Planning ahead is the key to traveling
with diabetes. People with diabetes can enjoy all kinds of recreational travel from a week
at the beach, to camping in the Rockies, to sightseeing across Europe. Here are some
Taking special care when traveling with diabetes
Have a complete health exam well
before you travel. This helps to make sure your diabetes is under control. It will also
give you enough time to get any needed vaccines, and time to recover from any side
effects. Also ask your healthcare provider to give you a letter with the following
How your diabetes is treated
(diabetes pills, insulin shots)
All medicines and equipment
needed to manage your diabetes (for example, insulin, syringes, and other
medicines or devices)
Allergies to foods or
Also have your healthcare provider
give you a prescription for insulin or diabetes pills. You should take more than enough
of your medicine and syringes to last through the trip with you. But in case of
emergency, the prescription may help. Use only U-100 syringes while traveling. Other
syringes will give you higher or lower doses than you need.
Prescription laws may be very
different in other countries. If you are traveling abroad, contact International Diabetes Federation groups for more information. You may also
want to get a list of English-speaking healthcare providers in the countries you are
traveling to before you leave. Contact the International Association for Medical
Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) for more information.
It's important to wear a medical ID
bracelet or necklace that shows you have diabetes. If traveling to other countries, you
may also want to learn a few key phrases. It may be helpful to know how to say "I have
diabetes" or "Sugar or orange juice, please," in the languages of the countries you will
Packing for preparedness
Pack at least twice as much
medicine and blood-testing supplies as you think you will need. At least half of these
should be with you in your carry-on bag. Have this bag with you at all times. Keep the
labels on all medicines and supplies. You may need these during the security check for
When packing, include these
All the insulin and syringes
you need for the trip, plus some extras
Blood- and urine-testing
supplies, plus extra batteries for your glucose meter
All oral medicines
Other medicines or medical
Your ID and diabetes
A well-wrapped, airtight
snack pack of crackers or cheese, peanut butter, fruit, a juice box, and some form
of sugar (hard candy or glucose tablets) to treat low blood glucose
Before you fly, request a special
meal low in sugar, fat, and cholesterol at least 48 hours in advance. Always carry some
food with you. This is helpful in case your meal is delayed or there is a mistake in
your order. Don't take your insulin shot until you see your food coming down the aisle.
If your meal is delayed, you could have low blood sugar. If you are used to injecting
some air into a bottle of insulin before drawing out some insulin, don't do this while
in the air.
Plan for crossing time zones
If you take insulin shots and will
be crossing time zones, talk with your healthcare provider before your trip. Ask for
help in planning the timing of your injections while you travel. This will be based on
your travel route. Eastbound travel means a shorter day. So if you inject insulin, you
may need less. Traveling westbound means a longer day. So more insulin may be needed. To
help you keep track of shots and meals through changing time zones, keep your watch on
your home time zone until the morning after you arrive.
Checking blood sugar while
traveling is just as important as when at home. Check your blood sugar soon after
landing. Jet lag may make it hard to tell if your blood sugar is very low or very
Insulin does not need to be
refrigerated. But it's important to store it correctly. Insulin should not be stored in
very hot or very cold temperatures. Don't store it in a car trunk or glove compartment,
or in backpacks and other bags that could be exposed to differences in temperature and
weather. Many travel packs are available to keep insulin cool.
Other tips for traveling with diabetes
Other tips include:
Take it easy for a few days
after a long flight.
Test your blood sugar
according to your healthcare provider's advice.
If you use insulin, check the bottle of insulin before each
shot. See if it has changed in appearance since you last used it. If it has, don't
Plan your activities so you
can work in your insulin and meals. You may be much more physically active during
your vacation. You may need to change the doses of your medicines so you don't
Take along snacks when hiking
and sightseeing. Don't assume you will find food wherever you are.
Be extra careful about food
and water safety. Don't eat uncooked foods or drink tap water. Foods that upset
your stomach could cause your blood glucose levels to become uncontrolled.
Wear comfortable shoes. Never
walk with bare feet. Check your feet every day, looking for signs of blisters,
cuts, redness, swelling, and scratches.
Get medical care at the first
sign of any infection or inflammation.