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How To Travel by Car with IBD

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Updated January 15, 2013

The Road

Taking a road trip to see the fall colors.

Amber Tresca
Traveling with diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or any other digestive problem can be a frustrating experience. A trip takes planning, even for healthy people, but traveling with a medical condition requires some special preparation for comfort. Don't be stuck at home because you're afraid to go far from a restroom -- learn how to travel without the stress.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 1 week before the trip

Here's How:

  1. In the days before the trip, consistently follow the best schedule of meals and medications for your condition. This is not the time to try new foods or unfamiliar restaurants.
  2. Contact local tourist boards or an auto club to find restrooms on your route. If you do your research far enough ahead of time, you'll have time to ask the local tourist agencies to send you maps and information in the mail (many times this information is free).
  3. If there are no rest stops are on the highway, plan your route on surface streets where you are more likely to find a fast food restaurant or grocery store that has a restroom.
  4. If your destination is in an unfamiliar city, obtain a good map and make a note of areas that may have public restrooms. Some good places include tourist info centers, shopping malls, department stores, hotels, and restaurants.
  5. Make sure you have enough medication for the duration you're traveling, and add some extra, just in case.
  6. Many public restrooms aren't clean or well-stocked. Carry a travel pack containing extra undergarments and trial sizes of toilet seat covers, wet wipes, antibacterial hand wash, extra toilet paper, and anything else you might need. If you need to make a dash for the toilet, you can just grab your bag and be off.
  7. Pack a book, sewing project, crossword puzzle, or video game -- anything that will occupy you while you're a passenger in the car.
  8. If you think it will help you, pack a portable toilet. It may not be useful in urban areas, but when traveling off the beaten path it could be helpful.
  9. When possible, arrange your meal schedule around your trip. If you know that you have to use the toilet about an hour after a meal, leave enough time between your last meal and the start of the trip for that bathroom break.
  10. Ensure that your traveling companions know that when you say you need to stop and find a restroom you mean NOW. They can also help you scout for restrooms and help explain if you need to jump to the front of the line.

Tips:

  1. Does driving help keep your mind off how far the next bathroom is? Then maybe you should drive.
  2. Gas stations rarely have toilets anymore. Some public places that are more likely to have easily accessible public restrooms are fast food restaurants, diners, supermarkets, department stores, discount stores, large book stores, craft stores, and bed and bath stores.
  3. Places unlikely to have an easily accessible restroom include electronics stores, furniture stores, drugstores, toy stores, restaurants (other than diners), and small shops or boutiques.
  4. If the worst happens, politely ask to use the available facilities and explain that you have a serious medical condition.

What You Need

  • Maps of the areas you're traveling
  • Wet wipes, tissues, or toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • More than enough medications or medical supplies
  • Portable toilet (optional)
  • Sympathetic traveling companion
  • Hobby or book to keep you occupied
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