Travelling with IBS can seem like a challenge. But to me personally, it is in some ways easier than dealing with IBS in everyday life. The reason is that you get to plan your travels yourself. You’re on vacation, and no one will force you to stick to a certain schedule.
But there are some rules in order for everything to go well, and I have prepared some tips for travelling with IBS to help make everything a lot easier.
You have to be honest about your condition
My number one advice for travelling with IBS: you have to confide in your travel companion.
If you’re travelling with a large group of people, there has to be at least one person who knows about your IBS. They will wait for you when you can’t leave the hotel just yet, take care of you in case you don’t feel good, and won’t ask uncomfortable questions when you stick to certain foods or want to know where the bathrooms are.
I personally always travel with my boyfriend. I wouldn’t be comfortable travelling with a large group of people, but that is just my personality.
My boyfriend knows exactly what my IBS can do to me. He encourages me to eat safe foods during our travels (or try new foods but then don’t have plans for the rest of the day), is okay with starting our days a little later so I can feel okay, and generally makes me feel supported and calm. I never have to stress about what he might think, and that helps my anxiety so much.
Having a travel companion who knows what’s going on will make sure that you don’t feel isolated or anxious or embarrassed, and that will reflect well on your digestive system as well.
Stick to your routine when travelling with IBS
When you’re travelling with IBS, you have to stick to the IBS routine that works for you as much as you possibly can.
Get up at a similar time, organise your mornings in a similar way, stick to safe foods, and listen to your calming playlist when you get anxious.
Bringing your routine with you will help your body adjust and prevent IBS flare-ups while travelling.
If possible, don’t book activities in advance
Booking activities in advance creates the sort of stress where you really, really don’t want to get sick. And this anxiety is sometimes the very reason for you actually getting IBS flare-ups on vacation.
When I travel with my boyfriend, we usually don’t book activities in advance. We look everything up and plan, but are always ready to change our plans a bit in case I get an IBS flare-up.
And let me just say, knowing that it’s okay if I do get symptoms usually calms me down enough so that I end up feeling fine! I rarely get IBS flare-ups while travelling, just because I know that it would be totally okay if I did.
If in doubt, opt for safe over healthy
I eat a lot of McDonald’s food when I travel. For some reason, I barely get any bloating from it even though it’s greasy. And even if I do get a bit bloated, at least it doesn’t give me diarrhoea.
When travelling, McDonald’s is my safe food and I choose it over healthier but riskier options whenever I need. Yes, it’s bad for you, but having an IBS flare-up is also bad for you. And between both options I definitely choose McDonald’s food.
Generally speaking, try to eat safe foods when travelling with IBS.
Be careful with local foods when travelling with IBS
A lot of people love trying local foods when they travel. This can, however, be hard when you’re travelling with IBS.
For me, there are only two options. Either I play it safe and eat things I know sit well with me, or take a risk but have nothing else planned for the end of the day.
Usually, whenever I eat something risky, we get it to take away and eat at our AirBnb while watching Netflix and having a chill evening. It’s also important not to have an activity planned the next morning and take it slow to see how the food interacts with your body.
Rent an RV
If you’re like me and love road trips more than anything, you might have noticed that they’re not exactly the easiest travel option when you have IBS. Unless you’re driving through well-populated areas with plenty of places to stop and eat and/or use the bathroom (which is usually the case in Europe), long road trips through places like deserts might seem a bit too risky.
My biggest tip for this is renting an RV! RV road trips are great for IBS.
An RV has a kitchen and a bathroom included, which means that you never have to worry about anything. Plus, I absolutely love RV road trips, especially through deserted areas. It is one of the easiest ways to travel with IBS, and it is so much fun!
Stop caring about people’s opinions in airports, on planes and in trains
Travelling is always hard on your stomach, even if it is perfectly healthy. Chances are, you might need to use the bathroom at one point or another during a long journey. The important thing to remember is that no one cares about it.
60% of the people around you aren’t probably feeling great either. I know that my boyfriend also gets stomach issues on travel days although he doesn’t have any condition. Knowing that we’re two somehow makes me feel better. Not because he’s feeling bad, but because I know I’m not alone.
So, don’t be afraid of travelling by plane or train with IBS. Just go with it and take advantage of having a bathroom close-by whenever you need it!
Enjoy and never beat yourself up
When I travel somewhere, I usually set one goal for myself: set foot in the country I’m travelling to. Once I’ve done that, I’ve met my goal and can be happy about my vacation. While this might seem ridiculous, it works really well for me.
Setting tiny goals makes them easy to achieve and prevents you from being disappointed. It means that you’ll enjoy your vacation even if you have to spend one day sick at home. It means that there is no activity you absolutely have to do for your stay to be successful.
Knowing that I don’t have to do everything means that I don’t have to stress about getting IBS symptoms while travelling. And not stressing reduces the chances of it happening drastically!
Always remember to be kind to yourself. Tell yourself that it’s okay if you get symptoms. And if you do, don’t beat yourself up and give yourself time to feel better.
Staying calm and feeling comfortable are the most important things when travelling with IBS. Everything else will just fall into place on its own!
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