10 tips for the travelling ostomate

I flew from Washington, DC to San Francisco a few days ago (my first flight with an ostomy) and I was pretty nervous. Here are some things I took away from this experience and tips I have for you all.

  1. Print your TSA notification card: CLICK THIS LINK TO ACCESS THE TSA NOTIFICATION CARD.  Printing this card was helpful for me (I will share my TSA experience in an upcoming post). You just need to present it to the person right before you pass through the body scanner.
  2. Follow the 2n+1 rule: This will answer how many pouches, flanges and wafers you need to pack. This is 2 times the number of days of your trip (in my case 2[5 day trip]= 10 pouches, 10 flanges, 10 wafers). Add 1 pouch, 1 wafer, 1 flange that can be accessed quickly during the flight. Along with this easily accessible pouch, take some paper towels and a plastic bag (usually they’re supplied by the major ostomy manufacturers) for an emergency in-flight pouch change.
    1. This may seem like too many pouches but consider several factors can affect your pouch seal like activity level, climate changes (its about 95 degrees F in DC and about 60s in San Francisco) and other things like diet changes probably affect skin chemistry as well.  I burned through 6 pouches in the first 3 days of my trip so I am thankful I packed as many as I did.
  3. Pre-cut your flanges: This is self explanatory…you don’t want to be bringing scissors through security and its one less thing to worry about.
  4. Talk with your doctor about immodium: If you have a high output ileostomy taking immodium may provide relief. Ask your doctor if that would be okay.
  5. Plan your carry on: ALL your ostomy supplies for the whole trip, 1 change of clothes (in case of inflight leak), immodium, other medications need to be in the carry on. Even if checked luggage is lost you will still have your pouches. I don’t see of any reason to have any of your ostomy supplies in your checked luggage unless you are going on a really long trip.
  6. Pick a seat close to the bathroom: Most airlines allow you to check into your flight and pick your seat online. Usually seats by the restroom will be available because people don’t like to sit in the back of the plane. I had to empty my pouch once during the flight and I was so thankful to be 3 rows from the restroom.
  7. Board early: People with disabilities are among the first people to board a plane. Board with them and take the extra time to get situated, talk with the flight attendant and get the pouch you’ve selected as your “in case of emergency pouch” ready. You probably will not be questioned by anyone but if you are then use the TSA notification card and that should be sufficient.
  8. Talk with the flight attendant: If you are comfortable talking with the flight attendant about having an ostomy and needing water I would do it. I did and they gave me a big bottle of water for free and were super accommodating.
  9. Find a hospital/wound care team in the area you’re traveling: This should be standard procedure for anyone with IBD, ostomy or really any chronic condition.
  10. Pack a day bag: This is to keep a pouch change with you during daily activities on your trip. You can use a small backpack, a string draw bag or a purse (whatever you will actually use).  You don’t want a really big bag because you want take it with you-something small is best.

Hope this helps-share your travel tips in comments

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