How to Travel with Incontinence
For a person with incontinence, traveling by plane, train or car can pose many obstacles. It certainly can be done, but you need to plan realistically.
First of all, consider how you are most comfortable traveling. Some people prefer driving because you have more control of being able to stop to use restrooms when necessary. But you need to consider who you are traveling with. If they’re behind the wheel, will they understand the urgency of your situation enough to pull over quickly? And what is your route? Will you be traveling through towns and cities with public toilets, or are you driving through vast open lands where bathroom opportunities may be several hours apart?
Planes can be a quicker way to get you where you are going, but being unable to access a toilet during takeoffs, landings and periods of turbulence can cause problems for some. If you do travel by plane, be sure to request an aisle seat from where you can reach the restrooms more easily. You may also want to ask for a seat near the rear of the plane so that you can be first in line if you’ve had to wait a long time while the seatbelt sign was illuminated. Empty your bladder immediately prior to boarding the plane, and again when the pilot announces that you’ll be landing soon, as you usually can’t get out of your seat during takeoff and landing.
One mode of travel that many don’t consider is by train although its convenience, or lack thereof, can vary greatly depending on where you live. Although trains usually can take longer than planes, you’ll have the benefit of a toilet right down the hall at all times. Plus, trains can be a beautiful way to see parts of the country you would otherwise miss when traveling by air. Be aware, however, that trains can sometimes be significantly delayed so it’s possible that you could arrive in the middle of the night when train stations are closed–and access to bathrooms as well.
However you get to your destination, you’ll need to follow the Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared." You’re probably already used to carrying an array of products due to your incontinence, but plan to bring even more along when visiting unfamiliar places. Depending on the kind of trip you’re taking, pack a briefcase, backpack or shoulder bag with extra products and plastic zipper bags for storing soiled garments. Also, always carry a change of clothing. You may want to ship a box of products to your destination prior to leaving. Another tip: Stay at a hotel with a laundry machine in case you should need it.
Plan ahead by calling restaurants, shops, theaters or landmarks that you’d like to visit and ask if they have restrooms. Before your trip, visit www.wheretostopwheretogo.com. There you can order a free booklet that lists public bathroom locations in cities and tourist locations in the U.S.
Even with the best of planning and preparation, however, unforeseen circumstances do happen. Try to remain calm and flexible throughout your trip, and clue your traveling companion in on your needs so that he or she can become your advocate, if necessary. When you do encounter embarrassing or difficult situations, focus on getting through them as gracefully as possible.
Jasmine wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Incontinence.