I have been diabetic for over 20 years, and with that have learned a few tricks to make traveling with Type 1 diabetes a little easier. I am by no means a world traveler, but over the past 20 years I have taken enough trips to learn what rules to follow, what rules you can break, and what you absolutely cannot live without. Below are five tips that will help you when traveling with diabetes.
Tip #1: Know Your Destination
Make sure that your insurance will cover you wherever you are travelling. If you are traveling abroad, check out the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, which has some great tips and things that are important to know. Double check that your insurance will cover you overseas; if not, purchase special travel insurance (be sure to include coverage for pre-existing conditions). Also be sure to search out pharmacies close to where you are staying, and make sure you know where you can pick up any supplies you may have forgotten or run out of. Carry copies of any prescriptions you may need, and a letter from your doctor that details your care instructions just in case.
Tip #2: Gather Your Supplies (Don’t Pack Light)
Pack twice as much as needed, and make sure to keep your supplies in your carryon luggage. I normally put some of my supplies in one bag, and then my other supplies in a different bag (both that I am carrying on), just in case one gets lost or stolen. Below is a list of things you will most likely need, and be sure to ask your pharmacist for a travel exception refill if needed prior to travelling:
- Extra blood glucose meter
- Extra insulin
- Insulin pump/CGM supplies (one thing to note is some pump manufacturers will provide a loaner pump for travel overseas)
- Syringes/needles (some countries have different type needles and insulin, so be sure to know what you are getting if you do need to pick up more overseas)
- Alcohol wipes
- Medic ID tags (there are a lot of great brands but my favorite is MyID)
Tip #3: Know Your Rights, Especially Through Airport Security
Most CGM and pump manufacturers do not recommend putting your devices through the body scanners; you can opt out and ask to be put through the x-ray machine or request a pat down if preferred. Your insulin and any needed supplies are allowed through security, and I always recommend letting the security people know you have the supplies. Most times I don’t even have to take them out of my bag. You are allowed to bring juice and any needed liquid supplies even if it is over 3oz — just be sure to let them know what it is. I normally don’t feel like dealing with explaining my juice to the security people, so I just buy it after I get through security. I have also found it is easier if they can see my device, so I normally try to wear a tank top or short sleeve shirt so they can easily see what I am using.
Tip #4: Know Your Time Zones
Stick with your normal time zone until you land as trying to keep up with your insulin regimen while flying over several time zone can wreak havoc on your system. Just wait until you land to adjust. When you are traveling west, the days will be much longer as you pass through time zones, make sure to keep track of your blood sugars and know extra insulin may be needed.
Tip #5: Carry Plenty of Snacks and Low Supplies
This is important for while you are on the plane, and while at your destination. I normally don’t travel anywhere without a backpack or large purse filled with juice, fruit snacks and other snacks. When in the middle of a low, the last thing you want to do is try to find somewhere to buy a snack.
Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t travel and see the world, it just means there is a little more planning needed.