Yes, There’s Actually a Reason You Can’t Poop on Vacation—Here’s Why

Updated: Nov. 15, 2023

Traveler's constipation ruining your vacation? A gastroenterologist explains why it happens—and how to get things moving again.

Psst! Got traveler’s constipation? So why are you whispering? Research suggests that about 40 percent of people suffer from constipation when on vacation, and according to Edwin Levine, MD, a gastroenterologist based in Trumbull, CT, it’s “really a very, very common problem.” Here’s why it happens:

We stray from our normal routine

“I think that the biggest issue is the change in schedule,” Dr. Levine says. “Time differences occur when you’re traveling, or you don’t have time to go to the bathroom for three or four days—when your schedule is irregular, your body can become irregular.”

Here’s How Often You Need To Vacation To Prevent Premature Death, Says Overwhelming Research

We stop listening to our bodies

In our day-to-day routine we’re more likely to pay attention to our body’s signals that it’s time to go. But when we’re on vacation—on the beach, on a boat, in the forest—it’s easy to miss the bloating, cramps or gurgling. As Dr. Levine puts it: “I think a lot of people don’t even realize that they constipated on vacation.”

11 Things Traveling on a Plane Does to Your Body

We can’t relax in a strange bathroom

Feeling relaxed is often key to moving the bowels, so using a strange restroom or having difficulty finding a clean one (or any sort of privacy) can cause us to clam up and hold things in.

Here’s Why It’s OK to Sit on a Public Toilet Seat

We change our eating and drinking habits

Swapping our high-bran cereal for a tasty but low-fiber continental breakfast each morning may taste great, but it can prevent the digestive system from doing its job efficiently. We may also drink less (especially during our journey), which causes dehydration and constipation. “Any time you start changing your diet around, you start disrupting the usual cycles of bowel movements, Dr. Levine says.

9 Foods That Can Make Constipation Worse

We get stressed and anxious

Fear of flying or just the general hassle of traveling can create tremendous stress—and stress and anxiety are also leading causes of constipation.

Why ‘Re-Entry Travel Anxiety’ Is Super Normal Right Now

How to prevent travelers constipation

It’s easier to prevent constipation than to cure it, and most constipation occurs during the first few days of a vacation, so Dr. Levine has some helpful advice to follow before leaving home and on arrival. “Try to increase the fruits, salads, and vegetables that are critical to helping us move our bowels,” he says. He also advocates eating more bran cereals and brown breads to help bulk up your stools and “keep things moving.” Staying well hydrated and relaxed will also help. So will packing a fiber supplement like Metamucil.

Simple home remedies may offer some relief as well, but don’t be tempted to reach for laxatives. “You’re ready to go out on your day sightseeing, when all of a sudden your laxative kicks in and you need to go find a bathroom,” Dr. Levine says.

11 Surprising Home Remedies for Constipation Relief

By tweaking your food and drink before traveling and by paying attention to your body when you arrive, you can avoid the discomfort of traveler’s constipation.