Avoid IBS Issues When Traveling

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be uncomfortable and make life a bit unpredictable. That can make you think twice about traveling.

But IBS doesn’t have to keep you from hitting the road. There are ways to put yourself in control and make road trips as stress-free as possible.

Plan Ahead

If you’re going on vacation, pick a place where you can relax. Be careful not to pack your days with activities. Give yourself some flexibility in your schedule, and enjoy the downtime.

If you’re driving, plan your route ahead of time. Find rest stops you can use along the way.

Bring your prescription or your doctor’s contact information with you. This will come in handy if you need to refill your medication -- if the bag it’s in gets lost or stolen, for example.

Split any medication you bring into two containers: one you can carry with you at all times, and one to leave in your hotel room.

Before you go, call your hotel and see if you can check in early or check out a bit late if you need to. Most places will work with you on this.

If you’re traveling with other people, try to find a place to stay that has more than one bathroom so you won’t have to wait if you need to go.

If you’re traveling outside the U.S., learn how to ask where the bathroom is in the local language. You also may want to carry change with you, in case you need to use a pay toilet.

You can order a “Can’t Wait” card to tell people you have IBS and need a restroom in places where the toilet is usually private (like some stores, for example). It’s the same size as a credit card, and you can get one online.

This isn’t the time to be adventurous. Stick with food you’re comfortable with, and try to avoid things that are fried or high in fat.

Check the menu at the hotel you’re staying in and at places nearby to find good options.

As tempting as it can be to indulge while on vacation, don’t overdo it with coffee or alcohol.

See if there are places nearby where you can go for a walk or be active in other ways, like a swimming pool. Studies show that 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week can help with IBS.

Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to help keep you regular and ease constipation.

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If You're Flying

Driving puts you in control of your timetable, so you can pull over if you need to make a pit stop or take a break. But you can’t get everywhere by car. If you need to fly, here are a few tips:

  • Get to the airport early, so you don’t need to rush.
  • Carry on a bag with a change of clothes and some tissue in case your luggage gets lost.

Reserve an aisle seat close to the bathroom, so you can get there easily if you need to.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jaydeep Bhat, MD, MPH on April 12, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: “About IBS,” “Living with IBS: Tips to Make Travelling Easier.”

The IBS Network: “Can’t Wait Card.”

MedicalXPress.com: “Exercise Improves Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

Nutritionist Resource: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).”

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