Tips for Traveling with IBD

Tips for Traveling with Inflammatory Bowel Disease for women.
Tips for Traveling with Inflammatory Bowel Disease for women.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is something that goes with you everywhere.
And that includes… vacation.

Most people go on vacation to escape the stress of reality and just relax. Or just to get a break from working. A time for fun! Unfortunately, we don’t get to take a break from a chronic illness. It’s pretty much a package deal. Crohn’s disease comes with you wherever you go. It’s not going to stop being an incurable disease just because you decided you need to get away. No, that is just not how it works unfortunately.
We will still have to manage all the normal aspects of our illness no matter where we are, at home or a different location. In fact it may actually require more energy or be more “work” for you than usual to make sure you have everything you need while you are away. As this is usually the case for me.

Since having Crohn’s disease, I just think of vacationing as simply changing locations. Same problems, different day, different location.

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in attitudes. Nothing remains quite the same.

Now, does that mean we can’t enjoy ourselves? No. We absolutely can enjoy a lovely vacation away from home. We can do all the fun stuff like swimming with dolphins, walking around a park we’ve never been to before or whatever else suits your fancy. We just also have to watch out for our health and manage our symptoms while we are on that vacation. Nothing worse than ignoring the body and ending up in an unfamiliar hospital while traveling. Scary thought indeed! Especially for us IBDers. 

So I have put together a few tips for you. These are things that I do or have learned that I need to do while I am traveling. Sometimes we learn the hard way ladies and gentleman! So why not learn from my mistakes, right! Ha ha ha! So here are a few tips for getting the most out of your vacation while still taking care of yourself! Hope you find them helpful!

Don’t abandon your normal routines!
I was only diagnosed in the summer of 2015. So right now I’m still struggling with that old mindset of vacationing. Eating different foods, sleeping less, drinking, visiting with a lot of people, doing a lot of walking and other fun activities I wouldn’t normally do. And that is okay….to a certain extent.
Sleeping Habits
It’s incredibly important that your body gets the restful sleep that it needs, especially on vacation. Keep your sleep routines up so that you can be awake for all the other fun things that you want to do. Every single time that I get off my routine, I pay for it for a week afterwards. My fatigue and other symptoms quickly deteriorate. So I just don’t push that line anymore.
Eating Habits
Same goes for eating habits too. If you know that you need more protein in the morning to get going, don’t un-form that habit. Stick to what your body knows it can handle for the most part, and you’ll be thankful. I always bring a small snack bag of “safe foods” with me on trips, in case I don’t find something I can eat.
And it goes without saying that you should still keep up your medication schedule as well. If you are like me, certain meds need to be taken at certain times of the day, with or without food, and all that! So don’t forget to do the important things that keep your body running. {Sticking to routines on vacation can help with feelings of anxiety as well, since you know that you aren’t straying too far from your norm!}

Bring Emergency Medications (As Needed Medications)
I’m of the school of thought…”if it can happen, it’s going to happen to me”. Don’t chance it!! Just bring those medications that you have for emergency or as needed situations. For instance, I have a med for nausea and one for pain if I need relief badly. I also have an emergency inhaler when my allergies get really bad. I always bring these with me, because the ONE time I needed them and didn’t have them was enough for me!

Poo Pouri for Shared Bathrooms
If you are a little shy about sharing a bathroom with others on your vacation, then definitely bring along something like Poopouri or Fresh Drop with you. All you have to do is put a drop or two in the toilet bowl before you go, and there is no smell! It’s like magic! But honestly, everybody poops!

Pack Flushable wipes and Extra Undies
Getting a little real here, but the truth is you want to be prepared! I always pack extras just in case we stay a little longer than planned. Or in case our worst fears become a reality. Ha ha ha, yeah I know ewww! But we are talking about IBD here! Either way it doesn’t hurt to pack extra underwear. Depending on your symptoms, and without going into too much detail– flushable wipes can be a helpful tool to have on hand. A little extra freshness feeling for your bum! You can get small packs of “butt wipes” for traveling, and just throw them in your suitcase.

Bring your heating pad
Like many of you, I suffer from back & joint pain. Before leaving for vacation I always try to assess if I will need the heating pad on the trip. My favorite one is a little bulky and requires an outlet–so I look into where I’ll be staying and if I’ll be spending enough time in the room to warrant bringing it. Worth considering if you spend a lot of time on the heating pad and it brings you some comfort.

Go easy on alcoholic beverages
For the very obvious reasons you want to avoid over-drinking on vacation.
1– it can upset your stomach
2– it may interact with your medications
However, just as important, it can lead to poor food choices. I don’t think very many people consider this. If you drink enough to feel good, then you will likely want to keep drinking or get some food in your system asap so that it can counteract the alcohol. When you need to get food in you ASAP, then you just eat whatever is readily available. Or you may be more likely to do so! This has been the case for me in the past. I will have a few beers, feel a buzz and then realize I need some food to soak up the alcohol. Then I make a poor food choice and pay for it later. It’s never the beer that messes me up, its the buffalo wings or the Mexican food that I thought was a good idea at the time!!

Have your doctor’s phone numbers with you
Save all your doctor’s phone numbers into your cell phone and print up a list of the numbers to go in your bag too. The first vacation I went on after my diagnosis, I was dealing with erythema nodosum (a skin condition and extra-intestinal manifestation of Crohn’s disease). It was spreading very quickly on my limbs. Luckily I had my doctor’s direct phone number with me and we promptly adjusted my steroid regimen to take care of the symptoms and FAST. I don’t want to think about what would’ve happened if I couldn’t reach my own doctor.

Pack a couple extra days worth of medication
On numerous occasions I have dropped my pill container and it has busted open, leaving me scrambling for all my pills for the day! I would definitely consider myself a klutz but hey it could happen to anyone! If I’m going on vacation for a week, I bring an extra 2 or 3 days worth of medication for this reason alone! However it’s a good idea for occasions when you lose a pill or decide to extend your stay, or god forbid you get stuck and can’t catch a flight! Better to be safe than sorry!

Always schedule in some down time!
To me this is the most important tip I can share with you guys. Always make sure you have time to relax and literally do nothing. Vacation usually has you doing more activities than normal, so just pace yourself and rest when needed. That way you are able to do the things that you really want to! I struggle with fatigue every day of my life, so I’m constantly making decisions based off if I have enough energy to do things. Vacation is honestly the same way. I know that if I spend a little more energy one day, I will pay for it and have less energy the next day. It all comes back to the spoons. Even visiting with family can deplete your energy reserves if you are more of an introvert like me. Just listening and taking everything in can be draining. So be aware of your energy levels and just plan accordingly!

Chronic Illness doesn't mean you have to stop enjoying life. It just means you have to adjust your expectations of enjoyment.


Published by Jana Rosenberger

I blog about my life with Crohn's disease and all things quality-of-life. I don't sugar coat this journey but I do find a way to laugh!

4 thoughts on “Tips for Traveling with IBD

  1. Yeah gotta say that was embarassing, especially since I dropped it in front of a stranger! I'm such a klutz, never a dull moment! But luckily I had packed an extra day of medication, so I had everything I needed.


  2. Excellent! Having been with you when you spilled your pills on the pavement this summer, I know what a stresser than can be. Glad that tip is included – and honestly, for anyone who has meds they count on each day.


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