Who is excited for vacations and travel again!? Travel is expected to be back in full swing this summer. Going to new places gets you out of your routine and provides much enjoyment. However, don’t let good diabetes self-management go on vacation just because you do. The more you plan ahead, the more you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the experience of your trip. Here are the top safe traveling tips for people with diabetes from the CDC & American Diabetes Association.
Before You Go
See your doctor for a checkup to ensure you’re fit for the trip. Make sure to ask your doctor:
- How your planned activities could affect your diabetes and what to do about it.
- How to adjust your insulin doses if you’re traveling to a different time zone.
- To provide prescriptions for your medicines in case you lose them or run out.
- If you’ll need any vaccines.
To write a letter stating that you have diabetes and why you need your medical supplies.
Prepare ahead for unexpected health needs:
- Locate pharmacies and clinics close to where you’ll be staying.
- Wear or carry medical ID that states you have diabetes and any other health conditions.
- Get travel insurance in case you miss your flight or need medical care.
- Order a healthy meal for the flight that fits with your meal plan, or pack your own.
- Pack your diabetes supplies in a carry-on bag (insulin could get too cold in your checked luggage).
- Think about bringing a smaller bag to have at your seat for insulin, glucose tablets, and snacks.
- TSA recently launched TSA Cares, a new helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Travelers with questions may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227; calls need to be made 72 hours prior to traveling.
- Get an optional TSA notification card to help the screening process go more quickly and smoothly.
- Good news: people with diabetes are exempt from the 3.4 oz liquid rule for medicines, fast-acting carbohydrates like juice, and gel packs to keep insulin cool. You should immediately inform screeners if you are experiencing low blood sugar and are in need for medical assistance.
- A continuous glucose monitor or insulin pump could be damaged going through the X-ray machine. You don’t have to disconnect either; ask for a hand inspection instead.
- Visit CDC’s Travelers’ Health site for more helpful resources.
While You're Traveling
When driving, pack a cooler with healthy foods and plenty of water to drink.
Don’t store insulin or diabetes medicine in direct sunlight or in a hot care; keep them in the cooler too. Don’t put insulin directly on ice or a gel pack.
Heat can also damage your blood sugar monitor, insulin pump, and other diabetes equipment. Don’t leave them in a hot car, by a pool, in direct sunlight, or on the beach. The same goes for supplies such as test strips.
Staying hydrated is a key point for any trip, but can help you more than you think while flying. Grab a bottle of water once you’re through airport security or ask for water once on the plane.
If you experience hypoglycemia while on a plane, you’ll need to act fast. Always have your own usual hypo treatment & snacks with you (Ex: glucose tabs, glucose gel, glucagon kit, fruit juice, protein bar, cheese & crackers, etc).
Find healthy food options at the airport or a roadside restaurant:
- Fruit, nuts, sandwiches, low sugar yogurt & protein bars.
- Salads with grilled chicken or fish (order dressing on the side).
- Eggs and omelets.
- Burgers (skip the fries) or try with lettuce wrap instead of a bun.
- Fajitas (skip the tortillas and rice).
Stop and get out of the car or walk up and down the aisle of the plane or train every hour or town to prevent blood clots (people with diabetes are at higher risk).
Set an alarm on your phone for taking medicine if you’re traveling across time zones.
Once You're There
Your blood sugar may be out of your target range at first, but your body should adjust in a few days. Check your blood sugar often and treat highs or lows as instructed by your doctor or diabetes educator.
If you’re going to be more active then usual, check your blood sugar before and after activity and make adjustments to food, activity, and insulin as needed.
Food is a highlight on vacation. Make a food plan and stick with it. You can use the Diabetes Plate Method as a guide when choosing meals.
Don’t overdo physical activity during the heat of the day. Avoid getting a sunburn and don’t go barefoot, not even on the beach.
High temperatures can change how your body uses insulin. You may need to test your blood sugar more often and adjust your insulin dose and what you eat and drink.
You may not be able to find everything you need to manage your diabetes away from home, especially in another country. Lean some useful phrases such as “I have diabetes” and “where is the nearest pharmacy?”
If your vacation is in the great outdoors, bring wet wipes so you can clean your hands before you check your blood sugar.