Planning a vacation? Or maybe you’re traveling for work? Either way, traveling means a break from your normal routine, which is what makes it so fun! However, new foods, being more (or less) active than normal, different mealtimes, and navigating various time zones, may make it harder to manage your diabetes.
Of course it’s safe to travel with diabetes, after all, people with diabetes can do whatever they want! But it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Know exactly what you should do before traveling, discover how to pack for the trip, and be prepared for navigating the challenges of managing diabetes on-the-go. Here, we’ve collected some helpful tips when it comes to traveling with diabetes...
Before You Travel
It’s a good idea to schedule a visit to your doctor a couple weeks before you travel. You’ll want to make sure you’re in tip-top shape for your trip. Things you might want to discuss include:¹
- How the activities you’re planning may affect your diabetes and what can be done about it
- Tips on adjusting insulin doses if you’ll be traveling through and to different time zones
- Emergency prescriptions (especially if you’re traveling outside of the country)
- Vaccinations. You should get a flu shot if you haven’t already, and talk to your doctor about additional vaccinations if you’re traveling internationally
- Get a doctor’s note. While you may not need it, it’s helpful to have one explaining your need to pass through airport security carrying insulin, syringes, and additional supplies
- Ask for a list of supplies that you need to take with you on your trip
Make sure you pack twice as many supplies and medicine than you think you might need. It’s a good idea to have half of your supplies and medicine with you in a carry-on bag that you’re able to access at all times. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, essential items to pack include:²
- Any medicines you take orally
- Syringes and insulin for your trip, plus extra
- Glucose meter
- Extra batteries for your meter and/or insulin pump
- Additional blood testing supplies
- Urine-testing supplies (if you test for ketones)
- Additional supplies or medicines
- Diabetes ID
- Glucose tabs
- Snack pack containing items like peanut butter, crackers, cheese, juice box, hard candy, and glucose tabs
Air Travel Tips
Planning to travel by plane? You’re allowed to take diabetes-related equipment, medicine, and supplies – including liquids like insulin – on the plane with you. Be sure to declare and separate your items before you go through screening. General tips to remember are:³
- Make sure you arrive for your flight 2-3 hours early
- Make sure your medicines are packed in a clear, separate, sealed bag. They will need to be removed from your carry-on and screened separately
- Lancets must be capped and glucose meters should have the manufacturer’s name on them
- If you’re carrying glucagon kits, keep them in their original containers showing the pharmaceutical label
- NEVER put insulin in your checked luggage, since it may be affected by changes in temperature and pressure
- Stay hydrated while flying
- Avoid taking your pre-meal insulin until you have your meal, since delays are common on flights
Tips When Traveling by Car
Road trip? Traveling by car can also mess with your blood sugar control. Try following these tips when you’re on the road to make it easier to manage your blood sugar effectively:
- If you’re going to be sitting in a car all day, your energy levels may drop. Choose meals that are lower in calories and limit snacking
- When you make a pit stop, use this as an opportunity to exercise. Try walking briskly for several minutes
- If you use medicine that can cause low blood sugar, have glucose tabs or other fast-acting carbohydrate to hand
- Make sure you wear comfortable socks and shoes to keep your feet comfortable and protected
- Pack a cooler filled with plenty of water and healthy snacks
- Don’t store diabetes medicine or insulin in direct sunlight. Keep them in your cooler, but avoid placing insulin directly on gel packs or ice⁴
Additional Travel Tips
Other tips for traveling if you have diabetes include:
- Plan to take it easy for a day or two after a long flight.
- Test your blood sugar often. More activity, different time zones, and new foods can throw blood sugar levels out of whack.⁵
- Plan activities around mealtimes
- Don’t go barefoot, even by the pool or the beach. You don’t want to injure your feet.
- Check your feet daily after every adventure. Clean any irritations well. Get help at the first sign of infection on your feet
- Make sure the people around you know that you have diabetes.
- Be careful about drinking alcohol. It may be a great indulgence on vacation, but it can throw blood sugar levels out of balance
- Wear a medical alert bracelet that shows you have diabetes. Just in case.
- If you’re sightseeing, take snacks with you. Don’t assume you’ll be able to find food everywhere you go
- JDRF, 2020. Traveling with Diabetes. [webpage] Available at: https://www.jdrf.org/greaternewengland/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2013/02/Ginny-Rich-Complete-Packet1.pdf [Accessed: 03/03/2021]
- John Hopkins Medicine, 2021. [webpage] Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/diabetes/traveling-with-diabetes [Accessed: 03/03/2021]
- American Diabetes Association, 2003. Flying With Diabetes. Clinical Diabetes, [online] Available at: https://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/content/21/2/86.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018. [webpage] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/traveling-with-diabetes.html [Accessed: 03/03/2021]
- Diabetes Educator, 2015. Tips for traveling with diabetes. [webpage] Available at: https://www.diabeteseducator.org/news/perspectives/aade-blog-details/jennifer-n.-clements-pharmd-bcps-cde-bcacp/2015/09/15/tips-for-traveling-with-diabetes [Accessed: 03/03/2021]
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Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.