Whilst most of us aren’t able to travel overseas due to COVID-19, we are lucky enough to enjoy holidays within our own bubble. Planning ahead is key to ensure your holiday runs as smoothly as possible. After all, no one wants to be constipated or feeling like they have a heavy dragging sensation in the vagina at the end of every day’s fun activities. Many women tend to find that travel often causes constipation and if you strain to pass a bowel motion, then you will risk pelvic floor dysfunction. Additionally, when on “holiday mode” it’s easy to indulge on foods and fluids that irritate the bladder. These foods include coffee, tea, alcohol, soft drinks, chocolate, sports drinks, spicy and acidic foods. Another holiday spoiler is that anyone can get a ‘travel bug’ and have awful vomiting and diarrhoea which will also place strain on your pelvic floor. Also, if you’re not traveling light, repetitive lifting of heavy baggage may place unwanted strain on your pelvic floor. To help you, I have included some useful tips to help manage your bladder and bowels while having a successful holiday!
Drink water to stay hydrated especially when in air-conditioning, increased exercise activity or hot climates. Don't be tempted to cut down on fluids to reduce urine (wee) leakage as it can actually make things worse.
Eat light meals so you won't feel uncomfortable, bloated or queasy. Your digestion and body clock can be upset when traveling.
Preventing constipation. Making healthy choices to eat more fibre is key. Otherwise remember to pack fibre supplements or bowel medications that you are using at home. This can be helpful when traveling as your diet and fluid intake can be out of routine when on holidays. Glycerol suppositories can help either the night before or early in the morning before traveling. Take them for constipation on the holiday.
Sitting properly and not hovering on the toilet is important especially when using airplane and public toilets. Take flushable wipes and also antiseptic wipes – good for wiping down public toilets to avoid hovering. It’s never easy I know!
Stretch and walk as much as you can to help with circulation and digestion. Seated exercises (like those recommended by airlines) are good.
Travel light. When packing, be ruthless to protect the pelvic floor from added weight placing extra downward pressure. Consider using ‘pull along’ bags with wheels and see if your friend, partner, relative can lift bags for you. If not, always remember to engage your pelvic floor before lifting your bags. Pack loose comfortable clothing. Tight restrictive clothing may increase your risk of bloating and wind discomfort. Put together a continence kit/bag with the supplies you’ll need to keep with you. These could include wipes, disposal bag, hand sanitiser, spare underwear, a change of light-weight clothing like leggings, skin cream and continence products.
Plan with a health professional. Speak with your doctor about medicine or supplies you need ( anti-emetics (anti vomiting), anti-diarrhoea, anti-constipation (fibre, osmotic laxatives such as Movicol or Osmolax), glycerol suppositories or Microlax enemas) for your trip. Medications for diarrhoea and vomiting could be useful. If possible, take enough to cover your time away and some extra to account for unexpected delays.
When flying, think about whether you need to be close to the exit, or whether an aisle seat that is close to the toilet will make it easier for you. Speak with the airline staff if you feel comfortable disclosing your medical needs. They may be able to accommodate you to access a toilet faster if there’s a line or allow you to use the business class toilet. Anyone who flies has a risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot). Even young, fit sports women can develop a DVT on a long haul flight. To prevent this, keep your legs and ankles moving on the plane. Every 30 mins, pump your ankles up and down, do circles, squeeze your bum and thigh muscles. Walk the aisle if possible.
On the road in New Zealand. There’s so much to experience in Aotearoa! If you’re planning a road trip or visiting new locations, the National toilet map can help you stress less about finding a toilet stop.
Campermate app - which includes locations outside the city centres. Designed for travelers, the app locates public toilets along your journey, and there’s other useful information for those heading into unfamiliar territory, such as the location of your nearest ATM, petrol station, public shower.
You might also be interested in applying for a toilet card. A toilet card clearly states that the holder has a medical condition and needs to use a toilet quickly. Most places you visit will be willing to help you. Get your Toilet Card here
Spending time overseas. Below are a some useful continence organisations if you’re lucky enough to head overseas.
When in Europe, look out for a ‘WC’ symbol which means toilet. Remember to carry coins as the use of toilets can attract a small fee.
Accessible travel. Check out Lonely Planet’s FREE Accessible Travel Online Resources Guide which has country-by-country resources for people with a disability. These include listings of accessible venues, toilets, equipment suppliers and tour and specialist activity operators.