Going on a vacation can be the most rewarding experience. Whether you’re touring historic grounds, walking the streets of a famous city, or going on an adventure outdoors, immersing yourself in another culture is a thrilling way to learn about the world.

Of course, getting a taste of a different culture means tasting their cuisine. But when you have ulcerative colitis (UC), the thought of eating out in an unfamiliar environment can fill you with dread. The anxiety can be so intense that you might doubt your ability to travel altogether.

Traveling might present more of a challenge for you, but it is possible. As long as you know the items you need to pack, stay on top of your treatment, and avoid triggers as you normally would, you can enjoy vacationing just as much as someone who isn’t living with a chronic condition.

The following four items are my travel essentials.

1. Snacks

Who doesn’t enjoy snacking? Munching on snacks throughout the day instead of eating large meals is a great way to satisfy hunger and prevent you from making too many trips to the bathroom.

Large meals can put a strain on your digestive system because of the many ingredients and size of the portion. Snacks are typically lighter and easier on your stomach.

My go-to snack for traveling is bananas. I also like to pack meat and cracker sandwiches that I prepare at home and sweet potato chips. Of course, you have to hydrate too! Water is your best bet when traveling. I like to bring some Gatorade with me also.

2. Medication

If you’re going to be away from home for longer than 24 hours, always pack your medication. I recommend getting a weekly pill organizer and placing what you’ll need in there. It may take some extra time to prepare, but it’s worth it. It’s a safe way to store the amount you’ll need.

The medication I take has to be refrigerated. If this is the case for you too, make sure to pack it in an insulated lunch box. Depending on how big your lunch box is, there might also be enough room to store your snacks.

Whatever you do, make sure to pack all your medication in one place. This will prevent you from misplacing it or having to search for it. You don’t want to have to spend time rummaging for your medication when you could be out exploring.

3. Identification

When I travel, I like to carry some sort of verification that I have UC with me at all times. Specifically, I have a card that names my disease and lists any medications I may be allergic to.

Also, anyone living with UC is able to obtain a Restroom Request Card. Having the card enables you to use a restroom even if it’s not for customer use. For example, you would be able to use the employee restroom at any establishment that doesn’t have a public bathroom. This is probably one of the most useful things for when you experience a sudden flare-up.

4. Change of clothes

When you’re on the go, you should pack a change of clothes and some sanitary items just in case of an emergency. My motto is, “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.”

You likely won’t need to bring a different top, but try to save some room in your bag for a change of underwear and bottoms. You don’t want to have to end your day early to go home and change. And you certainly don’t want the rest of the world to know what happened in the bathroom.

Takeaway

Just because you’re living with a chronic condition doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of traveling. Everyone deserves to take a vacation once in a while. You may need to pack a bigger bag and set reminders to take your medication, but you don’t have to let UC stop you from seeing the world.


Nyannah Jeffries was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was 20 years old. She is now 21. Although her diagnosis came as a shock, Nyannah never lost her hope or sense of self. Through research and speaking with doctors, she has found ways to cope with her illness and not have it take over her life. By sharing her story via social media, Nyannah is able to connect with others and encourage them to take the driver’s seat on their journey to healing. Her motto is, “Never let the disease control you. You control the disease!”