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Luggage: 3 Tips for Packing for a Trip with Crohn's!

I have written several blogs on traveling with Crohn's that you should first read on general planning and food safety and another on bathroom access, food options, and planning your medication.  I also have written about additional challenges when traveling while flaring.

Now, all caught up?

Ok, let's talk specifically about luggage!

Let's get real, because I'm going to be straight with you.  Once I learned to travel properly with Crohn's, literally HALF my luggage is filled with food and medication.  Yes, HALF.

I pack tons of snacks - protein bars, packets of protein smoothies, rice crackers, and other non-perishable foods. How much you take depends on where you are traveling.  Are you going to a third-world country? Bring a small roller bag just of food.  Are you traveling to Europe?  You'll be fine with a box of protein bars and some other snacks.  Plan how much you need for each day and multiply times the number of days.  It's easy to look at a pile of food and think it will be enough - until you break it down by day.

I also use twice daily mesalamine enemas, which take up massive amounts of room.  If I'm feeling brave and well, I'll nix those for steroid suppositories.  However, I do better with the enemas, so I end up filling half a full size piece of luggage with... enemas!!  Woot woot.

Here's some tips for how I manage:

1.  Plan to do laundry!

If you are prioritizing appropriately, having enough food and medication is far more important than that extra pair of shoes or more clothes.  You can and should plan on laundry.  Most hotels and hostels offer laundry service or have self-service options available.  Or rent an apartment!  I always stock up on travel-sized detergent packs (be sure to put in a ziploc in case they break open) so that I don't have to spend time buying detergent overseas.  If there aren't laundry options at your hotel, before you leave be sure to look online for nearby laundromats.  Note that I said before you go.  Don't waste precious travel time while on your trip on tasks you could do beforehand.

When push comes to shove, you can always do laundry in a sink and hang dry.  Pack a clothesline, clips, and detergent.  Ideally this can be done every 2-3 days.  Or if you're like me you procrastinate and end up 6-7 days into a trip, wasting half a day doing the laundry.  It takes much longer than you imagine!!

One key step in doing laundry in your sink is to roll the clothes in towels after you wash them. The towels absorb a ton of water helping them to dry faster.

2.  Plan on Cabs/Uber when arriving/exiting a city

You will have bigger, heavier bags than your travel partner.  Or if you are solo, you're most likely looking at a large roller bag, a backpack, and a totebag or second handbag.  All filled to the brim.  At least in the beginning of your trip, when you have the most food and meds with you.

You will be tired.

Say it aloud with me:  You will be tired.

Plan within your budgetary constraints on enough money to cab or uber when you are arriving in or exiting a city.  That is always when you are most harried and tired before/after a long travel day.  It's also prime time to get lost!  You don't want to be wandering around in a new city trying to find your hotel when your energy levels are nil.  Trust me, I've been there / done that far too many times.

Just do it.  You'll thank me later.

If  you're like me and have a partner of regular health who has boundless energy, this will require a delicate conversation.  Or two.

Husband:  But it's only a half mile!  "X" number of city blocks!  We'll be fine, I know exactly where the hotel is.

Me:  Did you see it also involves crossing 12 lanes of traffic and walking straight uphill?  And that it's going to be raining?

Husband:  We'll be fine!  Save money, get a workout, no reason to take a cab!

Me:  I love you, dearest, but I am at my weakest when we're traveling - using all my energy to make it through each wonderful day brimming with activity and living outside my comfort zones.  I'd rather use my last bit of energy to enjoy a city with you.  I know you're strong and adventurous and laugh at the thought of needing a cab.  But let's do this for me.  We'll have a better time together if I feel stronger and not exhausted by the time we get to the hotel.

3.  For adventurers, consider a porter service

If you are hiking, trekking, or following an otherwise very ambitious itinerary, consider using a porter service that will pick up your bags and take them to a pre-determined destination.  For example, my husband and I recently traveled in Norwegian fjord country, which involved lots of difficult dashes to catch trains, buses, etc... We opted to have a porter take one of our suitcases to our hotel three days out.  That allowed us more flexibility and freedom to enjoy our travel days without being so encumbered by all our heavy luggage.

4.  Enjoy shopping!

Look on the bright side when you are sighing over mounds of medication, food, and other necessities for your trip.  As your trip progresses and you use food/meds, you will start getting tons of lovely extra room in your suitcase!!  Perfect to amp up your shopping and take home lots of goodies that most travelers can't squeeze into their luggage!  Smug smile and shrug of shoulders!  That's just us Crohnies - always thinking ahead!

Happy travels - Crohnies unite!


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