Traveling with IBD: the ultimate travel bag essentials for gut warriors

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Traveling with Crohn’s or Colitis away from home, whether for a short getaway or an epic adventure, requires some serious prep. But when you’re dealing with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the preparation takes on a whole new level of complexity. IBD, which includes the infamous tag team of Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis, demands extra consideration. These conditions are like those clingy small children who constantly need attention. Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis can make you feel like you’re dragging an anchor around. But fear not, intrepid traveler! Think of it as traveling with a pint-sized explorer. Just like with a kid, you’ll need an arsenal of snacks (airport grub won’t cut it), anticipate the need for emergency bathroom breaks at the most inconvenient times, and be prepared for unexpected accidents by packing spare clothes. Better safe than sorry, right?

Now, let’s address the challenges that come with the territory. So, before you embark on your journey, here are some helpful tips to ensure your trip is a blast despite your Crohn’s or Colitis trying to rain on your parade.

  • Plan ahead and pack like a boss: To minimize travel anxiety, plan ahead and make a checklist tailored to your specific needs. Don’t forget to pack wipes, a travel-sized hand sanitizer, and all your medications in your carry-on luggage. Keep your meds in their original containers, and carry a note from your doctor explaining their purpose. You want to breeze through airport security like a VIP. And remember, pack more meds than you think you’ll need in case of delays or spontaneous adventures.
  • Have a heart-to-heart with your physician: Before you jet off into the sunset, have a chat with your doctor. Make sure you’re good to go and discuss any necessary tests or adjustments to your treatment plan. Your doc can also advise you on how to handle medication schedules when dealing with different time zones. If you have an ostomy, consult your enterostomal therapy nurse for diet and stoma care advice. They’re like your travel guides for a happy gut.
  • Channel your inner insurance guru: Travel insurance is your new best friend, especially when it comes to navigating the uncertain waters of international travel. Read the fine print, especially the parts about pre-existing conditions and coverage limitations. Since most insurance providers classify IBD as a pre-existing condition, make sure you understand their stability period requirements. Contact customer service if you have any doubts. And don’t forget to bring your health insurance card in case of a flare-up that requires medical attention. Safety first, fun second.
  • Research IBD centers in and around your planned travel locations: Find an IBD center in or near your destination, especially if it is a remote location. Shortlist the hospitals that can address the needs of IBD patients.
  • Defend against infectious foes: Some regions of the world are playgrounds for infectious insects that love to spread diseases through their bites. Arm yourself by knowing which critters inhabit your travel destination and take appropriate precautions. Cover exposed skin with clothing and use insect repellent to dodge those sneaky bugs. And don’t hesitate to consult your physician about available vaccines to keep those unwanted diseases at bay.
  • Hydration station: Dehydration is a common risk when you’re out exploring the world, especially if Crohn’s throws diarrhea into the mix. Invest in a travel-friendly water bottle that you adore to ensure you stay hydrated on the go. Whether it’s a slim vacuum-insulated vessel, a collapsible silicone bottle, or a reusable plastic pouch, find your hydration soulmate. You’ll conquer the Louvre while staying refreshed. Oh, and speaking of hydration, an oral rehydration solution can be a game-changer. Those little packets packed with electrolytes are like supercharged potions that replenish your body and balance your mojo. Stock up at the pharmacy or your friendly neighborhood grocery store.
  • Ostomy on the go: If you’re rocking an ostomy, calculate the number of appliance changes you might need during your trip and pack extra supplies accordingly. Travel can play tricks on your digestive tract, so be prepared. Carry all your ostomy gear, including belts, barrier strips, wipes, and skin protectants, in your carry-on bag. If some items are too bulky, check out the international directories of ostomy product suppliers who can save the day. They have the goods you might need when you’re far from home.
  • Medication matters: Don’t skimp on the meds. Stock up more than you think you’ll need, just in case of unexpected delays or pill mishaps. Consider getting an early refill or asking your doctor for a prescription you can fill at your destination. And if you’re toting medication that requires refrigeration, play it cool. Bring a portable insulated cooler in your carry-on luggage to keep your precious meds safe. Notify your flight attendant about your cooler if you’re on a long flight. And remember, don’t bring freezer packs through security. Be a smooth operator and make arrangements in advance. Many hotels offer refrigerators or mini-fridges in guest rooms, so you’re covered.
  • Watch your foodie adventures: Eating out is a travel staple, but it can be tricky when you’re juggling dietary restrictions. Stick to your diet plan and avoid trigger foods that worsen your symptoms. Communicate your needs to servers whenever possible. Consider having smaller meals and snacking on healthy goodies between feasts. Your taste buds will still have a blast, and your gut will thank you. Take the time to map out a constellation of restaurants in your phone that will work well for your current situation.
  • Be flare-aware: Flares can be like surprise parties, but without the cake and confetti. Even if you’re on top of your medication game, a flare can still crash the party. Familiarize yourself with your treatment strategy in case of a flare-up, and be ready to take action. Discuss your plan with your physician or specialist before your trip. Keep their contact information and your travel insurance details close at hand, like your trusty sidekicks. And if you’re in a foreign land where nobody speaks your language, learn a few handy phrases like “Where is the washroom?” Just in case, you know.
  • Scope out bathroom locations: In most cities, public restrooms are relatively accessible, and definitely use your restroom necessity card. If you know your itinerary of tourist sites, look up bathroom options ahead of time.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to some bathroom essentials for a smooth-sailing trip with Crohn’s or Colitis:

  • Extra clothing: Always stash spare clothes in your carry-on bag, just in case your checked luggage decides to explore the world on its own. For those sudden “uh-oh” moments, having a fresh change of clothes will save the day. Ditch the tight waistbands and unforgiving synthetics, and opt for comfy, breathable outfits that scream vacation mode. Loose cotton pants with a funky print should do the trick. Oh, and don’t forget to pack clean undies, too.
  • Air freshener: Let’s face it, everyone’s poop smells, so there’s no need to be embarrassed. But thanks to Crohn’s, your bowel can produce some extra-stinky surprises. And that can be awkward, especially if you’re sharing a bathroom with friends or fellow travelers. That’s where a travel-size bottle of toilet spray or air freshener comes to the rescue. Just a spritz, and your scent will be long gone. Genius, right? (But please, don’t use it on airplanes. Safety first!)
  • Matches: Looking for a discreet odor eliminator? Keep a pack of matches in your pocket. After you flush, just light a match for a few seconds, blow it out, and voila! The smell vanishes into thin air. It’s a magic trick that’ll impress even Houdini. Just remember, lighting matches on planes is a big no-no. We don’t want to see you getting escorted off the aircraft by security!
  • Toilet paper: Picture this nightmare: you’re crammed in a minuscule airplane lavatory, ready to grab the toilet paper roll, and… it’s empty. Panic sets in. But fear not, brave traveler, for you shall carry your own emergency stash of toilet paper. It’s a lifesaver when you find yourself in a sticky (or should we say messy?) bathroom situation 35,000 feet in the air. Pro tip: Wrap a bunch of toilet paper around your hand at home, stuff it in a baggie, and voila! Your very own packable TP roll. You can thank us later.
  • Wet wipes galore: When your skin is irritated from a Crohn’s flare, regular dry toilet paper feels like sandpaper on a sensitive area. That’s where flushable moistened wipes come to the rescue. Look for extra-thick hypoallergenic wipes with soothing ingredients like aloe. They’ll treat your tush like royalty and make you feel fresh as a daisy.
  • Doggy poo bags and latex gloves: No, we’re not suggesting you bring your furry friend along for the adventure. But hear us out. Those compostable poo bags can be incredibly handy for storing soiled clothes. If you can’t access laundry machines on your trip, double bag the dirty clothes and knot the top tightly to keep any odors contained. And while you’re at it, throw in a pair of latex gloves to protect your precious hands. You never know when you might need to handle some unexpected mess.

Alright, my fellow globetrotters with IBD, be it Crohn’s or Colitis, armed with these tips, you’re ready to conquer the world. Bon voyage and may your adventures be filled with laughter, unforgettable moments, and bathrooms when you need them the most!


  1. Living with Crohn’s disease. (2018).
  2. Dehydration. (2017).
  3. Travel and IBD. (2017).

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