Preparing to travel overseas

Before you go, get the vaccines you need to stay healthy.

January 2, 2020


The last thing you need when traveling is to get sick. The good news is that you can protect yourself from some diseases. All it takes is a little planning. 

In countries like the United States, it’s easy to forget that millions of people died from certain diseases before vaccines were created. But in developing countries, many of which are popular travel spots, vaccines are scarce. And deadly diseases still exist.

Recent local and national outbreaks of measles have been linked to international travel. These serve as a reminder of how swiftly certain  dangerous diseases can re-emerge when our immune defenses become outdated.

This is why it’s important to review your vaccination record before traveling abroad. Not only is it smart to stay on top of your vaccines, but you may also need additional protection depending on where you’re going.

Types of vaccines

Vaccines you may need include:

  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A and/or B
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Measles
  • Meningococcus
  • Polio
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever

Vaccines are often classified as routine, required or recommended. Knowing the difference can help you understand the vaccines your doctor wants you to get and why:

  • Routine vaccines are for everyone in the United States. The vaccines you need depend on your age and health history.
  • Required vaccines are needed to enter a country based on that country’s regulations. One of the most common is the yellow fever vaccine. Country requirements differ from recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Recommended vaccines are suggestions to protect you from illnesses when traveling. These vaccines are not part of the routine vaccination schedule.

When to get travel vaccines

At least a month before your trip, talk with your doctor about any vaccinations you may need and if there are side effects. If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, your doctor will advise you about traveling and vaccinations. 

Tips to stay healthy while traveling:

  • Pack a travel kit with sunscreen, medication, insect repellant, condoms and first-aid supplies.
  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid insect bites by wearing protective clothing or repellent.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and don’t go barefoot.


By Trong Tony Trinh, MD, MPH

Horizontal Rule

The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.