The Best Tips for Traveling with an Ostomy

January 04,2022 |
Woman getting on an airplane.

Ostomy surgeries can create major changes to how you live your life, but they shouldn’t restrict you from doing what you love. Regardless of whether you’ve had a colostomy, an ileostomy, or a urostomy, you can participate in anything you’re passionate about—including travel. While you might have to take extra precautions and more preparations for your trip, ostomies shouldn’t hold you back from exploring, visiting loved ones, or taking some time away from work to relax. When you have the right amount of ostomy supplies and allow for extra time to plan your trip, you can put anxiety aside and enjoy yourself. To help you get started, here are some of the best tips for traveling with an ostomy.

Preparing to Leave

The best way to make sure that you enjoy your trip is to be prepared. Taking the time to get everything organized and laid out will give you a stronger peace of mind when you’re traveling. This allows you to direct your attention to your surroundings rather than worry about your ostomy. Some of the best pre-trip preparations to make include the following:

Create a Packing List

Before you start packing, take the time to create a thorough list. Do this early so you have time to add to your list as you think of everything you’ll need. Make sure you include the essentials, such as ostomy bags and pouches, skin barriers and skin care products, ostomy paste, stoma powder, additional seals, barrier film wipes, adhesive remover, ostomy pouch cleaner, odor management products, ostomy scissors, ostomy belts, a small mirror, medications, gauze, sterile wipes, hand sanitizer, disposable bags, gloves, toilet paper, and hand wipes.

You’ll want to make sure you have the right amount of ostomy supplies for the duration of your trip, so consider what you use throughout a normal day and double it. It’s always better to be over prepared, especially if you’re going to another country.

Pack a Carry-On

Always pack a carry-on with ostomy supplies when you’re traveling by plane. While rare, checked luggage can get lost or delayed and if all your supplies are in your checked bags, you’ll find yourself in a difficult situation. We recommend packing at least half of your ostomy supplies in your carry-on and the other half in your checked luggage. Just make sure that you adhere to the 3-1-1 liquid rule, which indicates that you can bring a quart-sized clear bag with liquid items, gels, creams, and aerosols through security in your carry-on as long as each item is 3.4 ounces or less. Your ostomy scissors must be less than 4 inches to stay in your carry-on.

Pre-Cut Barriers

If your ostomy scissors are larger than 4 inches, or if you want to simplify changing your pouch while you’re traveling, consider pre-cutting all of your skin barriers ahead of time. This is only applicable to those who have cut-to-fit barriers. It isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will make pouching in difficult situations easier.

Purchase Travel Insurance

When taking a domestic trip, your traditional insurance should work throughout the U.S., but always double check with your provider just in case. If you’re traveling internationally, purchase separate travel insurance so you’re covered while you’re away.

Obtain a Travel Communication Card

An ostomy travel card from the United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) is a card that explains what your supplies are and why they’re essential for managing your ostomy. This is helpful when going through security and can reduce the chances of further screenings. Show your ostomy travel card to a member of TSA when you get in line to reduce problems and keep things discreet.

Always Have a Backup Plan

Packing more supplies than you need will allow you to be prepared, but make sure that you have a backup plan in case of an emergency. Get references for doctors in your destination, do research on how to find products locally, and make a plan so you know what to do in case an emergency occurs.

Consider making a doctor’s appointment before leaving if you’re worried about anything or if you have further questions. During this time, ask about referrals in different parts of the country. While it’s unlikely that you’ll need to see a doctor while traveling, it’s always comforting to know you have access to someone you can trust.

Travel Day: Caring for an Ostomy in Transit

When your big travel day has arrived, take some additional measures to ensure that you’re prepared, relaxed, and ready to start your journey. Some of the best things to do for a smooth travel day include the following:

Arrive Early

When you travel by plane, make sure that you give yourself enough time to get through security and change your pouch one last time before flying. It’s recommended that you arrive about two hours in advanced for domestic flights and three hours in advanced for international flights. If you want to expedite this process, consider getting TSA pre-check. With TSA pre-check, you don’t have to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, or jackets, thus shortening your wait time.

Avoid Irritating Foods and Drinks

In the days leading up to your trip, try to avoid irritating foods or drinks. Doing so will help you avoid any problems with your ostomy on your big day. Pack some foods or snacks that you can enjoy while traveling so you don’t have to rely on potentially troublesome fast food or airport restaurants.

Keep Your Carry-On Close

Double check to make sure your carry-on has everything you need and always keep it within reach. By having enough supplies with you at all times, you’ll feel more confident and be able to enjoy your day without worry.

Maintain Good Hygiene

Take extra precautions with hygiene while you’re traveling to avoid contamination or infection. Make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly when using public restrooms and consider bringing hand sanitizer to use after closing the stall door. You may also want to use antiseptic wipes to clean an area when changing your ostomy pouch or make sure that your bag can be hung up on the inside of the stall. Do whatever you can to maintain good hygiene throughout your trip.

Empty Your Pouch as Needed

Maintain your regular schedule for emptying your pouch. Even if you’re on an airplane or in the airport bathroom, you should always empty your pouch as needed. If you’re worried about spillage or overflow, empty your pouch more often than usual. While you know your body best, don’t be afraid to make adjustments to give you a stronger peace of mind while traveling.

Regardless of if you’re going to be flying or traveling by car, change your ostomy pouch right before you leave. This will give you the confidence to start your trip without constantly worrying about the contents of your pouch.

Ostomy Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Trip

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you can start to settle into a more regular routine. You’ll likely know your plans for each day and will have a private room for you to keep all of your essentials. While traveling with an ostomy may present some challenges, you’ll still be able to participate in any activity you’re interested in. If you’re worried about engaging in certain behaviors, talk to your doctor to learn more on how to navigate these situations. Otherwise, practice these ostomy tips to get the most out of your trip.

Research Bathroom Locations

When you arrive at your destination, ask the concierge or local guide about bathroom locations. If you’re going to be staying at a resort, make sure that you know where all of the public bathrooms are in case you need to use one in an emergency. When going out of the hotel, do some research ahead of time so that you don’t have to worry about finding a bathroom while you’re out enjoying yourself.

Prepare for Water Activities

Having an ostomy does not prevent you from swimming and enjoying water activities, but you may want to take extra steps to feel comfortable and confident while doing so. Your pouching system is water resistant, just make sure your seal is secured and you empty your pouch before swimming. You can utilize barrier strips or ostomy belts as needed, especially if it makes you feel more comfortable.

Stay Hydrated and Adhere to Your Diet

While trying new foods is exciting, certain things may upset your digestive system. If you want to explore the local cuisine, that’s okay. Just make sure that you’re prepared for potentially irritating side effects. If you’d rather stay on the safe side, adhere to your regular diet and always drink plenty of water throughout the day.

During your trip, be prepared with an adequate amount of high-quality ostomy supplies from Byram Healthcare. Byram Healthcare is committed to doing our part to improve the lives of those living with ostomies through convenient product delivery and a diverse product catalog. We’re here to help you navigate life with an ostomy and get the most out of your travels.