Traveling with IBD is hard. I speak from experience. I am getting ready to take a 7-hour flight as I type this, and I am nervous. I’m nervous that the bathroom won’t be available when I need it, that the fasten seatbelt light will be on, that I won’t get to it in time and will soil myself in front of a plane full of people. Or vomit. Or both. I’m nervous that I won’t have access to foods that I can eat without making myself feel sicker. Or enough water. I’m nervous that I’ll get labeled as needy or a difficult customer by the stewards. You get the idea! And its not just air travel that’s hard. Trains, buses, and taxis/ubers all have their own problems. Heck, just driving for more than 15minutes in my own car can be a nerve-wracking experience.
But the good news is that I’ve come up with some simple strategies. This is my cheat sheet on how to survive travel with an inflammatory bowel disease! Maybe you do some of these things yourself already, or maybe you are brand new to all this and don’t know where to start. Either way, I’ve compiled some of my survival tips for different forms of travel here and hope you find them useful!
In my car, I always carry a basic emergency kit. I put the following in a small handbag or reusable grocery bag and hide it in the back seat where it’s not obvious, but I can reach it if need be.
- Flushable bathroom wipes
- A change of underwear
- Hand sanitizer
- Ziploc bags
- A small bottle of perfume or body spray
These are my go-to supplies when the worst happens. If you can get to a secluded spot or even just into the back seat of your car these items will serve you well. I’ll also keep a bottle of Febreze and a full change of clothes in the trunk of the car if in a flare.
I recently saw a ‘privacy poncho’ for sale that is supposed to act as a cape and protect you from view when you’ve ‘gotta go’, so I’ll be trying that soon!
If I’m going to travel by taxi or Uber and I think there’s a chance I’ll have an accident, I take a similar kit to the one I keep in my car only smaller. I get the smallest version of every item on the list above and put them into an opaque makeup bag. I’ll hide this bag at the bottom of my handbag. Sometimes this means taking a larger handbag than I would like for a particular event, but I think that’s definitely better than the alternative!
If it’s going to be a longer trip and I’m in a flare, I will tell the driver when I get in that I have a medical condition and may have to make a stop along the way. However, I won’t do this if I think the driver looks like a jerk who won’t take me if they think I’m sick, its just a judgment call that gets easier with practice.
Bus / Train
For the bus or train, I will take the same supplies as above. I try to take the train over the bus if possible, especially for longer journeys, since most long hall trains have bathrooms on them, which makes everything a lot easier! This kit has come in very useful on more occasions than I’d care to admit – it pays to be prepared. I also like to take a couple of bottles of water to make sure I stay hydrated – or at least not totally dehydrated.
Air travel is even trickier. I would recommend taking a mini kit with you like the one for taxi travel. The fact that all the items in that kit are miniatures means you should be able to take them through airport security. I also take a good quality neck pillow and some Benadryl, then I try to sleep through as much of the flight as possible – if you’re asleep then you aren’t pooping or worrying about pooping! After I’ve gone through security, I will go to one of the airport stores and stock up on water and food that I know I can eat, in case I can’t eat any of the airplane food. I also always request an aisle seat near the bathroom when I book a flight. It gives me so much peace of mind knowing that I won’t have to keep making people move, being embarrassed and wasting precious time, when I’m in an aisle seat. Plus, if you are near the bathroom you can see as soon as it becomes free!
I hope you find these tips and tricks useful. Please comment with what you have found helpful when traveling – the more ideas we have the better!!