Travels with a stoma

Having only had my stoma for just over a year travelling with it is still a new experience so I am still learning. So if anyone has any other useful tips please let me know!

I LOVE travelling, seeing the world, relaxing next to a pool enjoying the sun, exploring new cities and eating new food. All of this was difficult when I had my active Ulcerative Colitis. I knew that once I had the operation this would all change and go back to enjoying my life, and it has!

My first holiday abroad with a stoma was a big one, September 2019. Two of our friends were getting married a week apart across the other side of the world, and we just could not say no. We arranged to go to Cancun, Mexico for 10 nights for wedding number one, then fly to Paphos, Cyprus for 7 nights for wedding number two. It worked brilliant and we had an amazing time. I knew I had to prepare myself for nearly 3 weeks away, long flights and different climate with my stoma!

leading up to the holiday and flight I was getting worried about being prepared with bags and equipment, we were away 17 nights in total so I knew I needed a lot of supplies. I accounted for 3 bag changes a day (just in case to be on the safe side!) – My handy stoma travel list:

1) Enough supplies for 3 changes a day – you don’t want to get caught out with no spare! If a flight get cancelled or delayed and stuck somewhere for an extra few nights with out bags? Not even worth thinking about!

2) A stash full of dioralyte! Absolute god send after a day in the sun or a night out on the drink! Even if you think you are drinking plenty it is so easy to get dehydrated with an ileostomy!

3) A little beach bag which is comfortable to carry around! A little beach bag that can go to the pool/ beach with you or when you’re out exploring with an emergency supply kit! You don’t want to be getting caught with a leak or anything away from the room! I had never had a leak at all until I went abroad, right in the middle of the sea on a boat trip, lovely.

4) Cute swimwear, show that bag off! I am proud of my bag and it did not stop me wearing bikinis or anything, wear what you want and feel comfortable in, but don’t hide your bag. Your bag is part of you and what you’ve been through, show it off!

One of my main worries was the whole airport experience! It’s bad enough on its own with stressing about being late, getting through the security queue then realising you’ve got three hours spare so have to spend a fortune on drinks whilst waiting!

Then it’s even worse with active colitis.. but that’s stories for a different time. I was worried about the whole airport security, irrational thoughts that they wouldn’t believe I had a stoma and was trying to smuggle drugs and they would take all my supplies and I would be left with only the one I was wearing for the next 17 days, but thankfully it was fine!

The airport staff were amazing, a few weeks before I flew I contacted the airlines and they each gave me an extra hand luggage to carry medical supplies (Which meant Connor now had four cases of mine to carry for me). I just added a letter from the hospital to put in the case just in case there was any questions but it all went perfect! I explained at security I had a stoma so they took me to a little side room and asked if they could check my bag with the swab, sorted. The worrying was all for nothing. I could go enjoy the lounge now and get drunk before the flight!

A whole lot of luggage (including Connors one case)

Flying with a stoma was 1000% better than travelling with active colitis, even on my long flight I think I emptied my bag once but I didn’t mind at all. So much better than having to go on the plane toilet 20+ times throughout the flight, having to get special permission to go when the seat belt signs were on because I couldn’t hold it or standing in the long queue down the aisle thinking I wasn’t going to make it. I could even have a drink or two.. or quite a few actually without worrying, this was going to be the best holiday ever.

Once we were in Mexico my stoma and bag really showed me how much I had been missing with my Colitis. I enjoyed some amazing food, drinks and could go in the pool all day and join in the pool party without having to get out for the toilet or worrying. I rarely had problems (apart from a big leakage in the middle of the sea on a boat trip, but even that was fine. I had a bag with spares packed and just went to the toilet, cleaned up, changed and back out to enjoy myself!) The only problems was I forgot to pack a spare bikini so the remainder of the boat trip had me wearing only my denim shorts, luckily it was on the way home anyways.

Always pack an extra swimwear in emergency bag!

Luckily for me having a bag really doesn’t bother me, I don’t mind how it looks and if people look at me or not, I have it for a reason and it makes my life 100X better. I didn’t care about having it out around the pool or on the beach, and throughout the whole holiday I actually forgot I had a bag half the time. I think it actually made me more confident in a way, shows what I had been through and I was proud of it. Going on holiday and wearing a bikini and having it out on show made me realise how grateful of it I am, and how much I love it.

Since then I have also been abroad for a city break, celebrating bringing in 2020 in Krakow. Having been to Krakow before in one of my worst times, where I couldn’t eat hardly anything, drink or be able to properly enjoy myself (Although I did manage to the bus journey to Auschwitz without shitting myself which was a huge acheivement) I really wanted to visit again to enjoy everything I had missed, and it did not dissapoint. My bag really has changed my life.

I cannot wait to carry on exploring the world again with my stoma. I would like to revisit some of the places I couldn’t enjoy properly with my Colitis (New York definitely being one as I could hardly eat ANYTHING and missed half of the broadway show due to being stuck on the toilet so I need to experience that again) but I also want to travel so many more new places. November 2020 we were supposed to be travelling India, hopefully we will get there next year! Looking forward to experiencing Delhi Belly with a stoma! (If anyone’s got any tips with that please share, I would be very grateful!)

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