A stock image of an airport with a lady who is travelling looking out the window at the planes. The image represents travelling with a continence problem.

Any type of journey whether it’s to visit friends or go on holiday can cause stress. For those with a continence problem anxieties around travel is often increased. Luckily, there are steps that can be taken to help a journey run more smoothly.

General suggestions:

Contact the travel company, airline, coach or train operator to discuss your individual needs before booking and travelling. If luggage or body searches are worry as exposure of your continence products is a possibility there might be a private area where this can be done.

Think about what you need to carry with you, such as medicines and spare products. You may need to have a letter from your doctor to be allowed to carry them through security. 

You may want to ask the operator if you can board early, to ensure you have time to get settled with anything you may need during the journey.

Disposable continence pads:
  • Disposable pads can take up a lot of space. Consider taking pads that are more absorbent than the ones you usually use, so that you need to take fewer of them. Or you could try smaller pads that take up less space.
  • Make sure you get the products you’re going to need well ahead of your travel date.
  • A vacuum pack bag can help to reduce the amount of space pads take up in your luggage.
  • Consider using other products eg. men could consider using a sheath instead. 
  • Would you be able to manage washable products while away? These take up less space.
  • Ask your product provider whether they are able to deliver direct to your holiday destination, or send a supply beforehand. But make sure you have a backup your luggage just in case there is a problem and they do not arrive.
  • Make sure you have some spare products in your hand luggage in case your main luggage is lost or delayed. You could also divide your pads between your luggage and that of a travelling companion if you’re happy to do so.
  • Contact the travel provider to see if there are any luggage restrictions or if continence products are exempt.
  • If you are worried about leakage, consider having a chair protector for the journey.
  • Consider the climate you are travelling too. Dampness can affect the absorbency of pads and heat can affect the adhesive tapes, for example on sheaths.
  • Remember you will have less to bring home with you, as most of the pads will have been used.
Managing Catheters on long journeys:
  • Consider having a urinal, such as a uribag, to empty catheter bags into. A travelling companion can then take it to the toilet to empty this for you.
  • Make sure that you carry spare catheters, bags and any other equipment you may need with you.
  • Ensure you have some spares, in case of delays or cancellations.
  • Divide your catheters and supplies between your hand and hold luggage and consider giving some to a travelling companion, in case of luggage delay or loss.
  • Have hand sanitizer and wet wipes in case access to a sink and soap is limited.
  • You can get a medical validation or travel certificate from your catheter provider. It will explain in different languages why you are carrying catheters and also has a section urging officials to be discrete.
  • Consider using ready-to-use hydrophilic catheters if you are travelling in countries with poor water quality.
Accessing the toilet:
  • Try to book a seat near the toilet and on an aisle.
  • Consider using a pad inside close fitting underwear, in case you cannot get to the toilet quickly enough.
  • Think about taking a small bag with wet wipes and spares with you that is easily accessible throughout the flight.
  • Be aware that some people find that they are more likely to leak larger amounts of urine when the plane starts to descend. Consider planning a toilet visit just before then.
  • If you’re not sure what the toilet facilities are like at your arrival destination, consider a toilet visit before decent begins.
  • Wear clothing that is comfortable and easy to rearrange when accessing the toilet.
  • Dark coloured clothing makes leaks less visible.
  • Loose fitting clothing is easier to remove. 
  • Consider having a spare set of clothing and a plastic bag in your hand luggage in case of leaks.
Fluid intake:
  • Make sure that you drink enough. Plenty of water will prevent dehydration, help to protect against urinary tract infections and ensure that urine remains dilute. Concentrated urine can irritate the lining of the bladder and increase wetting.
  • Avoid tea, coffee, hot chocolate and alcohol as all of these increase urine production.  
  • Avoid fizzy drinks as these can irritate the bladder lining.
Bowel issues:
  • Try to stick to your usual diet routines when travelling to avoid feeling bloated, nauseous or uncomfortable. Digestion and body clocks can be upset by crossing time zones.
  • Try to move as much as you can, particularly on long flights. This will help with both circulation and digestion.
  • Discuss with your health care professional whether an enema or suppository a few hours before the flight would be an appropriate way for you to try and avoid a bowel motion during the flight.

Find more Bladder & Bowel UK resources here: Information library for adults – Bladder & Bowel UK (bbuk.org.uk)

Find NHS advice here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-incontinence/


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