The holidays are a busy time for most. Stores are crammed full of shoppers picking up last-minute gifts for friends and family. Restaurants host holiday-themed gatherings for the masses. And airports and train stations gear up for the most hectic travel season known to man. Even for the seasoned traveler with diabetes, managing to stay sane during the travel chaos of the holidays can be a big challenge.
So what’s the diabetes community to do? Well, you could start by checking out some travel gadgets that every T1D can benefit from using, and then take to heart these travel tips for managing the crowds, chaos, and possibly a few clueless airport security workers.
Make Plans in Advance
Research the place where you will be staying to find out where the nearest pharmacy is where you can get supplies if you happen to run out or something happens to your packed supplies, such as luggage being lost.
Scheduling a quick trip to see your doctor before you leave is also a good measure, since a written letter detailing your diabetes plan from your doctor can be a lifesaver if you need to visit another doctor while you’re away.
Pack, and Then Pack Again
A pleasant trip always starts with a thorough job of packing. As a person with diabetes, it can not only be a hassle to forget medication or an insulin pen – it could be be dangerous. That aside, it’s important to bring extras of everything, including insulin, testing supplies, snacks, glucose tablets. You never know what kind of delays you might experience, and it’s always better to overpack rather than realize that you’re out of supplies and have an extra day left in your traveling. Also, don’t forget to pack a glucagon emergency kit.
While packing, remember that some travel hubs (like airport) require thorough security screenings, so you’ll need to prepare your medication and supplies for easy retrieval to be visually scanned (if you don’t want it to go through the x-ray machines) and to be screened by airport security. To make this process go by more smoothly, take this advice:
Pack diabetes medication and supplies separately from other liquids in your carry-on.
Bring along your doctor’s prescription for insulin (you can keep everything organized with a travel bag like this)
Have a card with your health information, doctor’s name and contact number, and an emergency contact number packed with your supplies for any potential emergency.
DON’T check any of your diabetes supplies (especially insulin) because the temperature in the hold of the plane isn’t good for insulin. Plus, you should always have your supplies on you in case your baggage gets lost.
Keep in mind that all of your diabetes supplies and medication are allowed on planes and through airport security, so if you have any issues with security personnel not recognizing your medication or not allowing you to go through, stay calm and ask to speak to a manager.
Account for Time Changes, Food Restrictions and Other Travel Factors
If you’re spending the holidays with a loved one’s family and friends, you might be thrown into a different cultural experience than you’re used to. This could mean adhering to a completely different food diet than you’re used to, as well as other cultural factors that might affect your daily routine. Try to plan for these as much as possible, but always carry additional snacks and glucose tablets on you to handle a hypo. Changing up your normal routine can wreak havoc on anyone’s body, but it can be especially frustrating for those of us with T1D.
A very important aspect to remember is time changes, which can make it difficult to remember when you last took your insulin shot. Luckily, a smart insulin pen replacement cap can take away that bit of travel stress. If you don’t have one, however, you can talk to your doctor about your travel and share your travel itinerary to have them help you plan your injections for the day. If you’re wearing an insulin pump, you’ll need to change the time on it to account for the new time zone.
Traveling with diabetes is still very manageable, even if it does take a little extra prep and planning. Diabetes UK has a great resource base here, with articles about different types of travel, a travel checklist, and lots of other helpful tips.
How do you plan for holiday travel? Let us know in the comments!