Tips to help stay healthier on your overseas trip

In June 2017, Kay Barcellos was enjoying a wonderful vacation in Sweden, celebrating her 80th birthday with her family. She didn’t anticipate her trip would be cut short by an accident.

While walking to her Stockholm hotel room, Kay tripped on a raised door sill and landed on her knee. She was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where X-rays revealed she had fractured a bone above her tibia. In order to immobilize her knee, Kay had to wear a full leg brace and was dependent on a wheelchair.

Kay is not alone. According to the US Travel Insurance Association, nearly 20% of all travelers (17 million Americans) are expected to experience an illness or injury when traveling outside of the United States each year. Despite this fact, a recent UnitedHealthcare consumer survey1 found that most Americans have never purchased travel insurance before an international trip. In fact, only 27% of people who traveled internationally in the past five years reported doing so.

Traveling internationally without the right coverage may put your health and financial well-being at risk. The International Federation of Health Plans found that without proper international health care coverage, an overnight hospital stay in Australia could cost an individual around $1,500 in out-of-pocket expenses. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates a medical evacuation can cost $100,000 or more. In comparison, a UnitedHealthcare travel medical protection plan is available for a fraction of that amount.2

Before you hit the road or take to the skies, consider these tips to help protect your health, safety and wallet while you're away.

  1. Know before you go: Before traveling out of your home state or internationally, take time to review your general health plan and know what it covers. Talk to your health care provider about pre-screenings or immunizations that might be required if you are traveling overseas.
    • Resources: You can search a list of countries on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website to determine what vaccines you should consider.
  2. Stay better protected abroad: Travel medical protection plans may include non-insurance assistance services, such as foreign-language translation, direction to appropriate facilities or help with evacuation to other facilities and coordinated care with local health providers.
    • Resources: Learn more about travel medical protection on UnitedHealthcare’s SafeTrip website
  3. Give yourself credit: Consider carrying an extra credit card with a large limit to use for unanticipated medical expenses. Foreign hospitals will typically want upfront payment, rather than billing the plan. Be sure to get clear, complete copies of all bills, medical records and discharge notes to submit for reimbursement from your plan.
  4. Be a savvy senior: In nearly all cases, original Medicare does not extend overseas or across the border (other than in cases in northern states where the nearest hospital is in Canada). Some Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement plans offer emergency limited coverage. Before your trip, ensure any needed medical equipment, such as glucose monitors and insulin pumps, are in good condition.

Follow these tips to help stay focused on fun, friends and family during your next overseas trip. For more information, visit

Sign up to get the latest news from the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom