Safe Trip: Traveling Tips for CKD Patients

Do you like to travel?

Some people do. Some like to visit the wild outdoors and go hiking or camping. Others like to go resort-hopping and getting tanned on the beach. Still, a few would rather enjoy a leisurely drive across the country, just taking in the views, leaving all their cares behind them, even just for a while.

Whatever your proverbial cup of traveling tea is, being diagnosed with CKD is a mood-dampener.

The good news is, traveling with CKD is doable. Sure, you need to prepare for a few more things than usual. But even with CKD, traveling in the country, and even around the world, can be worth it.

Some Basic Points to Remember

Before planning to travel, remember to consult with your nephrologist.

Often, doctors encourage their patients to travel -- helps boost morale and sense of well-being. However, consulting first will help you prepare with what to do in case of emergencies, along with the dos and don'ts during your trip.

Also, plan your activities realistically; don't overdo activities or overtire your body. 

Planning your activities can be exciting, and there might be a lot of stuff you might want to do during the trip. But always think of your health first before everything else. Allow your self enough time to rest in between sightseeing and other activities.

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Be sure to watch your diet and fluid intake, too. You might get tempted to indulge in local delicacies where you're going, but always practice control and moderation.

On-the-Road Tips

Here are some on-the-road tips to follow if you're traveling by car:

  1. In the event that you get the call of nature, find the nearest gas station or portable toilet and relieve yourself. Avoid holding in your urine; that causes further damage in your kidneys.
  2. Pack a small cooler of food, filled with ones that are hard to find on the road (fresh fruits, sliced raw vegetables, or fat-free / low-fat yogurt). This is to help you avoid snacking on unhealthy food found in drive-thrus and vending machines. Include a few bottles of water instead of sugar-sweetened soda or juice.
  3. Bring dried fruits, nuts, and seeds to snack on. Since these foods can be high in calories, measure and pack small portions (1/4 cup) in advance.
  4. If you do need to stop at a restaurant, try to choose one that serves a variety of foods such as salads, grilled or steamed entrees, or vegetables. Consider drinking water or low-fat or fat-free milk instead of sugar-sweetened soft drinks with your meal.

When Eating Out

If you're not enjoying the great outdoors on your trip, the most common choice to get food is to eat in restaurants and food establishments. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Check the menu for terms and icons that indicate healthy items, such as low-fat, low-calorie dishes.
  2. Be very careful when trying local dishes and delicacies. Some restaurants offer options for people with health conditions, so calmly and politely explain your condition to them, along with a little bit of background on what you should avoid eating. You can also ask about the food you're ordering and the ingredients used to make it.
  3. Share your meal, order a half-portion, or order an appetizer as your main meal. Examples of healthier appetizers are steamed seafood, minestrone soup, tomato or corn salsas and vegetable salads with dressings on the side.
  4. If you choose a higher-fat option like fries or pizza, order the small size, or you can ask for a single slice of pizza with vegetable toppings such as mushrooms or peppers. 
  5. Stop eating when you no longer feel hungry. It takes about 15-20 minutes for your stomach to alert your brain that you're full. Eat slowly and savor every bite of your food.
  6. Avoid "supersizing" your beverages, especially softdrinks. Order water with a lemon wedge, or a slightly-sweetened ice tea or lemonade instead.

A few last minute advice...

  • Ensure that your family or trusted friends know of your travel plans.
  • Always carry identification documents with you, and keep important phone numbers handy (regular doctor, spouse/children, etc.). Include a copy of your medical records in your travel pack.
  • Travel with at least one person (traveling alone is discouraged), and inform him/her of your medical needs and where you keep your medical records.
  • If you were prescribed with medications, make sure to bring enough to last the whole trip, along with a few extras in case of missing luggage or accidental spills. It can't hurt to bring written prescriptions, too, should a need for it arise.

Other sources:

Travel Tips: A Guide for Kidney Patients - National Kidney Foundation; 
https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/traveltip

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Learn what foods to eat and avoid along with more renal diet tips from your free Renal Cooking E-book here!