Traveling with an Ostomy
If you long to see the world, don’t let your ostomy keep you at home. Traveling with an ostomy is easier than you think! All you need are the right products and a plan.
Before You Go
Order and pack extra ostomy products and accessories. You’ll want to make sure you have enough for the duration of your trip. Pack extra pouching systems, just in case your trip is extended, or you end up needing to change your pouch more often than expected. If you use cut-to-fit skin barriers, measure and cut a few extra before you leave.
Write or print an ostomy packing checklist. It may include:
- Ostomy pouches (you may want multiple sizes and types)
- Clamps or clips for drainable ostomy pouches
- Skin barriers, wafers, or flanges
- Ostomy scissors
- Ostomy paste and/or barrier rings
- Barrier film wipes or spray
- Adhesive remover wipes or spray
- Lubricating drops
- An ostomy belt or wrap
- Disposal bags
Pack your supplies in your carry-on, if possible. Scissors (for cutting ostomy skin barriers) are fine in your carry-on on domestic flights, as long as the blade is no longer than 4 inches. Any liquids you bring on board must be no more than 100 ml or 3.4 ounces.
Plan for all your travel activities. Think ahead: What will you be doing on your trip?
If you’re planning to swim, for instance, you may want to pack a stoma cap, some smaller ostomy bags, and adhesive tape to keep your pouching system in place. If you’re planning long, active days, or if you’ll be visiting someplace where restroom access is limited, you may want to use closed pouches instead of drainable bags.
Print a medical condition notification card. This free card, which is recognized by the Transportation Security Administration, notifies TSA personnel that you have a medical condition that may affect screening. It’s an easy, discreet way to communicate your needs. It does not exempt you from security screening, however.
Download or print a restroom access card. Are you afraid of being denied access to a restroom when you urgently need it? The United Ostomy Associations Of America offers a free, printable card that explains your medical need for a restroom. If you’re traveling overseas, consider finding or creating one in the language of your destination.
Consider protecting your trip with travel insurance. If you’re traveling to another country, your regular health insurance may not cover any medical emergencies. It’s smart to get travel insurance with emergency medical benefits as well as trip cancellation benefits, in case you need to cancel the trip because you’re ill, or for another covered reason.
When you’re buying your insurance, just make sure it will cover pre-existing conditions like ostomy. Many plans will as long as you meet the requirements, which can include buying your plan within 14 days of making your first trip payment and being medically able to travel on the day you buy your plan.
While En Route
Give yourself extra time at the airport. You don’t need any extra stress, so arrive at least two hours before a domestic flight departure (three hours for international). Empty your pouch before going through security/boarding the plane.
Notify security personnel about your ostomy. The printable card mentioned above is an easy way to do this. You should not have to expose your ostomy pouching system during screening.
Expect more gas in your pouch while flying. As cabin pressure decreases, the gas in your intestines and ostomy pouch expands. You may need to visit the airplane restroom in flight to release gas from your pouch. Avoid fizzy drinks and chewing gum, which can make the problem worse.