What Happens When You Are Too Sick To Travel?

Intravenous IV dripI’m sad…

I should be in the Olive Grove Hotel in Namibia, enjoying the very first stage of my big trip. Instead, I’m in my home in Denver writing this post. I can’t help but torture myself by looking at the itinerary and imagining myself there instead of here. Never would I have guessed that less than 48 hours before I was to climb on the airplane, I would be lying on a bed in the emergency room of my local hospital.

Imagine extreme gut-wrenching pain radiating from my stomach and around my rib cage including my back. I was very concerned that I was having a heart attack. Thank goodness they ruled that out immediately. As the pain and vomiting continued, it was clear that I was in no condition to travel or to even begin to attempt 33 hours of four different flights, with layovers, just to get to my first hotel. 

Thousands of dollars of special lenses and photography gear I rented from Borrowlenses, sit on my kitchen island and my almost fully packed bags lay on my bedroom floor. I am so disappointed, I can’t even tell you. I very seldom get sick, so this was a real shock.

What happens when you are too sick to travel? I’m finding out from personal experience.

First, as always, I purchased travel insurance for the trip when I booked it late last year. The policy is with Travel Guard, a company that friends highly recommended. I insured my trip for $13,000 so it included flights and all the on ground transportation and accommodations. My plan does cover sickness of the traveler. As I read the policy in more detail over the weekend, I discovered it would not have covered me if I had traveled with an illness that began before I left the country. It will not, unfortunately, cover the photography equipment rental.

I always buy travel insurance for my international trips. Still, I hate to use it. After all, it means that something has gone wrong. But, that’s why I purchased it and while I couldn’t travel at this time, I hope to reschedule. Namibia is calling and I still plan to answer.

I booked my flights through United Airlines, where I have frequent flyer miles. I called them on Friday afternoon and cancelled the trip. The ticketing agent was wonderful and patient through my emotional explanation. The upgrade fees were immediately refunded and my flights cancelled with the costs credited for future travel. There is usually a $300 cancellation or change fee, but they have waived it because of the unusual circumstances.

Ian from Africa Adventure Company, who coordinated my travel arrangements, was very kind. My costs are not refundable. It’s very clear in the contact I signed and I completely understand. It would not be possible for all of the companies on the ground to fill my slot at such late notice. I love working with Ian and he will definitely be my go-to guy when I’m ready to rebook the trip.

I’ll be completing all of the insurance claim paperwork requesting a refund of $7,205.00 this week and heading back to work on Wednesday. I need my vacation time for when I am able to reschedule my trip. I’m not sure how long it takes to process a claim through Travel Guard, but I’m hopeful they will respond quickly.

While I know it was the right decision for myself and the people I would have been flying and traveling with, I’m still so very disappointed that I’m here and not there. As my sister says, there’s a reason for everything and while I don’t understand it, it will eventually all work out.

I’m not sure when, but soon, I’ll be walking the streets of Windhoek, Nambia, and this disappointment will live only in a post on my blog and as a footnote in my travel journal.

Lori Lavender Luz

Oh, MAN. What a tough turn of events. You sound like you’re handling it with a lot of grace and calm.

I do hope that you and Namibia meet soon, and that your body gets all healed up. And that the trip will then go off as smooth as glass.

Sharon Greenthal

So sorry that you aren’t feeling well and had to cancel your trip. Be sure to stay on top of the travel insurance company – they can be difficult sometimes.

Get well soon!

Shelley Dennis

Jennifer, I’m so sad to hear that you had to cancel your trip. I hope you’re feeling better soon, and I’m sure that eventually you’ll be able to look back on this hiccup and see the reasons for rescheduling, even if they can’t be seen right now. I’ll look forward to hearing all about Namibia when you do get to go. Stay well!


Ohhh I hope you feel better soon. This is too horrid. Of all the times to get sick, and properly so, this is the worst. I hope there’s some redeeming reason for it.

Sending you many wishes for quick healing, Jennifer.


Here I was thinking about you in Africa while we were contemplating our snowy trip home this weekend. What a turn of events! I’m really sorry you’ve had such a disappointment.


Thank you all. I’m still a little under the weather, but feeling so much better than I did a few days ago. It’s clear that I couldn’t have eaten the unusual foods or made it through all the flying hours and still be able to function enough to enjoy the trip. I will stay on the travel insurance company, Sharon. Thanks for the info. I’m hopeful, based on all the wonderful reviews I’ve had, that they will be fair and prompt with settling my claim. I’ll let you all know how it goes.


Oh, wow! So sorry to hear about this. I’ve never purchased travel insurance, but now I see how it can be useful. Hope you continue to feel better and that the insurance issues go well.


Thanks, Pam. I always purchase travel insurance for my big international trips. Not only does it cover trip cancellation, but it includes emergency evacuation coverage which would be critical to returning to the U.S.


So sorry to hear about your illness but glad that you’re feeling better. I’ve never purchased travel insurance but your story definitely will make me reconsider.


Thanks Bonni! I definitely recommend travel insurance. While it adds to the cost of the trip, it is invaluable if the worst happens.

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