usually covered. 
  • Ask your dialysis center for a copy of your important documents to give to providers at your travel destination, such as medical records or recent lab results. Many centers also ask for this information in advance.

Doing home hemodialysis while traveling

If you do hemodialysis at home, you will need to bring your dialysis machine while you travel. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • If you have a dialysis partner to help with your treatments, they will need to travel with you.
  • If you travel by plane, ask the airline if you can bring your dialysis machine in your carry-on luggage.
  • If you stay at a hotel, call ahead to make sure it has the right kind of electrical outlet for your dialysis machine.
  • Make a list of dialysis centers in the area in case you need help or lose any equipment during your trip.

Doing peritoneal dialysis while traveling

Peritoneal dialysis can be done in any clean and dry space, which offers a lot of flexibility when you travel. You will want to ship your supplies to your destination ahead of time. You may also want to make a list of dialysis centers in the area in case you need help during your trip.

Traveling outside the U.S.

It can be fun to travel abroad and discover new places. To make sure you can get the care you need during your trip, consider these tips:

  • Ask your insurance provider if your plan covers medical care outside of the U.S. You may need to buy special travel insurance — and if you do, make sure any care you need for kidney disease, such as dialysis, is included in the benefits.
  • Pack your medicines and bring extra if possible. Also carry written prescriptions just in case.
  • Make a list of clinics and hospitals at your destination in case you need care. If you are staying at a hotel, staff might be able to give you a list.
  • Talk to your doctor about your travel plans to make sure they are safe for you.

Kidney-healthy habits while traveling

Sticking to kidney-friendly eating or exercise routines can be challenging when you are traveling, but with the right planning, you can do it!

  • Pack kidney-friendly snacks or meals for long car rides or if you will spend time in an airport or on a train. Many fast-food options have a lot of sodium (salt) and phosphorus. Kidney Kitchen® can help with recipes for meals and kidney-friendly snacks. 
  • If you travel by plane, contact the airline about kidney-friendly meal options during your flight.

Many hotels have amenities, such asa gym or a pool, to help you stick to an exercise routine during your stay.

Can I travel while I am on a transplant wait list?

Yes. Tell your transplant coordinator about your trip and how to reach you. Your coordinator will help you make a plan if a kidney becomes available — whether to be "on hold" during the trip or whether you could return within a reasonable amount of time.

Travel resources for people with kidney disease

  • "The List," a comprehensive list of international dialysis centers accepting patients. Available from Dialysis & Transplantation, 7628 Densmore Ave., Van Nuys, CA 91406-2088. Ask your dialysis center for a copy.
  • Some companies specialize in vacation and travel planning for people on dialysis, such as cruises, foreign travel and wilderness travel. 
  • There are camps for people on dialysis and transplant — for both adults and children.