Today is the third post in my traveling series: today I’m going to zoom in on IBD (although many of the tips will be relevant to IBS and gut issues too) and my top tips for traveling with IBD.When I was first diagnosed, I was living in China and the biggest question I wanted to know was if it was still possible to enjoy traveling with IBD and enjoy all the wonderful trips I had planned for the summer! I’m lucky that I managed to spend several more years in China and travelled all over during that time: Macau, Hong Kong, Bali, Thailand and more! It wasn’t always easy but I wanted to show it was possible to see the world while battling a disobedient immune system!
Although a lot more planning goes into flying across the globe, I actually find the prospect of even a short trip can be equally overwhelming , with so many different things to think about. After returning from a bit of a road trip around the UK (you can read my review of my first destination here), here’s my top tips for traveling with IBD.
1.Bring your own food. Although a pain to organise, it can help to bring some of your own foods if travelling to somewhere you’re not familiar with. This is always helpful regardless, since we all know what it’s like if your flight is delayed or you need time to get your bearings when arriving at your hotel- most of us can’t nip to the nearest McDonalds without suffering the consequences! Of course, everyone is different but if you are interested, I recently shared my top tummy friendly travel snacks in this post. I always make sure these are in my handluggage (and a few in the suitcase too!)
2. Be Prepared If you are following a particular diet- such as gluten free- invest in translated allergy cards like these from allergy uk.These cards are printed in the language of your choice and are perfect to present to your waiter before dining. If you’re staying in the UK, you can get these free customisable allergy cards from Living with CPMA.
3. Flying with IBD can be a traumatic experience: not least the thought of having to queue for ages to use the loos or navigate the nightmare that is inflight meals. A recent campaign #flywithIBD aimed to raise awareness of airlines offering more adaptations for IBD patients. It’s also interesting to note that For Crohn’s was Thompson’s official charity in 2016. Therefore, more airlines have a greater understanding of the condition. Possible adaptations that can be made are seats near toilets; special in-flight meals and express check-in.
4.Email the hotel in advance. Hotels can be really helpful if you put yourself out there and explain your requirements. Questions I usually ask are…
–Is there a fridge? (Useful for storing medication and whatever food you are bringing)
– Is there a bath or just a shower? If you suffer from complications of Crohn’s like abscesses or fistulas then you’ll need a bath but then again even if not, who doesn’t like a good soak in the tub?
-What are breakfast options? Is it possible to have things made to order like a poached egg white for breakfast? Or soya milk? If places don’t provide these things they are usually very helpful and offer to source it for you or offer to store the stuff for you if you bring it with you. I always find breakfast the hardest thing on holiday so getting it sorted in advance can help.
-Where is the nearest medical facility? It is always a good idea to research this in advance, just in case there any issues while you are abroad.
5. Get Medication Savvy Before leaving, make sure you’ve checked the side-effects of medication carefully. Some (primarily Azathioprine) can cause you to be more sensitive to the sun so make sure you bring things to cover up and plenty of sunscreen. Many destinations require vacinations in advance and you’ll need to discuss this with your doctor since you are not allowed live vaccinations on immunosupressants such as Infliximab and Azathioprine.
6. Get a doctor’s note. It can also be helpful to get your doctor to write a summary of your condition and the medication you are on, just in case you need it when abroad!
7. Be Prepared. A handy tip is to store half your medication in your travel bag and the other half in your suitcase- just in case there’s a problem with your luggage or you’re delayed.
8. The Insurance Issue The most vital thing to consider is medical insurance. It is so important to ensure you are fully covered before you travel. You must check that you are covered for IBD as a pre-existing condition and the amount you are covered. If symptoms change before flying, make sure you keep the insurance company informed- as the slightest change in your condition could cause your policy to be invalid. Insurance with Inflammatory Bowel Disease can be expensive-especially if you’ve had surgery. But there are insurance companies that cater for those with chronic illnesses so just shop around! One I’ve personally hear great things about is AllClear Insurance; a specialist insurance company that caters specifically for those with chronic conditions. As a thank you for giving them a mention; they’re giving away some goodies at the end of this post to help with your next trip below.
9. Visit IBD Passport Kay, who runs, IBD passport has created a really amazing resource; that goes much further than this post ever could. It’s a great site for planning your next trip.
10. If in doubt, ask! I am really lucky that I have managed to visit so many places; a lot of this came from planning- asking on facebook for fellow patients to recommend destinations, restaurants and hotels. I also used tripadvisor to ask more specific destination questions. Whether you want a gluten free meal in the countryside or where the nearest loo is halfway up the Great Wall.
I really hope this post was useful and showed that traveling with IBD is possible; albeit with a bit of forward planning.