Travel with an Ostomy – Holiday Edition

Laura Cox, LPC
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
10/16/15  10:09 AM PST
Travel with an Ostomy

The holiday season is fast approaching. This means a lot of yummy food, being surrounded by loved ones, and possibly some travel with an ostomy. In this article, I’ll be focusing specifically on flying.

Traveling can be stressful for anyone. The combination of bustling crowds, random security checks, and the monotone voice over the intercom is enough to make even the most experienced traveler frazzled – add an ostomy pouch to the mix and it has the potential to be a taxing day!

I’ve traveled quite a bit during my years with my stoma. I’ve had many different experiences and now have found a great routine that makes it easy for me to brave traveling with an stoma.

Before Arriving at the Airport

  • Pack twice as many supplies as you think you’ll need, all in your carry-on (full carry-on packing list below)
  • If possible, book an aisle seat so if you have to go to the restroom a couple of times during a flight you are not disturbing the people in your row
  • Use deodorizing drops (if applicable)

Carry-on Packing List

It’s advisable to keep all your supplies in your carry-on bag so there is no opportunity for the airlines to lose them. Also, just in case you experience a leak while traveling, you will have your supplies ready to go. I suggest keeping the following in your carry-on:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wafers – precut one or two of them so you don’t have to bring your scissors in your carry-on
  • Pouches
  • Stoma powder
  • Stoma paste/strips
  • Safety scissors – if you don’t feel comfortable precutting your wafers
  • Hand or face towel- to clean up in the event of a leak
  • All pills you need for the trip
  • Thin pair of sweatpants and thin T-shirt – also in case of a leak
  • Grape juice – in case of a blockage. I always buy after passing through security
  • Snacks – crackers or something similar to help retain water and keep you hydrated
  • Extra supplies – with unpredictable weather and flights, it’s always best to pack more than you think you’ll need

Going Through Security

There are a couple of steps you can take to make going through security as easy as possible:

  • You can go to the TSA site to print out a disability notification card to inform the TSA of your ostomy. The TSA website says, “You can be screened without having to empty or expose the ostomy through the advanced imaging technology, metal detector, or a pat-down. The ostomy is subject to additional screening and may require you to conduct a self pat-down of the ostomy, followed by a test of your hands for any trace of explosives.”
  • Empty the pouch prior to going through security. This will make your pouch less noticeable and you more comfortable.
  • If you do get stopped by a TSA officer who is unfamiliar with ostomies, this experience doesn’t have to be embarrassing. I find the best way to approach situations like this is with patience, a big smile, and a quick, succinct explanation about ostomies. I also like to think of it as an opportunity to educate so that the next ostomate who goes through the security line will have an easier time because the TSA employee will be aware of ostomies.

What To Do When You’re Through Security

If you have a bit of time before boarding, once you’re at your terminal there are a couple of things you can do to make your trip more enjoyable.

  • Purchase hydrating beverages and some healthy snacks.
  • Use the restroom before you board.

On the Flight

  • If it would make you feel more comfortable, inform a flight attendant that you may need to use the restroom even when the “fasten seatbelt” sign is on. You can tell him or her as much or as little as you’d like.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Sit back and relax.

The best advice I can give about traveling with an ostomy is to handle things as they come at you. I have flown at least two dozen times with nothing going wrong at all (including two 13-hour overseas flights). Worrying will only take away from the experience. Be prepared for issues, but always expect the best! If you do encounter an issue, don’t let it ruin your holiday vacation.

If you’re taking a long road trip instead, and need a high-output pouch, you can look into these options or check out this review of the Ostomy Ileo Night Pouch.

Try to keep a positive attitude and deal with the problem, then move on. Remember, you are capable of handling any issue that comes your way. I hope you’re healthy and happy, and wish you safe travels!


For more information, see related ostomy articles and resources here:

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Serving Medicare Ostomates Nationwide
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  1. How do you handle a high output ostomy( which u emptied prior to trip) on a long car trip and long grime between exits?

    1. Hi Howard. Great question. Well, it depends on if they people in the car know you have an ostomy, and how squirmish they are about clear bags. We would recommend checking out this review of the Ostomy Ileo Night Pouch and seeing if that would work for you. It would definitely be noticeable in the car, and it’s a clear pouch. There are also high-output ostomy pouches. Hope that helps and enjoy your car trip! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

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