Have you been thinking of travelling with diabetes but feeling anxious about it? We’ve rounded up the best diabetic travel tips – read on!
Julie K. has been living with Type 1 diabetes since 1997. She’s travelled to 28 countries and lived in France, Australia, and the United Kingdom. She founded the Diabetic Travelers Network (the DTN®), a social impact organisation that helps people with diabetes to travel confidently and live a life of freedom by providing education, connections, and support.
All about the DTN
It all began after noticing a need from the diabetes community for quality information about how to travel with diabetes and – at the same time – the lack of diabetes awareness and equal access to care that currently exists globally.
To date, the DTN’s community has grown to include people from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Puerto Rico, Mexico, India and Israel.
“Our vision is that every person living with diabetes, no matter where they are in the world, will be able to have access to the information, level of care, support and connections they need to travel and live without worry. No more keeping children from school trips. No more stress at the airport, no more ‘I can’t do it’ attitude. We want to empower each other to go further, better, together.”
Diabetic Travelers Network
6 of the best diabetic travel tips
Traveling is an incredible experience that takes us out of our comfort zone and gives us the opportunity to create memories that stay with us forever. But when it comes to traveling with diabetes it can become a source of anxiety. There are so many things to think about and managing blood sugar away from home (especially when changing time zones) requires knowledge and discipline.
1. Plan your trip
Organisation is an important factor to consider when you want to travel safely and confidently with diabetes. The more organised you are, the less you’ll have to worry about diabetes.
Book your plane tickets, hotels, excursions, and plan your meals, if you can. Always carry snacks on you – both emergency low snacks (in case your blood sugar goes low) and snacks that you can eat for a meal if you can’t find food when you land. This will prevent the stress of finding a place to eat and the struggle of carb counting. (Here’s a reminder of what carb counting is, if you need it!)
Gather all your paperwork and diabetes supplies in your carry-on bag for easy access.
2. Double the quantities
Double the amount of supplies you need for the duration of your trip and ask your diabetes specialist to prescribe the correct amount. Always bring more diabetes supplies and low snacks than you need (sugar packets or rolls of sweets are small to pack and easy to carry).
3. Have a doctor’s letter and travel insurance
Before you leave, make sure to get a letter from your doctor that clearly states that you need to keep your diabetes supplies with you. This may be necessary to get through airport security and will help you if you need equipment abroad.
If possible, have the letter translated into the language of the country you are visiting, in addition to English.
It’s also important to bring a prescription with you, and to purchase travel insurance that covers diabetes-related expenses and repatriation (if necessary). Read the terms and conditions carefully. This will ensure that you are covered in case of a problem abroad.
4. Maintain your insulin and glucagon kit at the right temperature.
Keep your insulin and glucagon kit cool by carrying it in an insulated bag or small cooler. Insulin must not be placed in the hold of the plane as it becomes degraded at temperature below 0°C. Some airlines may place insulin in the aircraft’s fridge if you ask them – otherwise keep it with you in your carry-on bag.
Large temperature fluctuations are more likely to damage the action of insulin than keeping it at room temperature.
5. Keep your diabetes supplies and insulin with you
Always keep your insulin with you in an easy-to-access bag.
Some airlines offer free extra carry-on for medical supplies – you can give your airline a call and request one.
If you’re going on a long trip and have a lot of supplies, place some of the non-refrigerated items in the suitcase that goes in the hold of the plane.
You’re already taking care of your diabetes. You know what to do in different situations, you’re getting organised, and now you have access to a community of diabetic travellers. You can do it.
Here’s one easy exercise to reduce stress that you can do anywhere: Take a deep breath. Inhale for a count of 6, hold for 2, exhale for 8. Repeat until you feel calmer.
Traveling is an incredible experience. Having an experience abroad, something that is out of the ordinary, creates memories that will last forever. With these diabetic travel tips, you should be all set. But in case you need it, here are…
5 reminders that you can travel with diabetes:
- You are managing your diabetes already.
- You can take the required quantity of supplies with you.
- Time zone changes are manageable.
- Healthy food is available almost everywhere.
- You don’t have to go far and for too long. Start small, then go further…
Do you have any tips to add to our best diabetic travel tips? What works for you?
Get support with the DTN®
If you or someone you love has diabetes and wants to access the resources, support and contacts they need to travel smarter,connect with Julie K. and the DTN on www.diabetictravelersnetwork.com
Looking for a taste of what the DTN offers? Click here to download the guide: Going Through Airport Security with Diabetes
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a physician or other healthcare professional and is not a substitute for the advice of a legally qualified healthcare professional. If you have specific medical questions, please consult your doctor or healthcare professional promptly. Nothing in this article should be construed as an attempt to offer or render medical advice.
What to read next?
How to keep your insulin cool in summer: Wondering how to keep your insulin cool when it gets too hot outside? Here’s the answer.
Travelling with diabetes: 8 helpful tips: Here’s what worked for one of our community members – let’s all learn from each other!
How to do carb counting: a detailed list of all the foods you need to know: Not sure how to count carbs? Here’s a really simple explanation.