Managing Your Diabetes When on Vacation or Traveling
If you plan on traveling this summer — camping, taking a cruise or heading to the beach — make sure you plan for taking care of your diabetes. Dealing with high blood sugars, or worse yet, a trip to the hospital can seriously put a damper on any vacation. Plan ahead for your diabetes care, so you can take the relaxing and restful time you need (and deserve!).
Before you hit the road
Things to consider before you set out:
- See your healthcare provider before your trip to go over your plans.
- Ask your provider for an extra prescription for insulin and/or diabetes medications. A prescription may help in case of emergency, though in the United States, prescription rules may vary from state to state.
- Make sure you have more-than-enough diabetes supplies for your time away. Pack twice as much as you think you need in case you break a vial of insulin or have to test more often than expected. Insulin pump supplies are not available in pharmacies so be sure you bring enough.
- If you are on an insulin pump and traveling abroad, most insulin pump companies can give you a loaner pump in case yours breaks. Contact the company at least one month before your trip.
- Think about how you will pack your insulin. Insulin should be kept between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t leave your insulin at the beach or in the glove compartment of the car! If it gets very hot or freezes, it won’t work!
- ALWAYS wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace that shows you have diabetes. If you're leaving the country, learn how to say "I have diabetes" and "sugar or orange juice, please" in the language or languages of the countries you'll visit.
- Make sure you always have food and drink with you. If you get stuck on a freeway or on a runway, you do not want your sugar level to get low.
If you are flying to your destination:
- Contact the airline and find out their policy for carrying your diabetes supplies on the plane. You may need a travel letter from your nurse practitioner. If you are wearing an insulin pump or a continuous glucose monitor, they will need to be removed prior to walking through any scanning or X-ray machine. Do not place your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor on the conveyer belt that goes through an X-ray. Let security know.
- Don’t pack your diabetes supplies in your luggage that is to be checked into the baggage hold. Imagine getting off in Las Vegas and finding out that your supplies were mistakenly sent to Detroit! Take your diabetes supplies with you in a carry-on luggage.
- If your flight involves a time change, talk to your nurse practitioner about how to manage your insulin schedule. Remember: eastward travel means a shorter day; you may need less insulin. Westward travel means a longer day; you may need more insulin. Review your flight information and time changes with your nurse.