For those with a bladder or bowel condition, the thought of having to travel long distances may leave you feeling anxious about being away from your own bathroom. With a little planning though, it is possible to travel and get to spend time with your loved ones over the Christmas and New Year period.
Here are some tips that will help you feel more confident travelling over the festive season.
Journeys within the UK
Plan your journey ahead of time and locate where your nearest toilet facilities will be along the way. If you are going on the motorway research which service stations will be on your route, or if you’re out and about in towns or cities then it’s a good idea to have a toilet finder app such as ‘Toilet Finder’ or ‘Flush’.
We’ve also listed some important aspects to ease your journey below.
Pack extra supplies
If you have a stoma, or if you have a catheter or self-catheterise then make sure that you order enough supplies to cover you over the Christmas and New Year period. It’s always worth planning to use more than what is normal for you, as festive feasting may cause a change to your bowel habits or urinary output. Check with your supplier their opening times over Christmas and when the last delivery dates are. It is also worth keeping a change of clothes in a bag or in your car.
If you are a Bladder and Bowel Home Delivery Service customer please note the following important dates and closures during Christmas:
- Friday 8th December – Last orders for Medication
- Monday 11th December – Last orders for Products
- Friday 22nd December – Half Day closing, Last Delivery before Christmas
- Saturday 23rd to Tuesday 26th – Closed, No deliveries
- Wednesday 27th to Friday 29th – Normal service resumes
- Friday 29th December – Last Delivery before New Year
- Saturday 30th December to Monday 1st January – Closed, No deliveries
- Tuesday 2nd January – Normal service resumes
If you’re using public transport such as trains or if you need to visit busy supermarkets then having a Sunflower lanyard will help you indicate to staff that you have an invisible illness and may need extra assistance. This can help you navigate busy and crowded areas if you suffer from fatigue or find it difficult to stand for long periods of time.
If you are staying away in hotels or with family or friends overnight then you may feel more confident if you have a mattress protector for the bed in case of any accidents whilst away. If you have a home delivery supplier they may be able to send you some mattress protectors or you can purchase these easily from online retailers or supermarkets.
Having a Radar key will help to unlock public accessible toilets across the UK, which can be useful if you have a bladder or bowel condition and need extra space to either change your bag or incontinence wear or have mobility issues.
Just Can’t Wait card
Our Just Can’t Wait card is a useful tool to help you discreetly indicate if you urgently need to use toilet facilities whilst you are out. You can download a digital version of the card for free by visiting our website bladderandbowel.org.
If your journey takes you abroad over the festive season then a lot of the advice above will also apply. Please make sure that you order enough stoma/catheter/incontinence products and pack extra supplies and clothes in hand luggage in case of delays. The Sunflower lanyard can also help you through airports in the UK and Europe.
The below tips apply if you’re going outside of the UK.
Adequate travel insurance
Make sure that you purchase adequate travel insurance to cover you for any existing health conditions. It is important to declare all aspects of your health condition otherwise your insurance may not pay out in the event of ill health on holiday. If you do have a chronic illness, there are specialist travel insurance companies who will cover your health conditions such as insurancewith, AllClear, and StaySure.
As well as having your travel insurance, make sure that you have applied for your GHIC card. The GHIC card will allow you to get the equivalent of NHS healthcare in most European countries (please check the guidelines for the country you are travelling to first). You can apply for the card for free on the gov.uk website.
Remember to stay hydrated
If you are going to a hot country over Christmas then make sure that you stay hydrated and drink enough fluid to not exacerbate any bladder or bowel symptoms. Becoming dehydrated will make urine more concentrated and inflame the bladder and potentially lead to infection. It can also cause constipation and slow down bowel movements leading to the possibility of a blockage. Becoming dehydrated will generally make you feel more unwell with lethargy, headaches, dizziness and vomiting. If you suffer from any of these symptoms then you should seek medical advice.
Other things to be mindful of…
Christmas can be a time of excess for many of us which is lots of rich, heavy food to eat and alcohol to drink. The change in diet can affect the regularity of your bowel or cause an upset tummy and alcohol can increase urination, concentrate your urine and cause inflammation of both your bladder and bowel. It’s just something to keep in mind over the festive season and it’s best to stick to your normal routine for food and drink as much as possible
Make sure that you have ordered enough of your regular medicines to cover you over Christmas and New Year. It may also be useful to speak to your pharmacist about what medications you can take if your bladder or bowel condition flares over the holidays.
Who to contact
If you do fall unwell over the Christmas holidays then your GP should have an out of hours number that you can contact.
You should call 111 in the first instance who can assess whether you need help from a GP or need to go to hospital.
Visit A&E if you feel that your illness has become an emergency or potentially life threatening.
For more information please see our full guide: ‘Travelling with Confidence’ available to download free from bladderandbowel.org.