The Ultimate IBS Travel Checklist
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When you’re getting ready to travel, whether for a holiday or work, there are a few things to consider when deciding where you’ll stay. This isn’t so much about the location you’re traveling to, instead it’s about the facilities at your destination. Here’s checklist to help you out.

Accommodation

The first thing you book when making travel plans is normally your accommodation, so you’ll want to make sure it’s suitable for your needs. These are things to consider before you book:

  • While you may not have complete control over your room choice, try to get a room on your own, especially if you’re concerned about embarrassing IBS symptoms at night. It’s also handy to have a quiet and private space that you can escape to if your symptoms are triggered and you need time to rest.
  • Make sure you have easy access to bathroom facilities. If you’re staying in a hotel, there should be a bathroom included, but otherwise check that there’s easy access to toilets close to your room.
  • If possible, choose a place that has some kitchen facilities, even if they’re quite basic. That way you can store some safe foods to make things easier for you and can prepare breakfast in your room, giving you a safe start to the day.
  • If your accommodation includes breakfast or other meals, check the menus to make sure they will suit your needs.

Nearby facilities

Another important consideration is the nearby facilities that you may need to access. The most important ones are:

  • A pharmacy/chemist, so you can purchase any medications or emergency symptom management items if necessary. Of course it’s best to pack these things, but it’s good to know a backup is available.
  • A grocery store, so you can buy some basic food/snacks that you know are safe for you.
  • Accessible bathrooms while you’re out wandering, although most cafes/restaurants and tourist places will have bathrooms.
  • Somewhere that will allow you to chill out or get some gentle exercise, e.g. walking, to help keep your stress levels low. This could include a park, walking tracks, or a beach.

Restaurants, cafes and other types of food service

The final thing to consider is access to food services that will be suitable for your needs. This could include a restaurant in your hotel or other eateries in the streets nearby. If possible, check out some of the places before you go and make note of a few safe places that will work for you. Otherwise, ask the hotel staff for recommendations when you check in.

Travel arrangements

While your travel arrangements are separate to your destination, they’re just as important because they can affect how you’ll feel when you arrive.

  • Try to choose the mode of travel that will be the fastest, because that way there’s less time for your IBS to get triggered in transit.
  • If your transit time is very long, consider breaking it up by stopping over for a night at the half-way point.
  • Make sure that you’ll have access to bathroom facilities while you’re traveling.
  • Check what meal options are provided and consider packing snacks and meals rather than relying on what’s provided.

Language barriers

If you’re travelling to a destination where you don’t speak the language, prepare some translation cards to explain your needs. Useful examples include:

  • Bathroom access.
  • Food restrictions.
  • Medications.

Other things

Lastly, don’t forget to consider the other things that anyone who doesn’t have IBS would need to, including:

  • Places that you’d like to visit.
  • Things you’d like to learn or experience while you’re there.
  • Anything of interest that’s unique to the destination that you’re going to.

Packing for your trip

Now it’s time to pack your bag. But what should you be packing when you have IBS? Is it any different to how you’d pack a bag if you didn’t have IBS? Here’s a checklist to help you out.

Clothes

Let’s start with clothes, since they take up the most space in your bag and normally get packed first. When it comes to clothes, it’s not so much about specific pieces of clothing, but rather the fit of the clothes.

  • Make sure you pack comfortable clothes, especially around the waist, so there’s room to move if you get bloated. This could mean dresses without waistbands, skirts, shorts or pants with elastic waistbands, or items that can be easily adjusted such as slightly loose pants with a belt.
  • Make sure you pack a jacket that’s loose-fitting or that can be worn without doing up the buttons. This way you can use a jacket to partially cover up a bloated belly, but without making things feel worse.
  • Pack at least one set of clothes that’s ultra-comfortable, such as very loose pants (e.g. yoga pants or tracksuit pants) and a loose top, in case your IBS is fully triggered.
  • Pack extra underwear, just in case of accidents. And consider packing extra clothing bottoms if you’re prone to diarrhoea.

Medications and other emergency items

Now let’s look at some IBS-specific items that you may need. Start by thinking about how you manage your IBS while at home, then pack those things. This might include:

  • Laxatives and/or anti-diarrheal medications.
  • Prescription medication that you require to manage your IBS or other gut symptoms.
  • Soothing teas that help to ease your symptoms, e.g. peppermint, ginger, or whatever normally works for you.
  • Wet wipes, especially if you’re prone to diarrhea, plus a sealable bag for soiled clothing.
  • Heat pack, such as a microwavable wheat bag, for soothing an upset belly.
  • Items to calm or distract you and take your mind off your symptoms, such as music, podcasts, guided meditations, a book, or magazines.

Note: it’s best to carry your full supply of medications in your cabin luggage just in case your packed luggage gets lost, so that way you don’t have to try and obtain new medications when you get there. Also, depending on where you’re travelling to, it could be wise to have a doctor’s letter explaining the need for your medications.

Food for the journey

Next, it’s time to think about food, specifically making sure you’ll have some safe food options so that your IBS doesn’t get triggered, including:

  • Snacks and meals for while you’re in transit – the amount will depend on your transit time.
  • An emergency meal option (or two) for when you arrive at your destination so that you don’t have to find a safe place to eat when you’re tired from the trip.
  • A few simple snacks or quick meal options that you can prepare in your hotel room, such as simple breakfast options.

Backpack or bag to carry your things

To make sure that all of your essential items are easily accessible, you’ll need to have a bag that’s big enough to hold everything while you’re in transit, which also meets regulations for air travel (if applicable). A backpack can be a handy option.

You may also want to pack a smaller bag for while you’re wandering around your destination, but that’s still large enough for a few basics, such as medications, a change of underwear, and snack food.

Other things

Lastly, don’t forget the other items that anyone who doesn’t have IBS would need to pack, including:

  • Toiletries and make up
  • Other non-IBS related medications
  • Shoes and socks
  • Passport (if appropriate) and identification
  • Money and credit cards
  • Phone and charger
  • Items needed for work (if it’s a business trip)

Finally, once everything’s in place, prepare yourself for the real value of traveling, which is enlivening your soul and experiencing new things that you’ll remember for years to come. Pack a positive attitude and a belief that things are going to be okay. Remember that stress can trigger IBS, so removing as much stress as you can is the best way to start your trip.

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