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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Travel Hacks for Crohn’s

Medically reviewed by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH on January 24, 2018Written by Dallas Rae Sainsbury on January 24, 2018
crohns travel tips

My name is Dallas Rae Sainsbury, and I have been living with Crohn’s disease for 16 years. In those 16 years, I’ve developed an affinity for traveling and living life to the fullest. I am a fitness model and avid concert goer, which keeps my schedule busy. I’m on the road at least once a month, which has made me an expert in handling my Crohn’s on the go.

When living with a chronic condition that requires needing to know where the nearest bathroom is at all times, traveling can be a challenge. Over the years, I’ve learned how to make travel as seamless as possible.

Vacations can be stressful if you aren’t certain where the closest bathroom is. It’s important to plan ahead. Don’t be afraid to ask where a bathroom is before you need it.

Many places — like amusement parks or music festivals — have apps or hard-copy maps that tell you where every bathroom is. In addition to familiarizing yourself with where the bathrooms are, you can show your restroom access card to an employee, and they will give you the lock code to the staff bathrooms.

It also helps to pack an emergency kit that includes such things as:

  • baby wipes
  • change of pants and underwear
  • toilet paper
  • empty plastic bag
  • small towel
  • hand sanitizer

This can offer some peace of mind and allow you to spend less time stressing out and more time enjoying yourself.

1. Planes

Before boarding, let the flight crew know you have a medical condition and aren’t feeling well. Generally, they can accommodate you with a seat near a restroom or allow you to use the first-class bathroom.

Often during takeoff and landing they may lock the restrooms. If you experience a bathroom emergency and need to use the bathroom, use your finger to slide the “occupied” sign over. This will unlock the door from the outside.

In some cases, flight attendants may bring you extra water and crackers. Don’t be afraid to inform them of your condition.

2. Trains

Like with airplanes, if you’re on a train with assigned seating, you can ask to sit near a restroom. If you find yourself on the subway or in a train car without a restroom, don’t panic. Stress can make it much worse. Having your emergency bag with you can help ease your mind.

3. Automobiles

A road trip can be a great adventure. Also, since you’re in control of your destination, it’s usually easier to find a restroom when you need it.

However, be prepared in case you end up in the middle of nowhere on your trip. Have toilet paper and wet-wipes handy. Pull over to the side of the road (open the car doors that are facing away from the road) and sit between them for a little privacy.

If you’re with friends and feel uncomfortable doing this, you can try to walk to a discrete area in the woods or behind brush. As a last resort, pack a large sheet or blanket someone can hold up for you.

The takeaway

Whether you’re in a plane, train, or automobile, always be prepared when you’re traveling.

Learn where the nearest bathrooms are ahead of time, pack an emergency kit, and have an open conversation with the people you are traveling with about your condition.

If you have a plan of action and ask for proper accommodations, traveling can be a breeze. Don’t fear travel with an inflammatory bowel disease — embrace it.


Dallas Rae Sainsbury

Dallas is 25 years old and has had Crohn's disease since she was 9. Because of her health issues, she has decided to dedicate her life to fitness and wellness. She has a bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and Education and is a certified personal trainer and licensed nutritional therapist. Currently, she is the Salon Lead at a spa in Colorado and a full-time health and fitness coach. Her ultimate goal is to make sure everyone she works with is healthy and happy.

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