Travelling with A Grumpy Bladder (part of Interstitial Cystitis Awareness month)

Similarly to my most recent article on Chronic Pain Awareness month, Interstitial Cystitis Awareness month has its own photo challenge on social media.  Once again, it was created by a fellow spoonie, and it’s a little bit different from some of the others I’ve participated in, as each day is simply a word.  This leaves it completely open to interpretation and must mean that there are so many different answers and response.


Day 24 is the word “travel”, and I’ve taken that word as inspiration to write my next article – travelling when you have a bladder condition.

When you are on a long car journey or a flight, most people don’t think about when they’ll need their next toilet break, or if they need to go they’ll be able to hold on until the next available toilet.  But for those of us with Interstitial Cystitis, or other bladder conditions, that can be super tricky.


Interstitial Cystitis is a chronic bladder condition that focuses on bladder inflammation, a defective bladder lining and a range of symptoms including severe frequency, urine infections and bladder pain.  For those that are diagnosed with it, their lives are taken over by being close to a toilet, taking all sorts of medication and often limited to where they are able to travel.

So I’ve compiled a list of tips to help;

  • If it helps, plan your route.  This might take away some of the anxiety associated with travelling and not being able to make it to the toilet on time
  • Invest in a “Just Can’t Wait” card.  These are available through the UK charity Bladder and Bowel and are now free of charge.  They are universally recognised, and mean that you can get access to toilets that normal members of the public can’t (e.g. small business personal toilets, restaurant toilets without purchasing anything).
  • Talk to your local council to see if you are eligible for a Radar Key.  These are keys that unlock numerous disabled toilets in the UK.  Unfortunately, they are not always available and some councils will ask for a fee.  I got mine free through the catheter company I use
  • Make sure you avoid any trigger food or drink before your tip.  This might seem super obvious, but it can happen!  The last thing you want is to be flaring whilst stuck in traffic and no toilet around!
  • Invest in a small portable toilet, a bit like a camping one – if you’re caught short, at least you’ve got a more hygienic option than a bush in the road side!
  • If you’re travelling with someone new, make them aware of your need to stop more often then others.  It might be a good idea to give plenty of notice before you get too desperate too
  • Wear and pack as many leak-proof underwear or pads as you need
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing.  I find travelling in tight jeans or anything that is tight around my bladder region can be irritating, and make the urge to pee even more
  • If you’re waiting to reach the nearest loo and you need to go, distract yourself with listening to some music or practicing breathing exercises.

The more you build your confidence with travelling and a bladder condition, the easier it will be and the anxiety will ease.  The worst time I ever had was when we got stuck in traffic on the way to Oxford – every public restroom or service station was closed.  We managed to find somewhere just in time, but I thought my bladder was going to explode!

People are a lot more understanding of bladder conditions these days, so don’t be afraid to ask for help (or the bathroom!) if you need it.



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