Ahh, holidays. That fabled time of the year when you get to unplug from your email, leave your work well and truly at the office and head off in search of adventure, relaxation or a bit of both. Travel is good for the mind and the soul, but venturing far from home comes with its fair share of risks and challenges. And if you have a medical condition the whole process of uprooting yourself from your daily routine can be very intimidating.

For people with gastrointestinal conditions, flare-ups and symptom onset can often be irregular and sudden. This can be distressing at the best of times, but when you add international travel (not to mention jet lag), foreign food, lost luggage and a language barrier to the equation it can be enough to make you want to stay home.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. As any good Girl Guide or Boy Scout will tell you, it pays to be prepared. Take the anxiety out of your adventures by being super prepared and planning for contingencies. That way your island escape or European tour will be that much more enjoyable and you’ll be able to fully unwind.

Pick your destination

When choosing your getaway it’s important to consider factors like the food, medical care and the availability of adequate facilities to manage your condition. This might rule out certain more exotic locations (e.g. trekking in the Himalayas) but in the end, erring on the side of caution may be better for your health.

Know the lingo

Learn how to ask directions to the restroom in the local language as well as how to ask for a doctor or pharmacy. It’s also valuable to learn phrases to explain what condition you have and the words for any foods you need to avoid. With these and a bit of body language you should be able to navigate most menus.

Get packing

Pack all your trip essentials and be sure to include your medication as well as your prescriptions. It’s a good idea to pack extra medication – keep one lot in your luggage at your hotel and keep one with you. For day trips pack a travel kit with all the necessities – medication, hand sanitiser, bottled water, local currency, toilet tissue, pain killers, possibly a change of underwear or clothes, and of course a camera.

Take flight

You’re often allowed to pack your own food (but not liquids) for international flights leaving from Australia – check with your airline in advance about their rules.

Also, when you check in for your flight, explain that you have a medical condition and request that you’re seated near to the restroom if possible.

Ensure you’re insured

Make sure you have up-to-date travel insurance and know exactly what is covered and for which countries. Read up in advance about how to make a claim so you know what you need if there’s an issue (such as holding on to hospital bills).

Pace yourself

To keep things running smoothly and avoid undue stress, allow plenty of time to prepare and for transit. Rushing can cause anxiety, which can aggravate GI issues and leave little time to attend to eating, visiting the restroom and taking any medications you’re on. Having extra time up your sleeve will also help if any problems arise. Time-wise it’s also important to keep to your medication schedule, so be sure to factor in any time difference.

Pace yourself

To keep things running smoothly and avoid undue stress, allow plenty of time to prepare and for transit. Rushing can cause anxiety, which can aggravate GI issues and leave little time to attend to eating, visiting the restroom and taking any medications you’re on. Having extra time up your sleeve will also help if any problems arise. Time-wise it’s also important to keep to your medication schedule, so be sure to factor in any time difference.

Eat right

Eating when you’re on the road can prove tricky – often options are limited or you might be tempted by the amazing smell of the local street food, however it’s important to exercise caution! A moment on the lips in this case can result in an uncomfortable few hours or days depending on the severity of your sensitivity and conditions. Eat foods that you’re comfortable with and avoid anything too out of the ordinary or suspicious. Even travellers with iron stomachs can contract a tummy bug or react to food they’re not used to. If you’ve got a GI condition then you need to be twice as vigilant.

Rest and recuperate

If you do experience a flare-up just remember to put your health first – rest if you need to, even if that means missing out on sightseeing, returning early or finding the closest physician or hospital if need be. But that’s of course a worst-case scenario.

While any medical condition poses some extra challenges when it comes to travelling, with plenty of preparation and a flexible attitude you should be able to enjoy that dream vacation with a minimum of fuss.

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