If you’ve ever been on a long road trip, you know what it’s like when the urge to pee hits and the next exit is miles away.
But when you have overactive bladder (OAB), a condition where you suddenly need to pee, often eight or more times a day, it’s even more urgent. Travel can be harder with OAB, but it’s not impossible. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy your trip.
Make a Plan
Follow these tips when traveling with OAB:
Book an aisle seat. If you’re flying, try to reserve an aisle seat near the bathroom. That way you’ll have easy access for any sudden urges.
Wear extra protection. Put on an absorbent pad that can hold more liquid on your travel days. Try one made for overnight use.
Find the nearest bathroom. Look for bathrooms along your route and at your final stop. Bathroom locator apps can help. They show the closest public toilets around the world, and many of these apps are free. If you’re traveling internationally, you might want to brush up on a few bathroom-related phrases in other languages.
Time your bathroom breaks. Try to stop for a bathroom break every 2 to 3 hours. It can be a hassle, especially on long road trips, but it’ll help you avoid accidents.
Carry extra supplies. Keep an emergency kit with you. If you’re taking a long trip, think about shipping supplies to your location ahead of time. You’ll be prepared and won’t have to pack as many bags. Your kit should include:
- Absorbent pads
- Barrier cream
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
- OAB medicine (if you take any)
Limit Certain Liquids and Foods
You may be tempted to try something new on your trip, but it could end up irritating your bladder. Avoid these foods and drinks, or at least cut back on:
- Carbonated drinks
- Citrus juices or fruits
- Spicy foods
Talk to your doctor about how much liquid you should drink each day. Too much can make your symptoms worse, but too little can irritate the lining of your bladder and make it feel like you need to go. A quick way to tell: if your pee is light-colored or clear, then you’re probably drinking enough fluids.
Try Bladder Training
When you pee before your bladder is full, you feel the urge to go more often. The idea behind bladder training is teaching your bladder to empty on a schedule. Over time, it'll be able to hold more. Consider practicing this technique in the weeks leading up to your trip. Here’s how it works:
Keep a log. Write down the times when you pee or have a leak, including the amount of time between bathroom trips. Do this for a couple of days.
Space out bathroom breaks. Figure out the average amount of time between bathroom trips, then add 15 minutes. So if you normally pee every 2 hours, start waiting 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Add more time. When your bladder gets used to the new schedule, add another 15 minutes. In the future, you’ll be able to wait longer and have fewer urges to go.
Be patient. It may take weeks or months to train your bladder. When you feel the urge to go before it’s time, try to remember that it’s not full. If your bladder feels empty when you’re supposed to pee, go to the bathroom anyway.
Jennifer LeVine, physician assistant, Male Fertility Specialists, San Diego.
Harvard Health Publishing: “Training your bladder.”
Mayo Clinic: “Overactive bladder.”
National Association for Continence: “The Best Bathroom Locator Apps,” “Traveling With Incontinence.”
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Kegel Exercises.”