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Just That Little Bit Extra – 4 Concerns When Traveling With PKD

by Tony · 6 comments

PKD Checklist for travel
Creative Commons License photo credit: PNASH

I am no expert about PKD (trust me), but have had to do a few extra things because of it when I was preparing to travel. So hopefully you take my earlier advice and decide to travel NOW, but also know that just because you take the leap doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look first. Just properly prepare before your big trip and I am sure you will Land Standing!

These are the 4 extra steps I had to take beyond the normal preparation needed for travel because of PKD… is there anything else you think should be included?


While many of your friends might be comfortable traveling the world without any domestic insurance (they really shouldn’t be), those of us with PKD cannot. For two reasons:

  1. Even if you are feeling great now… you never know what can happen down the road. That’s the whole point of insurance! You would hate to leave on your trip perfectly healthy, get sick from the myriad of diseases out there, have kidney complications, and then realize too late that you should have gotten insurance.
  2. Creditable Coverage… Let me say it again. CREDITABLE COVERAGE. What is this? Creditable coverage allows individuals who have had at least a year straight of health insurance to switch insurers and not be subject to any pre-existing condition clauses (as long as you switch within 63 days of ending your prior coverage). This means you must maintain creditable coverage in the US when traveling overseas so that you are not totally hosed when you get back. Read the fine print of any travel insurance you might purchase as many do not count towards the creditable coverage condition.

Insurance is a complicated issue. Unfortunately, it is just something you have to constantly deal with when you have PKD… and traveling does NOT make it easier.

I won’t recommend one insurer over any other (they are all expensive), but I will say that the best option I found was buying a travel insurance policy to cover any basic medical issues when overseas while maintaining my insurance back in the states as well. I was able to slide in under Meg’s policy using COBRA so that I could maintain my creditable coverage and be covered in the event of a kidney catastrophe.


Loving food in Buenos Aires

Don't even doubt that this guy loves his food...

I discussed this in an earlier article about traveling with PKD, but you should do some research before you leave home to see what food is available in the many destinations you will visit.

I love food, so if you are anything like me there will me many global temptations that you will not be able to resist. The key is in balancing the good with the bad.

You cannot always eat as well as you would like when traveling, but there are many healthy cuisines around the world that make it easier.


Not everyone on PKD takes medication, but many do. I have high blood pressure due to PKD and take pills to keep it under control.

But how to get your medication, covered under your domestic insurance, to a far off international destination?

Use Medco. You can get up to 3 months of medication delivered at once. The key is to have a good friend or family member receive the pills and then forward them to you at an address you know you will be at in the future.

Besides your standard medication, you will also want to pack some anti-diarrheal medication (your General Practicioner should have no problem doing this) like Cipro. Dehydration can be a serious issue with PKD so you want to be sure to cure yourself of any food poisoning (which you will be guaranteed to get on an around the world adventure) as quickly as possible.

The only additional warning my doctor shared with me was to stop taking my blood pressure meds for the few days I am sick as they can cause trouble when you are dehydrated.

Blood Pressure

I probably went overboard on this issue, but besides my meds I also brought a portable blood pressure monitor. Word of caution: many blood pressure monitors labeled as portable are still quite large (learned that a little too late). The few times I have used the machine, everything has been great though. Seems not to be worth the extra weight or room it takes up in my backpack.

But if you think you are going to be worried about your health when traveling… bring the smallest monitor you can find and have some peace of mind.

This will be my last post during National Kidney Month as we are climbing the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu for the remainder of March (woohoo!). So please check out the PKD Foundation’s website to see the wonderful things they are up to and help support the cause. Also, always check with the foundation for the latest and most accurate info about PKD.

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

Magz March 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

Great tips T!! And I think that picture of you in the Food sections just shows how much fun you can have while still looking out for your health :)

tony April 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm

We have a blast cooking for ourselves! Plus, eating healthy after gorging on some delicious South American cuisine can be really nice…

JR March 30, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Hey have a great climb with Meg on the MP Trail.

tony April 3, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Did and loved it! Thanks!

Lana July 25, 2012 at 11:08 am

One small detail I learned while researching this issue for our trip: if you are switching from a group plan (like one through your workplace) to an individual plan for, say, catastrophic coverage so you have “creditable coverage” while you’re gone, you are still subject to a medical screening to determine whether an insurance company will cover you, whether they will specifically exclude your condition from coverage, or whether they will charge you an arm and a leg for coverage. I didn’t understand this until I spoke with an insurance agent/broker, and it’s causing some difficulty (I have epilepsy, which has been in control for 20+ years, but it still means they aren’t happy to take me on). We do have a COBRA option through my husband’s work, but at $800 a month, when we’re not going to be in the country to use it, that option is way outside our budget.

Tony July 26, 2012 at 6:20 am

Thanks for the great info, Lana!

It can be such a mess trying to make sure you are properly covered when planning to travel. Having a pre-existing condition just makes it even worse. I was initially just going to have catastrophic coverage stateside when overseas, but my research indicated that there was little likelihood of maintaining creditable coverage then.

I ended up taking COBRA through my wife’s work and then buying a standard travel insurance policy as well. My Cobra plan is less expensive than yours… but still ridiculously high! But I had to do it because I couldn’t tempt losing my creditable coverage for when I get back to the US.

There are not many easy options right now… best of luck!

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