Thursday Health Thoughts: Doctors out of State/Country Series- Part Three- Paying for Costs&Expenses when Traveling out of State/Country

June 26, 2014

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Happy Thursday y'all!! I am so excited to continue this six part series on Thursdays dealing with topics related to seeing doctors out of state or country. Here is the list of the topics for the series and the coming weeks:

Today I want to talk with y'all about how to pay for the costs/expenses when traveling to see a doctor who is out of state or country. This is probably one of the questions that I receive the most from people who read my story and I am excited to share but also hear from y'all who have experience with this! (Side note: No offense to any of my doctors but NONE of them have ever looked like this guy otherwise I am sure all of us ladies would be traveling to out of the state or country! *smiles*But this single gal can dream right? Either way I hope it brings a smile to your face! *smiles*)

So how do you pay for the expenses and costs associated with traveling to see a doctor who is out of state or country for your illness? Here are just a few ideas:

Take Stock of ALL expenses:
Make sure that you take stock of ALL of the expenses that you will need when you travel out of the state or country to see a doctor. Here is a list of what I have learned (sometimes the difficult way) of things that I will need when I am staying for 3 weeks or even when I am staying just for 48 hours:

Before you Leave:
*all medications
*travel size containers
*toiletries (either before you leave or when you get there)
*magazines to read (or books or something on a kindle or nook)

*items to eat & drink in airport or when traveling
*something to read or to listen to
*travel pillow
*travel blanket (do I even need to mention the germs on the blankets on the planes?)

At your Destination:
*rental car or money for taxi or transportation
*water or things to drink at hotel
*snacks for hotel

Doctors Visit:
*anything that insurance is not covering
(Next week I will be talking about insurance issues when going out of state or country so I am not discussing that in this post today. Please note though that not all insurances will cover the costs of your doctors visits (or testing) so make sure to get all of this information upfront!)

(one) If possible, contact the non-profit organization that deals with your disease. Certain organizations that deal with diseases do have grants and programs associated with helping to defer the costs of traveling to see a specialist. Unfortunately this is rare but there are some that can help. If nothing else the organization associated with your illness might have some ideas on where you could look for funding. 

(two) Ask your current doctor for any suggestions. This also is a really simple idea but sometimes very effective. Sometimes your doctor might know of a grant or scholarship that might be available to you. Don't be afraid to ask for help and any suggestions that they might have.

(threeResearch. Research. Research. Sometimes the research will bring you to a dead end but other times you could be surprised by what you learn. Research any and all options and keep knocking on the doors that you need to have opened!

(four) Sometimes "mr. Google" is the best way to obtain information. Sometimes this has been the best way to find out about different scholarships and grants that might be available. With my specific diseases there is not a lot of options but for children who are ill there are tons of options so don't be afraid to ask and research "mr. google". 

(five) Contact your schools alumni association to find out if any alumni work in a position to help you out with any of your travel needs or costs. Sometimes someone that you graduated with or someone that graduated from your school might be the president of a hotel or rental car agency. Who knows? Ask and find out! 

(six) If you work ask co-workers to donate a vacation day to your time off. Unfortunately for those who are working and balancing obtaining treatment you might have to use your vacation days or pay for your time off. Consider asking those that you work with if they would be willing to donate a day or a certain number of hours to help you out. For many co-workers this is a lovely way to help a friend in need so don't be afraid to ask!

(seven)- Ask your workplace about working from a different location. I have a friend who is a college professor who had to travel to receive treatment. After talking with her boss ahead of time she videotaped herself teaching the courses for the three weeks that she would miss and had that played while she was gone. In addition to this she set up skype so that she could communicate and even answer questions in the middle of her taped lectures. It took a ton of work on her part and I am still shaking my head at her ability to do so much but it worked. Y'all those of that are fighting illnesses are warriors and can come up with amazing solutions like this one so don't be afraid to think outside the box!

(eight) Embrace life while you travel. I was SHOCKED last year when I was fundraising to go to California when someone donated two tickets to Disneyland for me and my best friend. I have to admit that at first I thought "what a waste of $200" - I could use that for .... and had a whole list in my mind. BUT honestly after talking with the couple who generously donated this to me and experiencing the day at Disneyland I still tear up at the goodness of their gift. They wanted me to remember that I was still living life and had carefully thought about not only my heart but me as a person when giving this gift. It was a BEAUTIFUL day and I am forever thankful for this gift. My advice is to embrace life as you travel- whether it is in visiting Disneyland or simply walking around the town that you are in (or driving through it if you aren't well enough to get out for a walk). Embrace the opportunity to see a new place and allow these healing thoughts to help you in the journey. 

Paying for Travel:
Unless your doctor is in a state where it is easy to travel to by car (and this is a viable option due to travel fatigue and travel pain) most people will be traveling by plane. The ideas listed below are mainly for this but could be easily adapted to other means of travel.

(one) Using frequent flier miles to pay for plane tickets. Almost every ticket (except for four) that I have used to fly to my doctors visits have been done through frequent flier miles donated by friends and family. This does make traveling a tiny bit trickier (with the way that frequent flier miles work with times and dates) but with a little bit of research (and patience!) this is the best option. I have a friend who has asked every single one of his friends who flies on a particular airline to donate all of their miles to him and it works out to his benefit. This is a great gift to give someone and it can be the best way to travel the cheapest. 

(two) Contact the airlines directly for help. Unfortunately for adults, but fortunately for children there are a lot of airlines that do help cover some or all of the costs for sick children traveling to an out of state specialist. This is very rare for adults but something that should definitely be explored. I have never received any help in the actual cost of a plane ticket but I have received the fee waiver of checking bags and that has been an extreme blessing! ($25 is a HUGE amount of money that is saved!!) Certain Airlines do offer grants if you are traveling to a specific state or country. There was an article from 2013 about how Southwest Airlines was helping patients that needed to travel to Baltimore (John Hopkins). You can read more about this article HERE.

(three) Research options for Travel. If you click HERE you will find a list of charitable organizations that help out those who are ill and need to travel. Most of these are very specific in their guidelines but some people can and do benefit from these amazing opportunities.  If you have cancer this article HERE has some great suggestions! 

(four) Use a credit card for miles. I am almost hesitant to suggest this one as I am not a major fan of credit cards AT ALL. BUT in saying that - if done responsibly and correctly this can be an easy way to accumulate miles for free. I don't have experience with this at all but I know many people do and have found this a really helpful option.

Rental Car Savings:
When I was out in California last year for three weeks it became quickly obvious that it was MUCH cheaper to rent a car to get to my variety of doctors visits then it was to take a taxi. (I had to pay $160 for a taxi to and from one of my doctors offices who was 7 miles away but could rent a car for a week for $99!!) So make sure to check out all of your options! Some hotels do offer shuttle services to major hospitals (for example some hospitals near Mayo Clinic and MD Anderson do have shuttles from their hotels) so you might not need to rent a car. Call the hotel and ask about these options! If you need to rent a car here are just a few practical suggestions:

(one) Using "frequent user" miles to pay for rental car. Similar to the frequent miles that can be used for airline tickets save up and ask friends to donate to your miles (or days as the case may be) so that you can obtain free car rental days. TAKE NOTE though that certain rental car agencies do not allow you to do this so you will want to do your research ahead of time!

(two) Always use the same rental car agency if possible and choose a rental car that gives you savings beyond money. Do your research about major places that you travel to and from and make sure that you always use the same rental car company to add up those days and savings. After doing a ton of research I settled in on Thrifty Car Rental Company because they were located in all of the cities that my doctors were located at, gave amazing deals, has amazing time saving practices (I don't have to wait in lines!! this is HUGE to this sick lady!), and will even pick up their customers and drop you off at your airport gate so that you do not have to walk if you are in a wheelchair or are seriously ill. (I am not receiving any type of promotion to say this but can genuinely say that I have been extremely happy with them!) 

(three) Contact the rental car company directly to ask for any special savings and discounts. I do this every single time I travel to see my doctor. Sometimes I have received nothing but other times I have received a "free tank of gas". This is HUGE! It never hurts to ask and even if the answer is "no" it is always best to knock on every single door that you can. Also don't be discouraged if at first you don't hear a "yes". Be polite and then ask for a supervisor or a manager. Sometimes the person you are speaking with might not know of certain programs or hidden gifts so ask and ask again!

Hotel (Or Lodging Savings):
(one) Check out all of your options when looking at the lodging situation. I have had "air bnb" suggested to me so many times and I think that for some people this is an excellent option. Unfortunately for me this is not an option with my fragile immune system, but can be a great option for those that might be able to do this. 

(two) Use hotel rewards. Similar to the frequent flier miles and the rental car savings ask friends and family to donate their hotel points to your stay and always try and stay at the same hotel to incur more points. 

(three) Choose a hotel that gives you savings beyond money. Similar to the rental car - explore all of your options when you are booking your hotel. The number one reason that I chose the hotel that I did in Newport Beach was because it offered a free shuttle to the Whitaker Wellness Institute. At the time I didn't know that I would be diagnosed with Cancer or need surgery so I didn't know that I would need to rent a car and this originally saved me the cost of the car. So do your research ahead of time! 

(four) Contact hotels for any special rates. Don't be afraid to contact a hotel and ask if there is any special rates that they offer if you are coming in to see a specialist or a major hospital in the area. There have been several times where this has discounted the price for my hotel stay by an additional ten dollars (after the triple AAA rate!) each night. Just like I stated above keep asking for a supervisor or manager or can help you with this!

(five) Ask family and friends for suggestions. I have a friend who needed treatment in a state and she couldn't afford to pay for the cost of lodging as she was going to be there for about six months. It turned out her aunts best friends best friend (did you follow that? *smiles*) knew someone who was looking for someone to house sit while they were out of the country for the year. It was a perfect solution! Don't be afraid to ask for help and see if anyone has any suggestions like this! 

(six) Check out Travelocity,, Hotwire, etc.etc. etc. There are drawbacks to doing this but sometimes these can provide excellent rates if you are not in a situation that you will need to travel regularly to the same location several times a year. 

Meals & Snacks Savings:
(one) Be realistic about your needs. Due to Sojourn's I have to be drinking water voraciously literally throughout the day. Unfortunately you can't carry water with you through security so I always have to purchase water in the airport. I literally budget this ahead of time and know that I need to have $21.87 (yes, I know the exact amount hahaha) for waters in the airports as I travel back and forth to California. Knowing this ahead of time helps me to be more realistic about what exactly I need and the money that I need. I save by packing snacks and my lunch (or breakfast or dinner) while I am traveling as I can take this with me. 

(two) Choose your stores ahead of time to make it easy for people to donate gift cards.Due to my insane strict diet I do not have the "freedom" to just choose anywhere to eat. Due to this I could potentially spend alot of extra money even though I don't want to on food and snacks. My best suggestion is to think of anything and everything that you can purchase ahead of time and take things with you that you can in your suitcase. After this I always research for a Target and a Whole Foods nearby and purchase the remaining items that I need. In choosing these two stores (everywhere that I travel for doctors appointments) I always make this known as some people like to donate gift cards and they know that these are the two stores that I will go to to purchase the items (including my smartwater!) that I need! I have also contacted both of these stores ahead of the time I travel and although I haven't received anything yet I will continue to do so each time that I am traveling! 

Basic Fundraising:
I have shared numerous times that the costs associated with being ill are astronomical. Even just this morning I was talking with the Lord about some bills that are due tomorrow and I am not sure where all of the money is going to come from. This is one of the most difficult parts of this journey. I won't re-share but I know that from the hundreds of emails that I receive each month that many people are in the same position that I am: every conceivable source of funding is "drained" and it is extremely humbling to have to ask for help. I want to encourage you to continue to pray and step out in faith. So many people do want to help but they don't know how. The suggestions listed below are just a few that might help you during this very difficult time. 

(one) Set up a place where people can donate directly. I researched a bunch of different options and chose to go with "go fund me". After looking at a few different options I chose to go with this particular group because the site is very user friendly (to you and to the giver), it allows for the option to input "off-site donations" at no extra cost to you (some sites do not allow for this), and it only charges you a very minimal fee. (Unfortunately on this last point each site that I looked into did charge a fee so you will want to choose the best option for you!) 

(two) Share the site on your twitter, facebook, and all social media sites. 

(three) Ask your friends, family members, co-workers, etc. to share your site! Honestly I have not done this yet (it goes back to the whole idea of feeling embarrassed) but I know several friends who have and this has been wonderful for them. This allows for those who love you to get involved and to share the news. Yes, I am going to ask people to do this today! (*smiles*)

(four) Ask everyone you know to donate their facebook status' to you for a certain number of hours to raise awareness. In the fall my sister and I asked everyone we knew to donate "8 hours on the 8th" to Rebecca's Run. It was incredible to not only see the donations come in but more than that to feel the love and support of so many people. I definitely recommend doing this! 

(five) Donate "___________" day. Along the same lines of number four is to ask everyone you know to donate a:  ____________- fill in the blank (starbucks, lunch, movie, etc.) for that day to your fund. I have had several friends do this and I am actually in the process of setting this up in a couple of weeks. The idea is that you ask everyone you know (and ask them to spread the word too) that instead of purchasing a $5 lunch, starbucks, movie (well these are probably a little bit more *smiles*), app, etc. they will donate that $5 to your fund. This is great because while large donations are incredible EVERY SINGLE dollar helps you and this will allow everyone and anyone to participate. If you want to see how this can work I will definitely be posting about it on my blog in a couple of weeks so I will let you know! *smiles*

(six) Use social media to your advantage! Share to anyone and everyone about the fundraising that you are doing! 

Thanks so much for reading y'all! I hope that this series will be a help to you or a friend! If you have experience of traveling and handling the costs and expenses to see a doctor who is out of state or country could you share in the comments your ideas? I would love to learn new ideas and thoughts! Also I am so excited that Next Thursday to share about handling insurance when traveling out of state or country to see a doctor!!!! Happy Thursday y'all! 


  1. Awesome advice! It kind of relates to my latest post on saving on IVF meds - some of the tips may be useful to people pursuing other health treatments :-)

    1. OOOH this is AWESOME sweet friend!!! I am so glad that you shared this here! TONS of great ideas!!!
      :) Hugs!

  2. Replies
    1. I just hope that in some small way learning all of these things "the difficult way" can make it a little easier for someone else! Dealing with illness is difficult enough without having to learn all of these issues on top of it! Hopefully someone can benefit from my little experiences!
      :) Rebecca

  3. I hope it all works out for you girl. And girl I wish I knew what to do with the hospital bill that I owe and have since DEcember and can't pay it. it's just say 6,000 bucks. ridiculous I think.

    1. Thank you! I hope that it works out for you too! Health care costs are extremely difficult and I hope and pray that you will be able to work something out with the hospital bills that you owe! Sending good thoughts your way!
      :) Rebecca