Travel Insurance for cancer patients in Australia

Yes, it's possible to find travel insurance if you have (or have had) cancer. but be sure to check if your specific condition is covered in each policy you compare..

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We've found a host of brands that provide travel insurance for cancer patients in Australia, including one that considers any form and stage of cancer. Find quotes and compare policies from more than 25 brands, below.

Are there any travel insurance brands that offer cover for cancer patients?

Yes. For example, AllClear is a specialist medical travel insurer that considers all stages of cancer. Find out more about AllClear in our review .

Which Australian travel insurance providers cover you if you've had cancer?

We researched 25+ travel insurance brands and found that these can cover you if you've had cancer.

Note: This information was last updated August 2022

Finder survey: Which pre-existing medical conditions do Australians have?

Can you get travel insurance that covers cancer.

Yes. Anyone who has cancer can or has had cancer in the past can get travel insurance. However, whether or not you’ll be covered for the condition itself varies both from insurer to insurer and from person to person.

Typically, there are two types of insurers:

Specialist insurers

Brands like All Clear Travel Insurance specialise in medical travel insurance and are more likely to offer comprehensive cover, albeit for higher premiums. All Clear considers travellers at all stages of cancer for a range of cancer types including bowel cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma and prostate cancer.

In some cases, it will also provide cover for people with terminal conditions, so long as your prognosis is for six months or more, a doctor says you're "fit" to travel and your transport provider agrees to take you.

Non-specialist travel insurer

Most travel insurers outside of the specialist market fall into one of two categories; those that will provide travel insurance and cover cancer, and those that will provide travel insurance, but will not cover anything related to cancer.

1. For those that will cover incidents related to the cancer itself, cover is normally conditional based on the following:

  • A medical assessment that determines that you’re fit to travel.
  • Whether you’re in remission and how long that has been the case (6 to 12 months is often a minimum requirement).
  • Whether you’re currently receiving treatment (in which case cover will usually not be provided).

Keep in mind . If you’re able to get cover, you will pay a higher premium due to the greater risk to the insurer.

2. Then, there are brands that won't provide any cover for claims arising from cancer. While these insurers won't cover you for your pre-existing condition they may still provide travel insurance that excludes your condition.

While any claim related to your pre-existing condition is not claimable, the policy still covers everything else. For example, if you were walking down the street and you were hit by a car, the policy would cover your medical costs because it’s unrelated to your cancer.

2 key questions to consider before settling on what's best for you

  • Do you want to pay more to cover your pre-existing condition? If you answered 'yes', look at a travel insurer that specialises in medical cover or one that will consider people who already have cancer.
  • Are you concerned about the high cost of travel insurance? Unfortunately, getting cover for a pre-existing condition can be costly. So, if you don't want to spend all that money and are okay with not having cover for your pre-existing condition, you can take out travel insurance. However, you will need to cover the costs if something happens overseas due to your pre-existing condition.

Do travel insurance providers need to know I've had cancer?

Yes, it's essential to disclose your cancer to your insurer that you have had cancer at the time of applying for your policy.

If you have had cancer at any time in your life, it is considered a pre-existing medical condition. Letting them know ahead of time will save you the hassle (and, potentially, a lot of money) later on should something go wrong.

Insurers generally have a list of pre-existing conditions they automatically cover in their product disclosure statement (PDS). Cancer isn't usually included, so if you're seeking the maximum insurance then you'll want to look for special cover where available.

What happens if the insurer won’t give me cover?

In general, insurers are not allowed to discriminate against people with cancer under Australian law. However, according to the Cancer Council of Victoria :

“An exemption under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 allows insurers to refuse insurance or change the terms of an insurance policy for a person affected by cancer so long as this decision is supported by statistical or actuarial data or other reasonable evidence.”

What will I be asked for on my medical questionnaire?

The medical questionnaire varies between insurers but you can expect to be asked:

  • What type of cancer do you (did you) have?
  • When was it diagnosed?
  • Have you received treatment for your cancer?
  • When was the last time you received treatment?
  • Are there any future treatments planned?
  • What stage is the cancer?
  • What grade is the cancer?
  • Has the cancer spread from another section of the body?
  • Has the cancer been removed or destroyed?
  • Are you taking any medication such as painkillers?

Outside of these general questions you may also be asked more specific questions related to a particular type of cancer and also to provide supporting documentation from your treating physician.

Tips for travelling with cancer-related medical conditions

Cancer treatments can compromise your immune system, so you will need to take special precautions when travelling. These include:

  • Keeping your medication close by (in your carry-on luggage, not under the plane).
  • Carrying a letter from your doctor detailing your condition.
  • Practising good hygiene including regularly washing hands and only drinking bottled water.
  • Being sun smart, as chemotherapy and radiation make you more sensitive to UV rays.
  • Ensuring plenty of downtime between activities, as you may feel fatigued more often.

Compare your travel insurance options: In summary

Obtaining travel insurance for a pre-existing condition like cancer isn't easy. However, it's not impossible either. The best way to go about it is to declare your condition upfront and to shop around to find the insurer most sympathetic to your needs.

Picture: GettyImages

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Richard Laycock

Richard Laycock is Finder’s insights editor after spending the last five years writing and editing articles about insurance. His musings can be found across the web including on MoneyMag, Yahoo Finance and Travel Weekly. Richard studied Media at Macquarie University and The Missouri School of Journalism and has a Tier 1 Certification in General Advice for Life Insurance.

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4 Responses

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Can I get travel insurance with myeloma that is diagnosed for abt 6 years with no treatment except a blood test every month and a intragram transfusion once a month . The consultation with the specialist every 3 months. I am approaching 74 years of age. I am on no other medication

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Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

Yes, you can still get a travel insurance given with your condition. However, you need to remember a few points.

Insurers have their own way of determining which situations they will consider as a pre-existing condition.

Depending on the nature of your condition, the company will either automatically provide cover, provide cover at an additional rate or apply exclusions for the condition. If you do not declare your condition, it is likely the policy will be void in the event of a claim.

You may want to start comparing your options from our travel insurance for cancer patients page. Use our table to conveniently compare policies. Once you find the right one for you, click on the “Get Quote” button to learn more.

I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

Have a wonderful day!

Cheers, Joshua

G’day, my son is getting married in Vietnam in November and I am in 2 and half years in remission of Multiple Myeloma. My Specialist is going to do up a letter explaining my medication and my current condition.

My question is, can I get Travel insurance or do I just get ordinary Travel Insurance and inform them of my Pre-existing Cancer (leukaemia – Multiple Myeloma)?

It is recommended that you take a travel insurance designed for those patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.

We advise that you study especially their pre-existing clauses and get a quote from more than one insurer for price comparison.

Hope this helps.

Cheers, Jonathan

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  • Can you get Travel Insurance if you have Cancer?

Finding travel insurance after a cancer diagnosis can be difficult, but doesn’t mean you have to stop travelling. This is your ultimate guide to finding the right travel insurance policy.

Can you get Travel Insurance if you have Cancer?

The following information applies to policies purchased from 30th October 2023 onwards. For policies purchased prior to 30th October 2023: you can find the PDS relevant to you in your policy confirmation email, by logging into MyPolicy , or you can contact us for assistance.

According to cancer research by the Australian Government , one half of all Australian men and women are estimated to develop some form of cancer by their 85 th birthday.

In many cases a cancer diagnosis won’t put a stop to your travel plans, but it can make it more difficult to find a travel insurance policy that will cover you.

This guide will outline the options for travel insurance that can provide cover to cancer patients. There are a number of options to choose from, but keep your personal requirements in mind so that you can find the policy that is best suited to your treatment plan.

Can I get travel insurance if I have cancer?

Depending on the policy that you choose, it would be likely that c ancer is considered a pre-existing medical condition , so it may not be covered in your travel insurance policy. 

Different travel insurers have different definitions including time frames of what would be considered a pre-existing medical condition, and many even have different terms to define a pre-existing medical condition . A pre-existing medical condition will often include is any condition that has been diagnosed, is being treated, or that you exhibit symptoms of at the time of purchasing your travel insurance policy.

Travel insurers may fall into one of these categories:

1) Medical cover for cancer may be included after completing a medical assessment

Some travel insurance companies may be able to provide you with cover if you complete a medical screening . If they agree to cover your cancer , you may have to pay an extra premium on your travel insurance policy, and depending on the travel insurer and how they note it, it will be likely be listed on your certificate of insurance as a covered condition . This means that  cover cover will be available for potential emergencies including medical and hospital expenses related to cancer while travelling, subject to the policy terms, conditions, exclusions and limitations .

Fast Cover is able to provide medical screening for your cancer diagnosis. Their Medical Conditions page can give you more information about medical screening for your medical condition, including information about the General Exclusions that may apply and what timeframe that they need you to consider before declaring your cancer diagnosis.

2) Medical cover for unrelated emergency expenses is provided, but cover for any expenses related to cancer is excluded.

If a policy does provide you with medical cover but excludes expenses under the policy related to the cancer, you may still receive certain cover under some of the policy’s benefits.

Some of the other benefits you may find in a policy can include:

  • Cover for emergency medical expenses unrelated to your pre-existing medical condition, for example, food poisoning or breaking a bone from a bad fall.
  • Cancellation cover where the cause of cancellation is unrelated to your pre-existing medical condition. For example, if you were involved in a car accident before your trip and become injured, or because your parents or children become severely unwell.
  • Cover for the loss or damage of your belongings, including mobile phone, camera, travel bag and travel documents.
  • Travel delay expenses cover.
  • Rental vehicle insurance excess cover.

What conditions are there to get cover for cancer-related emergencies while travelling?

Some travel insurers will offer cover for cancer, provided you meet a few conditions.

These conditions can include:

  • A medical assessment, so the insurer knows that you’re fit to travel.
  • Whether or not you are in remission and how long you’ve been in remission.
  • Whether you are currently receiving treatment. Cover is often excluded if you’re currently undergoing treatment for cancer.

Conditions and exclusions may differ depending on your travel insurance provider and policy type. Always read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) or ask if you're not sure before purchasing a policy.

How do I know if a travel insurer provides cover for cancer?

Some travel insurers have a list of pre-existing medical conditions that they provide cover for in their PDS,   which is usually available to view or download online. If you have a pre-existing medical condition that isn’t included in the covered list, it's likely that it's not covered, however, you should check the Product Disclosure Statement for full details on what the policy does and doesn't cover, and a lways ask if you’re unsure.

Whilst Fast Cover does not have a list of covered existing medical conditions, they may be able to provide you with cover for your cancer if you complete a medical screening with them.  Check out their  Medical Conditions page for more information about medical screening for cancer, including information about the General Exclusions that may apply*.

Do you need to tell your travel insurer that you have, or have had, cancer?

You should never lie to your insurer about a pre-existing medical condition. Lying does not mean you’ll be provided with cover and the travel insurer will likely find out about your medical history when assessing any future travel insurance claims.

It’s important to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions when purchasing a policy so that you know whether you have cover for the condition, just in case you have any health complications overseas.

Would I be covered for a secondary cancer if it was diagnosed after purchasing a policy?

This would depend on the travel insurance company that you go with, the terms, conditions and exclusions of their policy .

Fast Cover needs you to complete another medical screening for the secondary cancer after you purchase your policy and before your trip departure date. This may be the case even if you completed a medical screening for your primary cancer when you purchased your policy and your primary cancer is listed as a covered condition on your certificate of insurance. If cover for your secondary cancer is approved, an additional premium will likely apply.  Check out their  Medical Conditions   page for more information about medical screening for cancer, including information about the General Exclusions that may apply*.

You may be able to submit a claim for your trip cancellation or rescheduling expenses if you're not able to travel as a result of your secondary cancer diagnosis, or if we cannot cover you for the change in health, if your policy included cover for trip cancellation expenses and your trip has not started.

Check our your policy for terms, conditions, exclusions and limits that apply as everyone’s situation is different. We will always assess any claim on a case by case basis.

Please note: Any advice provided is general advice only. You should read the PDS as policy terms, conditions, exclusions and limits apply. As everyone’s circumstances are different, you can submit a claim and our claims team will assess your claim on a case by case basis.

Travel insurance for cancer patients

Whether you’re recovering from treatment, taking a much-needed break, or celebrating the all-clear, a holiday overseas can be just what the doctor ordered.

Finding travel insurance can be a bit more difficult when you have or have had cancer, but it is possible. Remember to always read the Product Disclosure Statement to understand what cover you’ll have for emergencies, particularly medical emergencies, and ensure you purchase the right policy for your trip.  

Tips for travelling with cancer

The below is general advice only and is not intended to replace the advice from a medical practitioner or health care professional.

Cancer treatment can compromise your immune system.

Remember to make the necessary preparations before you travel and take extra care of your health while you’re away.

1) Stock Up On Medication

Stock up on any regular prescription medication before you leave. Make sure you have enough for your trip, plus some spare in case you're delayed getting home.

2) Organise Treatment Notes

Carry information about your condition and the treatment that you have received in case you have to go to hospital or see a doctor overseas.

3) Avoid Sunburn

Practice sun safety with sunscreen. Wear a hat and long, loose clothing to cover your skin as much as possible. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

4) Save Emergency Contacts

Understand what your travel insurance provides cover for and carry the emergency assistance team contact details with you at all times just in case!

If you need assistance finding a travel insurance policy which covers your condition, you can contact the Insurance Council of Australia . 

*Stories are fictitious examples drawn from the experiences of Fast Cover travellers and staff. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

^ Source: https://canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/what-cancer/cancer-australia-statistics

Fast Cover - Laura

About the author

Laura is a content writer at Fast Cover. Fuelled by a passion for adventure travel and inspired to learn more about the world, she specialises in writing about travel insurance and health topics which are published across numerous travel forums and websites.

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A Guide to Travel Insurance for Cancer Patients

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When you have cancer, what can travel insurance cover?

The benefits you receive depends on the type of plan you buy. You can see all available travel insurance plans here , or get a quote to easily compare plans and pricing. That being said, here are some of the situations in which travel insurance can protect cancer patients.

  • You have to cancel your trip because of your cancer diagnosis. Trip cancellation benefits can reimburse you for pre-paid, nonrefundable travel expenses if you must cancel your trip for a covered reason. One common covered reason is when you or your travel companion suffer an illness, injury, or medical condition that’s disabling enough to make a reasonable person cancel their trip. Remember that a doctor must advise you (or your traveling companion) to cancel your trip before you cancel it — or, if that’s impossible, within 72 hours of the decision to cancel.
  • You have to cut your trip short because your illness gets worse. If you’re already on your trip, and you become too ill to travel, trip interruption benefits can reimburse you for your unused, pre-paid and nonrefundable travel expenses. This benefit can also pay reasonable transportation expenses to continue your trip or return home. It can even pay additional accommodation and transportation expenses (up to the stated limit) if the interruption forces you to remain at your destination for longer than you’d planned.
  • You suffer an unexpected medical emergency while traveling. Emergency medical/dental benefits can reimburse you for the cost of emergency medical care you receive while traveling for a sudden, unexpected illness, injury, or medical condition that could cause serious harm if it is not treated. The key words here are sudden and unexpected . Travel insurance can’t cover your medical emergency if it’s an expected complication of your cancer diagnosis or treatment.

Also, please understand that travel insurance can’t pay for planned medical expenses if you travel overseas to obtain treatment for cancer (or any other condition). Travel insurance will not pay for any non-emergency care, elective care, long-term care or experimental treatments, among other exclusions listed in your policy.

How can travel insurance help if a family member is diagnosed with cancer?

What if someone in your family is diagnosed with cancer right before you’re about to leave on a week-long vacation? There’s no way you’re going to leave their side — but your resort’s cancellation policy says clearly that no refunds will be given.

In situations like this, travel insurance can help. If a family member who’s not traveling with you develops an illness, injury, or medical condition that’s considered life-threatening or requires hospitalization, that can be a covered reason for trip cancellation. The same is true for trip interruption — if you’re already on your trip when a family member becomes seriously ill, then trip interruption benefits can pay for your transportation home, as well as reimbursing you for unused trip costs.

Read more: How Travel Insurance Covers Family Members

What if you’re diagnosed with cancer after you purchase travel insurance?

Let’s say you book a Mediterranean cruise for yourself and your spouse to celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary. You also purchase travel insurance to protect the trip. Six months later, a routine mammogram detects a lump in your breast, and you’re diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer. You must undergo surgery and radiation, which means you won’t be able to go on your long-awaited cruise.

Travel insurance with trip cancellation benefits can be invaluable in situations like this, when you’re facing a cancer diagnosis. If your symptoms (or the side effects of treatment) are disabling enough to make you cancel your trip, and if your doctor advises you to cancel it, then trip cancellation benefits can reimburse you for your prepaid, non-refundable trip expenses. That way, you can reschedule the cruise for after you’ve recovered — and the sea breezes will be even sweeter.

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Travel and holidays

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Having cancer doesn't always stop you from travelling or taking holidays. However, there are things you should consider.

Before you make plans to travel, ask your doctor for advice.

Planning to travel

If you are planning a holiday, plan it early and consider the following things:

  • Find out if your doctor thinks you are fit enough to travel.
  • Make sure that going away won’t interfere with your treatment.
  • If you are having treatment, think about any side effects you have, and how they could affect your trip.
  • Ask your doctor whether you have an increased risk of blood clots.
  • Find out what medical care is available where you are going, and what the standard of care is.
  • Find out if you need vaccinations for where you want to travel.
  • Think about how much walking or other exercise you will need to do.
  • Tell the travel agency or airline if you need organise things like a wheelchair, oxygen or a special diet,

You will also need travel insurance. This can be difficult to get following a cancer diagnosis. It may help to get a letter from your specialist to give the insurance company. Make sure you find out what the insurance company will and won’t cover.

While you are away

Things you may need to think about are:

  • Have a letter from your specialist outlining your condition and plan of care, including what medications you are taking.
  • Make sure you have enough of your regular medication for while you are away, and some to spare.
  • Take medication with you to help with any side effects you may get, like pain, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Avoid the risk of infection, especially if you are having treatment or have recently completed it.
  • Protect yourself from the sun as your skin may be more sensitive than usual.
  • Be aware that you may feel tired and fatigued, and plan for rest times.

If you have a choice of holiday locations consider these issues when deciding on where to go.

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If you don’t know where you’re traveling to within the next 12 months, choose Worldwide to ensure you’re covered no matter where you go. If you’re travelling to multiple countries choose the region that you are visiting that is furthest away (excluding stopovers less than 48 hours). In most cases you will be covered for the closer regions as well. For example, if you choose Europe, you will also be covered in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific.

Worldwide means anywhere in the world

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New Zealand means domestic travel within New Zealand only

*Note: Variances apply for Bali, Indonesia, Japan and Middle East. Check that your destination is covered once directed to your chosen insurer’s site.

Finding Travel Insurance When You Have Cancer

Whether you're recovering from your latest round of chemotherapy, need a bit of R&R or are celebrating an ‘all clear’ cancer prognosis, a holiday can be just the ticket.

However, finding travel insurance when you have cancer can be tricky!

Whilst most policies will usually cover  pre-existing medical conditions  such as diabetes, asthma and osteoporosis; conditions like cancer, mental illness and heart conditions are more commonly not covered.

The general rule of thumb is that insurers do not cover conditions that already exist before your trip and many will require a medical evaluation before they give the ok. Additionally, most policies WILL NOT cover cancer due to the heightened risk that sufferers may fall ill, cancel their holiday, or cut their trip short.

The Good News

The travel insurance industry has heard you and is responding.  Up until recently, finding travel insurance that covered cancer was an exercise in frustration.  However, there are now a few insurers that have added certain cancers to their list of conditions covered following assessment.

Insurers such as Covermore (underwritten by Zurich) may cover a range of cancers including breast, prostate, kidney, bowel, brain and skin cancer. Additionally, AAMI (underwritten by Suncorp) may insure travellers with breast or prostate cancer (under certain conditions).

Are You Eligible?

It’s important to note that certain conditions will always apply to cancer cover. Although we've highlighted some important terms below, be sure to chat to your provider before you buy. •  Covermore  will cover skin cancer, providing your skin cancer isn't melanoma, you haven't had chemotherapy or radiotherapy for this condition, and your skin cancer does not require follow up treatment e.g. chemotherapy, radiotherapy or further excision.  •  Citibank  and  AAMI  will only cover prostate cancer if you have a Gleason Score P.S.A. (prostate specific antigen) of 3.0 or less. •  AAMI  may cover travellers with breast cancer and prostate cancer provided they had received their diagnosis and treatment over 12 months ago, have not had any chemotherapy or radiotherapy in the 12 months before applying for cover and the cancer has not spread beyond the breast or prostate at any time. • Trip duration can also be a factor when you’re purchasing cancer cover. 

What If I Can't Find Cover For My Pre-Existing Condition?

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Other Reasons To Buy Travel Insurance

Although your health is top priority (especially now) there are other huge factors that make travel insurance a must for all travellers. Although most insurers won’t list cancer as a covered illness, they will still cover the following and more.

  • Lost and stolen luggage and personal belongings : When you’re dealing with huge life transitions, the last thing you need is the extra financial stress of a lost suitcase or stolen wallet. Travel insurance will cover you for any lost, stolen or damaged items, provided you look after them.  
  • Cancellations and emergencies : Should your flight be delayed for more than 24 hours, your travel insurance provider will cover any costs you’ve accrued. You’ll also be covered should you miss a flight due to any type of motor vehicle accident or natural disaster.  
  • Rental car excess : Planning a bucket list road trip? Your travel insurance will usually cover rental car excess, so you can cruise on, worry-free.  
  • Personal liability : Travel insurance will cover you in the event that you are responsible for another person’s injury. Most comprehensive policies will cover you for up to $2 million in personal liability fees.

Note: Even if your insurer will not cover cancer you may still take out insurance to cover other health and travel-related issues. However, if you are currently receiving medical treatment or have a shortened life expectancy, things get a little complicated. Under these circumstances you will most likely not find health cover for anything cancer-related, including cancelled or delayed flights due to illness or treatment and medical costs while overseas.

Tips For Travelling With Cancer

Travelling with a compromised immune system means taking greater care and minimising your risks whilst on-the-go. The following tips will help keep you in good nick whilst you’re away:

  • Talk to your medical team : It’s a good idea to chat to your medical team and debrief them on all your travel plans before you book your trip. Get your doctor to write a comprehensive letter detailing your condition, treatment and medication and keep it with you at all times.  
  • Get organised : Take any necessary medical contact phone numbers and a list of all the medications you are currently taking. Pack your medications in your carry-on luggage as they are less likely to go missing than in your stowed luggage.  
  • Make provisions : Need extra legroom on your flight or handicap facilities in your hotel? Call ahead to ensure all your travel requirements are set. A bit of pre-planning will minimise all the usual travelling inconveniences.  
  • Be sun savvy : Chemotherapy and radiation can increase sensitivity to the sun so be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and protective gear along for your trip.  
  • Take it easy : Feeling unusually fatigued? Accept that you will have good and bad days and give yourself ample amounts of downtime in between activities.    
  • Stay safe:  Good hygiene practice is essential when your immunity is low. Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer whenever appropriate. Avoid uncooked food and drink bottled water only.

What’s Next?

Having cancer shouldn’t deter you from taking that long-awaited holiday. Once you’ve researched your options, spoken to your insurance provider and taken all the necessary precautions there’s nothing left to do but focus on enjoying your trip. Have fun!

Are You A Mature Traveller?

If you’re over 50, finding travel insurance can be a daunting task. Need help? We’ve put together a clear and comprehensive  guide to seniors travel insurance  to clear up any grey areas. General Advice Warning: The contents of this article were accurate at the time of writing. Insurers change their policies from time to time, so some information may have changed. You should always read the Product Disclosure Statement of your chosen insurer to understand what is covered and what isn't. The information provided is of a general nature only and does not take into account any personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your personal circumstances.

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Contributor Crystal Moran

Crystal Moran

With a research and journalism background, and certified in Tier 2 General Insurance General Advice, Crystal is passionate about investigating customers’ tricky travel questions and helping them find the answers they’re looking for. A writer and filmmaker whose favourite trips have been to film festivals in Cuba and South Korea, and campervanning around the USA, she loves getting to know new people and seeing a glimpse of the world through their eyes.

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Travelling with cancer: A checklist

By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Cancer is many diseases. Even people with the same type of cancer can experience a very different journey through illness and treatment. So, when it comes to overseas travel, deciding on what is feasible (and what’s not) requires some very personal considerations. Most people with cancer travel without problems and a holiday relaxing or visiting family and friends overseas is often just the tonic they need. But, some shouldn't travel by air while undergoing treatment because of dangers associated with deep vein thrombosis or changes in the pressure or oxygen concentrations in the plane's cabin. More later on some of the factors that could make international air travel not advisable. Planning for healthy overseas travel is smart for anyone – sick or well – but particularly for someone with cancer or recovering from it. And, preparations should start early, allowing enough time to cover the steps suggested in this checklist.

GET EXPERT ADVICE:  The first step –  before  you book airfares or accommodation – is to talk to your oncologist and a doctor experienced in travel medicine to check that you are fit to fly. Depending on your condition, you may be advised to (a) stay in this region of the world rather than undertake a long-haul flight, (b) choose a developed country rather than a developing one, or instead (c) forego overseas travel and choose a domestic destination where medical help is more readily available and covered by Medicare.

PLAN WELL AHEAD:  Allow plenty of time – at least 6-8 weeks, longer if possible – in case you need to overcome any complications or to make special arrangements to protect your health, such as vaccinations and medical documentation (see more below).

PICK THE RIGHT PLACE:  Places you’ve visited before may not be suitable now. A better choice may be somewhere that has facilities you may need close to your accommodation – especially if you tire easily and can’t walk long distances. (Some travel companies and resorts have medical officers who can provide practical advice, as well as arrange early boarding, wheelchairs, special diets, oxygen etc. Be clear about what they can supply and the cost, and what you will need to arrange separately. Prices can vary widely, so shop around.)

DISCUSS VACCINATIONS:  Vaccinations are often recommended for international travel to prevent common infectious diseases that occur at a destination. What vaccines are recommended will depend on where you want to go, how well you are, and the demands of your current treatment regime. Not all vaccines are made the same way and ‘live’ vaccines may not be recommended for someone if their cancer has weakened their immune system or they are taking certain cancer medications, are undertaking or have recently undertaken chemotherapy. Generally, cancer patients can receive  inactivated vaccines , which contain a ‘killed’ virus or bacteria, although these may not be as effective as when your immune system is working normally. Inactivated vaccines that are safe for cancer patients include: Diphtheria, tetanus and polio (only available as a combined vaccine for adults), flu, hepatitis A and B, rabies, cholera, injectable typhoid, meningococcal meningitis, tick-borne encephalitis, and Japanese encephalitis (Jespect rather than Imojev). However, live vaccines contain a small amount of live virus or bacteria that has been altered to prevent infection. They’re fine if your immune system is strong, but they can be harmful for someone with a weakened immune system and therefore not recommended for a cancer patient while undergoing chemotherapy, or for at least 6 months afterwards depending on the type of treatment they received. (Autologous stem cell/bone marrow transplants can mean no live vaccines for up to 2 years post treatment.) If you have a weakened immune system you should not have the following  live vaccines : rubella (German measles), measles or MMR (Measles, mumps and rubella), chickenpox, BCG (Tuberculosis), yellow fever, oral typhoid, shingles (Zostavax), and Imojev, the live attenuated Japanese encephalitis vaccine. NOTE: Sometimes proof of vaccination is required to enter or return from certain destinations, notably Yellow fever for many African and South American countries. If your doctor determines that this live vaccine could compromise your condition or treatment, customs officials will usually accept a letter from your doctor exempting you from having the vaccine; however it is best to check this with that country’s embassy or consulate.)

MALARIA PREVENTION MEDICINE:  If you are travelling to a malaria-infected country and there’s a risk of exposure to the disease, you may be advised to take malaria prevention drugs. Having cancer doesn’t preclude these medications and your travel doctor will determine which antimalarials are suitable for the destination, ensuring that they won’t interact with other drugs you may be taking. It’s also important to take measures to  avoid mosquito bites , especially as mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, and Zika virus are also likely to pose a risk in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

AVOID BLOOD CLOTS:  Some people with cancer have a higher risk of developing blood clots (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) because they have more of the proteins and cell fragments (platelets) that help the blood to clot. Other reasons why people with cancer may be at higher risk include: the type of cancer they have, certain cancer drugs or hormone therapies like tamoxifen can raise the risk, surgery within the last few months, they’re less mobile or active, they smoke, or are taking the contraceptive pill. Sitting for long periods increases the risk of developing a blood clot, regardless of whether you are travelling by plane, train, coach or car. Your doctor may suggest blood thinning drugs before and after some journeys. On plane trips, walk up and down the aisle every hour and/or exercise your lower legs with a few minutes of foot extensions. Compression socks or stockings are widely available but they must be correctly fitted to be effective. Read more on  ways of preventing blood clots . 

TRAVELLING WITH MEDICATION:  Plan how much medication you need to take with you and get those prescriptions filled well before you go. You may need to check with the consulate of the destination country regarding restrictions on the medication you wish to take abroad. If you’re taking any controlled drugs, such as morphine-based painkillers, you may need to make special arrangements – apart from the letter from your doctor listing the drugs you require regularly. If in doubt, check with the consulate of the destination country regarding restrictions on the medication you wish to take abroad. Take a copy of your prescriptions with you in case your medicines are lost or stolen and need to be replaced. The Australian Government’s smartraveller website has more advice on  taking medicines abroad  and other information, including the reciprocal health care available to Australian travellers.

ARRANGING OXYGEN SUPPLIES:  In-flight oxygen is available from most airlines, but charges vary widely. Oxygen should be requested well in advance and is typically available only in 2- or 4-litre flow. Most airlines will also require a letter of medical clearance from your doctor at least 48 hours before the flight. US carriers will require a prescription for oxygen. If you need oxygen during your stay, make arrangements for a supply from your resort or hotel. I would advise against international travel for anyone requiring oxygen therapy unless the trip is essential.

INSURANCE IS A MUST:  Travel insurance is  absolutely  essential for someone with cancer. Hospital treatment and repatriation to Australia can be extremely expensive – six figure bills are not uncommon. To cover your fitness to travel, you will usually have to supply your insurer with a letter from your cancer specialist. It pays to shop around – and check the fine print. It can be particularly difficult to get insurance for some places, such as the USA, because of their high medical costs. Cancer Council Victoria has a handy handout, Travel Insurance for People with Cancer. Prepared by a legal firm, it outlines types of travel insurance, what you're covered for (or not), and what to do if you're refused travel insurance due to your illness. You can call the council’s Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20 and request a copy, and find more information on insurance from  smartraveller website  or  cancerresearchuk .

Things that may prevent travel

You should always get advice before booking air travel if you’ve had: RECENT SURGERY:  You should not fly within 10 days of bowel, chest or brain surgery because you may have air trapped in your body, which can expand and cause an increase in internal pressure. The air should have been absorbed into your system after 10 days– less for keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery. BONE MARROW OR STEM CELL TRANSPLANT:  These procedures often leave the recipient at higher risk of an infection. Regular check-ups and blood transfusions are commonplace in the 6 months following the operation. Your doctor may advise against travel during this period anyway, or until your blood counts return to normal, which can take up to 12 months. A LOW PLATELET COUNT:  Platelets are the cells in blood that help it to clot. Cancer treatment can lower your platelet count. To fly safely, your platelet count should be above 40,000 per cubic ml of blood. BREATHLESSNESS:  Your cancer or your treatment can cause breathlessness. Lower air pressure during a flight means lower oxygen levels in the cabin, which can make breathing difficult. The solution may be a supply of oxygen during the flight (see above).

For a cancer patient or anyone with a chronic medical condition, seeking expert advice well before departure will help to ensure the trip is both healthy and stress free.

* Dr Bajrovic is the Medical Director of Travelvax Australia.

Routine, recommended and required travel immunisations – along with expert tailored advice and information – are available during a pre-travel medical consultation at Travelvax Australia’s clinics nationwide. For advice or to make an appointment, please call 1300 360 164 (toll-free from landlines) during business hours.

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04 Feb Travel Insurance for Cancer Patients: What Does it Cover, and How Does it Work?

Planning an upcoming trip you might want to double-check your travel insurance coverage before you hit the road..

Recently in a story by the LA Times , Kathy Mutchler described her experience with the travel insurance company the Good Sam Club. Kathy pays $89.99 annually for the TravelAssist program, which says it covers medical evacuations if suitable care isn’t available locally. Kathy assumed that when she needed to be airlifted out of a Mammoth Lakes RV park after being diagnosed with a severe kidney infection, she was covered. Imagine her surprise when she received a $71,000 air ambulance bill, and a notice from Good Sam that her medical evacuation was not covered by their insurance. While many travel insurance policies allow policy- holders to bypass prior approval in emergencies, Kathy’s plan didn’t include this language. Since she didn’t get prior approval for her air ambulance (while she was barely able to stand due to her kidney infection), Kathy’s evacuation wasn’t covered by Good Sam.

Luckily for Kathy, her primary insurer Blue Cross did cover her medical evacuation. Kathy avoided that bill, but do you know what your travel insurance covers? If you or your loved one is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, leveraging this coverage can make traveling more affordable and secure, but should be used carefully. Whether you’re a policy-holder or in the market for travel insurance, read on to learn more about how these policies work.

What is travel insurance?

Travel-related insurance covers financial, medical, or other unforeseen expenses you run into while traveling. You can usually buy insurance when you book a trip to last for the duration of the tip. Some policies, like Kathy’s, are tailored for people looking for more long-term plans. You can purchase travel insurance from travel agents, travel insurance companies, or travel suppliers like cruise lines.

What does travel insurance cover?

Benefits vary widely by plan and insurance company, but travel insurance policies often cover:

  • Travel Delay
  • Trip Cancellation
  • Loss, theft, or damage to personal possessions
  • Medical & Dental expenses
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Oversees funeral expenses
  • Accidental death, injury, or disablement
  • Legal assistance
  • Death of an immediate family member
  • Personal liability and rental car damage

Your cancer diagnosis may be considered a pre-existing condition. Most travel insurance policies treat a cancer diagnosis as a pre-existing condition, which is often defined as an injury, illness, or medical condition, that within 120 days before you purchase your policy:

  • Caused you to seek medical examination, diagnosis, care, or treatment from a doctor
  • Presented symptoms; or
  • Required you to take medication prescribed by a doctor (unless that condition or symptom is controlled by the medication prescribed)

You can likely apply for a waiver which allows you to be covered for losses caused by your cancer diagnosis or treatment, usually called a Pre-Existing Medical Condition Exclusion Waiver , if your diagnosis fits this definition. Insurance policies and waivers vary by insurer, but benefits often include:

  • Reimbursing pre-paid, nonrefundable expenses if you have to cancel your trip because your illness worsens or requires additional treatment.
  • Reimbursing pre-paid, nonrefundable expenses if you have to end your trip early due to an illness worsening.
  • Reimburse you for emergency medical care if you suffer a cancer-related medical emergency while traveling.

There are often limits to this coverage. Travel insurance is designed to cover unforeseen costs, so, for example, if you wait until you suffer an injury while oversees, you likely won’t find medical coverage. These policies tend to cover specific situations, events, or losses, so it’s important to read your policy carefully. Some travel insurance policies don’t cover individuals with pre-existing conditions (which could include a cancer diagnosis), or people over 70 years old.

How does travel insurance work?

Most of the time, travel insurance reimburses you for covered costs after you file a claim and that claim is approved. Claim processes vary by company, but you’ll have to provide proof of your covered loss or expense. While waiting for reimbursement, you will likely have to pay to accommodate your unexpected travel delay or medical expense. In some situations, (unfortunately not Kathy’s), travel insurance companies pay emergency medical expenses up front.

Tips for Buying and Using Travel Insurance

  • Buy early: The earlier to buy travel insurance, the longer you’re covered if your trip is delayed, cancelled, or disrupted before you leave. Usually, the best time to buy travel insurance is right after you’ve made your travel arrangements. Some policies require you to purchase insurance within a certain window (often 14 days) after making travel plans to qualify for special benefits, like coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • Read your plan carefully: As Kathy’s story shows, it pays to know exactly what situations your plan covers. Do you need pre-approval for medical services or hotel accommodations? Receipts of purchases for claims to be filed once you get home? Read your plan carefully before you start your trip to avoid unexpected bills.
  • Call your insurance company when you need help: Many insurance companies have 24-hour hotlines for policy holders, so give your insurance company a call if you’re faced with an unexpected expense and are unsure about coverage. Representatives can explain your benefits and help you deal with your unexpected costs.

Make sure to research your plan carefully before purchasing— without her Blue Cross coverage, Kathy’s RV trip would have cost her $71,000.

For more information about health insurance coverage, visit https://TriageCancer.org/HealthInsurance .

Similar Posts You May Like To Read:

  • Dangers of Fixed Indemnity Plans: But Not in the Eyes of the Court
  • Are High Risk Pools & Major Risk Insurances Plans Extinct?
  • Do you have a Pre-Existing Condition? Do you know if you are Protected?
  • Is Short-Term Insurance the Solution?
  • Do You Have a Right to a Second Medical Opinion?
  • Ability To Buy A Medigap Policy Depends On Where You Live
  • Buyer Beware: New Rule for Short-Term Health Insurance Plans
  • Do You Know if You Have an Insured or Self-Insured Employer Health Insurance Plan? You Should

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Travel insurance for a pre-existing medical condition

How to secure cover for your next trip if you're dealing with existing medical conditions..

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Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE .

Need to know

  • You must declare a pre-existing medical condition if you want it covered by insurance
  • Insurance cover for pre-existing medical conditions varies widely
  • You may have to pay more to get cover for your pre-existing medical condition

Travel insurance is essential in the case of illness or injury while travelling. Overseas medical costs can be extortionate, and if you have an existing medical condition, it increases the chance you may need medical attention on your trip – that's why insurers charge you extra. 

So if you can get cover for your pre-existing medical condition, it'll take a bit of worry out of your trip. But even if you're willing to pay extra, getting cover for an existing condition isn't always easy.

On this page:

What is a pre-existing medical condition?

What's covered, and what's not, comprehensive policies that may cover your pre-existing medical condition, travel insurance for seniors with pre-existing medical conditions, pregnancy and travel insurance, credit card travel insurance and pre-existing medical conditions,  what to do if you can't get cover for a pre-existing medical condition.

A pre-existing medical condition is a medical condition that you had before you bought your travel insurance.

Different travel insurers will have their own specific definitions, but it's usually a diagnosed medical condition that you've had or received any form of medical advice, treatment or medication for, in a specified time period before you bought your policy.

Most insurers would cover a condition if it hadn't led to treatment in the one to two years before you booked your trip, but others may specify five years or longer

The 'specified time period' wording is worth paying attention to. If, for example, your condition last showed symptoms 18 months ago, but the time period specified by the insurer is 12 months, then you'll be covered subject to the other conditions of the policy.

The insurance contract regulations set the time period as six months by default. Unfortunately, insurers can get around this six-month rule and exempt themselves simply by burying an exclusion or limitation in the product disclosure statement (PDS).

Insurers' definitions vary as to what the specified time period is. Most insurers would cover a condition if it hadn't led to treatment in the one to two years before you booked your trip, but others may specify five years or longer.

There are often a lot of hoops to jump through to get cover for pre-existing conditions. 

Insurers can:

  • exclude pre-existing medical conditions altogether
  • include a list of accepted pre-existing medical conditions (specified in the PDS)
  • restrict cover for generally accepted conditions depending on other conditions you might have, or only cover some symptoms (for example, allergies may be covered, but not anaphylaxis)
  • subject you to an assessment for cover of your medical condition and charge a fee to complete this assessment (whether you get cover or not)
  • deny you cover for a medical condition on application.

Even if you survive that minefield, you may then have to fork out several thousand dollars for the privilege of getting cover for your condition.

Below is a list of conditions that might usually be covered, with specific restrictions. 

  • Allergies 
  • Blindness and low vision
  • Corneal graft
  • Coeliac disease
  • Ear grommets
  • Gastric reflux
  • Hiatus hernia
  • High cholesterol/hypercholesterolaemia
  • High blood pressure/hypertension
  • Hip replacement
  • Knee replacement
  • Macular degeneration
  • Underactive thyroid/overactive thyroid
  • Chronic lung conditions
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced immunity
  • Cancer (some policies automatically cover skin cancer but not melanoma)
  • Heart-related medical conditions
  • Medical conditions you're travelling to seek medical treatment or review for
  • Conditions involving drug or alcohol dependency
  • Conditions for which you're awaiting surgery, treatment, investigation or procedures
  • Conditions with a terminal prognosis

This also includes any travel booked or undertaken against the advice of a medical practitioner.

Check the insurer's PDS for a specific list of conditions. If a condition is not listed as automatically covered, then you may be able to apply to the insurer to cover your condition.

For the specified time period, the lower the number, the better. Read on below the table for more information.

* The time period before booking your trip that a medical condition, that isn't specifically excluded, would be covered if it has not given rise to symptoms or required medication or treatment. 

If your medical condition is on the insurer's 'Covered Conditions' list, then the time period might be longer than what's specified above. 

For example, Go Insurance's specified time period is 90 days (3 months), but if your condition is on their 'Covered Conditions' list, and you've been hospitalised for that condition within 24 months of booking the trip, then it may not be automatically covered. You'll need to fill out a form to apply for cover.

CHOICE tip: Filling out assessment forms for your medical condition can be time-consuming and frustrating, but try at least three different insurers because premiums and cover vary widely.

How you're assessed for a pre-existing medical condition

Many Australian insurers use a 'black box' risk rating system to assess your condition, such as that provided by insurance technology firm Verisk.

The systems may contain a list of health conditions, each of which is assigned a risk factor. Depending on how high this risk factor is, the insurer can choose to rule out cover, or offer cover for an extra premium.

Older and wiser travellers with pre-existing medical conditions can still get travel insurance for their international travel. The drawback is that you'll have fewer policies to choose from, and you'll pay more for it. 

Many travel insurance policies have age limits, over which they either don't offer cover, or they may offer restricted cover with lower benefit limits or a higher excess. 

Cost of travel insurance for seniors

Our analysis of premiums across age groups shows that an older single traveller going to Bali for around 11 days to two weeks will on average pay more for their cover as they age, with premiums generally increasing more noticeably from age 50. 

Travellers aged over 70 could pay up to 3.5 times more for their travel insurance than people in their 60s

In particular, travellers aged over 70 could pay up to 3.5 times more for their travel insurance than people in their 60s, prior to further underwriting and premium adjustments by insurers for coverage of pre-existing medical conditions.

Visit our travel insurance comparison and use the filter to find travel insurance policy options for people across a range of ages up to 100 or even unlimited.

Pregnancy cover will protect you in circumstances such as if you need to cancel your trip due to doctor's advice, or if you're on holiday and incur medical costs that are a result of unexpected complications (something that you weren't already being treated for or had no history of).

Note that travel insurance won't usually cover you for childbirth or for medical costs relating to your newborn if you give birth while on holiday.

Different policies will cover you up to different stages of your pregnancy, so which provider you go with will depend on when you plan to travel (and return home). Not all policies will cover IVF or similar medically assisted pregnancies.

CHOICE tip: Check with your airline before you travel – many airlines will only let you fly up to a certain stage in your pregnancy, and may require medical certificates or other documentation.

Some credit cards come with travel insurance policies that may cover pre-existing medical conditions. 

However, policies that come with credit cards vary just as much as standalone travel insurance policies, so you need to read the terms and conditions carefully to understand whether you're automatically covered, whether you need to apply for cover, or if there's no cover at all for pre-existing medical conditions.

Bear in mind that some credit card travel insurance policies require you to activate your insurance before you leave. Some people may find this a bit of a pain, but with pre-existing medical conditions it may actually be an advantage, since it will prompt you to check your cover.

If you're denied cover for your pre-existing medical condition, or if you can't afford the extra premium, you may still be able to buy a travel insurance policy. 

You'll need to declare your condition to your insurer. They may then offer you travel insurance cover, but will issue a certificate that says you won't be covered for any claim that arises because of your pre-existing medical condition.

Stock images:  Getty, unless otherwise stated.

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Travel with metastatic breast cancer

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For some people, knowing they have metastatic breast cancer sparks a desire to fulfil lifelong dreams of travel. For others travel is a longer-term goal that people look forward to working towards. If you are thinking about travelling, you will have a few extra things to consider.  

Domestic travel  

If you are planning to travel within Australia, your doctors may be able to suggest options for medical support that make it easier for you to continue with your regular treatment, or simply provide some peace of mind.

If you are booking airfares that must be pre-paid, try to book a fare that is flexible in case you have to make last minute changes or delay your trip.

You may also want to check the cancellation policy of the accommodation that you are booking to make sure you can have as much leeway as possible should your travel plans need to change around your health. 

My husband says ‘let’s do that trip around Australia we’ve always talked about’ but I’m scared in case something happens. I need to be close to hospitals and family and all that support. But the thing is I’m well now and maybe we should be taking advantage of that.

International travel and travel insurance  

International travel is more complicated because you’re not covered by Medicare once you leave the country, and it is unlikely that your private health insurance will help with any medical costs.

Reciprocal health care

Australia has reciprocal health care agreements (RHCAs) with New Zealand, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Slovenia, and Malta.

When you’re travelling in these countries any medical care you need will be covered by the local public health system, to varying degrees. For more information about reciprocal health care agreements, see  Services Australia .  

After all the hassle of getting the drugs organised, doctors’ letters and trying to organise the insurance that I couldn’t get anyway, I finally went overseas. I didn’t have one day of illness. Why did it take me six months to do that trip? It’s the uncertainty, isn’t it? And we are all living with that.

Most international travellers take out travel insurance to cover things like lost luggage, accidents and medical cover. There are some travel insurance policies that will cover you for these incidentals but unfortunately you are unlikely to be able to obtain cover for medical costs related to your cancer. This is because it is viewed as a ‘pre-existing condition’.

Sometimes people decide to travel without insurance to countries that don’t have a reciprocal agreement. This is a personal decision, and for many people, it is a matter of weighing up the risk of needing medical attention against the possible cost.

Some travel insurance companies may be more flexible about covering people with breast cancer. You may need to consult a travel agent or specialist travel insurance consultant to find out what is available.  

International travel tips  

If you are planning an overseas trip, talk with your medical oncologist before you make any payments. It may be better to hold off making payments on a trip until as late as you can.

When travelling overseas, make sure you take a letter from your oncologist detailing any medications you are carrying and the reasons you have them and keep your medications in their original packaging. It is also important to ensure you have enough of your prescription medication to cover you for the entire time you are away.

Ask your oncologist to also provide you with a brief summary of your breast cancer history, and treatments you have had in the past. Store this information somewhere safe when you travel and leave a copy with family or friends back home.

Check in with your oncologist or GP just before you travel and make sure you act on any symptoms that are suddenly new, before you head away.

Travelling overseas can be complicated but with some forward planning you can reduce your risks of having an experience that leads to trouble when you are away.  

My family have allowed me the dignity of risk. I have just returned from travelling overseas with the encouragement of my oncologist, but without insurance.

I had really wanted to travel to the USA but when I realised I wouldn’t be covered for hospital costs I just wasn’t prepared to take that risk.

I know that when I decided to go ahead with our trip, the fact that I was able to access medical care in the United Kingdom was one of the things that helped me decide to go. As it turned out I did need treatment while I was away. I did not have to pay a cent for this treatment or medication and I was treated with the utmost care and consideration. The small hiccup of my stay in an Edinburgh hospital pales into insignificance when compared with the memories of our time in Europe and the UK, which will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Compare Travel Insurance (1300 659 411)

This company provides comparative quotes and detailed information on a range of insurance providers for overseas travel, including insurance providers that may offer some degree of cover for people with cancer.

OTIS Foundation (03 5444 1184)

The OTIS Foundation offers retreats in selected locations, available free of charge for people with breast cancer, and their families. Located in Victoria, NSW, NT Qld, SA and Tasmania, they offer a place to take time out to relax, contemplate and regroup. Each retreat is located in a beautiful environment, allowing guests to draw on nature for strength and comfort.

Corporate Angel Network of Australia

The Corporate Angel Network of Australia includes corporations and individuals in hospitals, cancer and leukaemia support groups, aviation companies and businesses who work together to assist patients affected by cancer, and their families.

  • Read BCNA’s fact sheet  Travel insurance with metastatic breast cancer  

Visit My Journey , BCNA’s online tool for information tailored to your diagnosis. 

Join our Online Network  if you think that talking to others online and sharing experiences will help.  

Contact BCNA’s Helpline on 1800 500 258 between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm AEST Monday to Friday, for information about the services and support that may be available for you and your family. 

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Need assistance?

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*This article does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

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What is travel insurance?

Travel insurance is designed to cover you for a range of unexpected events that could happen when you’re travelling overseas or in Australia. Allianz Travel Insurance can cover costs like travel delays or emergency medical treatment, or the cost of replacing items that were lost or stolen during your trip. 1

We have Basic, Comprehensive, Domestic, and Multi-Trip Plans to choose from, with varying levels of cover to help you when you need it most. Our plans are available for singles, duos or families. Read through our Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for detailed information about our plans to see which level of cover is right for you.

Find the right cover for your trip

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Basic Travel Insurance

  • Overseas emergency assistance 1
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  • Personal Liability 1

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Comprehensive Travel Insurance

  • Overseas emergency assistance, medical and hospital expenses 1
  • Unexpected trip cancellation 3
  • Loss of or damage to luggage and personal effects 1
  • COVID-19 benefits 2

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Domestic Travel Insurance

  • Travel delay expenses 1
  • Rental vehicle excess 1

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Multi-Trip Travel Insurance

Additional cover options.

For an additional premium, you can choose to add an Adventure Pack, Cruise Pack, or Snow Pack to eligible plans. Increased Item Limits Cover can also be added to insure your luggage, personal effects or valuables should something happen to them while travelling.

You have the option to vary the base excess when you buy your policy (premium adjustment will apply depending on the excess selected). The choice is yours.

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Choose what suits your needs, single cover, family plan, ready to get started, frequently asked questions.

Without travel insurance, you run the risk of incurring some significant expenses that may take years to pay off.

If you’re travelling overseas, travel insurance is an important consideration for unexpected medical bills and hospitalisation. Other unforeseen expenses could include the replacement of lost or stolen luggage, delays or cancellations to your trip, and many other unfortunate scenarios.

We don’t cover medical expenses under our Domestic Travel Insurance policy. However, you may wish to take out insurance for domestic flight changes or cancellations, lost or stolen baggage, or rental vehicle excess. Refer to the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for more information.

Travel insurance may cover you for a range of unexpected events that may affect your trip, such as emergency medical assistance if you become ill or injured while travelling overseas, including arranging your evacuation if needed.

Other incidents that travel insurance may cover include costs due to unexpected delays and cancellations, rental vehicle excess, and personal liability. You also have the option to purchase additional cover for activities such as adventure sports or skiing, although this isn’t available on all plans.

Cover limits vary from insurance provider to insurance provider, as do policy terms, conditions, limits and exclusions, so it’s important to read the Product Disclosure Statement to make sure you fully understand what’s covered, the limits applying to the policy, and to make sure the policy is appropriate for your needs.

The length of your Travel Insurance policy is largely dependent on the travel dates you supply. When obtaining a quote, or buying a policy, you’ll be prompted to enter in your departure and return dates – this will be the period of cover for all benefits except the cancellation benefit, which begins from the date your policy is issued.

The period of cover is also shown on your Certificate of Insurance, which is sent to you at the time of purchase. You may want to extend the length of your holiday abroad (and therefore need an extension of your period of cover) and you may be able to do this within specified timeframes.

If you think you may travel more than once a year, you may wish to consider a Multi-Trip policy . Different start and end dates apply, refer to the Product Disclosure Statement for full details.

It’s up to you when you buy Allianz Travel Insurance, however, keep in mind these three things:

  • You can buy our Travel Insurance up to 12 months in advance.
  • You must buy Allianz Travel Insurance before you start your journey. Your journey starts when any traveller named on the Certificate of Insurance leaves home or work in Australia to begin travel.
  • Depending on the plan you choose you may have trip cancellation cover, which covers unexpected trip cancellation, rescheduling or shortening from the date your Certificate of Insurance is issued. So, consider buying our Travel Insurance as soon as you’ve booked and paid for some or all your trip as you may be covered for such events before you depart.

Yes, if you change your mind after you buy your Travel Insurance policy, you may cancel it within 14 days of your Certificate of Insurance being issued.

You’ll be given a full refund of the premium you’ve paid, provided you’ve not started your journey and don’t intend to make a claim or exercise any other right under your policy.

When considering which policy is right for you, make sure you consider your needs, as well as your financial situation. Reading the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determination (TMD) is a good place to start as they will give you more detail, so you can decide if the plan is right for you.

Allianz Travel Insurance offers a number of travel insurance plans – Basic , Comprehensive , Domestic , Non-Medical or Multi-Trip Travel Insurance . You can see more detailed information on our Compare Cover Options page .

This product has a general exclusion, with limited exceptions, against epidemics and pandemics. That means we don’t cover claims that arise from, or are related to, an epidemic or pandemic.

However, you’re covered under selected benefits in this product if, during your period of cover, you’re positively diagnosed as suffering a sickness recognised as an epidemic or pandemic, such as COVID-19.

Refer to the Product Disclosure Statement to see which benefits offer cover in the event that you contract a sickness recognised as an epidemic or pandemic, and the terms, conditions, limits and exclusions that apply.

Note: There is no cover under any benefit of this policy if your claim arises because you did not follow advice or a warning that has been issued by the Australian Government or a reliable mass media source. This applies even if an Australian government has given you permission to travel, or you fall under a specific exemption where there is otherwise a travel ban in place.

If you have any questions call us on 13 1000 .

If you need to shorten your journey while travelling, or are prevented from travelling due to a COVID-19 border closure or mandatory quarantine period, you may be entitled to receive a partial or full refund on your premium. Refer to the Product Disclosure Statement for more information.

Eligibility criteria applies. Contact us on 1800 440 806 or email us .

There is no cover under any benefit of this policy if your claim arises because you didn’t follow an advice or warning that a reasonable person would have been aware of, that has been issued by the Australian government (when a ‘reconsider your need to travel’ or ‘do not travel’ alert is in place), which can be found on Smartraveller ; or which was published in a reliable mass media source.

Before buying travel insurance, and while you’re travelling, check Smartraveller and Allianz Partners for travel alerts or advisories for your intended destination(s).

Note: This applies even if an Australian government has given you permission to travel, or you fall under a specific exemption where there is otherwise a travel ban in place.

Tip: Subscribe to Smartraveller to get travel alerts and advisory updates by email.

Refer to General Exclusions in the Product Disclosure Statement for a full list of exclusions.

If you have any questions, call us on 13 1000 .

A general exclusion, sometimes referred to as a policy exclusion or exclusion, is an exclusion that applies to all policy benefits.

Should a general exclusion apply, your travel insurance policy won’t provide cover for the specified event, activities or circumstances.

Refer to General Exclusions in the Product Disclosure Statement provided at the time of purchase for a full list of exclusions.

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Give us a call, or send us a message, follow us on, *conditions apply.

  • Terms, conditions, exclusions, limits and applicable sub-limits apply. Refer to the Product Disclosure Statement for full details.
  • Policy terms, conditions, limits, exclusions, and sub-limits apply to particular types of losses, premium refunds (full or partial) or claims. This product has a general exclusion, with limited exceptions, against epidemics and pandemics. That means we don’t cover claims that arise from, or are related to, an epidemic or pandemic. However, you’re covered under selected benefits in this product if, during your period of cover, you’re positively diagnosed as suffering a sickness recognised as an epidemic or pandemic, such as COVID-19. Refer to the Product Disclosure Statement to see which benefits offer cover in the event you contract a sickness recognised as an epidemic or pandemic, and the terms, conditions, limits and exclusions that apply.
  • Terms, conditions, limits, exclusions and sub-limits apply. Cancellation cover is only available on Comprehensive, Domestic and Multi-Trip Plans. Refer to Cancellation and General Exclusions sections of the Product Disclosure Statement for full details.
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Any advice here does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Terms, conditions, exclusions, limits and applicable sub-limits apply. Before making a decision about this insurance, please consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS)/Policy Wording and Supplementary PDS (if applicable). Where applicable, the PDS/Policy Wording, Supplementary PDS and Target Market Determination (TMD) for this insurance are available on this website.

Travel Insurance is issued and managed by AWP Australia Pty Ltd ABN 52 097 227 177 AFS Licence No. 245631, trading as Allianz Global Assistance (AGA) as agent of the insurer Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFS Licence No. 234708 (Allianz). Travel Insurance is underwritten by the insurer Allianz. Terms, conditions, exclusions, limits and applicable sub-limits apply.

^The 5% off Travel Insurance ‘TRAVEL5’ discount is available from 12:01am AEST 06/05/2024 until 11:59pm AEST 30/06/2024 by entering the valid promo code. The discount applies to new policy purchases and is based on standard premium rates (including optional extras). It applies automatically upon successful input of the promo code and applies to any changes, upgrades or amendments made to the policy prior to commencement of the journey. The discount may apply to changes made after commencement of the journey, contact Allianz Global Assistance to find out more. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer.

We don’t provide advice based on any consideration of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision, please consider the Product Disclosure Statement available on this website. If you purchase this insurance, AGA will receive a commission that is a percentage of the premium. Ask us for more details before we provide you with any services on this product.

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International Basic

Essential cover designed for Australian travellers on a budget.

Pre-trip cover if you're diagnosed with COVID-19

On-trip cover if you're diagnosed with COVID-19^##

Unlimited~ overseas emergency medical expenses^

Up to $5,000 luggage cover

Existing medical conditions cover available

Optional cancellation cover

Single Trip policies

Annual Multi-Trip policies^

Rental vehicle insurance excess

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International Comprehensive

Extensive cover and benefit limits to provide extra financial protection.

Pre-trip cover if you're diagnosed with COVID-19#

On-trip cover if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19 while travelling^##

Up to $15,000 luggage cover*

Optional cancellation cover with Cancellation Extensions

Single Trip or Annual Multi-Trip^^ policies

Rental vehicle comprehensive cover

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International Comprehensive +

Everything our Comprehensive Plan includes and more + higher benefit limits.

Pre-trip cover if you’re diagnosed with COVID-19 before travelling#

Up to $25,000 luggage cover*

Business trip benefits

* Item limits apply.

~ Cover will not exceed 12 months from onset of the illness, condition, or injury.

^ For cruise-related expenses, Cruise Cover must be included in the policy. There is no cover for cabin confinement related to COVID-19.

^^ Policy availability subject to age, trip duration and area of travel. Policies may not be available to all travellers.

# Up to $5,000 per policy (or the amount chosen if this is less) applies to International Comprehensive Plan and Comprehensive+ Plan policyholders with Amendment or Cancellation Costs cover included. You must be diagnosed with COVID-19 and certified by a qualified medical practitioner as being not fit to travel for cover to apply.

## Up to $5,000 per policy (or the amount chosen if this is less) applies per policy for policyholders with Amendment or Cancellation Costs cover included. You must be diagnosed with COVID-19 and certified by a qualified medical practitioner as being not fit to travel for cover to apply. A special excess applies.

Searching for COVID-19 cover?

To help you explore the world with confidence, our travel insurance provides cover for COVID-19-related:

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Overseas medical costs*~#

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Amendment and cancellation costs*^

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Additional expenses*#^

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*Limits, sub-limits, conditions, and exclusions apply.

~Medical cover will not exceed 12 months from onset.

#Cover for medical costs related to COVID-19 is not available on our Domestic Plans.

^A special excess will apply.

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Holiday hasn't  gone to plan?

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When adventure awaits... we can help provide cover.

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Setting sail for two or more nights? You'll need to let us know and Cruise Cover will be added to your policy.

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Snow Sports

Hitting the slopes? Consider protecting your winter getaway with one of our two levels of Snow Sports Cover.

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Adventure Activities

Planning on engaging in extreme activities? We've got two additional Adventure Activities Cover options for you.

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Want to take to the road on two wheels? See if one of our Motorcycle/Moped Riding Cover options is right for your trip.

We're by your side when you need us most

We've been protecting Australian travellers for over 35 years. Read our customers' Cover-More travel insurance reviews to discover how our expert team provides exceptional care during uncertain times.

Mosquito bite in Bali

Shannon was bitten by a mosquito in Bali, which caused Dengue Fever.

"Cover-More were absolutely fantastic. I wasn't responding well to medical treatment, so they flew in a specialist from Singapore to accompany me all the way home. I'm so glad I had Cover-More travel insurance."

Boat crash in Thailand

Natalie was involved in a speedboat crash in Thailand, which resulted in a fractured pelvis and a brain haemorrhage.

"Luckily I had Cover-More insurance. They took care of everything and made sure we had the best medical treatment available."

Accidental fall in Poland

Irene was visiting family in Poland when she had a fall, which resulted in a bad fracture and extensive medical costs.

"Amazing. I can't praise them highly enough. Wonderful, wonderful people... Nobody should travel without insurance."

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Finding cover for Existing Medical Conditions (EMCs)

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7 ways COVID-19 has changed the way we travel

Worried about travel risks during COVID-19? Discover how you can help ensure a safer trip.

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What you should know before you hit the slopes

Planning a ski trip at home or abroad? Don't depart without reading our expert advice.

Got a question about travel insurance? We're here to help

What is travel insurance.

Travel insurance is a specific type of insurance that helps cover several costs and disruptions when travelling both domestically and overseas. Levels of cover differ per plan; however, travel insurance typically protects against trip cancellation, delays, lost luggage and personal belongings, overseas medical expenses and repatriation, and personal liability.

Most travel insurance providers offer single or multi-trip policies, which can cover multiple countries within a specific timeframe. Things like the destination, length of trip, optional additional cover for specific activities and pre-existing medical conditions all help determine the cost of a travel insurance policy.

How much does travel insurance cost?

The cost of a travel insurance policy varies from traveller to traveller because various factors affect the amount payable.

At Cover-More, we consider a number of factors when calculating the total amount payable. The following is a guide on these key factors, how they combine and how they may impact the assessment of risk and therefore the premium paid:

  • Area: higher risk areas cost more.
  • Departure date and trip duration: the longer the period until you depart and the longer your trip duration, the higher the cost may be.
  • Age: higher risk age groups cost more.
  • Plan: International Comprehensive+, which provides more cover, costs more than International Comprehensive or Domestic.
  • Excess: the higher the excess the lower the cost.
  • Cruise cover: additional premium applies.
  • Cancellation cover: on some policies you can choose your own level of cancellation cover. The more cancellation cover you require, the higher the cost may be.
  • Adding cover for Existing Medical Conditions and pregnancy (where available): additional premium may apply if a medical assessment is completed and cover is accepted by us.
  • Options to vary cover (where available): additional premium applies.

While a cheaper policy cost upfront may seem appealing, always read the Product Disclosure Statement to ensure your needs are adequately covered should an incident occur.

How does travel insurance work?

Travel insurance protects you when travelling domestically or internationally by providing coverage against unforeseen circumstances that may impact your travel plans. By purchasing travel insurance with cancellation cover prior to departure, your policy can help by providing cover for the costs of trip cancellations should you no longer be able to travel, as well as the costs of overseas medical treatment, lost passports, and personal items while you’re travelling.

The customer usually pays for these costs upfront, before being reimbursed by the travel insurer upon claim approval. To approve a claim, travel insurers require documentation such as medical reports, itemised medical bills or police reports to confirm the incident occurred.

However, at Cover-More, if our customer becomes ill overseas, they can also contact our 24-Hour Emergency Assistance team for support and to seek approval for expensive medical bills to be paid directly by us to the medical care provider/s instead.

Always read the Product Disclosure Statement before purchasing a travel insurance policy to ensure it provides adequate coverage for your circumstances.

What does – and doesn’t – travel insurance cover?

Unfortunately, travel insurance can’t cover absolutely everything. This highlights the importance for travellers to read the  Product Disclosure Statement  before purchasing to avoid becoming frustrated if claims are unsuccessful. It will contain details on the situations you likely won’t be covered in, including cancellation, pre-existing medical conditions, theft or loss of belongings, adventure sports, COVID-19 scenarios and more.

For full details of the exclusions within our Cover-More travel insurance plans, consult the  Product Disclosure Statement  .

When is the best time to purchase travel insurance?

The best time to purchase travel insurance is as soon as a trip is booked, as this can increase protection. When purchased ahead of time, a Cover-More customer can cancel their travel insurance policy for a full refund within the 21-day cooling-off period. If the policy is purchased before departing on the trip, claims for rearrangements and cancellations caused by unforeseen circumstances can also be made where cancellation cover is added to the policy.

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Best Student Travel Insurance

Updated: May 15, 2024, 1:44pm

Table of Contents

What does student travel insurance cover, can i tailor my student travel insurance policy, what does student travel insurance exclude, how much does student travel insurance cost, where can i purchase student travel insurance, frequently asked questions (faqs).

While student travel insurance technically doesn’t exist, the good news is Australian students can take out standard travel insurance for much needed cover while away.

Whether you’re taking a gap year overseas, studying abroad, or squeezing in a few trips in between your studies, travel insurance can provide essential cover for illness, lost baggage, trip cancellation and more. It can even cover your smartphone and laptop, as well as a vast range of activities, such as bungee jumping, snorkelling, or working on a local farm. It’s simply a matter of finding a suitable policy, or tailoring one to your needs and budget. We explain more below.

Related: Guide to Backpacker Insurance

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Fast Cover Travel Insurance

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Medical cover

Unlimited, 24/7 Emergency Assistance

Cancellations

Unlimited, (Trip Disruption $50,000)

Key Features

25-Day Cooling Off Period, Australian Based Call Centre, 4.6 Star Product Review Rating

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Unlimited, with a $2000 limit to dental

Yes, amount chosen by customer

Southern Cross Travel Insurance

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Medical Cover

Including medical treatment, doctors’ visits, prescribed medication, specialist treatment & medical transport costs

$2,500 with option to increase to unlimited

Australian students looking for travel insurance, have all the cover options available to them that anyone else would. Common benefits include:

  • Emergency medical expenses: covers the cost of treatment should you fall ill, or get injured, while away. There may also be cover for evacuation and repatriation in severe medical cases
  • Personal liability: covers you if you injure someone else, or damage someone’s property
  • Trip cancellation: pays out should an emergency, such as illness or bereavement, prevent your trip from going ahead
  • Baggage and belongings: covers your luggage and personal effects. Look out for a total limit on cover, as well as sub-limits for individual items
  • Passport and personal documents: covers the cost of replacing travel documents if lost or stolen
  • Personal money: the amount claimable if your money is lost or stolen
  • Missed departure: covers the cost of additional accommodation and travel should an emergency cause you to miss your journey
  • Travel delay: pays out if your scheduled transport is late by typically a least 12 hours
  • Company insolvency: compensates you if your airline or hotel goes bust
  • Personal accident: pays out if an injury causes you permanent disability or death.

Each policy offers its own combination of benefits, so it’s vital to check its product disclosure statement (PDS) for a breakdown of exactly what is included, and the cover levels. For instance, you’ll need baggage cover that matches or exceeds the value of the items you’re taking away, while protection for cancellation should cover the cost of your trip.

As a student, you’ll likely want to customise your policy to suit the purpose of your trip, and this is something you can do on most policies. As well as additional cover for gadgets, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, your policy will likely offer options for:

Adventure & Activities

Planning an adventure-filled, high-octane trip? Many policies offer cover for medium to high-risk sports and activities, such as trekking, abseiling and bungee jumping, at an extra cost. This comes in addition to the dozens of low-risk activities usually already covered automatically. Each insurer’s risk barometer is different so do check a policy’s PDS, for a list of what is and isn’t covered as standard. Protection for winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding, usually comes as separate cover to purchase too.

Work & Volunteering

Perhaps you’re thinking of giving a little back to the locals by working in a paddy field, or you’ve seen an opportunity to earn money by doing a few gigs with your band. A travel insurance policy can cover unpaid and paid work, though the types of jobs covered may differ between insurers. There will also likely be restrictions such as the height at which you can work limited to two storeys and lower.

Short Trips or Long Stays

What’s called ‘single trip’ travel insurance can cover a short getaway of up to around 31 days, but there are also annual policies that cover multiple single trips within the space of 12 months. These save you having to take out cover for each trip, only require one set of paperwork and can sometimes work out cheaper than taking out cover each time you go away. Perhaps most suited to gap year takers is backpacker insurance , which is also known as long-stay or extended-stay insurance. It can cover trips lasting up to six, 12, 18 or 24 months, depending on the insurer. It may also allow you to come home a certain number of times in between travelling, without rendering it invalid.

To make the most out of your travel insurance, remember to take heed of the limitations and restrictions detailed in the PDS. These often are unique to a policy or insurer, so a friend’s could be different.

However, most insurers will not cover trips to destinations where the government has issued a ‘do not travel’ alert. Reasons may include natural disasters, terrorism threats and pandemics. You can find out the status of your destination on the government’s Smartraveller website . It’s best to check the site before purchasing your policy, and again before travelling.

Insurers also often reject claims resulting from disorderly behaviour or intoxication by drink or drugs. If you’re taking part in sports and activities, make sure they are specifically covered in the PDS. There may be restrictions such as needing to wear a helmet, harness or other types of required safety gear, for an insurer to accept any potential related claims you make.

You can choose an insurer’s basic protection with limited benefits, or one of its more comprehensive policies, which should offer a wider range of cover types, and higher cover levels, at a higher cost. Just make sure you have the full amount of protection you need.

The cost of your policy will also depend on factors such as your travel destination, trip duration and any extra forms of cover you may choose to add on. While travel insurers typically don’t offer student discounts, insurance tends to be cheaper for young travellers, as they’re deemed less likely to claim on their policy for expensive medical costs. If you’re still a dependent, and travelling with your family, you may be eligible to be covered under your parents’ policy as some insurers allow this.

A policy’s excess is the set amount you will need to pay on each accepted claim. Rather than an out-of-pocket expense, it’s automatically deducted from a claim amount. In exchange for choosing to pay more in excess, an insurer will typically lower the policy premium, which is the cost of the cover. If you prefer to pay less in excess, your premium will likely be higher.

We ran quotes on the websites of the top three ranking insurers for comprehensive policies based on our research . We used the profile of a 20-year-old travelling to Thailand for 12 months.

Their most basic cover ranged from $776 to $1,493 in price:

Their comprehensive cover ranged from $895 to $2,044 in price:

Travel Insurance Direct and Bupa allows you to choose from several cover levels for trip cancellation on their policies. Allianz only offers this option on its comprehensive policy. Choosing higher cover levels bumps up the cost of the policy.

As most, if not all, travel insurers offer options that suit students on their standard cover, taking out insurance is simply a matter of comparing what they have to offer, and then buying the best policy for you. An easy way to do this is to run quotes on each insurer’s website.

You will need to enter details such as your age, travel destination(s), and trip duration. You will then be able to check the policies each insurer offers to suit your requirements. You may be able to add extra cover, such as for winter sports or gadgets, when entering your details, or after choosing a quote. Once you’ve decided on a policy you can pay for it online.

Does student travel insurance cover illness?

Emergency medical cover is a vital component of travel insurance, covering the cost of treatment for illness and injury you may experience while away.

This cover is crucial for many when travelling as Medicare isn’t available in other countries, and even when a country has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia, there may be exclusions to what it covers including repatriation costs. Without emergency medical cover, you would have to find another way to cover these expenses that can easily reach into the thousands of dollars.

What is a pre-existing medical condition?

Insurers class a pre-existing medical condition as any condition you’ve had from before taking out a policy with them.

Only some insurers cover such conditions, and those that do often charge more for the benefit. You can check if a policy covers your condition in its PDS. On applying for cover, you will need to declare any conditions you have during the medical screening stage for future related claims to be considered.

How do I find cheap student travel insurance?

To find an inexpensive policy, without sacrificing vital cover, it’s important to shop around for insurance. Compare the types of cover included, as well as the cover levels to avoid paying out on benefits you don’t need. You’ll also need to weigh up the policy price and excess payable on accepted claims.

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How travel 'bucket lists' help cancer patients handle life and death

In the 2007 film  The Bucket List  Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two main characters who respond to their terminal cancer diagnoses by rejecting experimental treatment. Instead, they go on a range of energetic, overseas escapades.

Since then, the term “bucket list” – a list of experiences or achievements to complete before you “kick the bucket” or die – has become common.

You can read articles listing the seven cities  you must visit before you die or  the 100  Australian bucket-list travel experiences.

But there is a more serious side to the idea behind bucket lists. One of the key forms of suffering at the end of life  is regret  for things left unsaid or undone. So bucket lists can serve as a form of insurance against this potential regret.

The bucket-list search for adventure, memories and meaning takes on a life of its own with a diagnosis of life-limiting illness.

In a  study  published this week, 54 people living with cancer, and 28 of their friends and family said a key bucket list item was travel.

Why is travel so important?

There are lots of reasons why travel plays such a central role in our ideas about a ‘life well-lived’. Travel is often linked to important  life transitions : the youthful gap year, the journey to self-discovery in the 2010 film  Eat Pray Love , or the popular figure of the ‘ grey nomad ’.

The significance of travel is not merely in the destination, nor even in the journey. For many people, planning the travel is just as important. A cancer diagnosis affects people’s sense of control over their future, throwing into question their ability to write their own life story or plan their travel dreams.

Mark, the recently retired husband of a woman with cancer, spoke about their stalled travel plans:

“We’re just in that part of our lives where we were going to jump in the caravan and do the big trip and all this sort of thing, and now [our plans are] on blocks in the shed.”

For others, a cancer diagnosis brought an urgent need to ‘tick things off’ their bucket list. Asha, a woman living with breast cancer, had always been driven to ‘get things done’ but the cancer diagnosis made this worse:

“So, I had to do all the travel, I had to empty my bucket list now, which has kind of driven my partner round the bend.”

People’s travel dreams ranged from whale watching in Queensland to seeing polar bears in the Arctic, and from driving a caravan across the Nullarbor Plain to skiing in Switzerland.

Humpback whale jumping out of the water in Australia. The whale is falling on its back and spraying water in the air.

Whale watching in Queensland featured in some study participant's bucket lists.

Nadia, 38, said travelling with her family had made important memories and given her a sense of vitality, despite her health struggles. Being diagnosed with cancer had given her the chance to live her life at a younger age, rather than waiting for retirement:

“In the last three years, I think I’ve lived more than a lot of 80-year-olds.”

But travel is expensive

Of course, travel is expensive. It’s not by chance Nicholson’s character in The Bucket List is a billionaire.

Some people empty their savings, assuming they would no longer need to provide for aged care or retirement. Others had used insurance payouts or charity to make their bucket-list dreams come true.

“We’ve actually bought a new car and [had been] talking about getting a new caravan… But I’ve got to work. It’d be nice if there was a little money tree out the back but never mind,” said Jim, a 60-year-old whose wife had been diagnosed with cancer.

Not everyone’s bucket list items were expensive. Some chose to spend more time with loved ones, take up a new hobby or get a pet.

Our study showed making plans to tick items off a list can give people a sense of self-determination and hope for the future. It was a way of exerting control in the face of an illness that can leave people feeling powerless. 

“This disease is not going to control me. I am not going to sit still and do nothing. I want to go travel,” explained Asha.

Something we ‘ought’ to do?

Bucket lists are also a symptom of a broader culture that emphasises conspicuous  consumption  and  productivity , even into the end of life.

Indeed, people said travelling can be exhausting, expensive and stressful, especially when they’re also living with the symptoms and side effects of treatment. Nevertheless, they felt travel was something they “ ought ” to do.

Travel can be deeply meaningful, as our study found. But a life well-lived need not be extravagant or adventurous. Finding what is meaningful is a deeply personal journey.

Names of study participants mentioned in this article are pseudonyms.

Dr  Leah Williams Veazey  is ARC DECRA Research Fellow in the Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies in the School of Social and Political Sciences.

Dr  Katherine Kenny  is Deputy Director of the Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies, ARC DECRA Senior Research Fellow, and SOAR Prize recipient in the School of Social and Political Sciences at The University of Sydney.

Professor  Alex Broom  is Director of the Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies. He is recognised as an international leader in sociology, with a specific interest in health, illness, and care. 

This story was first published in  The Conversation . Hero Photo: Adobe Stock Image

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  24. How travel 'bucket lists' help cancer patients handle life and death

    So bucket lists can serve as a form of insurance against this potential regret. The bucket-list search for adventure, memories and meaning takes on a life of its own with a diagnosis of life-limiting illness. In a study published this week, 54 people living with cancer, and 28 of their friends and family said a key bucket list item was travel.