Tips for Traveling with Diabetes
You are headed on a trip, but you have hesitations. What if I run out of my medications and other diabetes supplies? What about my exercise plan? How do I figure out how to eat healthy on the road? When you have diabetes, these thoughts are normal, but with some advanced planning, you can enjoy your vacation and keep your health on track.
The distance of your travel, length of time you will be gone and country you are visiting can all make a difference in your plans. It is important to remember that diabetes should not limit your activities, but you do need to plan ahead. Here are a few examples and tips for navigating.
You are headed to a lovely 3-day weekend at the beach. It will be warm and sunny and you are looking forward to swimming in the ocean. You are staying in a hotel with air conditioning but plan to spend lots of time outside.
- Take twice as much medication as you think you will need. You may get stuck there or something could get lost on the way.
- Take glucose monitoring supplies. Since life will not be routine, take more than usual and if you are wearing a continuous glucose monitor – bring 2 extra sensors. Beach time can be a challenge to make sure that the sensor is adhering and giving you the right results. Take a glucose meter as back up and don’t forget your blood pressure cuff if you are monitoring at home
- Split your medications with your traveling partner and make sure your medications are with you and not in checked luggage or in a different vehicle.
- Aim for a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables and lean protein. Limiting your carbohydrate choices will make your glucose easier to manage.
- Take a walk every day. Make sure you are taking comfortable walking shoes. Some hotels also have exercise equipment making it easier to get a variety of activities in, but make sure you budget physical activity into your day.
- If you are on insulin – keep your insulin cool using an insulated pack.
You are heading on an international trip for 10 days which will include a few days backpacking in a remote area. You will be flying and it is a time change of 7 hours. You are traveling with very good friends that know you have diabetes and you have alerted them to how to treat a low glucose and what signs or symptoms to look out for.
In addition to the tips for US travel, you should consider:
- If you are taking medication once per day, be mindful of the time. Generally, you can hold the medication for 2 hours each day and move towards being on the new time zone in 3 days. Or if you are on an insulin pump, continue for the first 2-3 days and then change the time of day as your body gets used to the time change.
- Take a prescription for all your medications with you. Make sure to take at least twice as much medication as you think you will need as many countries may have similar, but not exact duplicates of your present meds.
- Share your supplies with friends and take them on the plane so there is little chance they will get lost.
- If you are not on a continuous glucose monitor – consider adding it in. It will help to give you more confidence and an early warning if you are starting to have glucose levels dip.
- Make sure you talk with your diabetes team about potential changes in medication prior, during and immediately after your trip. If you are on an insulin pump, make sure to take syringes and a backup plan. Some pumps have a higher target for exercise. Make sure you know when and how to change the settings to keep you safe.
Meals can be a challenge when backpacking, but generally, most backpacking food is labeled. If you are giving insulin, consider changing how much insulin you give for your food to reduce your risk of overdoing insulin – once again talk with your team before you leave and make a plan.
Traveling with diabetes IS different than traveling without diabetes. Planning ahead can assure that you stay healthy and have all the tools you need to enjoy your travel whether by car, plane, foot or boat.
Happy, healthy and safe traveling!