We all love it and we usually have the feeling that we do it too less. We are talking about travelling and vacation. And now there is a new partner in our lives – our ostomy. But, those wonderful days are not over! Just take him on your journey, because we tell you the happy truth: It is not a problem at all!
However, some concerns probably might come to your mind: Flying with a colostomy bag – is that possible? How would I get through airport security and being patted down? Then, pressure and airport toilets – will that work out?
We will tell you: don’t worry. People with a stoma have done it before, successfully. All you need is proper step-by-step planning and preparation.
In this article, we will guide you through your travels with the ultimate secrets for preparing for your journey, from booking the flight, packing the right items, going through the airport security to flying comfortably. Additionally, we will make you aware of the things that you should keep in mind for all different types of travel or destination. First we will give you in the following paragraph the most important answer at one glance:
Generally, you can fly with a stoma bag without worries. However, it is recommended to wait about 4 to 6 weeks after your ostomy surgery. Remember to carry your essential supplies and a set of clothes in your hand luggage to be prepared for any leakages or changes. Besides that, calculate the number of days of your travel, and carry twice as many supplies as you normally use during that period in your checked luggage. Additionally, consider choosing an aisle seat close to the restrooms and watch your diet before taking off to prevent any unforeseen bowel function.
In this article you will find the following:
- Planning – what to keep in mind when booking a flight with an ostomy?
- Packing when travelling with a stoma + PDF list
- Things to consider for any travel destination
What should I keep in mind when booking a flight with an ostomy?
You should already think ahead before your travel is even close to start: Right – when booking your flight! Therefore, remember to follow the tips given below to make sure you are as comfortable as is possible during your flight:
- Speak to your doctor before flying with a stoma. If you had your ostomy surgery very recently, you need to consult your doctor about whether you are safe to travel.
It is generally advised that it is safe to fly about four to six weeks after colostomy surgery, but there is no harm in asking your doctor to be on the safe side.
- Consider selecting a seat close to the restrooms and on the aisle side. You may need to make frequent trips to the loo to ensure that there are no leaks, even if it is just for your peace of mind.
- Carefully select your meal plan for your flight. Make sure to avoid foods that might be fatty or spicy, fizzy drinks, or anything that might produce more gas. If you don’t trust the airline’s selection, you can bring your own food on board! Wrapped, solid (nothing liquidish like yoghurt) snacks like sandwiches, crisps, biscuits, wraps, chocolate and other sweets, or fruit and vegetables will pass the airport security without any problems.
- Check your insurance. It is important to have adequate insurance, especially for medical conditions. A vast majority of health insurance plans now cover the cost of stoma bags, but the cost and coverage details can vary. Some good travel insurance that covers pre-existing conditions includes Globelink International and World First.
- Notify the airlines about your condition. Airlines today take extra care to ensure that passengers with medical conditions are safe and comfortable during the flight, but they need to be notified at least 48 hours prior about the passengers’ specific needs. Make sure to call and let them know so the cabin crew are aware and keep an eye out for you and your needs.
- Speak to your insurance provider about getting a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), if you are traveling to the EU. The EHIC provides insurance cover equivalent to the health insurance you have at home for a range of conditions, including having a stoma.
It is useful to have a checklist of items that you need to take with you while packing. This of course depends on where you are traveling to. Your needs differ if you are going on a tropical holiday as opposed to a skiing resort.
Wherever your holiday or business trip, here are some essential items that you need to include in your checklist no matter where you travel:
- A stoma travel bag: Get a bag that is light, compact, and can carry all your essential medical supplies. This article here provides a detailed plan for picking the right ostomy travel bag and a checklist of medical supplies you need. And it is ready to go in your hand luggage without problems! You are allowed to carry limits >100ml on planes if they are considered essential medical supplies – your ostomy travel card will help you with the necessary proof.
- Passport & other cards: This is a no-brainer, but you don’t want to be the person who reaches the airport and realizes they forgot their passport. Keep your passport, and other essential id cards on the checklist of items so you don’t forget them when packing.
- Chargers: For your phone and any kind of electronics you want to bring.
- Hygiene articles: Remember to bring your own pH-neutral shampoo and shower gel. The ones offered in hotels might harm your stoma and the skin around it while showering. Make sure to also bring your pH-autobalanced detergent and moisturizing cream for your ostomy, as your skin needs extra care on holidays. Besides that, don’t forget essential hygiene products such as your toothbrushes, toothpaste, creams, cosmetic articles, deodorant and perfume, a manicure kit, and other personal products.
- Ostomy supply: Probably your most important items that you want to bring when flying with a stoma. Calculate the number of days of your travel, and carry twice as many supplies as you normally use during that period. It is better to have more and not need it than less and need it!
- Ostomy travel card: An ostomy travel card and certificate can help you avoid uncomfortable explanations at the airport. Make sure to keep it with you when traveling so you don’t have to worry about the hassle of getting through airport security.Of course there are some more things that go on every trip. And usually, there is at least one thing you forget. To prevent this, you can find a full packing list that remembers you of every detail here for download.
Now you have your checklist of general items for travel in place. But as an ostomate, it is important to consider your travel destination to include items needed for your ostomy that are more specific to your trip:
Click on the icon in order to find out about the tips and things to consider for the specific travel destination.
Your checked and hand luggage with lots of supplies is ready, your seat on the aisle close to the restrooms is safed, you skipped the champagne and watched your diet: Congratulations, you are on the best way for flying without any troubles! One questions before taking off remains:
How do I go through airport security with a stoma?
One of the most daunting parts of flying with an ostomy bag is going through airport security. This is where an ostomy travel certificate and card can help you. Show this document that explains your medical condition in any language to airport security personnel and you can avoid difficult questions about your ostomy. This way, you will no longer have to worry about embarrassing situations arising when going through security.
When the moment arrives and you are just about to fly with a stoma for the first time, you will understandably be very nervous. Will everything work out when the plane takes off? You may have heard of the possible risk of your stoma bag ballooning due to the difference in air pressure inside the cabin of an airplane. What if that or other troubles happen, what do you do then?
- Generelly, the risk of your stoma bag ballooning when flying with a stoma is actually minimal. Nevertheless, cabin pressure might cause your bag to burst. If this happens, simply go to the restroom to empty or change your bag, depending on what is necessary, or release the gas if you feel the bag swell.
- If you are worried about the smell when flying with a stoma, you can use odor drops to put in your bag beforehand. If you have a lot of gas, this is why you chose a seat close to the restrooms to release it as often as you like. Keeping a small deodorant with you is nice for other people too.
- If a leak springs up, you will be able to detect it very quickly. Having a stoma travel bag in your hand luggage will come in handy here. Speak to the cabin crew members about your condition and your needs so they can make sure that your special needs are taken care of.
- Don’t worry about the sounds of your ostomy bag. Most passengers on a plane will have their headphones on, and even if they don’t, a cabin is generally noisy enough that the sounds of your ostomy bag will not at all be noticeable.
Lean back, relax, and enjoy your flight. Some airplanes have board tv on the seat; watch some light entertainment to keep you engaged while flying. Or prepare a Spotify list of your favorite music beforehand so you can just close your eyes and listen to music that helps you relax.
You have now managed to fly with your ostomy bag without any incident (or managed it super well)! Plus, if you followed our tips you are also perfectly prepared for whichever destination you chose!
But a few things in the end to ensure that everything works during your whole trip:
- Do all the proper research about your place of travel. You still need to go through the airport at the destination; make sure to carry your ostomy travel certificate that also explains your condition in the local language in case they don’t understand English. You can select many additional languages next to English and Italian to help you with the language barrier.
- Picking up your checked luggage – or not? A good tip is to pack certain copies of your supplies in different pieces of your luggage, just so that even if one of your luggage gets lost or is delayed, you are not left in a lurch.
- Research where in the area you could possibly buy more medical supplies if necessary. Even so, carry your supplies in excess. The place you travel to may not have your brand of products, and in any case, you wouldn’t want to be scrambling about looking for the supplies you need when on holiday. You can also have a bag of supplies shipped to the place of destination before your travel to keep you covered. Most hotels have no problem with this; you can simply talk to them beforehand and arrange it with them.
The final piece of advice is: relax, have fun, and enjoy your holiday! Whatever problem you may encounter, there is a solution for it. Always remember that living with an ostomy bag does not mean living smaller. You can do everything that you want to and need to, all you need is some preparation! With these travel secrets, you will be able to live your life to the fullest and not miss out on all the wonderful trips that you want to take!
- For going on a cruise, you need a proper ostomy travel bag with all your essentials. As you are most of the time somewhere on the ocean, you don’t want to use your time on land to search for supplies that you were missing or you ran out of.
- Get in touch with the ship clinic. Let them know about your ostomy, and ask questions about whether they stock supplies you would need and if they have specific pouch disposal protocols. Knowing whether they stock adequate supplies can be useful in deciding how much you pack, or if you somehow misplace your supplies and need an emergency backup.
- Trash is generally emptied once or twice a day in cruise ships; you can simply dispose of your bags in the trash cans. If you are worried about odors, carry scented disposal bags with you to throw your bags in.
- If you are taking a tropical holiday, keep in mind that adhesives may work differently when you sweat. Make sure to have products that are sweat-proof and carry proper wipes to clean adhesives.
- Be aware of water quality in tropical areas as well only drink mineral bottled water. Make sure you carry medication for diarrhea. Speak with your doctor to see what medication is suitable for you.
- Most importantly, stay hydrated! Rehydration powder can help you with that. Also, pack in extra moisturizing cream to keep your skin hydrated as well and prevent drying or cracking. We recommend you using this cream specialized for the use of ostomy patients. This way you can ensure a nourished skin even around your stoma. And the best compared to conventional creams: due to the effect of improving irritated skin, it will even help with having your appliance stick! Just make sure you let your skin absorb the cream fully before applying your bag or wafer.
- You will also want to protect your supplies from heat. An insulated lunch bag to stow your stoma travel bag is useful for this.
- Also, having an ostomy bag doesn’t mean you can no longer swim.
- If you are hiking with an ostomy, carry a bag that has a waist strap so you have your supplies in hand should you need them. Wear comfortable clothes, and a support vest to make sure that the stoma bag is in place securely. Carry extra disinfectant wipes and moisturizing cream.
- Camping is not a problem with an ostomy bag, you just need extra preparation. Have a clean space designated for changing your bag. If it is a camping site with bathrooms on-site, set up your camp close to the bathrooms. If it is a true ‘wilderness’ camp, having an ostomy bag can actually be an advantage! You don’t have to worry about going out at night looking for the right bushes to hide behind to do your business. You simply need to come up with a proper bag disposal plan, and it can be the same as for anyone else – you can just bury your waste.
- Like with hiking, having a support vest can make sure that your stoma bag remains in place when skiing. It is also useful to have extra-large ski pants to make sure nothing is pressing against the stoma.
- Also, protect your supplies from the cold with an insulated lunch bag. While there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to ski, try to be cautious about it and avoid anything extremely strenuous.
- If you are planning to travel for a long time, make sure you find a reliable hospital and doctor in the area you are traveling to beforehand. You will also need to find a place of contact for medical supplies essential for you. Speak with your doctor about this, they may have their own contacts. If not, do some prior research on this subject in the area of your travel. If you have friends or family in the area, ask them if they can recommend any doctors or hospitals to you. The local doctor should then be able to advise you on where you can buy medical supplies or get a stoma nurse.
- Also, consider preparing extra medical supply packages at home that your family and friends can then mail to you, if and when needed. This will give you some extra insurance if you are worried about the local supply or the doctor not coming through.
- If you are traveling for business and your workplace is arranging the trip, make sure that your supervisor or boss is aware of your condition and keeps that in mind while arranging the trip for you.
- Pack a support vest to wear underneath your work attire so the stoma is in place during meetings or work-related activities.
- With business you are usually in a hurry, things have to go fast, easy, and best – without complications. Having enough supplies with you is therefore especially important here.
Furthermore, to maintain the perfect hygiene whilst travelling, we recommend you to take Bioderm Stoma Plus with you.
Could you still not find the answer to your question?
We have collected the most frequently asked questions related to travelling and flying with a stoma:
Do you have to pay for stoma bags when travelling?
When travelling by airplane, you usually don’t have to pay extra for your stoma bag supply. Most airlines have extra luggage allowances for medical supply. Make sure to advise them at least 2 days prior to your flight about your medical condition.
Can you travel abroad with a stoma?
Having an ostomy should not hinder you in travelling abroad. You can travel anywhere with your stoma, just make sure to previously research about the stoma supply at your destination country. The availability of your preferred brands might change from Europe to other continents. In any case, you should pack enough supplies in your hand and checked luggage.
How difficult is it to travel with an ostomy?
If you are properly prepared, travelling with an ostomy is not at all difficult! Make sure to consider things like the selection of your seat and meal plan when booking your flight. This will help you if you want to visit the restrooms more frequently in the plane. Also, no matter if you are travelling by car, plane, ship, train, or any other method – having a ostomy travel bag with all your essentials for emergencies comes handy.
Is having a colostomy bag classed as a disability, is having a stoma bag a disability?
Having an ostomy is often referred to as a “hidden disability”, since a major body function is impaired. This, however, traces back to the condition that forced the ostomy. The European Union entitled people with a disability or limited mobility to free assistance in traveling. Besides that, many airlines offer discounts on airfare or luggage. Make sure to advise them at least 2 days prior to your flight about your medical condition.