Millions of Americans hit the road or take to the skies during the holiday season, starting at Thanksgiving and stretching through New Year’s. When you’re traveling, there are tons of things to think about. When you’re traveling with diabetes, there are even more.
That’s because people with diabetes — whether Type 1 or Type 2 — have special concerns and needs they have to consider. Some of those concerns, like maintaining blood sugar levels, can be more challenging as you travel.
But traveling with diabetes doesn’t have to be difficult. Taking a few basic steps can help you prepare for the trip and any situations that may occur.
Traveling with diabetes: Planning ahead
Few of us can pick up and leave on a whim. Traveling takes advance preparation and planning. That step is especially important if you have diabetes and you’re planning a trip.
Depending on where you’re going — and how long you’re going for — you may want to schedule a checkup with your doctor in advance of your trip.
This will allow your doctor to gauge your current health status and make sure your diabetes is fully controlled. The American Diabetes Association recommends obtaining a letter from your doctor about your diabetes management plan, as well as a written prescription for any medications you’re taking, including insulin or oral medications, along with testing supplies and syringes.
Make multiple copies of the letter and consider scanning and uploading one to your email account, so that it’s always readily accessible.
You’ll want to take your medications with you, but in case something happens to them, or you’re stuck at your vacation destination for longer than planned, having a prescription will allow you to obtain the necessary medications at a pharmacy.
Be sure to wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace when you travel so that first responders and other people will be able to quickly identify that you have diabetes in case of an emergency. This basic step can be lifesaving.
Traveling with diabetes: What to pack
Clothes…shoes…toiletries…and so on — a packing list can seem endless, especially at the holidays when you may be towing gifts along, too.
But for those diabetes, there’s a whole separate, even more important, list.
No matter how you’re traveling over the holidays, be sure to take these items along for the ride. You’ll want to keep them in a carry-on bag if you’re flying — they should never be separated from you.
Your list of essentials includes:
- Insulin and syringes
- Testing supplies, including extra batteries for your meter
- Oral medications
- ID and diabetes identity card
- Snacks, such as trail mix, peanut butter crackers, popcorn, fruit or a juice box
- Hard candy or glucose tablets in case of low blood sugar
When it comes to insulin, syringes, test strips and medications, double up on what you think you need. It’s better to have more than you’ll need than to not have enough, particularly in case of an unexpected extended stay.
Be sure to talk with your pharmacist about how to properly store insulin while traveling.
Traveling with diabetes: Special concerns when traveling by air
Anyone that’s flown recently knows all about airport security and the rules about what you can carry through.
This is where a letter from your doctor comes into play for those traveling with diabetes.
You’ll necessarily need to travel with liquids, including juice and insulin. Your diabetic testing supplies may also look suspicious when going through airport security.
Prepare for security by placing diabetes-related liquids in a different clear bag than other liquids — and have your doctor’s letter easily accessible. You may also want to keep insulin in its original packaging when traveling so that screeners can see the prescription label.
Traveling with diabetes: Other things to consider
Traveling takes us out of our routines. That can make it more difficult for those with diabetes to successfully manage their condition.
As you travel, try to stick with your routine as much as possible. Check your blood sugar as usual, eat snacks/meals when you normally would, and be sure to take medications as prescribed.
If you’re traveling across time zones, be sure to talk about your travel with your doctor. He or she can help advise you how to adjust your injections while you’re traveling.
This is especially important to consider if you’re wearing an insulin pump, since you’ll want to adjust your pump’s clock to reflect the time change.
You may find it helpful to test your blood sugar more frequently as you travel. Travel can cause your blood glucose levels to fluctuate, because you’re sitting for longer and may be eating at different intervals than usual.
Erlanger regularly hosts Living Well with Diabetes workshops designed to help those with diabetes manage their condition successfully. The next series begins in March. Click here to learn more or register.