Travel Health Advice & Preparation Timeline

If you’re one of the tens of thousands of New Zealanders travelling overseas each month,1 be aware your travel planning doesn’t end once your tickets are paid for, it ends once you’ve carefully planned to protect your health before, during and after you come home.

Download a printable checklist

Do:

  • Talk with your doctor first to see if they offer a travel medicine clinic.  They know your medical history and can give most of the vaccinations or malaria tablets as well as general travel advice on keeping well while travelling.  If you're being more adventurous you may need to speak with a travel medicine specialist.
  • Travel medicine specialists can provide you with specific travel advice, which is essential if you’re travelling to ‘at risk’ areas like Africa, Asia, Middle East, Indian subcontinent, Oceania and South America.2
    • There are travel medicine specialists in most major towns and cities.
  • Allow sufficient time to get pre-travel health advice2
    • Your first visit could take over 30 minutes (depending on where you’re travelling) and includes a general discussion about your health, where you’re travelling to and if you’ll need any vaccinations or malaria prevention tablets.
  • Take with you to your first doctor or travel medicine specialist visit:2
    • Copy of your final itinerary
    • List of where you’ll be staying (backpacker, friends and relatives, or hotel)
    • How long you’ll be travelling or staying in a particular areas
    • How you’ll be travelling (using public transport, hire car or back-packing)
    • The reason for your visit (visiting friends and relatives or part of a tour group or holiday)
    • When you’re travelling i.e. the season
    • The types of activities you plan on taking part in particularly those that involve a degree of risk (4WD off-roading, riding motorcycles, or water sports)
    • A list of medicines you are taking (including natural remedies) and any allergies to any medications
    • A list of current and past medical conditions
    • A list of past vaccinations including your childhood vaccinations
  • Expect from your doctor or travel medicine specialist visit2
    • A health plan that is specifically tailored for your trip (to ensure that the only things that you bring back are good memories).

Don’t:

  • Leave it to the last minute to talk to your doctor or travel medicine specialist about what medicine or vaccinations you may need for your trip.

Preparation Timeline

Be aware - some vaccinations need multiple doses over 6 months or more so the earlier you begin the better.

6-8 weeks before

  • Ideally speak with your doctor or travel medicine specialist at least 6-8 weeks before you travel.3  This gives them time to:
    • Review your health.
    • Talk about your trip:
      • Especially important to consult a travel medicine specialist if you’re travelling to ‘at risk’ areas like Africa, Asia, Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Oceania or South America.
    • Give advice on avoiding diseases.
    • Recommend and discuss any vaccines, boosters or malaria tablets:
      • Some countries require proof of vaccinations against some diseases before travellers arrive in the country.2
  • Accept that the cost of travel medicine is an essential long term investment in protecting your health for this and future trips, rather than an optional expense.
    • By planning ahead and finishing the vaccine course you can significantly reduce the risk of many vaccine preventable diseases.
  • Ask your doctor to write a letter listing your medical conditions (including allergies) and prescription drugs you’re currently taking.2  Be aware that some countries outlaw certain drugs so your doctor may need to prescribe you with alternate medications. 
  • Make a dental appointment, especially if you’re travelling for a long time, travelling to some remote areas, or if you have long term dental problems.3
  • Arrange correct travel insurance
    • Travel insurance is as essential as your passport regardless of where you are travelling to.4  It’s the most important safety net for travellers when they become ill, injured or affected by some unforeseen event.5  Make sure it will cover all the costs of getting you back to New Zealand including ambulance costs and flights.4,5
    • Read the fine print on your travel insurance policy because most travel insurance policies will have some exclusions, and these typically cover water sports, hazardous activities (including scuba diving, water skiing, riding motor cycles) or travelling to high risk areas.6
    • Tell your insurance company of any pre-existing medical conditions you have and if any close relative at home has a condition that may mean you have to return urgently. 6
  • Ensure you have a signed, valid passport and a visa (if required).4 

1-2 weeks before

  • Even if you’ve left it to the last minute, it’s still worthwhile speaking with your doctor or travel medicine specialist about your options, as they can still give advice on keeping yourself safe from insect and animal bites, food and water safety, avoiding malaria and other diseases.  There are also some vaccines that can be given at short notice. 2
  • Organise a first aid kit (even a basic one for short trips). Having the kit means that you can be prepared for small medical events and it will also be a reminder about taking personal responsibility for your health and wellbeing.2
    • What you include will depend on where you’re going, what you’ll be doing and how long you’re away. 
    • Your doctor or travel medicine specialist will advise you on what other medicines/items you should take with you.
    • You can buy basic first aid kits from many shops including your local pharmacy and St John Ambulance.  Ask your pharmacist to help you if you are not sure what you need to include.
    • For a basic first aid kit you should consider:2,7
      • Prevention/personal protection:  antibacterial hand wash, gloves, face mask, condoms.
      • Minor injuries: gauze squares, non-adherent dressings, bandages, fabric plasters, waterproof film dressing, adhesive tape, scissors, tweezers and safety pins and antiseptic wash or ointment.
      • Illness care: digital thermometer, aspirin/paracetamol/ibuprofen for general pain and antacids for indigestion.
      • Diarrhoea: fluid replacement powders can be useful especially for children. Anti-diarrhoea tablets can be obtained from your pharmacist and are normally used only by older children and adults.
      • Bites: insect repellents (DEET or Icaradin) and an antihistamine or other anti-allergy medication may be helpful.
      • Sun exposures: sun-block (SPF15 or higher and you should not allow yourself to burn).
      • Any regular medication you take and make sure you have more than enough for the time you are away.
    • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) gives good advice about staying safe in the country you are visiting.3
  • Scan your travel documents (passport and visas, travel insurance, drivers licence, credit cards with emergency phone numbers, local embassy/consulate numbers, relatives to be notified if you get sick and any other valuable documents you have) then email them to yourself plus leave a copy with a neighbour or family member along with your itinerary. 3

Download a printable checklist

  • Be careful to avoid being injured while you are travelling.3
    • Being admitted to a hospital for any type of injury may put you at risk of getting an infection particularly from hepatitis (B, C) or HIV (AIDS).
    • While travellers will generally be treated with the best resources available locally, you should not assume that you would receive the same level of health care as you would in New Zealand particularly with infection control practices.
  • Avoid close contact with wild and domestic animals, expecially in areas where rabies is present.
  • Be careful with what you eat or drink. Remember, if you can't boil it, cook it, or peel it - forget it.
  • Ensure you finish your course of vaccinations (if any are remaining) as it’ll provide you with long-term protection.
  • If you’re feeling unwell when you return, see your doctor or travel medicine specialist, particularly if you’ve a fever, diarrhoea, skin rashes, animal bites or respiratory infections.8

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