Traveling can be a stressful situation for anyone. There are so many variables that are beyond your control, like TSA, flight delays or cancellations, traffic jams, weather, motion sickness, etc. It can be particularly stressful and chaotic when you are traveling with a feeding tube. Although it may seem like the odds are against you when you travel, I have done some research about how to best limit you and your families stress when traveling, whether it be in a car or on a plane. Use these tips to ensuring that your travels are as smooth and peaceful as possible!
The most important thing to do when traveling with a feeding tube is to prepare, prepare, prepare!
Traveling on an Airplane
Flying and going through the airport security can be a little more stressful than driving in a car, but here are some tips that will minimize any chaotic situations that you may come across. Many appointments that you and your child may have to go to will not always near your house, so flying may be your only option, but never fear, airports are not as scary as you may think!
Tip 1: Call the Airline BEFORE your Trip
This tip is the most important out of everything, because this is what will make your trip run smoothly when you prepare! While you are packing all of your supplies, as well as all of your child’s medical supplies, you should call the airline, at least 3 business days in advance, to make them aware that you are flying, and ask them what to expect (every airline is different), and ask them what specific policies that they have for children who are traveling with disabilities or medical needs. TSA Cares is also a great resources for TSA policies and they have a hotline that you can call for questions. A TSA Notification Card may help the screening process go more smoothly. Lastly, keep in mind that it is not rude for you to ask the TSA agent to put on a new set of gloves when the start inspecting your medical equipment. The last thing you want is someone else’s germs ruining your trip.
Tip 2: Talk to Your Medical Providers
After your doctor has clear you for flying, ask if they can provide you with a letter of medical necessity. The Oley Foundation has a sample template you can provide your doctor. Next, make sure your home care provider knows you’re traveling and find our if they have a branch in the area you are traveling to. This will be good to know in case of emergencies and might save you from having to pack some supplies/formula. Your Registered Dietitian can help you plan your trip as well!
Tip 3: Pack a Separate Bag of Luggage for Medical Supplies
Many airlines will allow you to have a FREE carry-on of luggage that has only medical supplies but make sure you call them before you assume! Label everything in the bag so TSA will easily be able to identify items they might not be familiar with. It also might help you to have a list on you of everything in the medical supplies bag as well.
Tip 4: Always Pack More than you Need
This is the one tip that I cannot stress enough, and I personally do, ever since I was a kid. I always over pack, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when traveling with a feeding tube, or any medical conditions!A good rule of thumb is to have 2 days of medical supplies on your carry on in case there are delays. Below, I have included just a few of the potential things that you could have in your carry on and might need!
- Creams or Medications
- Several 60 mL and 10 mL syringes
- 2-3 feeding bags
- 1 extension
- Gauze or Medical Tape
- Extra feeding tube formula (and cooler if needed)
- Measuring cups/bottle
- Water bottles
- Clorox Wipes
- Cath Tip Syringes
- Batteries or Charger, if using a pump
A Note on Formulas:
- Frozen or powdered formulas do not count as a liquid.
- If your traveling within the United States consider shipping your formula ahead of your arrival to your hotel.
- Shipping formulas across country boarders mighty be a lot of hassle and more expensive than the formula itself. Contact your formula manufacturer to see if you can buy the formula in the country you are traveling to.
- TSA may open your liquid formulas. Tetra packs can easily be resealed, however cans will need to poured into another container. Opened formula is safe to use if chilled for 24 hours.
Remember, people are flying with feeding tubes everyday to places all over the world. Don’t think you’re in this alone or that you’re tube is preventing you from flying.
Traveling in a Car
Many of the same principles apply when traveling in a car, such as it is important to pack a separate bag of luggage for your child’s medical supplies, as well as pack a cooler to make sure formula is kept cold during the long hours you are on the road. Restock the ice in the cooler at gas stations or restaurants. Make sure your cooler is not stored in the trunk or in a hot or freezing car.
It is always important to have an emergency kit for your car, specifically one full of medical supplies for you child that is not necessarily for long trips. If you don’t already have an emergency kit, or you want to stock up on some potential items you might need, check out our previous posts that have ideas about how to prepare an emergency kit and what to include!
Another key tip to have when traveling in the car is any games or toys that your child can play with while they are riding along. It is easy to forget toys, stuffed animals, and games when you are focused on making sure you have enough medical equipment! To ensure that all of the toys are in one place, and easy to store, I would recommend getting a colorful crate that can sit in the backseat and is easily accessible for toys and games!
Traveling can be hard, but it is important to stay calm and be prepared, which will help you have a smooth and safe trip! By having the right supplies, tools, and mindset, you and your family will have a great time wherever you go! Bon Voyage!