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5 Diabetes Travel tips; what you need to know before you head off!

by IBD Medical on September 27, 2018

So it's finally happening! You got that time off work, you've saved up, picked a destination, bought tickets and a travel guide, someone's going to check on your place and pick up your mail and you're all set your first holiday in YEARS.

Now you just have to tick the boxes below to make sure your long awaited getaway doesn't become a hypo-nightmare!

Whether you're flying or cruising it's important to let the crew know about your diabetes. If you're travelling with friends or family then having the staff know that you're diabetic could be really helpful if, god forbid, anything happens. The crew knowing means they are better able to keep an eye out for you or get you what you need in an emergency. 

If you're travelling alone it's even more important so that you have other people watching out for you, or know what to do if you need help. 

This doesn't just apply to when you're boarding the plane or boat either! Telling the airline ahead of time means that they are in a better position to support you. If you're travelling by air this can also be helpful for getting through airport security in a timely fashion.

Pssst! Consider getting a signed letter from your doctor stating that for good condition management you need to carry syringes, vials,  lancets and whatever else you need. This can give you some clout when explaining to authorities. 

Going somewhere hot? Remember that insulin needs to be kept cool to remain effective. The recommended ceiling for insulin is generally 28°C which means if you're going somewhere hot to keep any insulin in the fridge where possible and in your room. 

If you're not staying somewhere where you might not have access to a fridge then you may want to invest in an evaporative cooling unit. These little devices are relatively cheap, can be carried on a plane or at sea, don't require any power, and are reusable. They come in a range of sizes for reusable or disposable quick-pens, vials, syringes or a mix. 

You may also want to think about tidy clean up- if you change lancets, pen-needles, or use test strips regularly you may want to consider buying a few personal sharps bins. These mini-bins hold used disposable gear and help keep you and your family safe from needle sticks or any contamination. And they have an easy locking mechanism so if you need to close them and dispose of things when you get home you can do that too!

Which brings us to the plane or boat...

We've all heard the stories, and many of us have had it happen first-hand; they've lost your luggage, it's been sent to the wrong country, or someone has accidentally grabbed your bag thinking it was theirs'. 

This kind of thing STILL happens and you need to make sure you're not left without the essentials in case something happens. To make sure you're always prepared:

  • Make two piles of gear that have your essentials so if you only had one you would be fine for a while at least;
  • Pack each pile into a secure bag or organiser so everything you need is close together;
  • Then put each of those organisers into a different bag.

If you follow those three steps you cannot be more prepared- if you lose a bag you're still OK; if you need to find that one thing you need in a hurry (like a fresh test strip) it will be easy to find. PLUS, if your gear is in a good quality organiser with a hard shell it will protect the contents from any clumsy bag-handlers!

Having a plan for food is something that's easy to forget but keep a few things in mind. Firstly, travel food, like airplane food, is notoriously unhealthy, and can be high in fats and sodium. Second, that food can run out- you don't want to risk being the unlucky passenger who misses out on a meal and now your new destination is a hypo!

So make sure you pack some healthy snacks to see you through the duration of the time you're in transit and make sure you pack glucose in case of emergency lows. You could also consider asking your travel company that you would like a diabetic or vegetarian meal. 

Remember that you can always pick up better food from the airport so you don't have to lug it from home if that will make things easier! 

Whether you're going on holiday for an event, like a wedding or anniversary, or just to lay on a beach somewhere, we all know how easy it is to overindulge on food or booze. 

While it's important that you relax and enjoy yourself, remember to keep an eye on your blood sugars and to take care of yourself because while you're on holiday, your diabetes isn't!

And once you do arrive...

We can't stress enough how important it is to look after your feet whether you're at home or abroad, but be extra conscious while you're away.

When you're at home you're comfortable- you know you've got fresh socks, the corner of the coffee table you could stub your toe on, where there could be anything sharp on the ground, but if you're in a new place you won't know what to watch out for. Are there sharp shells on the beach? Coral when you swim? 

Neuropathy can mean that you won't even notice if you did cut yourself or get a nasty blister, so make sure you wear good comfortable shoes and socks wherever possible.

When you get up each morning and when you go to bed at night remember to also have a quick check over your feet: a little diligence each day can make the difference between a treated infection and an amputation.

So have fun, be safe, and take care of yourself because you deserve it!


Remember to always seek advice from your medical practitioner before changing anything about your diabetes management. The above information is NOT medical advice.


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