IBD Travel Tips You Won’t Want to Leave Home Without

It’s a scary feeling when you’re traveling or away from home and your IBD symptoms flare. As we all know, chronic illness never takes a vacation. Oftentimes the change of scenery and schedule is the perfect storm for disease activity to peak. 

mT3tVteyRCOz2s4mbzraGAThis week–Megan Murray from Balanced Life and Travel shares her top tips for staying in your comfort zone so you can make the most out of your time away. Megan is 37-years-old and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2013. She’s originally from Oklahoma City, but now she lives in Spain with her husband. She’s passionate about travel and not allowing her disease to hold her back from exploring the world.

Drink water all day, every day

I used to experience painful gas and constipation when I traveled. I don’t like taking laxatives or stool softeners if I can avoid it, so I’ve learned that drinking plenty of water is the best way to avoid/fix constipation on the road. I always carry my stainless-steel water bottle. Single-use plastic bottles of water are convenient, but their cost adds up financially and environmentally. 

Know how to find a restroom quickly

This can be pretty easy when you are traveling in America, because you can usually duck into any store, restaurant, supermarket, museum, hotel, etc. and use the bathroom that is available. Always make sure you have your I Can’t Wait card from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. I’ve only had to use mine once, but boy did it save me from an awful situation.

Outside of North America, it can get trickier depending on where you are and how high the language barrier is. If you don’t speak the language and English isn’t widely spoken in your destination, make “May I use your restroom?” the first thing you learn. Research if there is a Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in that country and see if they have an I Can’t Wait card in the language of the country. fullsizeoutput_1690

Traveling through Asia and Europe, I’ve never had trouble stopping in at hotels. If it’s a big hotel, especially if it’s an international brand, I just confidently waltz in like I’m staying there and use the lobby bathrooms. If it’s a smaller place, front desk staff will most likely speak English, so you can politely ask to use the bathroom. I’ve never been denied.

Museum lobbies are also a good choice. The one drawback being the security line you have to go through to get to some lobbies. Also look for banks and other businesses that have lobbies. Check out my post on spending a weekend in London with a chronic illness to read about how some very friendly bank employees saved the day for me.

Research food options before you go

My favorite tool on Google Maps is marking restaurants “Want to go” before I visit a city. This helps me avoid finding myself in the middle of fast food restaurants with nowhere to get a meal that won’t trigger my symptoms. IMG_1226

I eat a vegan diet, so I find all of the places that are vegan, vegetarian, and have vegan options before I go and tag them all. In places where I don’t find as many options (usually more rural locations), I pack food that works for me. I love Oh She Glow’s Glo Bars, so I always make a batch or two, wrap them up and throw one in my bag each day. Then I know I always have a snack that will keep the hangry away and won’t make my Crohn’s hurt! Glo bars won’t work for everyone (hello, low-fiber diet I was on for two years), so brainstorm a hearty snack that is portable to take with you. 

Pace yourself

When planning your itinerary, it’s tempting to cram every last activity into your days. Resist this urge! SPq9iyQkSv2CpXItQzKRWgMake a list of everything you’re interested in and then prioritize, cutting out what you don’t have your heart set on. Trying to do it all sets you up for exhaustion, frustration, and disappointment. 

  • Consider how much energy each activity/sight will take and then begin to plan your days
    • Museums are sneakily draining because you are on your feet the whole time.
    • Balance a demanding activity with a laid-back activity on a given day
  • Think about transportation
    • There’s nothing like a 20-minute uphill walk to zap your energy. Budget for taxis. You save time and conserve energy, so they’re worth the cost.
  • Hop-on, Hop-off buses
    • They are super touristy, but they allow you to see and get around a city without the stress of navigating and/or walking to them all.
  • Take breaks
    • I always need a midday break. I either go back to my hotel to decompress and rest or, at the very least, find a cute cafe and have a cup of tea as I read. I love the Kindle app on my phone. Afterward, I’m refreshed and ready to see or do more. fullsizeoutput_f9

I firmly believe that while a diagnosis of Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis is life changing, it’s not a life sentence. I have always loved traveling, so I haven’t stopped. My travels just looks a little differently than they did before. 

5 summer travel packing tips for those battling chronic illness

As summer winds down, many of our travel schedules ramp up. Before heading back to school and before you gear up for that Labor Day barbeque, it’s always fun to get away for a few days with family and friends. Before you take off—whether it’s by plane, train or automobile—here are five summer travel tips.

  1. Medication and vitamins

It’s always smart to be proactive and pack more medication than you will need—you never know what travel snafu’s will come your way. The daily maintenance of your disease doesn’t take a vacation, just because you are—if anything, the change of schedule, different foods and surroundings can make your disease act up. medicine-2994788_1920I like to take 2-3 extra days of daily medications and vitamins. Along with the daily dose, pack pain and allergy medications so you have it on hand and readily available, should you need it. As someone who battles Crohn’s disease, I’ve had to fly out of the country with my biologic injection. Be mindful of how your medication needs to be stored. If it needs to stay cool, keep it within a zipped-up bag with an ice pack and remember to throw in a few alcohol swabs for good measure. Also, keep your medication on you at all times, never in a checked bag!

  1. Sunscreen

For those of us with chronic illness, the sun can be extra dangerous. Many medications put us at greater risk for skin cancer and can cause our skin to be more sensitive. Make sure you lather up and have plenty of SPF on hand.

  1. Your healthcare team’s contact info and a list of medications

luggage-933487_1280Whether it’s a business card or information that’s stored in your phone—make sure you have your doctor’s phone number readily available, should an emergency or flare up arise. It’s also helpful to keep a list of medications in your purse or wallet, so that you don’t have to worry about remembering the dosage you take or what you are on, should an emergency arise.

  1. Healthy snacks that agree with you

It’s so easy to pull over and grab fast food or eat at the airport, but oftentimes we make poor choices when we’re ravenous and desperate to get some sustenance. Pack snacks that energize you and will help sustain you through hours on the road or delays at the airport.

  1. DripDrop packets! 

Staying hydrated will prevent more than just travel headaches, 10g_Watermelon_Berry_Lemonit will help you feel your best and enjoy your trip. Pack a thermos or water bottle, and it’s as easy as using a water fountain or grabbing some bottled water and mixing up DripDrop on the go. This way—you can enjoy the sun and warm temperatures and keep your body on track for feeling its best.