September 1, 2023

Traveling with Diabetes: Tips for a Smooth Journey and Blood Sugar Control

Planning a trip is stressful, but managing your diabetes makes it even more challenging. US MED has all the tips you need, so you can get into vacation mode.


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Home / Living with Diabetes / Traveling with Diabetes: Tips for a Smooth Journey and Blood Sugar Control

Vacations are meant to be a time to relax and unwind—but as anyone with trip-planning experience knows, that isn’t always the case. When you’re searching for affordable plane tickets, worrying about what to pack, or dealing with lengthy flight delays, travel can easily become stressful. And if you have diabetes, that stress can actively affect your blood glucose level.

 

However, this fact shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying the many positives of travel. Instead, planning ahead is a great way to keep vacation-related anxiety to a minimum—and US MED can help. Keep reading for our complete guide to traveling with diabetes.

Things You Should Plan for Before Your Trip

You should start making plans for traveling with diabetes well before your trip begins. As part of this process, you need to:

Check In With Your Doctor

Before doing anything else related to vacation planning, visit your healthcare provider to ensure you’re physically fit for travel. During your appointment, be sure to ask your doctor:

 

  • How you can adjust your insulin schedule to account for time zone changes.
  • If you need to get any vaccines.
  • To provide new prescriptions for your diabetes medications (in case you misplace or run out of your medicines).
  • If the activities you’re planning could affect your diabetes, and what to do if that might be the case.
  • For a letter explaining that you have diabetes and need to bring medical supplies with you.

Collect Essential Documents

It’s also a good idea to get a few crucial documents together at this stage in your planning process. While traveling, you should always have access to:

 

  • Prescription information
  • Your health insurance card and certificate of international health insurance
  • A document outlining your medical history and doctor’s contact information
  • Certificate for transport of medical supplies
  • A document describing your identity/diabetes treatment regimen
  • Details and data on your insulin pump (if you use one)
  • Your emergency contact list

 

For added peace of mind, take photos of all these documents with your smartphone. When you do, they’ll always be a tap away!

Packing to Be Prepared

Next, it’s time to start packing for your trip. While this is never an easy part of the travel planning process, there are a few extra factors you’ll need to think about when you’re managing diabetes.

What to Bring

Of course, medical documents aren’t the only diabetes-related items you’ll need to take with you on vacation. Other travel must-haves for people with diabetes include:

 

  • Oral medication
  • Insulin and syringes
  • A blood glucose meter
  • Additional blood testing-related supplies (including extra batteries)
  • Your Diabetes ID
  • Urine testing supplies (for ketones)
  • Nutritious snacks and glucose tablets

 

This should give you an idea of what to focus on while packing, but no one understands your approach to diabetes treatment better than you do. Take inventory of everything you use for controlling diabetes, and bring whatever you need along for the ride.

Man injecting insulin

 

How Much Should You Pack?

As a rule of thumb, it’s wise to estimate how much medicine you’ll need over the course of your vacation—and then double that amount. Refilling prescriptions in an unfamiliar city or country might not be simple, even if you have proper documentation. Because of that, it’s always better to bring too much medication than too little.

 

The same principle applies to diabetes supplies other than medicine. If something plays an essential role in your diabetes treatment strategy, bring twice as much of it as you’d usually need during your trip.

Packing Your Supplies Securely

Are you planning to fly as part of your vacation? If so, you should store about half of your diabetes supplies in a carry-on bag. That means you’ll always have access to the items you need, even if your flight gets delayed or you run into other unforeseen issues. You can even invest in a dedicated diabetes travel case to pack these items as securely as possible.

 

While packing diabetes supplies, keeping your medicines in the bottles they came in is a good idea. Otherwise, put them in plastic bags (and contact your pharmacist to ask for extra labels you can attach to these bags).

What Can Be Taken Through Airport Security?

If your upcoming trip involves air travel, there’s a good chance you’re feeling nervous about bringing diabetes supplies through airport security. The good news is that there’s nothing to worry about—the TSA allows diabetes equipment, supplies, and medication to go through security checkpoints. That covers items such as:

 

  • Insulin and other liquid diabetes medications
  • Continuous glucose monitoring systems
  • Unused syringes (when accompanied by injectable medication)
  • Used needles (when stored in a hard-surface disposal container)
  • Blood glucose meters and related supplies
  • Insulin pumps and related supplies (when accompanied by insulin)
  • Ketone test strips
  • Glucagon emergency kits

 

To keep things as stress-free as possible, be sure to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight. When you get to the security checkpoint, declare the items listed above and separate them from your other items before your security screening begins.

General Travel Tips

The information above covers the basics of diabetes-conscious travel, but there’s still more to know about traveling with diabetes. With that in mind, read on for a few more vacation tips.

How to Store Your Supplies While Traveling

As you know, it’s always best to pack at least some of your diabetes supplies in a carry-on bag while flying. But different rules apply for insulin—this medication could get too cold if you store it in your checked luggage. Because of that, you should keep all your insulin in your carry-on.

 

Driving poses a different set of challenges for people with diabetes. First of all, you should never store insulin in a place where it can be affected by direct sunlight or heat. Instead, you’ll want to bring a cooler with you for storing insulin, along with water and snacks. (Just be sure not to put your insulin directly on an ice pack!)

 

Other types of diabetes equipment that can be damaged by heat include insulin pumps, blood sugar monitors, and test strips. Never leave these items in a hot car, in direct sun, by a pool, or on the beach.

Snacks and Food You Can Have On the Go

Travel can be unpredictable—and to keep your blood sugar in range, you might need a quick bite along the way. Here are a few ideas for healthy snacks that are also travel-friendly:

 

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce is a staple of any good diabetes diet, and many fruits and veggies are easy to bring with you. Carrot sticks, bananas, celery, apples, and pears are all perfect snack options on the road. 
  • Cheese and crackers. Cheese isn’t just packed with protein and low in carbs—it also goes great with whole-grain, low-sodium crackers.
  • Nuts and seeds. Though they can be high in fat and calories, nuts and seeds will also give you fiber, vitamins, and nutrients when eaten in moderation.
  • Granola bars. These bars are often made with nuts and seeds, giving them all the health benefits you’d expect. However, packaged granola bars tend to be high in sugar—be sure to do your research before choosing a brand.

 

Some of the best snacks are those you make yourself, especially if you’re trying to stick to a diabetes diet. In that case, take a look at US MED’s selection of diabetes-friendly recipes before hitting the road.

 

You might also want to have a few drinks during your trip. Many people with diabetes can enjoy moderate amounts of alcohol if their diabetes is under control.

Checking Your Blood Sugar

Even if you have a full slate of activities planned for your vacation, you can’t afford to neglect blood sugar checks. Fingerprick tests might be inconvenient and painful, but sticking to your regular schedule for blood sugar checks will allow you to monitor your blood sugar throughout the day.

 

That said, there’s an easier way to check your glucose levels—using a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system. These systems can’t totally replace “standard” blood sugar meters, but they can make glucose testing considerably easier most of the time. If you’re interested in buying a CGM, take a look at our selection of these products.

Learn More about Diabetes Tips and Management

It’s no secret that vacation planning can be anxiety-inducing, especially when you have to take diabetes into account. Fortunately, this advice can help you focus on what really matters while traveling with diabetes—relaxing and having fun with your friends and family.

 

At US MED, we believe in making life easier for people with diabetes. No matter what questions you have about managing this disease, the answer is somewhere in our comprehensive collection of informative articles. We’re also America’s top source of diabetes supplies—if you’re looking for anything from diabetes testing supplies to insulin pens, you can find it in our online shop!

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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