Travelling with IBD- Tips to make the journey smoother I

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I haven’t written much, life has been hectic, and, I was visiting my family in ze fatherland. I have been back and forth between Europe and the US since 2004, and I have traveled extensively within the US.  Here are a few things picked up along the way.

Traveling with IBDThe Planning phase:

  • Talk to your doctor: No matter how well you may feel, no matter how great your blood work looks like, make sure your doctor is on board (pardon the pun) with your travel plans.
  • Look at the calendar: It’ll make your plane trip cheaper, too, but if you’re on Remicade, or need regular check-ups after surgery etc. it’s imperative that you plan, and plan early around these dates. When I was on Humira and left for Germany for three months, I had to get permission from my insurance to get the three months supply in advance. Insurances don’t exactly work fast, so I had to wait for one month, then fight with them for another month, and finally get the supply for free from Humira. So start the process early!
  • Get enough of your meds and then some: It’s fairly simple: Plans change, flights get delayed, and you’re gone for longer than planned. You don’t need to go overboard, but I always have about two weeks worth extra of my meds with me. In addition of my regular meds, I also always have emergency painkillers and something to help me sleep, and something to help my anxiety should it kick in (when I fly, it does). Since I keep them in my carry-on, I always get a letter from my doctor explaining that they truly are mine and that I need them.
  • Traveling with Humira or Cimzia: Both, UCB and AbbVie are making handy little travel kits that keep your meds chilled. One time, I had them in my luggage, wrapped in tinfoil, another time, I flew with them in my carry-on. The TSA didn’t even ask. I also read that some people wear face masks and stock up on hand sanitizer to avoid germs- I’ve never done that and was fine.
  • Invest in comfort: I wish I was talking about getting business or first class seats, but unless I win the lottery, that ain’t gonna happen! However, check out flight routes. You can fly to Germany for cheaper if you change planes three times and fly into ugly airport Frankfurt. That being said, if I can either have a direct flight into Zurich, or changing only once, I’ll gladly pay the $200 difference. Also, on my way back, I avoid East Coast airports like the devil the holy water (can you tell I was raised in a catholic environment?!). They are too small, the TSA is totally overworked, lines are long, luggage gets lost etc. Best airports to fly into when you need to go through immigration in my experience: San Francisco, Cincinnati, Chicago, Atlanta (in that order).
  • Invest in comfort, II: Get an aisle seat on the side in front of the restroom if possible. Several reasons: Obviously, you’re close to the restroom. You can stretch your legs. If you are at the side, you only need to deal with only one other person instead of say three or four. There is nobody behind you, i.e no four year old kid kicking your seat.
  • Do your research: whether I go camping or I am going to my parents’ house, I always know where the closest and the most specialized hospital is. Check with your insurance how coverage works outside of the US. Write a list with all of your meds, not just the brand names but also the generic ones. Why would a doctor in Germany know what Ambien is? Zolpidem, of course.
  • Get travel insurance/trip cancellation insurance. I know, I know. You just dropped a chunk of change for a ticket to your destination and now insurance on top of it? Yes. You gotta. It’s usually a fraction of the ticket price, and it’s worth it. Life happens. A good friend of mine with Crohn’s had travel insurance and ironically broke her arm in a bicycle accident the night before her flight. She received a full refund.

Get a disability card.This is something I have no experience with so far, but here’s a post that talks about it.

Next up: Packing the carry-on, what to wear, and of course the eternal question: Should I stay or should I go?

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