Travel constipation: causes, relief, & prevention

  2 min

Topic:

  • Travel

You might be all set for that big trip away, but constipation during vacation can get in the way of your fun just as much as that relentless freeway traffic.  

When taking a vacation, switching up your surroundings and habits can be a joyful way to take a break from your everyday life. However, not everyone likes change. And unfortunately, your bowels might not always appreciate alterations to your diet and routine.1B  

Here’s why constipation on vacation happens and what you can do about it.

What may causes constipation on vacation?

Travel constipation can happen for several reasons. Below are some of these: 

1. Changes to your regular routine

You might be celebrating not having to wake up at 6AM for your daily commute. But nobody told your digestive system that it’s on vacation too. That means it’s expecting to keep processing the same foods at the same times.  

This irregularity to your routine can upset the process of digestion. This might lead to constipation, which can lead to difficulties going to the bathroom while on vacation. 

2. Travel related stress 

Any supposedly relaxing vacation can become stressful in a heartbeat. And unfortunately, stress might lead to constipation in some people.1E 

Even if you manage to hold on to all of your kids, there’s a whole list of other things to take care of. There’s the stress of simply getting where you need to go, sorting out the documentation, and the packing, oh the packing! 

All these stresses can mess with your relaxed holiday atmosphere and might lead to constipation during vacation.

3. Disruption to circadian rhythm and jetlag

Your circadian rhythm is that natural 24-hour cycle your body goes through. This includes the behavioral, mental and physical cycles that take place in your body, and the digestive system certainly is a part of that. When we travel, these cycles can also be disrupted, especially when we go farther afield into a different time zone, and jetlag also becomes a factor. Constipation can be one symptom of this disruption to your circadian rhythm. 15

What are some solutions for travel constipation?

Thankfully, there are a whole range of things you can do to treat or prevent constipation on vacation. 

Try the following options:

Fiber supplements

Those who regularly experience constipation while traveling could benefit from bringing fiber supplements as a travel companion.1F 

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber absorbs fluids and adds weight to your poops, meaning they leave your body more easily.4A Soluble fiber forms a gel in your gut that also supports healthy digestive function.4B

Stool softeners

Stool softeners invite water into your stool, making it moist, so that you strain less when pooing.5A  

Dulcolax Stoll Softener is a great example of a stool softener available for purchase. 

Stimulant laxatives

If you’re experiencing constipation on vacation, stimulant laxatives can help to get your bowel muscles moving again. As the name suggests, stimulant laxatives like Dulcolax tablets increase your bowels movements to encourage the bowel movement process.5C 

Visiting a doctor if your symptoms persist

If the above tips don’t help, consider chatting with a healthcare professional about your symptoms.   

This is especially important if:1H 

  • There’s blood in your poop. 
  • You’re rapidly losing weight without meaning to. 
  • Your bowel movements are extremely painful. 
  • You notice a sudden change in bowel habits that lasts more than 2 weeks 

You need to use a laxative for more than 1 week

Useful advice for regular toilet visits while on vacation

Here are some ways to get vacation constipation back on track, so that your time away becomes more restful, and a whole lot less stressful: 

Try to aat at your usual times

Research on food timing and constipation is pretty scarce, but one review suggests that your meal timing may affect your body clock. They conclude that international travelers often face gut problems – including constipation on vacation – as a result.7A 

Don't indulge 24/7  & limit junk foods

It’s your vacation, which means you may feel like a much-deserved treat. But choosing to eat junky foods means that you’re likely limiting your fiber intake. 

Overloading on chips, fast food, meat, processed, and prepared foods, just because you’re traveling, is lining up your gut for a hard time. 

Plan for bathroom breaks (go whenever you feel like going)

If you’ve filled your day with fun activities(as you certainly should), you might resist the urge to poop in favor of, say, divebombing in the swimming pool one more time. 

But your body’s calling to you, so try not to ignore it. Holding in your poops can contribute to travel constipation.1G 

Stay hydrated!

Keeping on top of how much water you drink is important all the time and anywhere. But, if you’ve traveled somewhere warm, it becomes extra important for preventing dehydration, which can be a driving factor for constipation during acation.10A

Keep active

Exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle may support the muscle activity in your gut14, so staying active can help you reduce your risk for constipation on vacation.11A  

Constipation, Stool and Bowel Movement: What Is The Connection?

As holidays are about switching off, the temptation may be to stay sitting on your butt, or lying on your back all day long. But active vacations can be just as fun as those spent reading on a sun lounger. 

You could try exploring your new surroundings, perhaps on a hike or bike ride, or getting involved in some water sports. 

Don’t stress out

Where are the passports? Why is the line for the seafood buffet so long?

Stress might feel overwhelming, but it’s important to try sinking into the relaxation element of your vacay – after all, that’s what they’re all about. 

Importantly, though, reducing stress might help you limit one particular cause of vacation constipation.1H  

If you’re away with your family, grab some alone time and breathe. And exercise! Aside from helping you poo, exercise is a fantastic stress buster.12A, 12B 

The bottom line of experiencing travel constipation

Unless you have constipation for a long time, it’s unlikely that constipation vacation is serious. Chances are that your body is responding to changes in your diet and routine, as well as the stress of being away from home. 

So, when travelling, make sure you stay hydrated, and don’t indulge 24/7. Stay active while you’re away, and try to de-stress. This should minimize constipation, and help you to fully enjoy your travels.


    1. Cleveland Clinic. Constipation. Page last reviewed: 7 November 2019. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4059-constipation  
    2. National Institutes of Health News In Health. Summer Travel. Plan Ahead To Stay Healthy. Page last reviewed: June 2011. Available at: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2011/06/summer-travel  
    3. Waterhouse J, Reilly T, Edwards B. The stress of travel. J Sports Sci. 2004 Oct;22(10):946-65; discussion 965-6. doi: 10.1080/02640410400000264. PMID: 15768727. 
    4. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. Dietary fiber. Page last reviewed: N/A. Available at: https://iffgd.org/manage-your-health/diet-and-treatments/dietary-fiber/  
    5. Mayo Clinic. Over-the-counter laxatives for constipation: Use with caution. Page last reviewed: 3 March 2022. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/in-depth/laxatives/art-20045906  
    6. Çalişkan N, Bulut H, Konan A. The Effect of Warm Water Intake on Bowel Movements in the Early Postoperative Stage of Patients Having Undergone Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Gastroenterol Nurs. 2016 Sep-Oct;39(5):340-7. doi: 10.1097/SGA.0000000000000181. PMID: 27684632. 
    7. Paoli A, Tinsley G, Bianco A, Moro T. The Influence of Meal Frequency and Timing on Health in Humans: The Role of Fasting. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 28;11(4):719. doi: 10.3390/nu11040719. PMID: 30925707; PMCID: PMC6520689. 
    8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney DIsorders. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Constipation. Page last reviewed: May 2018. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation/eating-diet-nutrition  
    9. Cremonini F, Camilleri M, Clark MM, Beebe TJ, Locke GR, Zinsmeister AR, Herrick LM, Talley NJ. Associations among binge eating behavior patterns and gastrointestinal symptoms: a population-based study. Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Mar;33(3):342-53. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.272. Epub 2009 Jan 13. Erratum in: Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Jan;34(1):214. PMID: 19139750; PMCID: PMC2754813. 
    10. Popkin BM, D'Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug;68(8):439-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x. PMID: 20646222; PMCID: PMC2908954. 
    11. Harvard Medical School. Common causes of constipation. Page last reviewed: 15 February 2021. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/common-causes-of-constipation  
    12. Mayo Clinic. Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress. Page last reviewed: N/A. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469  
    13. Rao SSC, Lacy BE, Emmanuel A, Müller-Lissner S, Pohl D, Quigley EMM, Whorwell P. Recognizing and Defining Occasional Constipation: Expert Consensus Recommendations. Am J Gastroenterol. 2022 Nov 1;117(11):1753-1758. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000001945. Epub 2022 Aug 12. PMID: 35971230. 
    14. Constipation. (n.d.). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354259 
    15. Duboc, Henri MD, PhD*,†; Coffin, Benoit MD, PhD*,†; Siproudhis, Laurent MD, PhD‡. Disruption of Circadian Rhythms and Gut Motility: An Overview of Underlying Mechanisms and Associated Pathologies. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 54(5):p 405-414, May/June 2020. | DOI: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000001333 

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