Travelling with inflammatory bowel disease

Travelling with inflammatory bowel disease

The idea of travelling might seem daunting if you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, with worries about your condition and how to manage it, both during the journey and in an unfamiliar place. However, having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) should not stop you from travelling and many people with the condition travel both domestically and internationally.

Where do you want to go?

If you can, try and plan your trip at least 6 to 8 weeks before you go. This gives you enough time to get health advice, arrange any vaccinations and ensure you have the correct amount and type of medication you need.

You may have already decided exactly where you're going but if you haven't yet, there are a couple of things to consider:

Consider a destination where you speak a local language – this will be helpful if you are on a restricted diet or if you need medical attention during your stay.2,3

Think about the healthcare system in your destination country, any prerequisite vaccines that are needed. You may also need to make a list of doctors in the local area in case of an emergency.

In a place where it’s warm or humid enough for you to sweat, there’s a risk of dehydration, particularly if you’ve had surgery to remove part of your bowel, which can make you feel unwell. It is worth considering if the weather at your holiday destination is suitable for you. If you have a stoma, you will need to consider managing your stoma bag.3 Read about Stoma care here.

You are more likely to stay healthy if your IBD has been under control for at least 3 months. Although flare-ups are unpredictable, you might prefer to wait until your IBD is in remission before planning to travel.

Try and plan your trips around any routine appointments and blood tests so you don’t miss any check-ins with your IBD team.2

What to take and what to check

Start planning your trip well in advance, so you have time to make sure you have everything you need. Check what facilities there will be during the journey and at your destination and ask for extra support wherever necessary.2-5

Can I take my medication with me when I travel?

You will be able to take your medication with you on holiday, however you will need to plan ahead.

A man with reading on a beach on holiday.
Before going abroad, you should:
  • Talk to your care team: they will be able to give you some further travel advise and ensure you have enough medication, and stoma supplies if needed, to cover your time away, plus extra in case of travel delays
  • Speak with you doctor to get a letter explaining your supplies and medicines, which can make moving through airport security easier. Carry controlled pain medications (e.g., codeine, morphine, diazepam) in the original packaging
  • Consider if you need a cool bag or similar for transporting medication; remember to check if there will be a fridge in your accommodation
  • Check vaccination requirements of your destination well in advance. If you are taking medication that modulates your immune system, you may not be able to have live vaccines while on treatment (e.g., oral polio, chickenpox, smallpox)
  • Buy travel insurance that covers healthcare at your destination, and make sure it covers your IBD

What if I have a flare when abroad?

As flare-ups are unpredictable, it's best to be prepared and consider asking your IBD team for a flare-up plan. It is important to make sure you know what to do if you have a flare while you're travelling.

If you need medical help, you could:
  • Contact your insurance company if you have travel insurance as they can help you arrange medical treatment
  • Check the IBD passport network for information on how to access healthcare abroad
  • Check the Foreign Office advice for the country you are in as this may have information on how to get medical assistance
  • Contact the nearest British consult as they can help you locate a doctor

TravelHealthPro has more information on traveller’s diarrhoea and food and water hygiene for travellers.

IBD Passport

IBD Passport

What if I need to access healthcare when I’m abroad?

Changes in diet, forgetting to take medication, and infections can cause you to have a flare. Discuss with your IBD team what to do if this happens while you’re travelling. They may give you steroids to carry with you.2

In case you need to see a doctor when you are travelling, consider carrying: 2
  • a list of your medicines and a paper copy of your prescriptions 
  • the names and contact details of your medical team at home 
  • your insurance documentation 
  • your prescription and/or a signed doctor’s note 
  • your flare-up plan.

Read about the people in your IBD team in Navigating the NHS


IBD = inflammatory bowel disease.
*IBDrelief patient survey data from 167 respondents with IBD in the UK. Responding to the question ‘Thinking ahead over the next few years, do you feel your condition will make it difficult to pursue any of the following’ 67% selected Travelling (e.g., holidays, business travel etc.).1

  1. IBDrelief. Impact of IBD on physical and emotional health: Findings from an IBDrelief survey. Available at Accessed October 2023. 
  2. IBD Passport. Travel after surgery. Accessed October 2023.
  3. IBD Passport. Travel and IBD. Accessed October 2023.
  4. IBD Passport. IBD Vaccination. Accessed October 2023.
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