Home > Blog

Does Vacationing Make You Constipated?

By Skye Sherman  •   August 28, 2023
•    Medically Reviewed By Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Nov 20, 2023

Photo Credit: by freepik.com
Photo Credit: by freepik.com

Traveler’s diarrhea is a well known danger of going to foreign places and trying new foods, being off schedule, and potentially coming into contact with unfamiliar pathogens, bacteria, and contaminants.

But did you know that going on holiday can also have the opposite effect of making you constipated? Traveler’s constipation may be less well known than traveler’s diarrhea, but it can be equally uncomfortable. Maybe you’re a nervous traveler and you think that explains why you get diarrhea or constipation when traveling, but the truth is there are some other factors at play.

The good (or bad?) news is that you’re not alone. According to HuffPost, “Travel constipation, or vacation constipation, occurs when people are unable to have a bowel movement when they’re, well, traveling. It’s a fairly common experience: estimates suggest it affects about 40% of travelers.” You know you’re constipated when you feel it, or if you find yourself having fewer than three bowel movements per week or needing to strain to empty your bowels.

In this article, we’ll explain why going on holiday can lead to constipation and provide tips on how to avoid getting constipated on vacation.

After all, as EatingWell states, “Once you know why you’re feeling stopped up or out of sorts, you can start adjusting your lifestyle to reduce the risk of any gastrointestinal discomfort or constipation—and actually enjoy your time away.” Gut health can make or break your day!

Why does going on holiday make you constipated?

To understand why traveling might make you constipated, it’s important to understand that the most common causes of constipation are due to lifestyle factors, including diet, sleep, hydration, and exercise. Messing with any of these or not having a balanced approach can lead to bowel issues.

There are a few reasons why you might get stopped up when you travel, developing bowel movement issues or constipation, but the main one is simply that you get out of your normal rhythm. If you switch time zones, this can make it even worse.

HuffPost affirms, “The main reason so many people get constipated while traveling is because they fall out of a routine that normally keeps their bowels running smoothly. When you travel, for example, you sit for longer periods of time (in a car, plane or train) and tend to eat, drink, and sleep differently.”

This just makes sense: constipation is primarily attributed to diet and lifestyle. Plus, since most humans poop in the morning, traveling to a different time zone will throw off your body’s internal clock by a few hours. If you experience jet lag, it might make matters worse.

Shifting your schedule up or down by a few hours might not seem like much, but to your body, it can be destabilizing and lead to disruptions in your typical bathroom routine. As soon as you adjust to the new time zone and schedule, your poop schedule should be back on track.

Other factors which can affect this include different gut microbes in different locations which can throw off the equilibrium in your gut.

How changes to your diet and exercise routine lead to constipation

Another big factor to consider is changes to your diet. When you go on holiday, you likely are eating more (or at least differently) than you do at home. Similarly, drinking more alcohol can be a big culprit, especially since you’re likely drinking less water, too. Being adequately hydrated is crucial to warding off constipation, because being dehydrated is one of the main reasons people get stopped up. If you've flown to your destination, this may compound the dehydration. The pressure in airplanes can cause dehydration more quickly so be mindful of this and drink plenty of fluids when flying.

EatingWell explains, “Feel free to enjoy a glass of Thanksgiving wine or a tropical cocktail on your beach vacation, if you like. Just be sure to drink alcohol in moderation and try to carry around a reusable water bottle that you can refill throughout the day to help meet your daily hydration goals.”

If you also let go of your exercise routine when you travel, as most people do, that can be a big contributing factor to developing constipation.

As EatingWell puts it, “Travel often involves a lot of time sitting in planes, trains and automobiles. Once you arrive at the destination, you may be lounging more as well (say, around a table, on the couch watching football, in a lounge chair on the beach …). Physical inactivity has been scientifically proven to increase risk for constipation, so if you can add in some steps, your system will thank you.”

The closer you can stick to your at-home routine, or develop a new healthy routine while you’re away, the sooner your body should return to its normal pooping routine.

Even stress, the weather, and medications can make you constipated!

Stress is another constipation culprit, whether it’s caused by interpersonal family dynamics or the logistical hassles that often come with the travel territory. Being in new and unfamiliar places is fun, but it also brings a degree of stress to the table, and stress is known to disrupt digestion. Try to keep your cool and let go of anything that’s outside of your control.

Did you know that even the weather can be a trigger? This is especially true of cold climates. People typically move less, eat more, and turn to more sugary comfort foods (rather than healthy, vegetable-heavy meals) during the winter or while somewhere cold.

Drinking less water when it’s cold is also part of the equation. HealthShots adds, “During winter, the body does not get easily dehydrated and it does not need water to cool itself down like in summer. But still, one needs enough water to keep their body hydrated.”

Lastly, many common medications can lead to constipation, including opioids, NSAIDs, antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, and high blood pressure medications. If you are prescribed any of these medications but are struggling with constipation, consult your doctor about the best course of action. You may be prescribed laxatives or recommended to make changes to your medications or take other lifestyle-related steps to alleviate the discomfort.

Common medications that are prescribed or advised to deal with constipation include Motegrity (also known as Resolor, Resotran, Resotrans), Linzess(also called Constella), and Lax-A-Day.

How to avoid getting constipated on vacation

To help combat constipation that is related to dietary changes, try to make sure you get plenty of fiber, eat lots of plants, and add more probiotic foods to your daily meals. Drinking plenty of water is one of the best ways to combat constipation, too, especially if you are consuming more alcohol than you normally do at home.

Stay hydrated and move more than you think you need to, at least half an hour a day. Exercising while on vacation might not sound like your cup of tea, but why not turn it into an adventure? Explore your destination on foot for half an hour, or walk to dinner instead of driving. If you’re visiting family, invite everyone out for a neighborhood walk. Getting some movement and a bit of aerobic activity into your day never hurt anyone.

Sticking to a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and being active instead of sedentary while on holiday will all help you avoid getting constipated on vacation.

But what if you’re on holiday and you’re already constipated?

What to do if you’re constipated on vacation

One of the best treatment options for traveler’s constipation is drinking more fluids, especially if you’re keeping your activity level high.

VeryWell Health says, “One of the biggest contributors to constipation is a state of dehydration. When your body doesn't have enough fluids, it compensates by drawing water from fecal matter in the intestines. This can contribute to hard, difficult-to-pass stools.”

Hydrate well while you travel, but be careful about which fluids you hydrate with: “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.”

If your normal healthy food selections aren’t as readily available to you on your trip, supplements and probiotics can also be useful tools in the fight against constipation.

VeryWell Health also recommends trying to stay on schedule as much as you can: “Many people have a sense of an inner clock that determines routine life patterns about hunger, sleep, and bathroom needs. Keeping your body on a schedule as close to your home life may help your bowels move predictably when you travel.”

Need some more help? NDTV recommends a few other things you can try:

● “Flaxseed/chia seeds are a rich source of soluble fibre. Soluble fibre dissolves in water, making stools softer and easier to pass. …

● Dietary fibre increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. Prunes are considered a laxative because of their high sorbitol content This promotes stool bulk, making it easier to go. If prunes are not available, try raisins, dried apricots, fruits, nuts and seeds.

● Abdominal massage has been shown to stimulate the muscle contractions that help pass a bowel movement, decreased colonic transit time, relieve pain and discomfort.”

No one wants poop problems on holiday, so take these steps to avoid vacation constipation or see a doctor if you’re experiencing ongoing constipation that doesn’t resolve when you’re back in your normal daily routine.



The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.