What Happens if We Get Sick? Staying Healthy on a Workation

What Happens if We Get Sick? Staying Healthy on a Workation

We were just about to breathe a sigh of relief: After a Minnesota winter of non-stop strep throat, ear infections and colds, the four of us had made it through six weeks of a New Zealand autumn in decent health!

But then, our youngest son (3 years old at the time) started getting cranky. And not sleeping well. His tell-tale signs of an ear infection.

“Does his forehead feel warm to you?”

“I don’t know, I’m hot so maybe I’m feeling my own body heat? What do you think?”

And back and forth my husband and I debated. It was the second-to-last day of our workation in Wellington, New Zealand. Now we were facing the itinerary of a 32-hour trip back home in Central Minnesota and risking a child with an ear infection while crossing the Pacific Ocean.

Depending on where you workation, your healthcare options will vary. Even if you have a generally healthy family like ours, take some time to research healthcare in your destination country and whether your own insurance provides any international options. Before our London workation, Joe called our health insurance company (Blue Cross Blue Shield at the time) and we were surprised (actually, shocked) to learn they offer something called Global Core, an app that helps you find doctors and hospitals outside of the U.S. that are covered by BCBS. (luckily, we never had to use it)

But back at our apartment in New Zealand, we had a different insurance company and no international options. We were at the whim of the country’s healthcare system.

Which turned out to be a really good thing. NZ has a public health system subsidized by the government. Joe went online and found a clinic nearby, where I took our son and had his ears and temperature checked by a lovely doctor originally from Germany and who understood the risk of a long flight with a sick child. Thankfully, our son was fine, but she gave us a prescription anyway, just in case something developed mid-trip.

Our total cost for the doctor visit and the prescription: $80 USD.

In contrast, when the same son got an earache while we were in Florida, a local clinic wanted to charge us $300 to see a doctor.

The Bottom Lines:

  • It’s worth a call to your health insurance provider to see what sort of international options or resources they offer.
  • Spend a bit of time looking into the healthcare system of the country you’re visiting – and at least find the clinic, pharmacy and ER are nearest to your house or apartment in case someone does get sick.
  • If you can, bring all of the medications you will need with you on the trip. We also bring OTC medication and emergency ones, like children’s ibuprofen and our son’s asthma medication, just in case there’s a middle-of-the-night emergency or a negative reaction to the new environment.


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