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There Are No Easy Answers - Traveling with a Flare Part II

One of the most frequent questions I get is about how to travel with a flare.  Check out the first part of my post, describing a trip to Scandinavia with a flare.  Flying overseas made it worst and was extremely painful.  I had not brought along a copy of my prescriptions in the haste of packing while dealing with the flare.  So many issues right from the start!

Part II picks up with what happens when you're on the ground in a new city or country, all while flaring.

Selecting the Right Accommodation - Do Your Homework!

As I've written about in the past, make sure you've already lined up accommodations, as you don't want to be jetlagged in a new city and trying to find a hotel.  Preferably you've followed advice from my earlier posts to book an apartment so you have access to a kitchen and possibly even an extra sleeping area.

Having a kitchen on hand allows Crohnie travelers to prepare their own foods in the privacy and comfort of their apartment, rather than having to face a new set of culinary adventures while flaring. As soon as I check into an apartment and unpack, my husband and I always head to the closest market, corner store, or grocery.  Stock up on plenty of still water (you do NOT want to drink local water regardless of where you are as different mineral content can be hard on the GI system) as well as foods safe for you.  That's personal preference, as IBD do's and don't's in the food realm are so personalized to our individual disease.  For me, it's gobs of greek yogurt, gluten-free crackers, eggs, cheeses and protein bars.  Get what works for you.

Make sure you don't get sparkling bottled water, which is very prevalent in the rest of the world.  It will cause major bloating and discomfort!! If in doubt, ask the clerk.  I can't tell you how many countries, I've had clerks say "Gas? Or no gas?"  NO GAS!! Get still water. Trust me!!

Ideally, you will be able to enjoy breakfast in your apartment and return for lunch or even pack a picnic lunch if you're not flaring.

Eating in the privacy of your own apartment also allows for extra bathroom time.  If your fellow travelers are itching to get to the next site or destination, make plans in advance on a meet-up time as well as a Plan-B if you are still not feeling up to it.  Yes, this is the trip to go all-in and plan for phones set to allow texts and data, so you can communicate across your traveling group when separated.  Contact your cell provider in the weeks before you leave to discuss plan options, most of which are quite affordable these days!  Make sure the cell provider also coaches you on how to change various settings on your phone to ensure you don't go over on data (e.g., ensure your cellular data is set to "off" or only when on wifi).  Almost all hotels, apartments and hostels have wifi with a password in the room or your check-in materials, although sometimes the signal is weak.  Check the lobby or find out where the router is for a better chance of a solid signal.  The pre-planning is worth it!  A flaring traveler may not be up for keeping pace with the rest of the group.  If you're able to split up with an easy way to keep in touch, you'll be more likely to make wiser decisions on when to rest and when to re-join.

Having an apartment with an extra sleeping space (many have sofa beds or extra bedrooms) also allows the flaring traveler to have extra privacy and space to rest without interrupting the rest of the family or friends group.  Being able to close off the bedroom and nap extra hours while others catch up and enjoy the commons area and kitchen is ideal.  Have a white noise app pre-loaded on your phone to drown out background noise.

TLC Travel

Traveling while flaring comes with additional expense in my opinion, but it is well worth it.  In some countries apartments can be found at similar rates as hotels.  If you're the backpacking hostel type, splurge on a private room if available.  Err on the side of hostels that cost a little more but have better amenities - you may feel better with air conditioning, a private bathroom (or shared with fewer people), a large kitchen, and a private or smaller room, rather than the mega-hostel sea of 40 bunk beds without air conditioning, massive commons bathrooms, and no public kitchen.  

Plan for more use of public transportation, taxis/ubers, and less walking.  Save your energy for enjoying the tourist sites rather than using it up to walk there and being too tired to enjoy it. Traveling while flaring, I've skipped climbing hundreds of stairs for a view point so I could rest while my husband enjoyed and brought back pictures for me.  Prioritize your experience, and please be kind to yourself - don't worry if you can't see everything!  Remind yourself you'll return one day.

Bathrooms, Medication, Physician/Hospital Access

I've already written extensively about many other topics relevant to traveling while flaring, including how to find bathrooms while traveling.  Check out this post on bathrooms.

Contact your own insurance provider for coverage information while traveling and have lists of in-network providers with you.  Be prepared with advice from the insurance on what to expect for pricing in-network and out-of-network.  Consider taking out supplemental travel insurance, but be sure you have a travel agent or someone qualified to explain the plan.  

Trust yourself.  If you visit a medical facility and feel uncomfortable or spend a concerning amount of time explaining what Crohn's Disease is to the medical staff, ask to see a different provider, or worst case - leave (of course handling any payment owed) and start over.  This isn't a time for niceties or doubt.  I think all of us Crohnies can tell in just a couple of minutes with a health care provider how familiar they are with Crohn's.  

What's Next for Part III?

Let me know what questions you have about traveling while flaring!

Crohnies unite!


  1. I only recently came across your blog, but I have crohn's too and am currently running a travel blog. I want to try to incorporate crohn's into it a little bit more as my disease is such a big part of my life, and I think I'm finally comfortable talking about it. I just came back from Tenerife and was ill during the whole trip, but I actually felt good today after nearly two weeks of not eating. How do you suggest I try to start incorporating my illness into posts without it being too overpowering? My blog is over at littlemoonelephant.blogspot.co.uk (renovating late January), and I don't want to lose touch now I've finally found another Crohn's blog haha.


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