Vacation—all you ever wanted. As exciting as it is to finally head out on a much-anticipated getaway, having a health condition like diabetes can add to the packing and prep challenge. How to pack light with all that medication and insulin? What snacks can travel safely on an airplane (and through TSA’s tight bag checks)? What if you have a health issue hundreds (or thousands) of miles away from your trusted doctors?
When it comes to traveling with diabetes, extra planning can go a long way toward making you feel comfortable. In this video, nutritionist Amy Hendel, RD, shares some tips to manage diabetes while traveling, whether it’s a flight to Greece or a camping trip a couple hours away.
Don’t focus on packing ultra light. Yes, it’s sometimes ideal to arrive at the airport with only a carry-on bag, but this may not be the safest option for you if it means compromising your needs. Pack twice as much medication and blood testing supplies as you think you’ll need.
Wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace to alert others that you have diabetes, just in case of an emergency. (It probably won’t happen, but it’s best to be prepared.)
Learn how to say “I have diabetes and I need sugar or orange juice, please,” in the language of the place you are visiting. This is not the time to depend on others to know English, especially during a low-blood sugar moment.
Alert TSA agents. Keep your medication in your carry-on, just in case your checked bag gets lost (ugh), and let an agent know that you have medical supplies for diabetes in your bag. This may help you get through a horrendous security line a little faster.
Request a diabetes-friendly meal. If you’re flying a longer distance that serves an in-flight meal, alert the airline in advance that you have diabetes and will need a diabetic, low-fat, or low-sugar meal.
Pack snacks. In case your flight doesn’t serve a meal—or it’s simply taking too long to get to you—you’ll want to have snacks on hand to avoid blood sugar emergencies. Try one of these diabetes-friendly (and TSA-friendly) snack options: quarter cup of trail mix, apples, oranges, baby carrots, or some blueberries. (Here are some of the best snacks for diabetes.) Again, don’t pack light. Take more snacks than you think you’ll need in case of flight delays.
Alert a flight attendant that you have diabetes. If something happens to you during the flight, the attendant will be more prepared to assist you—fast.
Beware of cabin pressurization. If you need to give yourself injectible medication during a flight, the syringe may give more resistance than usual, which may make it tricky to get the right dose.
Take note of time zones. Eastward travel results in a shorter day, so you may need less insulin, but westward travel may require a little extra. Check your glucose levels more often to monitor how you’re handling all that extra vacation craziness.
Beware of insulin in other countries. Insulin comes in varying strengths outside America, so know the right dose with the proper syringe before any injections are needed.
Traveling with diabetes might feel like a lot to keep track of, but the majority of the work happens in the packing and planning process. With a little extra planning, you can step into the airport with no worries—well, except whether or not TSA is going to confiscate your favorite shampoo.