TIPS for Traveling with Diabetes

Debra Reynolds
I am a rural girl running barefoot. My interests are writing, reading, nature, autism & epilepsy.

Mar 13,2018

So, you’re planning a big vacation and worried about how to manage your diabetes? I know just how you feel! I recently spent a week in a foreign land, where they don’t have food labels; and of course meals in a restaurant are difficult to judge. Especially when it’s a food you’ve never encountered before! Here are some things which helped me, hopefully you can adapt and adjust them to your own needs. 

  • Plan, but don’t stress. Stress raises blood sugar, and most plans get screwed up anyway. Know your body, do your best, and try not to stress about it. Relax and enjoy as best you can, even when plans change. 

  • Talk to your doctor about your travel, if you need advice. Check to see the availability of medical care where you’re going, just in case. It doesn’t hurt to know what your medical insurance covers internationally, as well. 

  • Pack extra medications and supplies. Lay out everything you use in a day, multiply it by the number of days you plan to be gone, then add at least 2 days’ extra for each week. Don’t forget the “little things”. For instance, recently I thought I had everything I needed, until I realized I had not packed an extra supply of blood-sugar test strips. Running out of those is a serious problem!

  • If your travel plans involve lengthy journeys, like air flights, pack snacks. Check ahead with your airline(s) but most will allow snacks (especially for diabetics) packed into carry on luggage. I have the hardest time packing sufficient protein when I know a flight will interfere with my meal schedule. However, packs of nuts, protein bars, and dried fruit can be invaluable. 

  • Airplane food is expensive and usually carb-heavy, a problem for diabetics. Many airlines have nutritional information about their meals listed on their websites. Most airlines do not take cash for these items, so remember a credit or debit card. Most have complimentary snacks, usually carb-based, and drinks.

  • Remember to drink enough. Flight attendants will bring an extra complimentary drink when asked, or will give you two when they come through. Usual offerings are sodas, juices, coffee and tea, and water. 

  • Refresh your knowledge of portions and servings, and your ability to “eyeball” them in a restaurant. If you think you will be trying local dishes, learn what you can (the internet is invaluable, but not always exhaustive. For instance, what on earth is “mashed Swede” and why doesn’t he resent it?) 

  • Be aware of lessened activity (sitting in an airplane seat for hours) or increased (swimming in the ocean, walking the beach, tours and other fun things) and don’t discount the exercise of toting your luggage through endless miles of airport! 

  • Be aware of the potential for temperature problems. Most airplanes don’t have air-conditioning while on the ground, and the interior can heat up very rapidly. Wear layers that are easy on and off (especially shoes for security lines) and know how heat or cold affects you personally. 

  • And finally, again, don’t stress. Even when your flight is canceled, or customs takes forever or any of the myriad things which can happen to us, try to take a minute to blow off steam, then move on to, this is what I need right now and these are ways I can accomplish that. 

  • And remember–it’s your VACATION. Enjoy it. Focus on the thrill and make memories, because joy also has an effect on your blood sugar–a good one!

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