A world of travel is waiting for you
Everyone deserves a holiday – a week or two away from the stresses of everyday life and the chance to recharge your batteries, set off on a thrilling adventure or just relax in the sun. And just because you have a stoma, there is no reason to give up the treat of travelling to new destinations. All it takes is a little bit of extra planning and preparation, and you’re all set to go.
Before you travel
Preparation is key for any traveller, stoma or not, and writing a list of what you need to do well in advance of your trip will ensure nothing is forgotten.
If you’ve chosen a far-flung destination where there could be a language barrier, think about researching and writing down phrases related to your condition such as asking where the nearest toilet is, or where you can purchase any necessary supplies.
Assistance & privacy
You might find it helpful to get a letter from your doctor to say that you have an ostomy and detailing any associated supplies you will be carrying. Perhaps apply for a Sunflower Hidden Disabilities lanyard, which acts as a discreet sign that the wearer (or someone with them) has a hidden disability and might require additional assistance. Neither will enable you to get through the airport any quicker, but they will indicate to staff that you have a condition that you may wish to talk about in private. The lanyard is free for ConvaTec me+ members by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0800 467 866 or visiting www.convatec.com
If you’re not already a member, joining up is another thing to put on your to-do list!
A seat near the loos
When booking your flights, you might prefer to choose a seat near to the toilets, which are usually at the front and rear of the plane. An aisle seat could also be best for you, as it saves you having to disturb a sleeping passenger – especially if you’re travelling alone and therefore sat next to a stranger – should you need to go to the loo.
The right insurance
Make sure you have the appropriate level of travel insurance. Having a stoma means that you have a ‘pre-existing medical condition’, which affects your insurance premium and level of cover.
If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), once this has expired, you’ll need to apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. These cards give you access to medically necessary state-provided healthcare in an EU country or Switzerland at a reduced rate or sometimes free. The card, which doesn’t replace the need for travel insurance, is free and can be applied for on the NHS website.
If you’ve only just had your surgery, there’s a higher risk of developing blood clots on long flights, so now’s the time to talk to your stoma nurse about compression stockings.
Time to get packing
So, you’ve booked your holiday and are now ready to start thinking about packing. A list of everything you want to take with you and the things you need to do before you go, can be used over and over again, and will mean you never forget your suntan lotion and books or even to water the plants and ask the neighbours to feed the cat!
For travellers with a stoma, the most important packing tip is to make sure you have all your ostomy supplies in your hand luggage. It is rare but checked-in luggage can go missing, and travel can be delayed, so keeping everything with you that you need means you won’t have to worry. Be sure to check the amount and size of hand luggage you can take on board with your airline as each one can be different, and it can change.
Of course, you can put more supplies in your checked-in luggage too, just to be extra prepared. If you’re heading to a sunny destination, remember the sun can dry out the baseplate, so you may find you have to change your bag more frequently. If you’re going to be sunbathing or swimming, pack some smaller pouches to use with swimwear, and don’t worry about getting your bag wet – that can actually increase the strength of the adhesive on your pouch.
Keep supplies handy
Remember, you can’t carry scissors in your hand luggage, so pre-cut all the ostomy bags you’ll need for your holiday. It’s a good idea too to take more of everything than you’d usually use, including wipes, adhesive, bags, disposal bags and so on. Perhaps you can ask your travelling companion to carry a few supplies for you too if they have room in their hand luggage and have not gone over their liquid allowance. Before you travel, make sure you check the amount of medical/ostomy-related fluids that are allowed to be carried on board. Liquids can usually only be carried in 100ml containers, up to one litre, and should be displayed in clear re-sealable bags, which can be picked up at the airport.
We’re here for you
It’s also a good idea to have a small bag packed within your hand luggage with all the kit you need for a quick change if necessary. There’s not much space in the on-board toilet, so taking in just what you need will make for a much more comfortable experience.
Preparing in this way should ensure you have a holiday free from any concerns. However, if the worst does happen, and you do run out of supplies during your trip we’re here for you. ConvaTec support centres are based all over Europe, with help and advice always just a phone call away if you need us.
At the airport
Take any stress out of travelling by leaving home in plenty of time and getting to the airport well in advance of your flight. If there are any issues at check-in with the medicines/supplies you are carrying, you won’t be rushing, meaning you begin your travels feeling relaxed and ready to enjoy your holiday.
If you’ve brought a doctor’s note or have a Sunflower Hidden Disability lanyard, show them throughout your airport journey so that staff know you may require extra assistance and/or privacy at each stage.
Relax & shop
Shopping and enjoying a drink or a bite to eat at the airport is all part of the fun when travelling. Remember to eat slowly so that you’re not swallowing too much air, and you’ll want to avoid the types of food that you know produce gas, as well as carbonated drinks both at the airport and when flying. Do keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Once your flight has been called, go to the nearest toilet to your gate and empty your pouch just before boarding. All you have to do then is relax, enjoy the flight and look forward to the adventures that lie ahead.
Your essential travel items
For worry-free travelling with an ostomy, check out this list of essential items before you check in for your flight:
- Pack your supplies of pre-cut pouches (remember, scissors cannot be packed in your hand luggage), skin barriers, adhesive wipes, wet wipes, disposal bags, tissues and any other essential ostomy accessories in your hand luggage – taking enough for your entire holiday
- Smaller pouches for use with swimwear
- Clear, resealable bags for liquids under 100ml
- A quick-change kit in a smaller separate bag
- Rehydration sachets/diarrhoea medication
- Spare change of clothes, just in case
- Your EHIC or GHIC card and holiday insurance details
- A doctor’s note and/or Sunflower Hidden Disability lanyard
- A list of ostomy-related phrases in the language of your destination
- The phone number of the relevant ConvaTec European support centre
We hope this advice helps you to travel with confidence. Happy holidays!
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