Essential Guide: Travel with an Ostomy

In our last installment of our Summer Essential Guides, we wanted to share our tips for traveling with an ostomy. There are between 725,000 and 1 million people in the U.S. living with an ostomy. Around 120,000 new ostomy surgeries performed each year!

There are many people that go into the hospital with a stomach ache and come out with a stoma. With all that confusion and shock, there is a stigma attached to having a stoma. It may feel isolating and you may feel bound to your ostomy appliance, but that is not the case.

If you are one of the million people living with an ostomy, you can enjoy travel just like everyone else. To prove it, we sat down with professionals in the area of ostomy management and found the 11 most useful tips for successful and enjoyable travel.

Whether by air or car, these are the things you can do to prepare for a memorable time!

This one is obvious for so many reasons. First of all, you’re not confined to certain places or travel preparations because of your medical condition. So like everyone else, check the weather to make sure you pack the appropriate clothes!

Secondly, warm weather may affect your ostomy barrier, so you may need to pack extras. You also might want to consider a paste for a stronger seal or extra seal strips.

There’s nothing that derails a great trip more than dehydration and bad eating habits. It happens, as we detailed in our blog on traveling with a dietary restriction. Be prepared by taking an empty water bottle to the airport and filling it once you get through security (to avoid buying a $10 bottle of water!). Make sure you keep to your 8 glasses a day so that everything runs smoothly.

By ostomy-friendly snacks we mean snacks that are easy to travel with an easily digestible for you. Some tried and true snacks like jerky, nuts and dried fruits are excellent for travel. Whatever is good for your ostomy needs, bring them to avoid airline food that might upset your stomach!

If you prefer a two-piece appliance and you have a tough time with one-piece appliances, don’t worry. Consider a one-piece just for the ease of packing less things that might get lost or ruined. There’s no right or wrong here, just whatever feels best and is easiest for you.

When traveling, you’re away from your normal places and you may not know how long it is between getting to a restroom. Make sure to take advantage of every restroom and check your ostomy or empty it as necessary.

As we all know, scissors are not allowed in your carry on luggage. If you use cut to fit barriers, cut a handful in advance. This will avoid the issue of trying to find something to cut your barriers if you need to make a change mid flight.

Luggage gets lost frequently. And if you’re flying somewhere out of the country, you may not know how or where to get emergency supplies. If you carry several extra days worth of supplies in your carry on, you can go a few days without stress. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is finding out where to get a hair brush!

Make sure you bring a change of clothes for the flight for many reasons. Typically you’ll be in your flight clothes for a full 24 hours – that’s the nature of summer travel. Bring a change of clothes for landing will help you feel slightly refreshed. It will also give you peace of mind should you have a leak.

This isn’t necessary to do, as medical liquids are exempt from the 3 ounce travel bottle rule. But letting the TSA agents know ahead of time will make your journey through security less painful. If you’re sensitive about your ostomy, it can help avoid the awkward call out of your luggage by agents. You’ll avoid having to explain and show off your ostomy in front of a crowd of irate travelers.

You can also request a private screening to avoid even more delays or embarrassing security checks.

In your supplies, remember to pack disposal bags for changes on the plane or public restrooms. This is more for discretion and peace of mind for yourself than anything else. Cleansing wipes are a must as well, for leaks and drips that may happen when changing during travel as well.

If you have a new stoma or you’ve never traveled with your ostomy before, look into insurance. Particularly invest in travel insurance that covers medical visits. There’s no telling you will 100% need to visit a hospital while on vacation, but you have a medical condition that you may not know everything about yet. Reduce the worry and invest in your health.

If you’re traveling by car, make sure to keep your supplies out of the sun and in a cool place. They don’t need to be chilled, but your barriers and pastes may lose some of their sticky qualities once they’ve been sitting in the sun for a while. Cooler is best.

Check out this medical card issued by the TSA that alerts the agents you have a medical need.The United Ostomy Association of America has also attached a restroom access card. This is so you can alert airport employees that you need access to a restroom immediately. It’s not necessary to have, but again, it’s just another step that will make your journey all the more simple.

Travel is a fun, but stressful part of life. There’s no need for your medical condition to add to that stress. There’s also no reason for that medical condition to stop you from participating at all. Take these steps to empower you to see the world and book the flight! We want to hear all your stories of traveling the world with your ostomy.

Check out our ostomy supplies for all your summer travels. And share with us how easy it is to travel with whichever medical condition you have!