Traveling with a Feeding Tube: Your How-To Guide

hilarie dreyer standing at a kitchen counter with a laptop

Traveling is full of excitement and adventure, but if you or your loved one has a feeding tube, it can feel a bit more complex. But don’t worry—if you’re eager to explore new places or spend time with family and friends, it’s possible!

With some thoughtful planning and preparation, you can feel more at ease and enjoy your trip. And whether you’re using formula or blended meals in your feeding tube, this guide has your back.

Get ready for a bunch of tips, some clever ideas you might not have considered, and a load of resources to make your trip a success.

Getting Ready for Your Trip

I’m guessing you’re fully tuned into how important prep is, but if you haven’t done a lot of traveling with medical equipment, you might not know where to start.

Here’s a handy checklist to get you all set for your journey – things to do, gather, and keep in mind!

1. Create a List of Must-Have Medical Supplies

notebook with pen

Start Early: Begin by listing all of the medical supplies you use in a typical week, including your tube feeding equipment, medications, and any other equipment. Jot things down as they come to mind; you’ll likely remember more over time.

Having a written list takes the stress out of planning and you’ll want to double-check everything right before you leave.

Helpful Resources: There may be things you have not thought about or items that can make your trip easier!

One of my favorite podcasts, The Rare Life Podcast, has an excellent episode about traveling with a disabled child. Once you’ve read this through, click here see their list of must-have items and listen to episode 125!

2. Packing your Tube Feeding and Medical Supplies

Pack Extra: Having extra supplies comes in handy if things like your child’s Gtube button breaks, extension sets get lost, or if you face temperature issues and formula goes bad.

Stay Organized: Try using packing cubes to stay organized—they’re awesome. And remember, don’t cram your suitcase full. Keeping some space makes it easier to access your syringes or other feeding supplies when you’re in a hurry.

3. Contact Your Home Medical Equipment Provider

Supply Timing: Your tube feeding supply deliver might not match your travel dates. See if you can adjust the schedule, or get supplies sent to your destination.

It can also be helpful for them to know your travel situation in case you have issues with your supplies, like your tube feeding pump malfunctioning while you’re there.

4. Plan for Flying with Medical Equipment

Contact TSA Cares: Reach out before your trip! They can answer questions and provide an employee to walk you through security when you get there. This can be hit or miss, but it’s super helpful when it works! 

Notification Card: TSA offers a Disability Notification Card (just search “TSA Disability Notification Card” online to access. Just print it out, fill in your condition and present it when going through security.

5. Plan Feeding Tube-Friendly Lodging

blended tube feeding

Freezer Availability: If you’re planning to batch blend meals to bring along with you, make sure your accommodation has a freezer. Hotels must make reasonable accommodations as per ADA rules if you don’t have one in your room. Call ahead and ask.

Blending: If you’re planning to blend some meals for yourself or your tube fed loved one at your destination, having a kitchen can be really helpful. Most families I work with prefer VRBO or Airbnb options for this reason. I’ll go into more detail on blending at your destination later in this guide.

6. Talk to Your Health Care Team

Provider’s Note: It can be really helpful to have a note from your provider explaining you or your loved one’s medical condition and tube feeding plan, especially if you are flying. Here are some sample letters from the Oley Foundation.

Get Their Advice: Your health care team might bring up concerns you haven’t thought of. It’s not only about your feeding tube but also other medical aspects. Plus, they can help you figure out what to do if you or your loved one gets sick during the trip.

Flying with Tube Feeding Formula or Blended Meals

mason jar with blended meal

You’ll likely need to bring along food or formula for the trip to your destination. It’s a good idea to pack a few days’ worth, just in case your luggage gets lost.

You can bring blended food in an insulated bag/ backpack with ice packs to keep the food a safe temperature. 

And FYI, your tube feeding formula, blended meals, and medications are exempt from the 3-1-1 rule, but you will have to remove them from your carry-on bag for screening. If the blended meals or formula are in a non-sealed container, TSA may swab it.

If you’re planning to check a bag, here are some helpful tips for packing tube feeding supplies and tube feeding formula or blended food:

  • You can check a medical bag for free, but this bag can only contain medical supplies. This can be used for formula, tube feeding equipment, and the rest of your medical supplies. 
  • Frozen blended meals can go with you in a cooler backpack! TSA does require that food and ice packs are completely frozen if you are going to carry on.
  • Frozen blended meals can also go in a cooler as checked luggage. There are rolling coolers available that can make this easy! It’s important to note that each airline has its own rules regarding the dimensions and weight limits.
  • Storing blended meals in breastmilk bags or freezer bags can be convenient since you can dispose of them after. 
  • For longer travel, dry ice may be necessary to keep blended food at the safe temperature. Just make sure to follow airline guidelines for safe handling and packaging.
  • You’ll likely have to go through some extra screening, so don’t forget to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare!

Tip from a parent: “Freeze the feeds in Ziploc bags and roll them into the closest cylinder shape you can to make sure they all fit.”

Blending Meals for Tube Feeding at Your Destination

brown paper bag with apples

Many families I work with prefer to pack their Vitamix or Blendtec. That way they can blend the foods they typically provide at home without worrying about clogging the feeding tube. If you’re flying, you’re allowed to pack your blender in a checked bag!

If you don’t want to mess with packing your blender, there are many portable blenders available, or your rental may have a blender.

Just keep in mind, you’ll have to pick foods that already soft and don’t have pesky seeds or peels so you don’t clog the feeding tube. Otherwise, you can bring along or purchase a fine mesh strainer to help with this.

You may also find pre-ordering groceries to pick up or to be delivered to you make things much easier to provide a blended tube feeding diet while traveling. This saves you from navigating a new grocery store after a day of travel and gives you time to plan out exactly what you’ll need for you or your loved one’s tube fed meals.

Other families opt to find a commercial blenderized tube feeding product that is well tolerated to make travel easier. Some options include Real Food Blends, Functional Formularies, Wholesome Blends, Whole Story Meals, and more. To learn more about these products and what may be best for you, including how to get samples, head here next.

And if you’ll be eating out, this card can come in handy. It was created by the Oley Foundation for people fed by feeding tube. If you’d rather not explain why you’re not ordering a full meal, or no meal at all, you can share this card with them.  

Preparing for Emergencies

Having a plan for emergencies is super important. Make a kit with extra syringes, extension sets, feeding bags, etc., as well as medications and important documents. Take some time to identify the nearest emergency room and hospital at your destination. This way, you’ll be all set for any unexpected situations that may arise.

Additionally, you can check to see if there is an Oley Ambassador in the area you’re traveling to. These volunteers are individuals who are either on home nutrition support themselves or caregivers, and they can help answer your questions and provide assistance.

Another helpful tool is Hibi Health. It’s a digital journal that makes it easy for caregivers to simplify, organize, and share their love ones most important care information in one spot. It’s free and easy to use!

Hilarie dreyer

I hope this information helps you as you get ready for your next trip. Traveling with a feeding tube and other medical supplies does not come without challenges, but armed with the right information in a bit of preparation, it’s possible. 

But most importantly, make the most of the time with your loved ones and have an awesome trip!

P.S. Looking more tube feeding hacks and insights? I’m sharing my top 10 tube feeding tips and tricks, gathered from years of working with families just like yours. This advice goes beyond the basics, sharing tips you’ll wish you would’ve known sooner!

Hilarie, RD, CSP

*Disclaimer: The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical advice. Always check with your own medical professional before trying to implement any information provided here

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