Lifestyle

Traveling with IBD

Traveling with IBD title
Originally published 9/7/2019. Updated 12/12/2021

I just traveled for the first time in a LONG time. Traveling with IBD can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be! After my trip out to the east coast I figured it would be an appropriate time to revamp this post. If you are traveling for the holidays or for your leisure, read on to see what you can do to make it a little easier for you!

Back in 2019…

I want to take the time to talk about traveling with IBD. My husband and I are going on a week long cruise in the Carribean and Mexico and there are a few things I do to ensure I am prepared for traveling which I want to share with all of you. I am fortunate enough to have been able to travel with my Crohn’s somewhat cooperating, but there were definitely some times where traveling was difficult and uncomfortable for me when I was first diagnosed.

Some of this may look familiar

A lot of the steps I take are somewhat similar to my previous post about attending special occasions. But, there are other things that can be done to be sure that you are prepared for IBD’s unpredictability. You can still enjoy your time relaxing on vacation, traveling abroad or visiting family and friends! Knowing that some travel may be coming up, some coordination may be necessary. Here are some things to consider before travel! 

Deciding where to travel and what you want to do is always the fun part. Aside from visiting family, which still needs some preparation, you need to think about where to go and what do you plan on doing. A week long beach vacay would be prepared for differently than backpacking through Europe. What are the accommodations going to be like?  What is the accessibility to bathrooms and refrigeration (for those of us who need to bring meds)? If you will be taking a lot of different modes of transportation; are their bathrooms on board? Do I need specific vaccinations? What are the food option going to be? Do I need to inform  anyone of any allergies or food sensitivities? These are all questions you should go through while you begin making reservations and begin putting the pieces of your travel together. But first:

Make sure you are in a medically stable condition to travel

Let’s be honest, if you are in the heat of a bad flare, it is not in your best interest to travel. Just think, you aren’t feeling well to begin with and then you are going to add a multitude of stressors on your body. You simply will not enjoy yourself which won’t make the trip worth it. If this is the case, reschedule for another time, but this brings up another point…travel insurance. Travel insurance is something I used to always blow off. With the uncertainty of our diseases, it is something to consider when booking expensive travel. Look for an insurance that will cover your IBD. You can find out more information about this on the IBD passport website.

PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE

Now, if you think you are okay to travel, PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE. This part can be fun and will ease a lot of stressors that come with outings, at least for me.  I honestly get anxiety as soon as I think about traveling, though I love doing it. So to help ease that travel anxiety, I like making lists of everything I need to book, check out and pack. So to begin, I recommend to go check out IBD passport. This website has a lot of information about traveling with IBD. While domestic travel is slightly easier because we have better knowledge of how things work in our home country, IBD passport also helps with foreign travel. They list a travel guide and have a list of locations for IBD centers and recommended vaccinations for locations around the world. The Crohn’s and Colitis foundation also has great travel tips available, too. One of the things that they stress which I also find extremely important if you are traveling abroad is to know where the location of the U.S. embassy is and check out their information about doctors and specialists in case something were to go ary. 

Be sure you have enough of your medication with you before you take off. Carry your medication on you or in your carry on luggage in case your checked bags get misplaced. When I used to inject Humira weekly, I had to travel with it to Europe. The pharmaceutical company was able to provide me with a  TSA approved travel bag.  This helped me travel with my medication safely and allowed me to inject while I was away.  IBD passport provides information for people who have to get their medications intravenously. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your options as well! Have a list of your medications and medical conditions from your doctor in case of an emergency. This also helps with airport officials when checking your bags.

Traveling with IBD

Airline travel tips:

My number 1 tip: request an aisle seat so that you can easily get access to the bathroom if needed. My husband and I always opt for the middle and aisle seats so that I can run to the bathroom if needed! Many airlines will also accommodate those of us with IBD if spoken to beforehand. Talk to a representative from the airline you are flying with; sometimes they allow you to board sooner to ease anxiety and will assure you get a seat close to the bathroom. I know that I get extremely anxious while flying. To help, I have asked my doctor for medication for flying. If you just get slightly anxious, bring some lavender oils or calming spray to help take the edge off and ease the stress. 

If you have a special diet or dietary restrictions, be sure to let your airline and place you are staying know prior so that they can be prepared for your arrival. I also found it helpful when traveling to another country to know how to say some important terms in the language, like “where is the restroom?” and “are there vegetarian options?”. The Crohn’s and Colitis foundation give other suggestions as well to make communicating a little easier.

Be sure to have an IBD emergency kit packed. Be sure you have plenty of travel toilet paper and stock up on that hand sanitizer! I pack my emergency kit for a worst case scenario to be better prepared. If you don’t have one already, get a “I Can’t Wait” bathroom card. You can get these by becoming a member of the Crohn’s and Colitis foundation. I have mine on me AT ALL TIMES, whether I am traveling or not. It is the law, at least in the states, to provide access to a bathroom. Sometimes the card makes it easier for difficult situations or for businesses with signs that say “NO PUBLIC RESTROOM”. 

Keep everyone informed…

Maybe I should have mentioned this sooner but let your travel companions know what is going on and how they can be there to help you. As is the case with preparing for special occasions, at least for me, I like to get people “on my team” and keep them in the loop with how I am feeling, could potentially feel, and how they can help me out to keep me calm and out of the bathroom. If you can, pack ‘safe for you’ snacks and bring/drink plenty of water. If just going away for a long weekend, bring safe foods or if you know where you will be eating call ahead and ask what will be served. Another option is to be the one to suggest some safe food options, like restaurants or meals, in order to alleviate some added stressors during travel.

I know this is information overload, but Miss Type A here likes being super prepared for trips and honestly, proper planning typically leads to a much more relaxing and enjoyable time. If you are like me and get instant anxiety from just thinking about that super relaxing vacay you really want to go on, take a deep breath and just go through these much more concise and summarized steps.

IBD Travel Tips, A Recap:

  1. Make sure you are medically stable to travel. If you are in a flare or just really haven’t been feeling great, reschedule for another time when you will most definitely enjoy it more.
  2. Check out the CCFA and IBD passport for travel guides and consider getting travel insurance that would cover your IBD.
  3. Choose smart locations, pick safe activities, know your bathroom locations in regards to transportation and accommodations, and food situations.
  4. Make sure to refill all of your medications before travel. Keep them in their original bottle and on your person or carry on. If you inject, be sure to have the proper refrigeration and TSA approved bags if flying. If you will need an infusion, check out IBD passport for the ability to receive that type of medication.
  5. Ease your transportation stress by booking aisle seats, informing airlines/train companies/cruise lines of your condition, and knowing bathroom locations on your route.
  6. Pack your IBD emergency kit with all your essentials and maybe a little extra! Make sure you have your “I CAN’T WAIT” card on hand.
  7. Bring safe foods, snacks and bring/drink plenty of water.
  8. Keep your travel companions in the know because having people on your team will always make your time more enjoyable knowing they will have your back!

What are some other travel tips you guys have? I am always looking for more ways to ease some travel anxiety but still have a great time!

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