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A woman sitting in an armchair with a book on her lap in front of a roaring fire waves to two warmly-dressed people walking out a door holding skis.

IBS and Traveling in a Group

My IBS hasn’t really kept me from traveling. I went on road trips and holidays with my boyfriend and my family, and even though it wasn’t necessarily easy, I always made it work somehow.

However, I avoided traveling with a group (other than my family) like the plague. Not only is group travel hard on my introverted personality, but it also makes planning around my IBS so much harder. I just don’t feel comfortable asking for special treatment unless it’s with really close people.

Planning travel with a group

My boyfriend’s family has a yearly tradition to go on holiday together. For the past years, I’ve never gone with them because I wasn’t able to get the week off. I mean, I really didn’t get the time off – but I didn’t try that hard, either. To be honest, I was way too scared to go on that trip. They are six siblings, each with a partner and one with two kids. Add the parents and you have up to 16 people traveling together! There was no way I could handle that.

But since I started working from home, my usual excuse fell apart. And I decided to take the opportunity to try and go on holiday with them last year.

During the preparation period, my boyfriend and I did our very best to adjust the overall plans to something that would remotely work for me. We proposed alternatives for early morning activities, researched food choices beforehand… and my boyfriend was really supportive, which made me feel a lot less anxious.

Things never go as planned when traveling

However, I should have known that things never go as planned. On our first night, we were suddenly sharing a room with other people. This would be fine by itself, but it really doesn’t help my anxiety about my morning IBS!

Even though I hoped to avoid activities in the early morning, they still sneaked back into our plans. And apparently, his family likes to leave the house only seconds after breakfast, which does not sit well with my digestion.

My safe foods never seemed to make it into the meal plans, either, and it did add to my anxiety quite a bit.

I just kept telling myself that everything would be okay anyway. Whenever I felt like I couldn’t do something, I told myself that I could, and I would at least try. Even if that meant not having breakfast and using bathrooms at the train station in order to take an early morning train, or being hungry for most of the day because the food didn’t suit me.

Making time for self-care during travel

When you have a chronic illness, you just can’t operate at the same pace as healthy people. Especially people who apparently don’t need a break, ever.

The holiday was hard on my brain because it needs alone time to recharge. It was hard on my body because I didn’t have enough time to stick to my routine. A couple of times, I decided to stay at the hotel because I just needed a break.

It’s important to remind yourself that you don’t have to follow others all the time, especially when you feel like you’ve reached a limit. Everyone is different, and someone with IBS will need a different lifestyle than someone who doesn’t have the illness.

Taking a step back once in a while really helped me make it through the week, even though I got a couple of weird looks. And so in the end, I did have an exhausting, but also really fun holiday! I’m still not sure if I’m going to go this year, though.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Snooks
    5 months ago

    Your blog definitely caught my attention because I could have written it myself!! My anxiety level increases just thinking about traveling with friends, especially if it a girl trip where I have to share a room and bathroom. My husband understands as he has seen accidents happen, the first one when we were first dating!! Amazing he is still around after that!! I have found Immodium helps with those times when I want to be confident that I won’t have to run to the bathroom quickly, as in shopping or riding in the car. I have been experimenting with IBSolution also and I feel it has helped somewhat. I had my gallbladder removed 10 years ago, which made my problem worse, so I also take Welchol every morning to help with bile binding.

  • peace116
    5 months ago

    I seriously could relate to this article like no other. I feel the same way Snooks. I have had accidents happen and it was at my in-laws luckily my husband was fully there for me and didn’t even make fun of me. I was terrified on what to do and I just feel so blessed that I had brought extra clothes with me that day.
    When I went on a girls trip to Cali it was 3 other girls and me and 1 bathroom I was a little worried but I took Lomotil ( a prescription) which helped slow my stomach down. I am thankful my friends are fully supporting and understanding when I didn’t feel well and had to stay in the air b and b. I just hate not being able to participate in all the traveling or group activities. I wish there was a cure already for IBS.

  • tmholland moderator
    5 months ago


    I felt the same way after reading the article. It is good to know that we are not alone with all of this. It sounds like you put in a lot of effort trying to find what works best for you to help in these situations. Keep experimenting and trying and let us know what you find out. Thank you so much for sharing part of your story and I hope you are well today. -Todd, Team

  • ExplodingGuts
    5 months ago

    My old pop always used to say, ‘The hardest word in the English language to utter is NO.’

    The holiday you describe is as ‘fun’ sounds like the diary of an inmate in Dante’s Inferno.

    I think I’d be inclined to lose any BF who required such suffering to please a family, who, if they knew, would most likely apologize and reprove him for putting you through such obvious torment.

    Life is too short. Just say no. It’s not as hard as you might think. Get good at no.

  • tmholland moderator
    5 months ago

    Hey @explodingguts,

    I couldn’t agree more about learning to say ‘no’. It is important to our health and our lives in so many ways. It took me a long time to get this one. What can I say, I’m a ‘pleaser’ :-). Hope things are well in your world. -Todd, Team

  • ExplodingGuts
    5 months ago

    I’m trying a new thing now: tsp of raw honey each day. Fb pal doc says New Zealand studies indicate that doing this for a week or so kills the bacterium associated with stomach illnesses, such as IBS. This is day 3 so early days. If it’s effective I’ll share. Not as well as I’d like but we’ll get there, I think. Guarded optimism. For now.

  • Cats
    5 months ago

    I was so scared to take the trip taking my daughter to college by car, but my wonderful husband surprised me by renting a little camping van with a potty for the trip. What a life saver that was for me, not only physically, but emotionally. That trip was the first time I had gone more than 10 minutes away from my house in 10 years. Now when we travel any distance by car, I have not only my emergency bag (change of clothes, TP), I have a little potty too. My girlfriend, who has a tiny car, bought a stainless steel bedpan.

  • ExplodingGuts
    5 months ago

    I want to give you a medal for sheer endurance. Thanks for sharing. It made me feel a little less lonely knowing I’m not alone.

  • tmholland moderator
    5 months ago


    What a great ‘success story’. You sound like you have a lot of support and love around you. This was a really big deal and obviously made you feel good. Thank you so much for sharing and I hope you are well today. -Todd, Team

  • @Roxzilla_
    5 months ago

    I haven’t traveled anywhere in over 5 years. I have to travel 7 hours by car-I figure that should be easier than flying- to see my grandson who will be born in December 🙂 I am praying I don’t have any accidents, but I will definitely not be eating during the trip. Hopefully that will help. Hope you have a nice holiday this year! 🙂

  • tmholland moderator
    5 months ago


    I think its wonderful you are going to get to see your new grandson in December. Congratulations. I think I agree about the car vs. plane logic :-). I hope YOU have nice holiday this year with the little one. Thank you for sharing. -Todd, Team

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