Managing Type 2 Diabetes: Planning Ahead for Travel
Your diabetes shouldn’t slow you down from traveling, whether you’re off for a long weekend or a month-long European vacation. You’ll want to plan ahead by talking to your physician, bringing extra medication, preparing for airport security if needed, and thinking about snacks and meals.
Talking to your physician
If you’re planning a longer vacation, talk to your healthcare provider about what you’ll need to take care of your diabetes while you’re away from home. Ask about precautions to take before you leave or considerations while you’re on your trip.
Your physician may recommend that you bring extra medication on your travels. Determine whether you have enough or whether you’ll need new prescriptions before you hit the road.
If you use insulin, you’ll want to plan ahead for how you’ll store your insulin safely and in a cool place during your travels. Also, plan ahead for a portable way to dispose of syringes. You can find handy insulin storage and syringe disposal tools online.
Preparing for airport security
Going through security at the airport is sometimes a hassle, but it shouldn’t be more of a hassle because of diabetes. Here’s the skinny on how to get through the checkpoint with minimal hiccups.
The American Diabetes Association works with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to make sure people with diabetes have access to their supplies and equipment as they go through security checkpoints and board their plane. It’s always a good idea to arrive 2–3 hours early, pack diabetes supplies and medication in a clear plastic bag, and make sure to bring extra supplies. Most people can bring 3.4 ounces or less of liquids through security. However, people with diabetes can exceed those limits with medications, including insulin and glucagon, or drinks for treating a low such as juice.
If you use insulin, take it through security instead of placing it in your checked bag where it’s subject to extreme temperatures and pressure (and could get delayed or lost if your bag doesn’t end up in the same place you do).
TSA Cares is a helpline designed to assist travelers with disabilities like diabetes. Travelers seeking assistance should call 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours in advance. An optional Disability Notification Card, which you can print out online is a quick (and discreet) way to inform screeners about your diabetes. More information can be found at Diabetes.org.
Considering snacks and meals out
Your travel may put you on a different meal schedule than normal, so you may want to pack snacks to avoid low blood glucose. Raisins, energy bars, or glucose tablets are easy to have on hand.
You may also eat out more if you’re on the road, and eating healthy foods may be more challenging because you’re not cooking in your own kitchen. Think ahead about healthy options such as a simple breakfast in your hotel room or fast-food restaurants that offer nutritious, low-sodium meals.
You may want to check your blood glucose more often when you’re on vacation if you’re on an irregular eating schedule or you’re more active than usual.
Taking care of your feet and skin
Pay attention to your feet when you’re on vacation to prevent problems that could interfere later in the trip or when you return home. Your feet may swell when you fly, and compression socks can help. You may walk more than usual on vacation (a great thing!), so pack comfortable shoes and breathable socks. If you have foot problems, try not to go barefoot on the sand or riverbank. Hot sand, shells on the beach, or other sharp debris can create small cuts that may be hard to feel if you have neuropathy or may take a long time to heal. Instead, buy a pair of comfortable waterproof sandals or shoes.
Wear sunscreen and put on a hat if you’re traveling someplace sunny or at high elevation. Cracked or peeling skin may become infected, so it’s best to prevent sunburns in the first place. Also, some diabetes medications such as glipizide and glyburide can make you more sensitive to the sun. The sun’s rays can be powerful, and it’s easy to forget to reapply sunscreen if you haven’t been at the beach for a while.