Traveling with an ostomy can be no more difficult than traveling without one. You could go camping, fly internationally, take a cruise, go on a road trip, sail the world, or embark on any other adventures that meet your fancy.
These are some things to keep in mind when using different modes of transportation:
Airplane – Flying with an ostomy:
- Pack supplies in your carry-on bag. Luggage can get lost and it would not be a fun vacation if you didn’t have your supplies with you. You could put extra supplies in your luggage too, for double protection. Check with your airlines, as some allow you to bring an additional carry-on just for your medical supplies.
- Pre-cut your baseplates if you are concerned about having scissors in your carry-on (In America it IS legal to bring your ostomy scissors in your carry-on with your supplies, see more on this in the UOAA Travel Tips article).
- Bring a document from your doctor (on their letterhead) stating that you have an ostomy and require special medical supplies and for your ostomy pouch to be kept on you. You may not need this, but it doesn’t hurt to have it. This can be handy when going through security and customs. Bring this medical description in the language of the countries you’re visiting, just in case there’s a miscommunication.
- When traveling in America, TSA has a Notification Card you can carry to discreetly let their staff know you have a medical condition (if you need to). TSA urges you to disclose to their staff that you have a medical condition when traveling through security.
- Empty your ostomy pouch before you go through security.
- TSA has a section of their website dedicated to people traveling with disabilities and medical conditions.
Car – Driving with an ostomy:
- Store your supplies in the coolest part of the car. This is often not the trunk of your car. Supplies are sensitive to heat and can be damaged if exposed to extreme temperatures for a long time. Some people have been known to bring a cooler or thermal bag to keep their supplies in, keeping the temperature more consistent.
- Empty frequently, you never know when the next rest stop will be available if you’re driving through long stretches of road. Then again, you COULD empty in the wilderness/on the side of the road if you need to. Emptying frequently is especially important for high-output ostomies and urostomies.
General Travel Tips:
- Pack at least 2x the amount of supplies you would normally go through in the amount of time you expect to be gone.
- Pack extras of any other medications or ostomy-related accessories you’d normally use.
- Pack toilet paper just in case a restroom you visit is out.
- Research the transportation security requirements of the country you’re traveling to so you don’t violate any of their rules. (For example, Canada and America have different scissor carry-on restrictions).
- Bring a list of hospitals and/or doctors you could visit if you needed to get medical help. Check out the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers website to find doctors that speak your English in the area you’re visiting.
- Avoid traveler’s diarrhea by NOT drinking, brushing your teeth, or changing your ostomy with tap water in foreign countries. Stick to bottled water. Only use bottled water on your stoma in those countries, as you can get sick from contaminated water coming in contact with your stoma.