As I sit waiting for my flight out of Atlanta, Georgia, I thought it would be a good time to share some tips for travelling with T1D.
1. Get a doctor’s note and any other documentation
Before leaving on your trip, ask your doctor for a note that explains your condition and what medications, low supplies, and medical devices you may have with you. This can be useful when going through security check points. However, I have never had a problem taking my insulin, needles, lancets, test strips, glucose tablets, and juice boxes through airport security and have never needed to show my letter! Make sure to travel with your health card or any other insurance information you may need in an emergency.
2. Pack extra supplies
Depending on the length of your journey, and the destination, make sure to pack at the minimum an extra box of everything in your suitcase (needles, lancets, test strips, glucose tablets). Bring extra insulin pens/vials in your carry on luggage. You may not be able to easily access diabetes supplies in some countries and if you get delayed for some reason you want to have enough supplies on hand.
I probably pack too much extra insulin, but I am always afraid of running out! I typically bring my current insulin pens, plus 2 extra in case one gets ruined from heat/cold exposure.
3. What I put in my carry on
Always pack your insulin in your carry on bag. I also pack extra needles, lancets, and test strips in case my luggage is lost or delayed. I also pack juice boxes and glucose tablets in case of a low. I recommend putting all of your diabetes supplies in a clear cosmetic bag so that you can easily take it out for security to check.
Of course I also pack my electronic devices, books, and some snacks (airport food is so expensive!).
4. Keep your insulin cold
Keeping your insulin chilled allows it to last longer. I purchased a Frio case for my pens, and it is great! Frio cases come in all sorts of sizes and uses the power of latent heat and evaporation to keep things chilled for a really long time.
Call ahead to your hotel to check if there are refrigerators in the rooms. Be careful of fridges that use sensors to charge you for in-room beverages. Trying to pile your insulin on top will likely result in erroneous charges to your account. You can always make use of the ice buckets to keep things cold!
5. Stay healthy and hydrated!
Getting sick while travelling is the worst, and when you are diabetic it usually means crazy blood sugars as well! Use hand sanitizers, wash your hands, drink lots of water, and stay warm in cold weather to avoid picking up any bugs.
6. Check often!
You may need to check your blood sugars more often when travelling. There are a million things that will cause your levels to be weird:
- Changes in temperature
- Changes in routine
- Changes in diet
- Change in altitude
- Extra travel stress
- Lack of sleep
- Extra walking (or less walking)
Check often to be sure you are still in range.
7. Travel with companions!
If possible, travel with someone who is aware of your condition and knows what to do in an emergency. Wear medical identification jewelry or carry a card in your wallet.
8. Remember, you are on vacation!
Your vacation is likely a once in a lifetime experience and you shouldn’t let T1D stop you from enjoying it! Don’t be afraid to try new foods or sample local delicacies. Try your best to bolus properly, but don’t get hung up on your numbers!
I am not suggesting to go crazy and forget about your diabetea completely, but learn the be flexible! A few highs here and there will not ruin your health forever, just adjust accordingly and don’t miss out on great life experiences. You will be returning to your normal life and routine in just a few days time, so try to allow yourself a bit of wiggle room in your diabetes management to have fun and relax.
Reminder: I am not a medical professional. Please check with your physician before travelling.