Travelling with diabetes.
As someone who is a frequent traveller as well as having type 1 diabetes myself, I know how important it is to plan ahead when travelling with diabetes.
Some of the below tips are for people in the UK, but most of this article is valid, no matter where in the world you are. If you plan ahead, travelling with diabetes is easy, and you can confidently follow these plans and not be stressed about going on holiday. I remember going on my first holiday and trying to find out what to do, and there was so many conflicting suggestions on numerous websites that I thought I would put everything down in one place to make your holiday plans stress-free. I was really scared about travelling with diabetes just after I was first diagnosed.
1. Planning ahead
a. Ensure you have enough medication. I always use the general rule of thumb to have at least double of what I need for the time I am away. This would include tablets, insulin and needles, plus anything else you think you might need. Also don’t forget batteries for your glucometer – take a spare set with. I always advise to try and keep all medications in original packaging when travelling.
b. Ask your GP to give you a travel letter. My GP has helpfully listed all medications I need to take with, and includes needles and syringes in the letter. In all my travels I have only been asked once to look at the letter, but you can bet if you don’t have one, you’ll be asked more often. I also take a repeat prescription with me to take with on holiday. Should something happen at least I know I have official proof I need the medication, and could come in handy if you need to get replacement medication quickly.
c. I put all my medication and GP letter in a clear ziplock bag. I then know everything is all together. As it is not a good idea to put medication, especially insulin in the hold of an aeroplane, I put this in my carry on bag that either goes above the seat, or below by my feet if I’m on a plane. When I go through security and I put all my things in the trays provided, I always bring to the security person’s attention that I have medication. They appreciate the heads up normally and I always get a smile and a “that’s ok, thanks” from them.
d. If you are flying long-haul, and are worried about food being served on the plane, what I have done in the past is contact the airline via email and told them I’m diabetic, and could they give you a rough idea at what times meals are served. Also, top tip, airlines plan menu’s at least a month in advance. This means you could at the same time find out what the menu choices are so you can mentally carb-count (If you carb count that is!) and be prepared for meal times on the plane. Also bring some healthy “diabetic-friendly” snacks along for the flight. I would also recommend that you do not order any special “Diabetic” meal, as they are often filled with too much carbs.
Medical and travel insurance
Now the boring bit I’m sorry, but this is VERY important. Medical insurance when you have a pre-existing condition can be expensive and tricky, but I can recommend the following company because I personally use them. World First are very flexible about their pricing, and you basically build your insurance package how you want it. No template responses and no expensive premiums. If you are looking for cheap travel insurance for diabetics, I would recommend you have a look at them. Just click on the banner below and you’ll be taken to their quote page. Getting holiday insurance for diabetics need not be expensive, and you have piece of mind that should anything happen to you while on holiday, everything is covered. From missed flights to hospital stays, it’s all covered. Make sure you declare all your medical conditions, including your diabetes. Making a mistake or omission could result in a claim being refused.
During the flight
Try and stick to a routine if you need to take insulin, and test often as well if it’s a long-haul flight, as flying can sometimes affect your readings. You can always top up every few hours if needed. It is also a good idea to be aware of timezone differences as well.
When at high altitude, insulin expands and contracts, so be sure to do a good “air shot” to expel any air before injecting.
After landing at your destination
Once you have prepared everything in advance, and have your holiday travel insurance sorted out, it’s time to now have fun. And yes, going on holiday with diabetes does not mean you can’t have fun, with enough healthy eating, some exercise and less stress, you should have a wonderful time.
Please let me know in the comments below if you have diabetes, and if you also have any other tips for the readers here. Diabetes does not mean you can’t enjoy life. It is difficult, but plan ahead and everything should go smoothly.