I have a serious case of wanderlust. And a bucket list as long as my arm. In the past year, I’ve traveled to Qatar, Miami, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Greece, Iceland, and Spain. And I’ve had a lot of fun!
But I also have IBS, which makes things a teeny bit more complicated.
Not only do I have to prepare for every digestive eventuality, but I also have to make sure I’m fit and ready to work. I’m a fashion blogger, so my job means a lot of travel, picture taking, and wearing lots of clothes when I’m feeling pretty bloated.
Similarly, time differences and air pressure can play havoc on your usual symptoms. I always like to be as ready as possible should my IBS kick up a fuss.
There was one trip in particular which involved early morning call times for photo shoots and driving for miles to desolate locations with no toilets in sight. With that scenario on the horizon, I started making a foolproof checklist to ensure I was as completely prepared as humanly possible.
As anyone with IBS will know, a lack of control can lead to stress, which can exacerbate your symptoms. We never know when a flare-up will occur and that’s scary. I find that planning the things I can control as intricately as possible really helps me relax and put my mind at ease.
Just in case you’ve caught the travel bug too, here’s my ultimate checklist for traveling with IBS!
Pro tips from an experienced IBS-traveler
1. Call ahead
Ringing your hotel ahead of time to check the bathroom arrangements can be a great way to put your mind at rest, especially if it’s a business trip where you might have to share a room with a colleague. Make sure you’re going to feel as comfortable as possible in your upcoming arrangements.
2. Bring an “SOS bag”
Carry an “SOS bag” on your person at all times. It should contain things like your emergency pills, hotel information written in a local language (in case you get lost), insurance, a bottle of filtered water, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a spare change of underwear. Having that bag on you means you can relax. You know you’re prepared for every possibility!
3. Take travel-friendly probiotics
Probiotics can be great at restoring the gut equilibrium, which is often impacted by travel (different food, drinking water, air pressure, sporadic eating patterns). I use Alflorex, which is great for traveling. It doesn’t need to be kept refrigerated and can be taken at any time of the day, with or without food.
4. Carry snacks with you
Make sure you always carry an IBS-friendly snack with you. Airplane food and local restaurants aren’t always great at fulfilling special requests. You can book a special meal on your flight, but make sure you do this at least 48 hours in advance. You may run the risk of them not being able to prepare for you.
Pack a variety of clothing options you know you’ll be comfortable in, whether or not your stomach is acting up. I always over-pack. I’d prefer to have extra than be caught short. Pack for appearance, weather, and comfort!
6. Bring laxatives
Depending on whether you’re IBS-C, IBS-D, or a combination, bring laxatives or Imodium tablets for reassurance. I often find that different food and eating patterns can cause horrible constipation. I prepare for this by taking something to help keep my digestion regular even in unfamiliar surroundings.
7. Stick to a normal routine
Try to maintain as much of a normal routine as possible while you’re away. This will help keep your IBS in check. If you normally have peppermint tea after meals to ease your digestion, make sure you bring enough tea bags with you for your trip.
8. Know the right words to use
Learn how to say what your intolerances are in the local language. Arrive prepared with phrases that will help you express what foods you should avoid when you’re eating out.
9. Plan your toilet breaks
If you’re planning the itinerary, make sure you leave enough time for toilet breaks and relaxing! Trying to cover all the main attractions in a short space of time can be rather stressful. Pick a few things to explore and give yourself time between each to enjoy the sights and recoup.
But above all, remember you’re there to have fun and explore. Travel is a great way to relax your mind. Your IBS doesn’t have to interfere with it — and it won’t with the right preparation!
Scarlett Dixon is a U.K.–based journalist, lifestyle blogger, and YouTuber who runs networking events in London for bloggers and social media experts. She has a keen interest in speaking out about anything that might be deemed taboo and a lengthy bucket list. She’s also a keen traveler and passionate about sharing the message that IBS doesn’t have to hold you back in life! Visit her website and tweet her @Scarlett_London.