9 Tips for Travelling with IBD

Over the last year, I’ve stayed over 100 nights in hotels across Canada and the U.S. I live out of a suitcase most of the time and I live my life on the road. Hence, the infrequent blog posts.

Having inflammatory bowel disease does not make travelling easy. Often balancing 100+ hour work weeks and trying to manage my health is extremely stressful. Here’s some tips I’ve learned along the way that can hopefully help some of you enjoy travelling as much as I do.

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1.  Bring your own food

The most stressful part of travelling for me is not knowing where I’m going to eat. Due to my profession as a Geoscientist, I’m often travelling to remote regions with very limited access to healthy foods. The only way to stay on my diet and keep my health in check is to prep all my food beforehand. I know it’s inconvenient; and usually the last thing I want to do before heading on a long trip but it’s the only way I can stick to my routine.

If you’re flying somewhere, it is even harder to bring pre-cooked meals and keep them cold. Airlines will not let you fly with cold packs, fly with only the essentials and buy whatever else you need when you get there.

2.  Shop at Grocery Stores

If I’m flying somewhere, as soon as I land, I find a grocery or health food store (Whole Foods is my second home) and stock up with what I need for the upcoming weeks.

By shopping at the grocery store or supermarket, I know exactly what’s in the food rather than stressing out trying to find a place I can eat. Here’s a few things I typically buy at the store when I’m on the road.

  • Energy bars made from whole foods (GoMacro, Hornby Island Energy Bars, Organic Larabars etc.)
  • Microwavable Rice packets (without added vegetable oils)
  • Canned Tuna or Salmon
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Organic frozen fruit/vegetables
  • Healthy snacks (Fruit/vegetables, avocados, green juices, energy bars etc.)
  • Oats (Microwaved oats are a staple for me when travelling)

3.  Bring a lunch kit

Whenever I’m driving somewhere, I have the luxury of bringing more food. I have a large insulated lunch bag that I keep stocked with essentials. I often bring a small blender (magic bullet), supplements, non-refrigerated foods, reusable glass containers (microwavable), seasonings, a frying pan (if I have a kitchenette), coconut oil for cooking and a sponge/dish soap to wash my containers.

These are all separate items from my household items, these items do not leave my kit. I can just grab it and go with everything I need.

4.  Bring all medications

I travel with a pharmacy wherever I go, even if it is just for a night. You never know when you might need imodium or painkillers when you’re on the road. Ask your doctor for a few extra prescriptions to have on hand in case of issue.

If you’re flying, have everything well organized, I have a vitamin container I use for all medications and vitamins. I do not typically bring the pill bottles to save space, so I carry a copy of all bottle labels (they typically give you a slip when you fill your prescription). I’ve flown domestic and internationally with a syringe in my carry-on without any issue. Just keep the syringe in its original packaging and bring the prescription slip.

**Biologic Medication Tip**

I have brought cold packs through airport security before, if you explain that you have a medication that must stay cold (Humira is good for 2 weeks after warming to room temperature) they let me through without issue.

Another tip… be wary of hotel mini-fridges. They’re often unplugged or too cold and freeze everything. First, ensure the fridge is plugged in, turn the fridge down and keep your medication stored in the bottom of the door, away from the freezer if possible.

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5.  Ask for a kitchenette

Whenever I stay at a hotel for more than a few days, I always ask for a kitchenette. It may cost more, but often companies do not mind paying if you explain your situation. If kitchenettes are not available at the hotel, ensure you have a microwave and mini fridge. This is standard in most hotels and there is a lot you can do with a microwave. If I’m travelling for a vacation or on an extended trip, I always find an Airbnb or accommodation with kitchen facilities.

**Hotel Tip**

Don’t forget to sign up for any hotel rewards program wherever you stay. I’m a reward member at most hotel chains and they often offer complimentary upgrades to larger rooms or kitchenettes plus I also frequently get free nights for personal use.

6.  Sleep with an eye mask and earplugs

Sleep is of the utmost importance to me. If I don’t sleep well, I can’t perform well.

New places, new beds and an unfamiliar setting can be difficult to get a good nights sleep. Follow a bedtime routine that involves winding down at the end of the day and avoiding electronics before bed. I infrequently use melatonin to assist and speed up the sleep process. Use it as a tool, not as a crutch.

Block out all lights, turn the thermostat down, unplug the wifi router and put in earplugs and/or an eye mask.

7. Have travel insurance

If you’re travelling internationally, buy travel/cancellation insurance. Ensure the plan covers IBD. Travel insurance is cheap, hospital visits and medical bills are not. Don’t skip this one.

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8.  Wear a mask and disinfect everything

Airports are disgusting, dirty places. Germs from all over the world accumulate on everything. Protect yourself and your compromised immune system by bringing disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. A mask is always a good idea when being stuffed in an enclosed area with hundreds of people for hours at a time. I’m guilty of not wearing a mask when I travel but I will certainly consider it from now on (thank you Corona Virus for making masks more socially acceptable).

9.  Make a list of travel essentials

Take a few minutes and make yourself a travel checklist. If you’re anything like me, you’ve always got a million things on your mind and IBD can take up a majority of them. Take some pressure and stress off yourself. Have a list of everything you can’t live without.

There is a plethora of free travel list templates online to start yourself in right direction.

That’s it. That’s all. All the tips I’ve learned from a life on the road with IBD. If I missed anything or you have some of your own travel tips, leave them in the comments below. Happy travelling!


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