Traveling can be fun, stressful, or both. As an aviation geek, I love nothing more than to stand in the airport looking at those beautiful birds outside, to say nothing of actually getting into one and flying away. However, IBD can make the travel experience more challenging than it already is. I’ve traveled quite a bit in my time, so allow me to walk you through my process of air travel with IBD, from planning the trip to arriving at my final destination.

Before the trip

Planning is a huge part of my travel experience. When booking my flight, one of the first things I do is look at my assigned seat and decide if it needs to be changed (for example, making sure I have an aisle seat for quick access to the lavatory). While making a connection is never fun, it is usually necessary for me. I always try to allow at least 90 minutes to make that connection, as I have learned from experience that I may need to go clear across the airport to make that connection. This also will allow me to visit the restroom between flights. I find it helpful to look into the amenities and accessibility features at the airports I will be using. If I will need to eat at the airport, or on the airplane, I look at the options ahead of time and pack some snacks of my own. My carry on will contain at least one full change of clothing and all of my meds, as well as my TSA-approved baggie of toiletries. I try to keep this bag as light as possible, as I will be carrying it for the duration of my trip. I also pack one or two days of extra medication in case of delays. I try to keep medications in their original pharmacy bottles, just in case a TSA officer wants to look at them more closely.

At the airport

If I am not checking a bag, I like to check in online and print out my boarding pass ahead of time. This way, when I arrive at the airport, I can just go straight to the security checkpoint. Having traveled many times, I am prepared when I reach the security checkpoint and can quickly remove my shoes, jackets, liquids, and computer for inspection. If traveling with medical liquids (certain medications, TPN, etc.), those should be declared to the TSA officer. During the holidays, airports can be especially busy, so it may take more time to get a bag checked and to go through security. I will usually use the restroom before getting in any lines. If waiting in line is an issue, I’ve heard that it can be helpful to show some form of an “I Can’t Wait” card. This also can be used on board the airplane if an ill-timed lavatory visit is needed.

On the plane

When the time comes to board the plane, I make my last bathroom visit as soon as the gate agent announces that boarding will begin shortly. Once the plane leaves the gate, passengers will be required to remain seated until the captain decides to allow passengers to move freely about the cabin. Thankfully, I have never needed to use the restroom during the climb out or the descent, but it may be helpful to alert the cabin crew that an urgent visit to the restroom may be necessary.


Bathroom first, bag claim second. It usually takes at least 15 minutes before the bags start dropping anyway. Ideally, I avoid using the bathroom nearest to the arrival gate, as it tends to be more crowded than some of the other bathrooms.

When things go wrong

Delays and cancellations are a very real risk of air travel, especially during the winter holidays. Poor weather in one part of the country can gum up the works all over the country. During all the trips between my town and my parents’ house, I always had a backup plan. Last year, I had to put it to use. Having a plan made the situation just a little bit easier. 

The holidays are a great time to see family and friends. Sometimes this involves travel. I find that being prepared and considering the challenges that my IBD might bring up makes the process easier.


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