It seems that air travel is finally getting back to normal, minus a few crazy queues at UK airports recently, and I’ve just come back from my holiday abroad and I wanted to share my top tips for flying with a stoma!
Before you go:
I was told to always take ALL of my stoma supplies in my hand luggage. If you put your supplies in your hold suitcase, you might find yourself in quite a pickle when you get to your destination! Hand luggage allowances are changed quite regularly so it’s important to contact the airline, usually their ‘Assistance’ department, to ask for extra allowance to bring medical supplies into the cabin.
You will probably require a letter from your doctor stating that you need to have supplies with you. You can also get a travel certificate from SecuriCare- this states that you have a health condition and require supplies in multiple languages and is great to have in your bag through the airport and while at your destination.
I also like to ensure that my doctors note includes a list of my required medications as some countries have rules on how much medication you can travel with.
When packing, I split my hand luggage into two bags, one small cabin case where I put all of my stoma bags, wipes, flange extenders and waste bags; plus, two spare outfits, including underwear.
I then have a backpack to hold my usual hand luggage, passport, puzzle books, you know the drill. In my backpack, I include my “bag of tricks” which has 3-4 stoma bags, wipes and waste bags plus my stoma sprays and a small pair of scissors in a clear liquids bag (check with your airline to see the requirements for a pair of scissors).
On the day:
I avoid the online check in option, unless the airline specifies you HAVE to use it. I find it a lot easier to check in at a desk with a real human. This gives you the opportunity to easily show your documentation and explain any requirements (always try to inform the airline before you get to the airport though!). As I have 2 bags to take into the cabin, I’m often asked to open my cabin suitcase to show that it only contains medical supplies, so don’t be tempted to slip an extra pair of shoes into your case as you’ll probably get charged!
Next stop is security, this is always fun. I make sure to put my scissors in my clear liquids bag so that they are easily seen to the security personnel, it makes things a bit easier to explain, but 9 times out of 10, you’ll still be asked to turn out your bag.
When leaving the UK for my trip, I noticed that they were using the wand to scan everyone that came through. I was taken aside for a pat down search. Previously they have concentrated more on the area of my waistband, and I’ve discreetly mentioned that I have a stoma bag. However, this time I didn’t need to mention it as the security person seemed to know how to briefly check the area and what my bag was without me saying anything.
Finally, when I get to the gate I like to go to the bathroom and drain as much liquid and air as I can from my bag. I know that my bag isn’t going to blow up like a packet of crisps on the plane, but there is usually some natural ballooning.
On the plane:
I put my cabin case of supplies in the overhead bins and my backpack under the seat in front of me. That way, if I feel the slightest itch or leak, I can grab my “bag of tricks” and head to the toilet without too much fuss.
If things have gone terribly wrong and you need a change of clothes, just pop to the toilet and ask a member of the cabin crew to contact someone you’re travelling with to bring clothes up to the toilet or the cabin crew can grab your case for you.
I try and set a timer for the rough duration of the flight, so I can unsure that I go to the toilet once more before we start the descent and turn on the seatbelt sign. You never know how long you’ll be waiting in queues and baggage claim and sometimes the toilets aren’t always nearby.
Travelling with a stoma doesn’t have to be a nightmare, it’s just all about being prepared. I hope my tips can help you feel confident about travelling with a stoma. Have a great summer!!
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by Michelle Williams
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