Sure, you can travel if you have diabetes! But you’ll need to plan, prepare and pack a bit differently than usual. As with managing diabetes in general, being ready is your key to success.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Once you decide your destination and dates of travel, you should meet with your health care provider to discuss your current diabetes care and what changes are needed for the trip.
When you see your provider, ask for a letter to carry with you that includes your health history, present treatment and an updated list of your medications. It is also a good idea to have written prescriptions for your medications and supplies in case you lose them or run out. If you are going to a location for which you need immunizations, it is best to get them at least one month before your trip so you can be over any side effects by the time you leave. If you are on insulin and will change time zones in your travels, discuss how to handle the timing of your insulin doses with your health care provider.
Decide early on how strict you want to be about your diabetes care. If you have had tight control, do you plan to maintain that on your trip or are you going to let loose a bit? Remember, it doesn’t take long or much for those numbers to rise. You will feel better if your blood glucose is in your target range.
PREPARE FOR TRAVEL
No matter how you’re planning to travel, there’s plenty to carry along. So, choose your luggage accordingly.
If traveling by car, keep a bag in the car with you. You’ll want to avoid temperature extremes and have your supplies nearby, should you need them right away—so don’t keep them in the trunk or the glove compartment. A cooler to store your supplies is helpful in hot weather. Remember, if you are driving and take insulin, you should make sure your blood glucose is above 100 mg/mL. Check your blood glucose every one to two hours to make sure it is in your target zone. If it is not, stop and take action immediately.
If traveling by plane, you’ll definitely need a carry-on bag. You don’t want to go to San Francisco and have your supplies end up in Kalamazoo. Getting through security is hard enough these days, even if you don’t have lancets or syringes. So, if you take insulin, keep it in the box and bring along a copy of a recent prescription so that you can prove it’s yours. For the latest guidelines, check with the American Diabetes Association at:
800-342-2383, or www.diabetes.org.
Plan your seating arrangements early. An aisle seat gives you more room, allows you to get out and move around easier and makes it easier to get to your supplies. Have some supplies with you or stowed under the seat in front of you. You wouldn’t want to have a reaction and need to get your treatment from an overhead bin, especially if you are in a window seat.
If traveling by boat, your main concern is to prevent motion sickness. Have medication available at all times, even if you normally do not have this problem. You never know if and when it will happen.
Even after you reach your destination, continue to keep your medications and supplies available. Always wear identification and carry supplies with you. Continue to choose your foods wisely and eat healthfully.
How active will you be? On some trips, you may be more active and on others, you may relax more. Changes in activity will impact your blood glucose levels. Be prepared for lows, highs and medication adjustments, if needed.
Foot problems often happen when traveling. Many people wear new shoes and/or are more active. This is not the best time to break in new shoes, and it is never a good time to go barefoot. Bring at least two pairs of comfortable, protective shoes. Check your feet regularly. This way, if you notice changes, you can take care of them right away.
When you go home, you may be tired and it may be difficult to adjust to your old routine. It doesn’t just happen on its own. You will need to be as careful and determined as you were when planning your trip. Yes, it takes some planning, but you can go, have a great time and stay healthy if you plan, prepare and stay conscious of the demands of your diabetes.
THINGS TO KEEP WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES
- Letter and prescriptions from health care provider
- Food that fits your meal plan. When traveling, you never know what is available or where you will be. Prepackaged nuts, cheese sticks, fruit, cheese or peanut butter and crackers and bottled water travel well.
- Medications and supplies. Take twice as much as you think you need. This would include your pills, insulin, syringes, meter, strips, hypoglycemia treatment, anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea medications, container to dispose of your needles and antibiotic ointment. Remember, avoid extreme temperatures. (People who use insulin pumps will also need to always have these things in case of pump problems.)
- ID to wear at all times
- At least two pairs of comfortable and protective shoes that fit well
- A positive, can-do attitude!