Do's and don'ts of packing catheters for your holiday

Its nearly time for your holiday! You’ve dusted off your suitcase, realised your swimwear has inexplicably shrunk whilst being stored in the drawer for the last 12 months and your Wellspect catheter order has just been delivered, ready for packing! 

Suitcase in hotel room. Text: Do's and don'ts of packing catheters for your holiday


This is the second in a series of blogs, written by passionate traveller and Wellspect ambassador, Serena Green. Read the first here.

By now, I’m on a high! My holiday countdown has really started. My husband has completed his ONLY job prior to our departure – getting our holiday currency (it’s all he can be trusted with!) and the task of packing lies ahead. Again, this job belongs to yours truly. My husband has been known to turn up for a 2-week holiday with just 2 pairs of swimming shorts, 3 tee-shirts and 4 weeks’ worth of duty free. Essentially, I’m therefore packing for 3 – me, my husband and my bladder.

My bladder travels with a bag or suitcase of its own. I have an atonic bladder and cannot pass any urine “the old fashioned” way, so when I’m in the UK, I self-catheterise 4 or 5 times daily. I don’t know about you, but my bladder definitely knows when it’s on holiday and lives it up a little! The change in temperature, change of activity and a different daily routine usually means I pee more than usual. I therefore assume I will empty my bladder 6 times a day and calculate my requirement accordingly.

No catheter emergencies with advance planning

My longest holiday to date has been for 4 months, so I needed to take 23 boxes of catheters plus a couple extra for good measure. It took me nearly 6 weeks to get responses from all of the airlines I’d be using to ensure they’d give me an additional baggage allowance for free, with a letter from a general practitioner (GP) as proof. By packing a month before my departure, I was able to physically check the weight of my medical case to make sure it matched the detail in my GP letter and make sure I had everything I’d need. Airlines and GP clinics work at their own pace, so by packing early, you’ll avoid last minute emergency situations.

My catheter bag went to Vegas by itself, but didn’t win big!

Medical supplies suitcase at the slot machines - Las Vegas

My medical bag always contains the majority of my catheters I’ll need for the trip, sufficient wipes and disposal bags. On a long holiday, this bag goes in the hold of the plane. Although I’ve never stepped out to check the air temperature at 35,000 feet, I’m told its pretty chilly. When I first started travelling, I contacted a few airlines to check they heat the hold of a plane, as I was worried my catheters might get too chilly. The good news is our suitcases travel in style, in a heated area of the plane.

Carry spare catheters with you when travelling

I always carry an extra box or two of catheters with me, even for a 7-day holiday, in my hand luggage. I learned this packing trick from several bladder twitching experiences:

  • You never know when your medical bag will go on a holiday of its own without you and end up in Las Vegas, when you are in San Francisco.
  • You can’t stop a hurricane blowing through the Caribbean, trapping you in Barbados for an extra 4 days (yippee!).
  • And you really don't want to say no when you suddenly can extend your stay on a cruise ship for an additional 2 weeks for a bargain price!

All of these things have happened to me. Sadly, I wasn’t prepared and didn’t have sufficient catheters with me for the latter of those scenarios and had to forgo an additional 2 weeks on a luxury cruise ship. That taught me a lesson!

Stand out from the crowd with your catheter carrier

On the occasion that my medical case went to Las Vegas by itself, I had to describe it to the baggage handling team in San Francisco. “It’s black”. Hmmmmm, I think you’ll see the same problem that I did here! Since that moment, I always make my case stand out from the crowd! Ribbons, stickers or luggage straps all do the trick very nicely.

Blog 2 Photo 1 Make your case stand out from the crowd-JPG

I did get my black medical case back, but only because it turned out it hadn’t gone gambling in Vegas without me after all. Very simply, it hadn’t been offloaded from the baggage truck and it popped out on a different belt. On that trip I’d been carrying 2 extra boxes of catheters in my hand luggage, so during the hunt for my bag, I stayed remarkably cool!

Packing your catheters, wipes, disposal bags and anything else you might need whilst travelling, as early as possible really can save you from any last-minute panics! Pack clever! Split your catheter boxes up and make sure if your bag goes north, whilst you go south, you’ve got a sufficient supply to tide you over whilst your baggage problem is sorted out.

I’m sure your bladder will appreciate your preparation and you’ll have a blast on holiday together!

If you are planning on travelling abroad this year, our handy travel certificate can make life a little bit easier. Request yours here:

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Please note that healthcare systems operate differently in different countries and that the services offered to the users of our products may differ depending on location. 

Topics: Travelling with catheters, LoFric