Living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can mean it may be difficult to travel at times. There are many reasons why traveling could be challenging but one of the major problems is the lack of easy access to bathrooms. Public transportation tends to be notorious for not having restrooms and this can give people with IBD some anxiety. That’s why having a travel kit stocked and ready will help people living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis to have more confidence when making travel plans.
What should be in a travel kit? It’s not practical to carry too many things around. The items in the travel kit will be as individual as the person, but there are some basic things that most people living with digestive disease will find useful. Accidents happen, and they’re not always of the bathroom variety, either. Unexpected events and situations are common when traveling, which is why preparation can bring some peace of mind. Who’s ready to pack that suitcase and start living life? Let’s go!
“I Can’t Wait” Card
These cards have become popular with people who live with digestive disease. Some states now have a version of the Restroom Access Act passed, but if it’s unclear or it hasn’t been passed locally, it’s nice to have one of these cards. They are available in a variety of places, including advocacy groups, drug companies, and from patient advocates. Some are free, some have a cost, most require registration in order to receive them.
- Bladder and Bowel Community
- Can’t Wait Card (IBS Network – UK)
- Crohn’s & Colitis (AbbVie)
- Crohn’s & Colitis UK
- Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation
- Gastroparesis Patient Association for Cures and Treatment
- The Oley Foundation
- Medical Alert Card (Printable, Janssen Biotech)
- Restroom Access Card (Colitis Ninja)
- Shield Healthcare (Printable)
- Washroom Access Card (Crohn’s and Colitis Canada)
Is it an unspoken rule that people with IBD should always carry a change of underwear with them? If there’s room, why not carry 2 pair or even more. Even for people who don’t live with digestive disease, or who have never experienced an accident, a spare pair of drawers is handy. If your 1 hour layover turns into all night or your luggage is lost, a change of underwear is a really nice thing to have.
A Pair of Pants
There’s nothing worse than being out and having to come back home for a change of clothes. It’s an even bigger problem when far from home and there are fewer options. It’s easier to bring along a spare pair of pants, or shorts, or a skirt. This will take up room, of course, in a carry-on, backpack, or purse, but it is well worth the use of space. It might be tempting to think that this is an item that can be left behind or packed away in the luggage, but it may not be possible to easily replace a pair of pants while traveling. It’s easier to bring it along and pack away something that’s more easily replaced.
Laundry Soap Sheets
Doing laundry while on vacation doesn’t sound like the most fun. However, there’s a couple reasons that being prepared to do laundry, either in a machine or in the bathroom sink, can be helpful. First, washing clothes before packing back up to go home can make it easier after arriving back home, because there’s not a mountain of laundry to do when being really tired from travel. Second, you can take fewer clothes with you if you do a load of laundry or wash a few items in the sink at some point while away from home. Third, if anything gets soiled, there’s an easy fix. Soap sheets are light and easy to pack. For those who have skin conditions, it may also be important to stick with a known brand, rather than relying on whatever is in the hotel sundry shop or what can be found locally.
Portable Laundry Hooks
This is a really handy item that can be used for all kinds of purposes while traveling. These are hooks that have a clip on the end so they can be hung in a closet, on a shower rod, doorknob, or anywhere there’s a wall or door hook. They can be used to hang up wet bathing suits or clothes that have been washed and need to dry out. They can also be used to hang clothes in the bathroom while showering, which helps get the wrinkles out. If the curtains in a room don’t close well, the clip can hold them together to keep the sunlight out. They have so many uses and are really lightweight, so are worth the luggage space.
Portable antibacterial wipes are pretty useful for almost everyone but they are really needed for people living with IBD, especially those who are receiving drugs that suppress the immune system. When traveling, it’s not uncommon to need to use restrooms that are dirty or not well stocked. Having a few wet wipes on hand solves these problems. Plus, they can be used to wipe down airline trays, hotel remote controls, restaurant tables, or anywhere else that might be dirty or be harboring germs. If there’s nowhere to wash or there’s no soap, they can also be used on hands. Just remember that wet wipes are never flushable (even if the package says that they are).
List Of Medications and Physician Contacts
A list of medications is important to carry all of the time but especially while traveling. It only takes a few minutes to write everything down on a piece of paper and keep it somewhere close, like in a wallet. Don’t forget about supplements and over-the-counter drugs (like anti-diarrheals or pain relievers): it’s important that anyone providing medical care know about those too. Make sure that any drug allergies are also listed there.
Many people with IBD have their doctors on speed dial but in an emergency, having a list of their phone numbers can be helpful. One really easy way to keep a list is by having their business cards: put them on a copy machine and make a copy onto a piece of paper. Include your own name, an emergency contact, and add the medication list if there’s space. The bonus is being organized not only for travel but also for any doctor visit or procedure where it’s necessary to give contact information for specialists.
Need more specialized information? Check out IBD Passport, which has more details about traveling abroad with IBD.
It can be extremely challenging to find safe foods when using public transportation. Airline travel has made it challenging to bring along snacks but it can still be done. Any liquids or items that are “spreadable” (think nut butters) probably won’t be allowed through security unless an exception is made, such as for medical need. If there’s a need to bring, for instance, protein drinks, get in touch with the airline and find out about medical exceptions and if a note from a physician is needed. Bringing other snacks, however, is a necessity, because there’s no telling what will be available when traveling. Delays happen often when traveling and having safe foods and a refillable water bottle can really help avoid eating something that might cause pain or other symptoms. When traveling for longer, it might even be worth researching a local grocery delivery service or even shipping a box of food to the destination rather than bringing it along in luggage.
Plastic Bag (Or A Wet Bag)
An IBD travel kit should be put into a bag that can be snatched up in a hurry. The easiest idea is a wet bag: this is a reusable, waterproof bag that can be washed and dried. When traveling it can hold all the items needed for an emergency kit but could also be used to hold wet or dirty clothing until those items can be discarded or washed. A plastic zip-top bag also works well and a plastic grocery bag can work in a pinch. These might be more challenging to wash and re-used but having a few available in the kit can be helpful, especially if there’s a need to throw anything away.
Useful Things That Can Be Found in a Hotel
Having a travel kit can save a lot of time and misery, as well as embarrassment, but to do when the kit gets used and needs to be refilled? There are so many things that can be found in a hotel room and repurposed.
- Bar of soap: A bar of soap usually isn’t too hard to find, especially at hotels (ask the front desk). A bar of soap can be used to wash everything.
- Toilet paper: That extra roll can go right in the carry-on.
- Tissues: Grab a few and stash them in a pocket on the way out the door.
- Shower cap: Not as common as they once were, but when one is available it can serve a variety of purposes, so grab it.
- Plastic laundry bag: A plastic bag is always useful when traveling and if there’s one in the closet, grab that too.
Once home, don’t forget to restock the kit and to think about other items that might be useful to carry in the future. What should be added to the list? Or is the list too long? Get in touch!