Anyone living with diabetes knows that it means making small, lifelong adjustments to their every day routine. With these adjustments and an active awareness of your condition and individual requirements, travel – both local and international – is possible. With just a little bit of preparation and planning, you can ensure your vacation is pleasurable and stress-free.
Advance Planning and Preparation
The mark of a great vacation often involves a little bit of spontaneity. However, for someone traveling with diabetes, this may not always be possible. While you won’t necessarily have to plan your trip down to the exact minute, you will definitely need to have prior information about what you plan on doing, as well as a rough timetable. This allows you to keep track of the amount of medication you will need for the duration of the trip, and on any excursions during it. It will also allow you to plan for traveling with snacks or a light meal, which is particularly useful when normal meal times become difficult to adhere to (as is often the case during a package holiday where you aren’t in control of your daily schedule).
Visiting your medical practitioner before the trip is also helpful, as you will be able to arrange a sufficient supply of all the medication you need. It is also extremely useful to bring along a letter that clearly states what type of diabetes you have, along with a list of medications you will be traveling with. In addition, your doctor should also be able to advise you as to whether your medication is available in your travel destination, if any of the names are different, and if you need to make any adjustments to your treatment plan (i.e. to account for changing time-zones and climatic conditions). It helps to keep all medication in the original packaging, and ensure that they all have labels on with your name printed on them.
When you have booked your flight, it would make sense to inform the airline about your medical condition. You would also ideally have purchased a suitable level of travel insurance to mitigate the financial burden of any medical treatment needed. Even with the best planning and preparation, you can’t always fully predict that things won’t go awry, and the cost of medical treatment – or even hospitalisation – internationally can put a serious dent in any travel budget.
It also makes sense to enquire with the airline about in-flight meal options closer to the date of flying. In addition, be sure to check up on any potential in-flight restrictions on using your electronic monitoring or insulin infusion device on the plane.
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Packing for Your Trip and Departing
Checking-in diabetes medication is never a good idea: not only will you not have access to it during the flight, but you’ll be in an even worse situation if your luggage is lost or delayed. Instead, pack all – or most – of your medication and other diabetes supplies in your carry-on, and a small amount in a handbag or pouch you can stow beneath your seat. This gives you easy access to any medication you may need during the flight, without having to retrieve your carry-on luggage from the overhead bins. It is also important to plan for layovers and delays. Although airlines these days limit the quantity of liquids that can be brought onboard as carry-on luggage, these and other restrictions don’t apply to passengers with diabetes (although a doctor’s letter is required to prove the condition). It may also be wise to pack a few snacks in case you need them, or if the in-flight meals are delayed.
On departure day, arrive a little early to the airport so you don’t feel rushed. Traveling with diabetes means you may already be a little nervous, and rushing will only increase your stress levels and adversely affect your condition.
Being ahead of schedule will also give you plenty of time to double check your requirements with the airline, while also giving you sufficient time to get through security. This is especially important to remember, when considering the medication and other essential items you may have packed in your carry-on luggage.
With proper planning, you will be able to regulate your blood glucose as efficiently as at home, without limiting your ability to explore your holiday destination. However, in the unlikely scenario that things don’t go quite according to plan, knowing that you have travel insurance will give you peace of mind. This sounds like a lot to remember, but once you’ve got all of that out of the way, you can sit back and enjoy your trip!
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