Tips for Traveling with IBS

I’m not a frequent traveler. I learned many years ago that my IBS doesn’t like traveling, especially when it involves long haul flights, which are essential when trying to get from Australia to anywhere else. It’s not as bad for local travel though, but I still don’t make a habit of flying too often if I can help it. There’s something about being up in an airplane that my body would rather live without.

But since Australia is a very big place and the major cities are at least an 8-hour drive away, air travel is essential if you want to see family or do work in another major city. And since I’ve recently been doing some traveling for work, I wanted to share a few simple tips for making traveling with IBS a little easier.


For someone whose IBS is triggered by certain foods, having safe food options is essential for preventing flare-ups. It helps to take some food with you, but also to have some plans for getting safe foods once you’re there. These are the major things to consider:

  • Make sure you pack a range of portable snacks. You’ll definitely need something for while you’re on the plane, but it’s good to have some available for the first day or two at your destination (just in case). I pack a sandwich or two, homemade muffins, nuts and seeds, fruit and/or veggie sticks, and a tin of plain tuna in case I need a quick protein hit. Ideally I like to have enough food to get me through at least 6 hours.
  • Plan to visit a grocery store on the day you arrive to pick up some staples. What you buy will depend on how long you’re staying, but at the very least, get something safe to eat for breakfast because there’s nothing worse than triggering your IBS at the start of the day. If you’re staying for a while, and have access to kitchen facilities, you might like to get some dinner or lunch staples too.
  • When eating out, try to be as careful as you can. Eventually, a mistake will be made, but if it’s only one mistake for one meal, that’s likely to affect you much less than little mistakes made at every meal.

Build in calm times

It’s not always easy to find downtime for keeping calm, especially if you’re traveling for work and have a hectic schedule. But if possible, try to plan in small pockets for calm so that you can do your best to prevent stress from triggering your IBS, even if all you can do is take a minute or two for a simple breathing exercise.

Be ready for emergencies

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you try, sometimes your IBS will be triggered anyway. So you need to be prepared for emergencies. What you need depends on the symptoms you experience, but consider including a heat pack, pain medications, and anti-diarrheal medication and/or laxatives. I also include music or podcasts to listen to, along with earphones, to help calm me down when things get too much.

Tell the people traveling with you what you need

Lastly, make sure the people traveling with you understand your needs and limitations. It’s not about seeking special treatment; instead it’s about having them know that you’re doing everything you can to prevent problems, but also understanding that things still may not work as planned.

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