Choosing a Destination

There are a few things to keep in mind while choosing your travel destination.

Travel style

The kind of travel you are embarking on can impact the effect of your IBD and its management.

Backpacking or camping is a very different travel style than travelling to places with facilities readily available.

A busy itinerary can be more stressful and symptom inducing, as opposed to a more relaxed itinerary. 

Taking a tour organized for you versus embarking on a more independent vacation may require less research, planning, and potential stress. Through organized tours, you do not need to worry about details like accommodations, transportation, and organizing activities.

There is also the added benefit of a tour guide that is knowledgeable about the destination. Details like bathroom locations, retail stores and pharmacies, food ingredients, cultural sensitivities, and insider tips can come in handy.

If you are visiting a developing country, consult a healthcare provider to determine if you could be at risk for certain infections.

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Restroom availability

Keep an eye out for universal public bathrooms for use, such as those at familiar chains like McDonalds or Starbucks.

Be aware of transit bathrooms when you board a bus or train. Are they only located in the station or are there facilities available onboard?

Know the customs of the destination. Some destinations require small payment for facility use so you will want to keep coins on you. Some only have squat toilets.

Always use the restroom before leaving your hotel or restaurant, and stop at pit stops when you pass one in the car.

Avoid eating certain foods while away if you know they trigger urgent bathroom visits.

Let travel partners and new friends you meet know along the way know about your health condition so they are aware of your needs and can help in stressful situations.

Download Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s GoHere Washroom Locator App to help you locate washrooms across Canada.

The following toilet finder apps can help you locate public washrooms while traveling internationally:

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Determine in advance, if your method of transport is equipped with a toilet. Does the bus have a bathroom onboard? Do they make frequent stops? 

If travelling by train, you can usually ask for assistance in advance for things like carrying your luggage and finding the platform. While some trains offer special meals, always remember to pack your own snacks. Where possible, request an aisle seat close to the toilet.

If travelling by car, plan your route in advance to ensure you will be driving near rest stops. If there is an option to take a scenic, more remote route or a highway route with more frequent pit stops (although it may be longer or less scenic), opt for the safer route. Do not leave medication in the glove compartment or trunk as weather could alter their temperature. 

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Do your research to find accommodations with features that suit your needs: a private bathroom, a fridge to cool your medication, laundry arrangements, etc. You may want to pack a small sized laundry detergent for washing in the bathtub if needed.

When using a hotel fridge, make sure the temperature is set to what you need: cold enough, but not too cold to freeze the medication. In some countries, it is common for the power to be shut off when you leave your room so you will want to confirm the fridge is running even while you are out.

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Eating and drinking

While you are traveling, it can be very tempting to indulge! Do your best to stick to what you eat at home. If the local cuisine is very different from what you are accustomed to, talk to your doctor or dietitian to get advice before you go.

Usually while traveling, you will be eating out more often so try to find foods similar to what you eat at home and try not to over indulge. You can also talk to servers at the restaurants that you visit to help you accommodate for dietary requirements. In general, spicy and foreign foods to you should not make your IBD worse.

For more information about eating and drinking with IBD, visit our Diet and Nutrition section.

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Language barriers

If you are travelling to a place where you cannot speak the language, practice important phrases like “where is the restroom?” and “I need a doctor” leading up to your trip, or write them down.

There are many translator apps you can download to your smartphone. 

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Check with your health care provider or visit a travel clinic to find out which vaccinations you should have before travelling to a specific destination. You will want to ensure your routine vaccinations are up to date, as well as find out if additional vaccinations are recommended or required.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention allows you to select a destination and view the vaccines and medicines list, travel health notices, and tips for staying healthy and safe. Common vaccination recommendations include Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Rabies, and in higher risk areas include Malaria, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Polio, and Meningitis. 

Make sure to give yourself eight weeks or more before you leave for your trip to see a doctor as some vaccinations must be administered over a long period.

The details of your travel plans can affect whether or not you require a vaccination. For example, some diseases are more common if you are staying in a rural area, spending a lot of time outdoors or with animals, or working as an aid worker or in a medical setting. Certain times of the year, your age, and your preexisting health conditions all affect how you may plan your travel vaccinations.

In addition to your medication list and dosage amounts, bring your vaccination record along with you. In some cases, you may have to show this document.

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IBD medications and live vaccines

Certain IBD medications, known as immunosuppressive medications that can weaken your immune system, may prohibit you from having certain “live vaccines”. 

Live vaccines contain a weakened amount of living bacteria, and are given to prompt our antibodies to work. People with weakened immune systems cannot have live vaccines. That is why it is important to seek advice from a medical professional well in advance.  

Yellow Fever 

For example, Yellow Fever requires a live vaccine. If you are travelling to a destination where a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required, you may not be able to enter the country if you do not have the certificate with you.

You may ask your health care provider for an exemption letter, which some countries might not accept, or wait for a period of time (i.e. 3-6 months) after stopping a certain medication before getting the vaccine. You may risk contracting the disease (caused by mosquitoes) without the vaccination, which may lead to serious illness.

Before starting a new medication, talk to your IBD specialist about your travel plans.


If you are travelling to a country where Malaria is a risk (also caused by mosquitoes), you may be advised to take tablets leading up to your vacation, and continued after your vacation. These anti-malarial tablets may have side effects that affect your IBD symptoms, and may interact with other IBD drugs.

Consult your health care provider to find out which anti-malarial tablets are best for you.

Zika Virus and Dengue Fever

Besides Yellow Fever and Malaria, there are other ailments caused by mosquitoes, such as Zika Virus and Dengue Fever, which vaccines or medications cannot prevent.

Wear loose, light-coloured clothing that covers all of your skin, and use insect repellent with the active ingredient, DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) to help prevent mosquito bites. While indoors, ensure a mesh screen covers doors and windows. 

Coronavirus Information Coming Soon 

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Check the law

Check with the Canadian embassy in the country that you are visiting to see if your medication is legal. For a list of countries and contact information, click here

It legal to travel with cannabis within Canada. Visit our Cannabis section to find out more about travelling with cannabis abroad.

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