11 Ways to Avoid Travel Constipation

These tips may help while away from home

Travel constipation is a common though uncomfortable situation that rarely gets the same attention as travelers' diarrhea. There are a number of reasons why travel-related changes also affect your bowel habits.

Constipation is typically defined as experiencing less than three bowel movements in a week, or needing to strain because of small, hard stools that are difficult to pass.

This article discusses travel constipation remedies, and what you can do if you don't deal with constipation on a regular basis but find the travel experience is causing bowel habit changes.

What Causes Travel Constipation

There are a variety of factors that can change the speed of how your digestive system works, causing you to become constipated. These include:

  • Change from your normal routine
  • Changes in the size and timing of your meals
  • Changes to your internal body clock
  • Lack of hydration
  • Changes in the foods you eat
  • Increased time spent sitting
  • Travel-related stress affecting your digestive system
  • Lack of immediate bathroom access disrupting bowel movements
  • Jet lag effects as your body crosses time zones

There are things you can do to keep things moving while you travel, such as abdominal massage for constipation. Here are a few helpful ideas and things to avoid as you head out on travel adventures.

Do
  • Drink plenty of water

  • Go when you feel the urge

  • Stick to a normal schedule

  • Sit down for meals

  • Start mornings with a warm beverage

Don't
  • Drink too much caffeine

  • Sit for long periods

  • Skip meals or fill up on junk food

  • Ignore your body's signals

1

Drink Plenty of Water

Woman's holding a glass of water to her mouth

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One of the biggest contributors to constipation is a state of dehydration. When bodies don't have enough fluids, they compensate by drawing water from the fecal matter in the intestines. This can contribute to hard, difficult-to-pass stools.

The presence of harder stools seems to make bowels less responsive and reduces motility, or movement. It's essential to make a conscious effort to drink plenty of fluids while traveling.

Try to avoid drinks containing alcohol as well as those containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and colas, as all of these can be dehydrating.

Milk also has a reputation for causing constipation. Your best beverage choices are plain water, fruit juices, and clear soups. When traveling out of the country you must always drink bottled water so as to avoid the dreaded travelers' diarrhea.

When flying, keep in mind that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules do not allow you to bring liquids through airport security. Once you are through security, you can buy a large water bottle to drink throughout your flight.

2

Listen to Your Body

Mixed race woman cupping her ear

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Try to use a bathroom as soon as you feel the need for a bowel movement. Ignoring the urge can lead to constipation as the stool material stays in your rectum and gets harder. The harder the stool, the more difficult it is to pass.

If you are uncomfortable using a public facility for a bowel movement, try listening to music through earphones or reading a magazine to help you to relax.

Try not to strain. If you find that sitting on the toilet does not produce a bowel movement within five to 10 minutes, it is best to get up and wait to try again later.

3

Try to Stay on Schedule

A woman looking at her watch

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Many people have a sense of an inner clock that determines routine life patterns about hunger, sleep, and bathroom needs. Keep your body on a schedule as close to your home life, and it may help your bowels to move predictably when you travel.

To the best of your ability, try to keep to your regular meal schedule and bedtime, as both of these things will help your digestive system to stay on track as you travel.

Whenever possible, try to make sure that there is time for a relaxed bathroom visit when traveling that's similar to the unpressured experience at home.

4

Take Time for Meals

A man smiling and sitting at a restaurant table

Tara Moore / Getty Images

Many people who travel eat their meals on the run. The problem is that your digestive system may not register these on-the-go snacks as a meal.

Larger meals can stimulate gut contractions, thus prompting a timely bowel movement. So whenever possible, sit down, slow down, and enjoy a full meal.

5

Eat a Good Breakfast

Eggs in a skillet with mushrooms and asparagus

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For many people, bowel movements are more likely to occur in the morning. You can enhance this natural boost by eating a large breakfast, preferably consuming foods that contain healthy fats.

Large meals and dietary fat intake can both stimulate the release of certain hormones within your body that can trigger the urge for a bowel movement. Staying on track with your morning routine can help you to enjoy your trip for the rest of the day.

6

Drink Something Warm

Man drinking tea

PeopleImages / Getty Images

Another way to encourage your bowels to empty at the beginning of your day is to drink a warm liquid in the morning. This warm drink could be coffee, tea, or soup.

If you are a coffee drinker, have that morning coffee. There are compounds in coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated, that can serve to stimulate a bowel movement.

However, you may want to avoid drinking caffeinated coffee through the rest of the day, as caffeine can be dehydrating. This could lead to excess water being drawn from your stool, which may contribute to constipation.

7

Eat Plenty of Fiber

A plate of chicken and vegetables

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Dietary fiber is so important to keep your bowels moving consistently. Eating high-fiber foods when traveling can be a bit of a challenge, but with effort and attention, you can find what you need.

Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain cereals and breads.

Whenever possible, it may help to pack such foods for yourself. Fruits, high-fiber protein bars, trail mixes, cereals, and granolas all travel well.

When traveling abroad, you need to be careful about eating raw vegetables, fruits, and salads so as to avoid bacterial infections that can lead to travelers' diarrhea. It is safer to eat only cooked fruits and vegetables. Fruits that have thick skins you can peel for yourself are also a safe option.

8

Take a Pass on Junk Food

Woman's hands holding a hamburger

Dean Belcher / Getty Images

People tend to eat more junk food while traveling for two reasons: The first is that choices for healthy, whole foods are more limited. The second is the "vacation mindset" that leads people to bend the rules on their behaviors.

Junk food typically tends to be low in fiber, which can contribute to the problem of travel constipation. Try to avoid fast food, processed meats, chips, and baked goods.

Instead, look for salads, whole grain options like oatmeal, and lean meats. Yogurt is an especially good choice as it contains some probiotics that may boost your digestive system function.

9

Move Your Body

Woman's feet in sneakers walking away

boonchai wedmakawand / Getty Images

 

Travel often requires a lot of time sitting, whether that be in the car, on trains, in airports, or on airplanes. Moving your body can help your digestive system to keep moving as well.

While waiting for your plane, you can walk the perimeter of the airport. If traveling by car, try to plan for road stops so that you can stretch your body and perhaps do a little walking. While away, take advantage of hotel pools and gyms to keep up your exercise routine.

10

Stay Relaxed

Man practicing meditation in busy airport
Baerbel Schmidt / Getty Images

Travel itself can be stressful. Try to follow the rule that "the journey is part of the vacation." Be prepared for delays, traffic, and other hassles. Make sure that you bring along favorite reading materials, books on tape, music, or game apps.

It may help to use relaxation exercises such as deep breathing techniques, yoga poses, meditation, and muscle relaxation to deal with travel stress.

Keeping your body in a state of relaxation, as opposed to its stress response changes, will help to keep your digestive system functioning as it should.

11

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

Woman talking to a female doctor

Hero Images / Getty Images

If you know that you are likely to have bowel habit changes when traveling, speak with your healthcare provider before you go. They may recommend travel constipation medicine, such as a laxative or other product to take with you should you become constipated.

Either way, choose a product based on your healthcare provider's recommendation. It's a smart option when compared with limited or unfamiliar options in a strange or remote destination.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute on Aging. Concerned About Constipation?

  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for Constipation.

  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Constipation.