Laura Mackenzie from Wemyss Bay Scotland has two stomas a urostomy and a colostomy. She has recently returned from a week in the Algarve and had a super time.

‘I have always been a frequent airline passenger for both work and holidays, but this was my first flight and trip abroad in over a year and indeed since my major surgery in November 2017’

Laura shares with us some fantastic holiday advice and covers everything from before the for holiday to during the holiday and the journey home.


Before I went I did the following:

  • Reviewed my daily usage on the worst day for both colostomy and urostomy and doubled it and take that many bags and other related items pro rota.
  • I got a travel certificate from Colostomy UK which advise that I was wearing the bags written in many languages (including Portuguese) which I got my Stoma nurse to sign.
  • Got key phrases written on cards including “where is the nearest hospital”, “I need to see a stoma nurse” etc.
  • I got a print out of my prescription items from my doctor’s surgery (this was free – a letter may cost you).
  • I contacted my airline and secured 10kg of extra hand luggage where I put all my ostomy products.

Preparing for travelling day before:

  • Put two spare changes of clothes in my hand luggage (pants and dresses).
  • Ensured had adequate supplies for my journey in my spares kit (I call it spares not emergency as I change my colostomy 2-4 times a day so out of any length of time, I need to change my bag).
  • Laid out a leg bag (only use for long journeys – to-date by car but decided to use for flying).
  • Ensured had contact details to hand of Respond (my Ostomy supplier).
  • Was careful and ate simple foods to prevent accidents when travelling.
  • In the evening, changed my urostomy bag (sometimes takes a few attempts to get it on, so easier to do when more time) – I usually get 24 hours out of a bag so this would allow me to arrive (barring any accidents) without needing to change

Day of departure:

  • Got up extra early to allow myself time for a small simple breakfast and time for it to process before travelling.
  • Re-checked my list to ensure I had everything in.
  • Changed my colostomy bag just before leaving home.
  • At the airport, contacted the special assistance desk and found they didn’t use the sunflower but a similar lanyard with clasped hands. Wearing this I was happily welcomed through the priority security at Glasgow airport.
  • I went to the toilet before going to the gate and by the time I got there no need for priority boarding as no queue and everyone boarding.
  • Flight (3.5 hours) went well without issue – I just checked and emptied leg bag as required.
  • At Faro airport (Algarve, Portugal), I showed my travel certificate and used the priority passport control and we collected our luggage again without issue.
  • Had taxi transfer for 1 hour and also without issue.
  • Arrived at accommodation ready to start my holiday.

During holiday:

  • Usually go to a hotel but chose an apartment for the first time just to give a bit more flexibility e.g. with mealtimes if tired any issues etc and this worked well.
  • In apartment I double bagged the black bags and then put them into larger green nappy bags which held two or three of them and this gave extra protection against smells and disposed of them in an outside rubbish bin – general rubbish disposal. This worked well.
  • Out and about, had only on accident with urostomy on sun lounger but just quickly went back to apartment to change it and bikini and was soon back on my lounger.
  • Had to change colostomy quite a few times and this was slightly more challenging. It was a small village with traditional restaurants etc – often just one toilet or two (one female, one male) and a shared outside of cubicle sink. Often also not full-length doors or like a curtain to a door that didn’t lock. At first that made me anxious but usually managed to put my foot against door or sticking out a bit, so people knew I was in. The lack of shelf/ toilet lid to lay stuff on was issue too but I managed it. I did end up using the barrier wipes as substitute for water and as a result, had few left at end of holiday despite taking many more than I needed (see tip below to avoid this).
  • Had a bit of an upset stomach twice with high runny output from colostomy but I expected it after eating very spicy Indian food, drinking alcohol and eating fish stew, all on the one day and ensured went back to the apartment straight after (used to drinking alcohol and spicy food at home but all together was too much for poor Jack my colostomy).

Journey home:

  • At Faro airport, I showed my travel certificate at the text page and the girl at passport control said “how do I know it’s you” well I had plenty answers in my head but said nothing and turned it to the page with my details and nurse details and she waved me through – I am not one to use priority lanes for the sake of it but two things 1)if my urostomy leaks it literally runs down my leg and everywhere – so emptying before and then getting through as quickly as possible, limits the change of it filling and or leaking 2) with colostomy, rarely have accidents but when I do – it is literally a minute between ok to an emergency change situation so again, can limit food beforehand but as still knew to this and from the experience I have had, there is sometimes no rhyme or reason to why or when things happen.
  • Flight home similar to outbound, uneventful stoma wise.
  • Arriving at Glasgow, again used priority passport queue. I showed the guy my travel certificate. It was clear he had no idea what it was but quickly hurried me through.
  • Travelled home by taxi, again with no issues.

Top tips and lessons learnt:

  • Contact your airline and get extra hand luggage allowance and carry all ostomy products in it.
  • I have now ordered a 50 ml water bottle to add to my emergency kit to use to clean my colostomy stoma in absence of suitable facilities.
  • I came home with lots of spares, so now done it once, I would say taking worst day, and add half as much again instead of double would be fine.
  • Definitely double bag and extra nappy bags to put in until you can dispose is a good idea and I will continue to do this.
  • Watching diet the days before flying, certainly worked for me.
  • I took drainable colostomy bags (use closed ones normally) and didn’t need to use them but would always take in case your body reacts differently to a climate or diet change.
  • Have two spare clothes changes at all times (I limit it with thin dresses abroad or leggings in UK with underwear etc so light) but my approach is, if I have an accident and use my only spare clothes, I would then want to go home/panic it will happen again and then what would I do? Always have liked big handbags – so that is good 😊.

Most importantly, prepare well and then enjoy your trip – flying with a stoma doesn’t need to be scary!

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