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Traveling With Interstitial Cystitis | Tips & Tricks

Traveling With Interstitial Cystitis | Tips & Tricks

As we approach the holiday season most of us will be doing some type of traveling. I know for us, we will be traveling multiple times in the month of December and these are not short trips.  Nope, they are about three hours round trip. Traveling for most people might have some ups and downs but for the most part there are no big issues to worry about. For those who have health problems, like myself, traveling can bring about a whole slew of concerns.

Interstitial cystitis (IC) and traveling do not really go together. Having IC introduces issues that normally someone would not have and for myself, traveling can make my symptoms much worse. However, I am here to tell you it can be done. I have traveled to Ocean City, MD, to Washington DC and to family in other states and although I face some obstacles it is possible to still travel.

Here are a few of my tips and tricks to make traveling at least a little bit easier.


There is nothing worse than being stuck in a car and having to pee. Most people though are able to hold it until they reach a rest stop, which sometimes can take a bit of time. However, IC does not allow me that luxury. When the urge hits, I need to go within the next couple minutes. If not the pressure becomes unbearable and if I hold it for too long (anything over 5minutes) I will immediately end up in a flare and extreme discomfort. Often to the point that although the urge is there it is impossible to actually go. I have found that it is incredibly important to look up where there are public restrooms before you hit the road.  There are many apps that you can now download for your phone that lets you find restrooms that are near you. My favorite app, Sit Or Squat , has over 100,000 bathroom locations in its database. Users are also able to rank the cleanliness of each restroom so you know if you need to, well… sit or squat lol. Having an app on hand lets you plan your route and know just how far another restroom is from the current one you just left.


Ok not really but… purchase a portable toilet for your trip. These can be a lifesaver if you end up on a deserted back road with nothing around or on a long stretch of highway with the next exit miles away. There are two main type of portable toilets I want to talk about.

The first is a device used for females to allow you to pee while standing. I personally have The Go Girl. I purchased mine off of Amazon and it was under $10. I love it for camping trips but it is also great for traveling. If you are on a back road where no one will see you, one of these can help make peeing by the road a bit easier.

The second device can actually be used in the car. No stopping necessary. The one I have is The Travel John. This is for those real emergencies. Those times where stopping isn’t possible or there are no restrooms to be found. The Travel John is resealable bags that can be used on the go. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t own one of these until a recent experience. On our trip home from DC, we were on the highway and I had to pee. It came on fast and as I mentioned earlier when that happens, if I don’t go quickly I will end up in a flare. There was no where to pull off and no restroom for miles. I quickly became incredibly uncomfortable and not sure how much longer I could  take. It got to the point where it was so bad that I felt like I was about to burst. I was just about ready to use a cup we had in the car when we finally found a Sheetz where I could use the restroom. After that incident I knew I had to pick some of these up. While it is not ideal to pee in the car, it is there for those true emergencies.


If you are going to be traveling and you know you will be in the car for a long time you might want to consider purchasing a cushion to sit on. You can pick up a donut cushionthat has a hole cut out, or any type of firm padded cushion will do. I have even used a sweater rolled up before. The idea is to help alleviate any pressure placed on the bladder while sitting. For me, sitting in a car can cause discomfort. Between the way the seats in the cars are positioned, all the vibrations and rumblings of the road,  and any bump we may hit can put me in pain in a matter of minutes. I have found that if I am already experiencing pain before getting into the car, that the drive will easily put me into a full on flare. Having a cushion to sit on has been known to help keep my discomfort level to a minimum and has helped with decreasing my chances of having a flare.


No don’t go pants-less but do skip out on jeans or any tight fitting clothing. If I attempt to wear jeans on a normal day sometimes this can cause issues so there is no way I am going to wear jeans on a long car ride. I have found that clothing that stretches really helps. For me, I prefer sweatpants or leggings. I can always change into different clothes shortly before I arrive at my destination if needed. If I want to avoid stopping to change, I break out my jeggings. They feel like I am wearing sweatpants but totally look like regular jeans. Wearing a fabric that is stretchy enough to not put pressure on my bladder is extremely helpful when I know I will be sitting for a long time.


I don’t know about you guys but there have been a couple times I have really needed to pee and was denied access. This mainly happened at small gas stations or little stores where the bathroom is only meant for the employees. Although annoying, generally this isn’t a big issue for most people and they can just drive on to the next spot. However, for someone with IC, that isn’t always possible. Especially when in a flare, the urge to go is extremely strong and needs to happen fast.

So what do you do? There are certain laws that can protect you, although not found in every state, that allows a person access if they have a medical reason. You can find Restroom Access Cards over at the IC Network or some doctors even give them out if you ask. These cards signify you have a medical issue and need immediate access to a restroom. They definitely come in handy when you stumble across an employee only situation. This is another recent purchase that I made after attending a wedding quite awhile back. We were about 30 minutes from the venue when I had to pee. We stopped at 3 gas stations and every single one said no public restrooms and denied access. I wish I would have had these cards on that trip.


Depending on which works better for you, hot or cold, there are a couple things you can do . I personally do best with heat so that is what I go with when traveling. I really love hot hands. They are pretty inexpensive and I can just leave them in my car or toss one in my purse. You can get the kind that you attach to your undies (generally used for period cramps) to help alleviate pain in the pelvic region or you can hold one in between your legs. Remember to do this on the outside of your pants only. If cold works better for you, try bringing a gel ice pack.


Sometimes though you just have to say no. I know it sucks to miss out on all the things you want to do but sometimes you have to for the sake of your health. I have missed my share of birthday parties, family events, get togethers with friends, and even holidays because of my IC. I am here to tell you, I get it. I understand not wanting to stay home. I understand it makes you feel like you were cheated out of an experience. I get how sad you feel when you are not there and everyone else is together. I know the guilt you are experiencing from saying no and thinking maybe, just maybe, you should have dealt with the pain and went anyways.

DON’T. Don’t do it. I’m here to tell you it is Okay. You don’t need to feel guilty. I promise you your friends and family love you and they will understand. Sometimes you have to take care of yourself first. You know your limits and if yours have been pushed it is Okay to say that. As guilty as I feel when I do have to say no, I know I am making the right choice. When I am with my family and friends I want to fully be there and be able to completely enjoy our time together. I can’t do this if I am constantly running to the bathroom and sitting there in pain. Do what you need to do to make yourself feel better and make plans to spend time with everyone on a day you are able to travel. It will be Okay.

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