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Are you dreading that long drive or flight this holiday season? Are you worried your interstitial cystitis will interfere with your travel plans? What about finding enough rest stops or bathrooms along the drive or even worse - that everlasting turbulence that leads to the “Fasten Seatbelt” being illuminated your whole trip? While these are extremely valid worries, the team of Registered Dietitians at Callie K Nutrition have client-tested solutions for avoiding flares caused by travel.
In this post, we will offer expert-approved car and airplane travel tips to help you travel with confidence and ease this holiday season.
Tip #1 : Drop the Need to Please
Are you sensitive to the needs of others, so much so, that you will suppress your own needs? This amazing superpower of sensitivity makes you unique and wonderful! But, be aware that your tendency to please can put your own needs on the back burner. This will make you extremely vulnerable to IC flares when traveling.
If you are a people pleaser, I bet you always do nice things for others but never ask for anything in return. Time to change that attitude! Let the people in your life, and even complete strangers, find joy in taking care of you. Put a smile on someone’s face knowing that they can do something kind this holiday season. Even the smallest gestures, such as asking for the front of the bathroom line, will make others feel good.
Remember, the constant nagging urge to apologize for your medical condition needs to stop! You are your own best advocate. Hospitality specialists, such as flight attendants, wait staff and hotel clerks, are there to make their guests comfortable. Let them do their jobs - don’t be afraid to ask for special accommodations. If you do not make your needs known, you can never expect to get them met.
Tip #2: Have a Plan
Whether you have a long drive or an even longer flight planned, proper planning can ease your mind and help your travel partners feel better prepared for accommodations as needed.
Plan out your bathroom visits, stops to stretch your legs, and restaurant choices or meals. Proper planning can avoid the aggravation of driving in circles looking for a clean rest stop or a restaurant that serves IC friendly options, while on a long, lonesome stretch of the highway.
Apps and Maps: Google maps can be very helpful with pinpointing highway exits with restaurant and gas station services. Or try the app or website USA rest stops.
Emergency Urinal: Ah, necessity is the mother of all invention! Aren’t you glad that there are now many discreet, sanitary solutions to peeing on the go. Check out these portable solutions for car travel on Amazon.
Meal Planning: Pack a cooler with IC friendly snacks such as string cheese with pear slices or raw veggies with cream cheese. Pairing a protein with your snack will give you lasting energy and avoid travel hanger episodes. For more healthy snack ideas, check out the IC Friendly Snack List.
Dining Out: Fast food restaurants like Subway, Chipotle and Boston Market are good options as they let you pick and choose which ingredients that go on your food. If you are sensitive to soy, keep in mind that most fast food restaurants use soybean oil in their deep fryer. When in a pinch, a plain hamburger with baked potato side is your best option at most restaurants.
Seat Selection: Definitely pick a seat that is in the aisle and close to the bathroom. If you cannot select your seat, go ahead and pull that medical disability card and ask for pre-boarding status. Call ahead to the airline and ask what is needed for medical disability pre-boarding. It is advised to always travel with a doctor’s note that outlines your individual needs for bathroom access, dietary needs, and movement needs. You never know what types of situations may arise and it is best to be prepared.
Allow Extra Time: Don’t underestimate the stress from waiting for your ride share to arrive or long lines at the airport. Many IC Warriors report that stress is their biggest IC flare trigger. Avoid the undue stress by arriving extra early.
Stress Reduction: Bring a favorite podcast recording (check out the IC You podcast), audio book or the like to keep your mind busy while waiting in line. And have a fun plan in place to occupy yourself if you have extra time at the gate. Oftentimes you can do self-care at the airport by getting a massage or manicure. Or treat yourself to a peppermint tea w/ splash of cream from the coffee shop (you can also pack your own tea bags if you are going to a hotel and aren’t sure if they will have an IC-friendly tea selection).
Urination and Water Intake Plan: Along with the stress and exhaustion, flying can also be dehydrating. Aircraft ventilation systems are designed to clean the air but results in very low humidity on the plane. Make sure you have a plan to drink lots of water and use the bathroom at opportune times. Keep in mind that you will not be able to use the bathroom for about the first and last 30 minutes of the flight due to take-off and landing.
Take some advice from our own Callie Krajcir, an avid world traveler. She shares her airline travel tips and specific water intake guidelines in this helpful podcast from IC You.
Tip #3: Medicate When Necessary
Sometimes high stress travel situations call for extra help in the way of medication. Perhaps you need to pop a few anxiety pills to help calm your nerves during the flight. Frequent dining out situations may call for Prelief tablets with your restaurant meals. Travel is the time to think proactively about your situation and self-care needs.
Make sure you bring an ample supply of all your prescribed medications and over the counter aids like Azo. Carry at least a few of each of your meds in your carry-on bag or the dashboard compartment of your car for easy access. This definitely isn’t the time to wean off any medication or change your supplement schedule.
A sample IC flare kit could include the following:
Prelief, Azo and/or baking soda
Instant cold travel ice pack or heating pad
Pelvic floor wand
A breathing or meditation app: Curable, Calm, Headspace, etc.
Other medications or supplements as needed: stool softeners, allergy pills, anti-anxiety meds, pain relievers, sleep aids, comfort snacks, etc.
You can find many of these items and more by visiting Callie’s Amazon Storefront.
Ready, Set, Go…Travel!
With proper preparation, holiday travel can be fun and adventurous, even for those with IC. Remember to advocate for your needs, plan ahead for travel delays, dining out options and bathroom breaks, and always be prepared with the medications and tools necessary to make yourself comfortable.
For additional support this holiday season, consider joining a community of like minded IC Warriors like Road To Remission or The IC Collective that will build your confidence and help you become your best advocate.
Author: Beverly Leveque, RD
Editor: Callie Krajcir, RD