Travelling Long Distance With a Colostomy

Updated on October 26, 2018
AloBeDa profile image

12 weeks after my colostomy, I travelled long distance. How I managed the situation? That’s what this article is about.

There is no reason why you can't think about taking a holiday or going on a long trip despite the fact that you have a colostomy. Once you have come to terms with having a stoma, you can travel by road, air, rail, or ship.

There are a number of ways to approach this but the best way may be to first take short trips to places that are not too far from your locality, one that won't take you more than a few hours and once you become comfortable with taking shorter trips, you can embark on travelling long distances without worrying about how to manage your condition.

Before you go on a journey, short or long, the most important thing you need to do first is to make sure you pack all necessary ostomy supplies plus some extras.

Whichever way you'll be travelling, it is important to pack a travel bag filled with ostomy products that will last twice the time they'll be needed for.

Long Distance Road Trips With a Colostomy

Traveling by road with an ostomy is not as hard as many ostomates believe it to be. One thing that is always a cause for concern though is finding a toilet especially if it is a long trip.

In many developed countries of the world, toilet facilities along the way at intervals are quite commonplace and you'll need one, where you can empty or change your ostomy appliances.

So what happens if you drive for miles and can't find a restaurant, diner, or motel and you need to go (change or empty your colostomy bag), what do you do?

This may sound unpleasant to some but there is really nothing wrong with changing bags in the car, in which case you require disposable pouches. If the only other car occupant is a partner, parent, or child, it shouldn't matter. It only takes a few minutes to change a bag once you’ve mastered it which you definitely will.

You must take along with you a can of ostomy deodorant, something you must never forget. Spraying a few short bursts just before removing the bag from your stoma will make changing a bag bearable for the other occupants of the car. And don’t forget to wind down the car windows for some much needed fresh air!

When You Travel by Air or Rail

Traveling by air or by rail if you have an ostomy just requires adequate preparations, that’s about all. Prepare, especially for the unexpected!

As an ostomy patient, you need to take along with them you adequate supplies - colostomy bags, wipes, deodorants, and most importantly, disposal bags where you'll need to put soiled bags.

Though some patients prefer to take closed bags along with them when they travel by air or by rail, disposal may pose a problem and that is why many ostomates prefer re-usable bags that just require emptying. They neither like the idea of disposal in train or aeroplane toilet bins nor do they feel comfortable about it either.

Whatever the case may be, we all have our preferences in that what works for some may not work for others. What is most important is to ensure you take more than adequate ostomy supplies with you for the flight or long train ride, and even more for the time you'll spend away from home.

Have Ample Colostomy Supplies

Your ostomy supplies can be divided up into different baggages including your hand luggage or handbag. This is strongly advised. Imagine the horror if checked-in baggage gets misplaced, or flights get delayed or cancelled.

For supplies in your hand luggage, before you leave home, ensure all faceplates holes are cut to your stoma size because scissors or other cutting implements aren't allowed on aircrafts.

Patients oft are concerned about stoma bags expanding on flights due to the change in cabin air pressure. Ostomy bags do not expand on an aircraft during flight. Modern-day ostomy bags have been produced and tested to withstand pressure changes, so ostomates can be assured that their bags will be fine. Any air or gas build up you encounter will likely be due to wind expelled from the digestive system.

And if you can, stick to a simple nutritional diet a couple of days before your trip.

Diet Advice for Traveling Ostomates

There is really no special ostomy diet per say, but as a person with an ostomy, you should try as much as is possible to avoid certain foods anytime you are away from home.

Some foods will give you a gas build-up which will certainly cause embarrassing bag ballooning, and if you are not in a private area to release the trapped air (through filters fitted on bags), there will be a huge bulge pushing through your clothing.

So if a particular food gives you abdominal gas problems, avoid consuming it for a couple of days before travel and if possible, throughout your holiday away from home.

While travelling by road, rail or air, it is also a good idea to avoid fizzy carbonated drinks. Most patients with a stoma will find that carbonated drinks, sparkling wines, champagne, and beer will cause excessive gas build-up.

Foods likely to give you excessive wind includes (but is not limited) dishes that contain any of the following:

  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Baked beans
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Onion and garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Avocado pear
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sweet corn

Traveling Overseas with a Stoma

If you are travelling overseas, depending on where you are visiting, you may need to investigate if and how ostomy conditions and circumstances are covered by travel insurance. Before leaving home, you should find out where you can get professional assistance if required (not very likely though) at your destination.

While on holidays you must remember that you can still partake in all the same fun activities you took part in before your surgery, including swimming, snorkelling hiking, and partying. Try not to feel self-consciousness or develop a low esteem and remember, no one need ever know unless you tell them.

And if you feel self-conscious about leaving used disposable ostomy bags in your hotel bathroom's waste bin, you can use the public toilet bins in your hotel, provided you wrap and tightly knot the disposal bags before doing so.

Have a great trip.

Have a great holiday getting a suntan and don't worry about your colostomy.
Have a great holiday getting a suntan and don't worry about your colostomy.

Questions & Answers

    © 2010 Alobeda

    Comments Are Welcome

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      • AloBeDa profile imageAUTHOR


        2 years ago from The Global Village

        Hi Richard.

        Yes it can, as long as you don't linger for long in the baths. This way, the wear-time of your colostomy pouch will be fine. If you stay in for too long, it will affect the plate.

        Yes, too long is relative but I'll suggest not longer that 45mins.

        Enjoy your trip.

      • profile image

        Richard vlay 

        2 years ago

        I'm going to Iceland shortly and hoping to visit the hot spring baths will my bag be able to handle the heat without coming off. Thanks

      • AloBeDa profile imageAUTHOR


        4 years ago from The Global Village

        Thank you so much for your visit and nice comment @weezychannel. Blessings.

      • weezyschannel profile image


        4 years ago from Central USA

        I totally agree with everything you said you were right on as I am an ostomate too. Really good information that you have here

      • AloBeDa profile imageAUTHOR


        7 years ago from The Global Village

        Hi Alegro, thanks for visiting.


      • profile image


        7 years ago

        Thanks for the advice! I really enjoyed your diet tips.


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