Traveling and Incontinence - 9 Tips for Caregivers

Traveling can be tough enough for caregivers but the thought of traveling with an incontinent loved one can be enough to dampen anyone’s lust for adventure.

Don’t worry – incontinence does not have to stop your travel plans! A few practical, common-sense tips from experienced caregivers can make your dream of a weekend getaway or even a longer adventure absolutely possible.

These nine tips are shared from the book 365 Caregiving Tips: Travel and Respite, Practical Tips from Everyday Caregivers by Pegi Foulkrod, Gincy Heins, Richard Kreis, Trish Hughes Kreis, and Kathy Lowrey. The book was written by five caregiving friends who have all traveled with their loved one and who have a passion for sharing what they have learned with other caregivers.

These tips have all been used by caregivers and have proven to make our travels so much easier!

1. Invest in heavy-duty briefs for use during vacation. This reduces the risk of an accident that may cause embarrassment. It may cost a bit more to have the more absorbent briefs on hand but they will last longer, reduce the chances of an accident and help with incontinence through the night.

2. Incontinence chair protectors. Place an incontinent pad on the wheelchair seat for those long waits in the terminals and transfer it to their airline seat in case you can’t get them into the tiny airplane restroom. Whether you use a disposable or cloth pad, be sure to bring a back-up in case of a leak. Disposable pads are preferred, however, so you are not carting around a soiled cloth protector. 

3. Lap blanket. Bring along a light lap blanket in case there is an accident – this saves some embarrassment. This serves the dual purpose of keeping your loved one warm on the plane since planes are notoriously cold.

4. Be prepared! Bring extra briefs, gloves, wipes and garbage bags in the carry-on bag so they are accessible while in the airport or during day trips. As much as we may have planned our trip, something will get off track. Whether it is a flight delay, problems checking into the hotel or a longer than anticipated day trip, having the extra supplies on hand will give the caregiver one less thing to worry about.

5.Disposable pads for the hotel. Bring disposable pads along to use on hotel beds even if the hotel provides waterproof sheets. The disposable pads will be easy to dispose of and you won’t have to worry about needing a complete bedding change every day.

6. Bring LOTS of disposable pads. Put the disposable pads on the bottom sheet and on top of your loved one (if they don’t mind). This protects not only the bottom sheet and mattress but the top sheet and blanket as well. Do not use the cloth pads for lengthy tips. Invariably there will be an accident and it will be much simpler to dispose of the pads than either keeping a wet cloth pad in the suitcase for washing once home or trying to find a laundry service while on vacation.

7. Routine is key. Upon arrival to the hotel room, set up the bathroom similar to how it is set up at home. Keep the briefs, wipes and gloves within easy reach. This is for the benefit of both the caregiver and your loved one. Sticking to a routine while traveling will reduce the risk of falls and confusion.

8. Bathroom schedule alarms. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder to change your loved one’s brief regularly. We may get so caught up in the daily activities that we forget to keep to a regular bathroom schedule.

9. Barrier creamBring along a barrier cream in case the change in temperature or humidity creates a rash. Don’t worry if you forgot the cream, though. Unless you have traveled someplace particularly remote you will be able to locate a drugstore to purchase a barrier cream.

At first, I was fearful of traveling with my disabled brother who is incontinent but these tips made our experience so much easier. We never got kicked out of a hotel because the sheets were wet (Tip 6 helped with that!) and we were never without needed supplies (thanks to Tip 4).

I moved past the fear of traveling with my brother and have since traveled successfully many times with him. Using these tips while traveling has been worth it for my peace of mind and has allowed us to enjoy many trips together. I look forward to making many more memories!

Don’t let the fear stop you from enjoying adventures even while caregiving! With a little preparation, you can also make many wonderful memories with your loved one.

Bon Voyage!

About the author

Trish Hughes Kreis is a freelance writer, Legal Administrator and a family caregiver for her disabled youngest brother, Robert. Robert has lived with intractable epilepsy his entire life and now lives with Trish and her husband, Richard. Even though Robert needs full-time assistance, he declares everything “excellent.” Robert continues to teach everyone around him how powerful the “magic of excellent” can be. Follow Trish at 365 Caregiving Tips and on her personal blog,