Traveling with an Ostomy | PART 3 | Enjoying Your Trip

Ostomy travel part 3 header
Share
Share
Pin
Tweet
Email
Print

You made it! Now that you’ve landed and have an awesome time ahead, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

In this article, I’ll be going over some tips to enjoying your trip when you are at your destination.

Please remember that each trip, destination country, and personal circumstances will have some influence over what adjustments (if any) need to be made to your routine. Adaptability and resilience will go a long way, so don’t become discouraged by the change.


Want to fly ahead or go back?


Video

https://youtu.be/JYhgfrs5C3E

At the Airport

I almost always have to empty my bag when I land. Even if my pouch isn’t “full” (don’t ever let it get FULL), I still like to keep it empty because I don’t know if there will be any delays as I pass through customs/security, as I wait for my ride, or if there’s any other luggage to pick up.

Remember to keep your emergency supplies handy in case you’ve discovered a leak or need to do a quick bag change.

Generally speaking, there’s a little more paperwork involved when entering a country than leaving one. This is often due to customs and you really can’t avoid it.

Some destinations require additional security or clearance procedures, but you can refer to PART 2 for a guide on how to handle that.

Your Hotel

Your hotel (or wherever you might be staying) will be your sanctuary for the duration of your trip.  I tend to unpack my supplies or at least have them available in the bathroom of my hotel room when I first arrive.

Keeping your supplies accessible will make things a lot easier for when you need to do an appliance change

Hotel bathroom in Ann Arbor, Michigan
I didn’t have to, but the hotel room bathroom I had in Ann Arbor, Michigan would have been perfect for an appliance change.

Tip: If you like to shower without an appliance on, be aware that the hotel soap or shampoo may leave a film or residue on your skin that could impair your wafer’s ability to stick.  I haven’t personally run into this problem, but some products may need to be rinsed off using more effort.  If in doubt, always bring or buy a brand of soap/shampoo that you know is ok.

If you’re a colostomate who irrigates your bowel, your hotel room will be the most comfortable place for you to do it.  Try to irrigate if you have plans that will span the entire day so you aren’t inconvenienced by a bag change during the day.

While most hotels will empty your waste bins, you’ll still want to put any soiled supplies into an odor proof bag like THIS, or use a product like THIS to seal the opening of your appliance so that no odor escapes.

Food and Drink

Plant restaurant Cape Town fried tofu
Fried tofu dish from the vegan restaurant “Plant” in Cape Town, South Africa.

Traveling is a great way to experience new flavors and traditional dishes that you may never get to taste at home.

This change in diet may have some unwanted side-effects, which could impact the enjoyment of your stay.

Problems such as increased gas, increased output, change in output consistency, and even traveler’s diarrhea can put a real damper on your stay.

Here are some tips on minimizing the risks:

  • Know what you’re getting. If you have an intolerance or sensitivity to certain ingredients, you should ask your server or host to make sure you aren’t accidentally eating them. Many restaurants will accommodate menu changes (i.e. no dairy, no eggs, etc.), so don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Be wary of unbottled water… One of the biggest risks to travelers is consuming contaminated water. This water can come from your hotel or restaurants, as well as local fountains and municipal taps. The easiest thing you can do is to drink bottled water only, or beverages that come in sealed bottles. If you can boil your own water (i.e. using the coffee pot in your hotel room), then that could be an option, too.  The CDC offers up some other ways to disinfect water in THIS article.
  • … and ice cubes. While tap water may be questionable in certain travel hotspots, so can ice cubes since they are often made using the same water.  While it may not always be practical, you might want to avoid ice cubes, too.
  • Have a few backup plans to manage your ostomy. 
    • Keep products like gelling agents in your emergency supply kit to solidify unexpected liquid output.
    • Know where the bathrooms are.
    • Have Imodium handy to help slow down out bowel movements.
  • Avoid or reduce foods that change your output. It’s ok to indulge a bit, but if you know that Red Wine will send you to the bathroom for the next six hours, maybe ease up on it. This isn’t something that’ll be easy if you’re constantly trying new foods while on holiday, but having a general idea about what your “trigger foods” are can help you avoid potential problems from coming up.
  • Maybe skip the street food. Street food is notorious for giving people food poisoning (SOURCE). If you absolutely must have it, consider the source and go with a vendor that follows proper food handling procedures.

Always remember to keep hydrated, especially if you’ll be moving around a lot.  You may not be used to the extreme heat and humidity of the tropics, so always be prepared by keeping bottled water with you.

I have several articles to help address specific issues such as pouch ballooning (gas) and liquid output.

Always Have Your Supplies Handy

Table mountain with backpack containing ostomy supplies
When sightseeing, I always bring my backpack which contains spare ostomy supplies, sunscreen, water, etc.

Regardless of whether you’ll be going on a bus tour or scuba diving, make sure that you take your emergency ostomy supply kit with you.

I had the unfortunate experience of an appliance leak when I was in South Africa during the opening ceremonies of the WCET Conference (which you can read about HERE), and I did not have any supplies on me when it happened.

In this case, I was very lucky to be close enough to my hotel to get back to it for an appliance change, but I really should have brought my emergency kit with me that night.

A few tips for carrying your emergency kit while on holidays:

  • Keep them waterproof. Place your supplies in a sealed bag and then put that in another sealed bag. Ziploc bags are perfect for this.
  • Be aware of extreme temperatures. If you’ll be traveling somewhere that has extreme temperatures (either hot or cold), try to keep your supplies protected by putting them in an insulated bag (like the type you’d carry food in).
  • Don’t forget to have an odor proof bag to dispose of any soiled supplies.  Something like THESE will come in very handy.
  • Medical tape is a huge asset. Medical tape can serve to repair minor tears in your pouch, and to protect your appliance wafer from getting wet. Always try to keep some in your emergency case.
  • Keep bottled water with you. Depending on where you’re traveling to, local water supplies may not be clean enough to safely use during an appliance change. Keep bottled water with you just to be on the safe side.
  • Bring only what you’ll need for that day. You don’t want to bring all of your supplies with you on a tour. Keep the bulk of your supplies at the hotel.

Bathrooms, Washrooms, Loos, Restrooms

Whatever name you choose to call it, you’ll want to be aware of the toilets in your area.  Sometimes, this can be as easy as scanning for one before you’re seated at a restaurant or simply inquiring on their location before you need to need to use it.

Since toilets can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, you may want to familiarize yourself with what to expect in certain countries.

Some countries, especially in Asia, tend to favor squatting toilets.

Typical toilet in urban Syria: flush toilet squatting pan
Typical toilet in urban Syria: flush toilet squatting pan (photo credit: SuSanA Secretariat FLICKR CC2.0)

One challenge you may find yourself running into is that many countries do not use toilet paper.  This can pose some obvious difficulties when emptying your appliance, so you may want to bring your own toilet paper if you expect to be passing through or visiting such a country.

In some countries, flushing toilet paper isn’t permitted, and you may need to use a trash bin.

I found an awesome website that’s like a virtual encyclopedia of toilets! You can find photos and information on just about any type of toilet from around the world (and the customs for different countries).  I would highly recommend checking out Toilet Guru !

Having used many toilets while out of the country, I find that the ones in tourist areas (restaurants, hotels, airports, etc.) tend to be clean – your experience will depend on your destination!

Swimming

If you’re near a beach, you’ll probably be hoping in the water during your trip for a swim.  Ostomy appliances are designed to get wet, but you may want to exercise some caution.

Salt water and sweat can quickly degrade your wafer’s ability to stick properly, so you may want to either protect your wafer using a flange extender or change your appliance more often than you normally would.

You’ve got several options available when it comes to swimwear, and I’d recommend checking out my MEN and WOMAN‘s guide to clothing for more details.  There’s no harm (or shame) in having your bag out while on the beach – do what you feel comfortable doing.

Flange Seal Ring over belly button
It’s hard to see in this photo, but I have a clear flange extender protecting my wafer (the Aqua Seal)

Sun Exposure

Many ostomates are on medication, and some medication may increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and/or increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Not only that but if you’re tanning and have your stoma area exposed (with or without your appliance on), it can lead to sunburn.

Whenever possible, use a high-quality sunscreen/sunblock, wear a hat, avoid the sun during peak hours, and seek the shade when you can.

If you are using sunscreen near your appliance, keep in mind that some of them may impair your wafer’s ability to stick; use one that’s not greasy and/or clean the area well the next time you apply a new wafer.

The Return Flight Home

You may be more tired this time around, but your flight experience will be similar to what was discussed in part two.

Keep in mind that you’ll have the same restrictions for carry-on liquids as you did on your previous flight – 1000ml total in containers holding no more than 100ml of fluid.  If you’ve purchased any extra supplies or decided to take home the hotel shampoo bottle, you may need to reevaluate how much liquid you’re carrying.

Wrapping up

I hope that this guide has been useful to you, and I hope that your trip is enjoyable.

At the very least, I hope that you can see that traveling with an ostomy is not only doable but fun, too!

I’d love to hear what your travel experience has been like and whether you have any tips to share with other ostomates.

Share
Share
Pin
Tweet
Email
Print

1 thought on “Traveling with an Ostomy | PART 3 | Enjoying Your Trip

Leave a Comment