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Bowel > Bowel Info and Advice > Travelling with confidence

Travelling with confidence

Going on holiday or taking a trip abroad can play havoc with our digestive system. A combination of long periods of inactivity on the plane or by the pool, changes in air cabin pressure, dehydration, and eating different foods and drinks can contribute to becoming bloated whilst on holiday and suffering from constipation or diarrhoea. It might help to prepare your digestive system in the run up before your holiday minimising the chances of falling ill once you're there

It can be difficult enough having to cope with on-going bowel problems or flare-ups when you’re in the comfort of your own home, but what should you do if you want to go on holiday? 

The first thing to remember is there is no real reason why you can’t go away as long as you prepare carefully and plan everything in advance.  Below are some general tips to help you travel with confidence.

Method of Transport

If you need regular access to a toilet then it’s crucial to pick a method of transport that includes a toilet – it may sound obvious but there’s no point in booking a coach trip if there’s no toilet on board.  If you’re flying it may help to book a seat near the toilets and plan your flight time with your bowel habits in mind.  If you’re travelling by car then make a note of where the service stations are.  Watching what you eat and drink on the day of travel can also help avoid an upset bowel.

Travel Insurance

Remember to sort out any insurance cover before you pay for your holiday. This generally only applies to anyone with a pre-existing condition like Colitis, Crohns, IBD etc but it’s worth looking at insurance options and being up front about your condition before you part with any money, as it could be difficult to get a holiday refund if you are subsequently refused insurance on health grounds. 

Doctor's letter

Ask your GP to provide or help you with the following:

·         A letter outlining your medical history and explaining your need and use of medications, devices or appliances etc. It’s advisable to keep your medicine in its original packaging to show at customs.  This letter will also help if you need to get a prescription whilst away.    

·         A written management plan outlining what you should do for mild, moderate and /or severe symptoms, and when you should seek medical attention. 

·         Make sure you are able to take enough of your normal medication, devices or appliances to last the duration of the trip.   

·         A contact number for your GP in case you need medical advice while you are away.  It can be very reassuring to know that you can call your GP if you have any medical problems.

Supplies

Some manufacturers and appliance contractors have special cards in foreign languages that are extremely helpful if you use prescription continence or stoma appliances.  Check with your supplier before you travel to see what support services they may have.  The best policy is to take a good supply of all the items you will need - pads, pants, creams, wipes, etc.

Bed protection

Ask if this can be supplied where you are staying or take a generously sized waterproof sheet or pad with you - thin disposable draw sheets with a leak proof backing are available.

Hygiene and Laundry

It’s advisable to take your own "nappy sacks" (disposal bags) and a few bin liners for used pads, etc.  A deodorizing spray may save any embarrassment. Remember to check what facilities are available with your accommodation before you book; an en-suite bathroom is the obvious choice.   

Most good hotels should provide laundry services; an extra charge may be required. Or take washing liquid and a portable washing line with you for smaller items.

Luggage

When flying, remember to split up your supplies between different bags, in case one is lost! Also, pack all the items you are likely to need during the flight and waiting periods at each end in your hand luggage.  Most airlines allow extra hand luggage for medical reasons so don’t be afraid to ask when you book.    

You will need a medical letter from you GP for airport security if you have essential medical equipment or your products e.g. skincare, are in excess of the security cabin baggage allowance. Currently containers must be 100ml or less and packed in one re-sealable plastic bag (20 x 20 cm).  Please seek advice from you airline when you book or check current Government guidelines. 

Public toilets

Public toilets are few and far between in some countries. It can be easier to find a toilet in a hotel, bar or restaurant, or in a shopping centre.  Carry a supply of disposal bags and wipes etc when you’re out as bins and hygiene can also be a bit hit and miss.  Don’t forget your Just Can’t Wait toilet card (available online from B&BF); it states the holder has a genuine medical condition that may require the urgent use of a toilet.  A RADAR key which gives access in the UK to 9,000 locked toilets for disabled people may also prove useful.  Germany and some other European countries have a similar scheme.

Diet

Wherever you’re going stick to your usual diet if possible and when abroad avoid eating washed salads and fruit, ice cubes in drinks or food that has been re-heated or left sitting uncovered on a food counter.  Drink only bottled water and make sure you drink enough fluids to remain hydrated (6 – 8 glasses a day or between 1.5 – 2 litres).

Further Help

Registerd online supporters of B&BF can download the full Fact Sheet on Travelling with Confidence from our Resources Section.  This contains more helpful advice and tips, as well as the contact details of organisations that may be able to help you further.  If you would like to register as a supporter and have access to all our Fact Sheets and other online advice and information, please visit the Support Us section for more information on how to do this and what's involved.  

Further Information

Opportunities for air travel have grown significantly in recent years, with cheaper flights serving a wider range of destinations. For many people, this has made flying a more common experience. It is a matter of equality that disabled people and people with reduced mobility should have opportunities for air travel comparable to those of other people. However, for people with a disability or mobility difficulty,
the prospect of attempting a trip by air can seem fraught with potential difficulties.

In recognition of this the Department of Transport have produced a Code of Practice for access to air travel. This document covers security in terms of people travelling with disabilities and reduced mobility but also covers urology and stoma devices or any other medical devices that may cause problems when going through security checks.

To read this document please visit Patient Information Leaflets section.

Last updated: 07/08/2013

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